A.T. Gateways

AppalachianTrailApproachTrail

March 1-3, 2024

The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC), in partnership with Amicalola Falls State Park, will be hosting A.T. Gateways, formerly known as the Appalachian Trail Kick Off (ATKO) the first weekend in March,  March 1-3, 2024.

Amicalola Falls State Park is the Gateway to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) and its southern terminus. In turn, the AT serves as a gateway for so much: inspiration, health, knowledge, stewardship. AT Gateways is a celebration of the Appalachian Trail and all the multiple ways it touches people via these gateways. It is a true gateway for all who seek the fellowship of the trail.

An annual event that has been held the first weekend in March for over 20 years, the rebranded A.T. Gateways will have something for everyone who loves the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) whether you are an aspiring thru-hiker or just someone who enjoys being on the trail and outdoors.  Activities, programs and demonstrations will be held at both the Lodge and the new Visitor Center.

Throughout the entire weekend from 8:00-4:00pm, GATC Trail Ambassadors will be presenting “Start Smart” programs at the A.T. Basecamp, located in the Arch Room of the new Visitor Center.  Here is where one registers their 2024 thru-hike, gets the highly prized hang-tag, and gets their photo at the iconic Arch.

Friday night, March 1, will feature a hiker rendezvous for past, present and future thru-hikers and a bit of A.T. history. On Saturday, March 2, from 9:00-5:00pm, select vendors will be at the Lodge with gear and trail related information, and there will be programs and presentations covering everything from head to toe about hiking the A.T.   Special programs on the animals of Amicalola will be ongoing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.   There will be “trail maintainer magic” with demonstrations of the tools and techniques needed to maintain the treasured footpath called the A.T. on Saturday afternoon with the opportunity to sign-up and  participate in a trail work trip on Sunday, March 3.

Sunday, March 3, features trail work trips and a different type of hiking experience!

A draft program schedule for the weekend may be found below.

For more information, contact president@georgia-atclub.org.

For Vendor information, contact t.geonis@amicalolafallslodge.com

LODGING:

Tent City
This is the spot you want to be as an aspiring thru-hiker. Tent City is $20 per night for each tent (max 4 people). Each tent must have a reservation before the 1st of March. Reservations can be made online only here.

Call the Lodge at 706-344-1500 to make reservations for rooms, cabins or regular campsites. The event is free, however, all vehicles must possess a $5 Georgia State Park entry pass (or a Georgia State Annual Park Pass). Visitors must be staying in Tent Village or another park accommodation (cabin, lodge) if staying overnight.

Speaker Schedule

Friday, March 1
Time Session Presented by Location
8:00am – 4:00pm AT Base Camp GATC Trail Ambassadors AFSP Visitors’ Center – Arch Room
1:00pm

 

Animals of Amicalola

Meet the Live Ambassador animals

AFSP Naturalist AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
4:00pm

 

Animals of Amicalola

Meet the Live Ambassador animals

AFSP Naturalist AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
5:00pm Gateway to History

Welcome, History of the AT

GATC Speaker AFSP Visitors’ Center – Arch Room
6:00pm Gateway to Culture Miss Janet AFSP Visitors’ Center – Arch Room
7:00pm Social Hour
 Saturday, March 2
Time Session Presented by Location
8:00am – 4:00pm AT Base Camp GATC Trail Ambassadors AFSP Visitors’ Center – Arch Room
8:30am – 5:00pm Gateway to Equipment and Services

 

Vendors AFSP Lodge- Downstairs
9:00am – 5:00pm Gateway to Stewardship

The Magic of Trail Maintenance

GATC AFSP Shelter 2
9:00am – 10:00am Gateway to Happy Feet

Foot care to Get You There!

Rob & Cory,

Outdoor 76

AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
10:00am – 12:00pm Meet Gene Espy

Recognized as the 2nd person to finish through hiking the AT

AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
10:00am – 11:00am

 

Gateway to Health Nutrition

Nutrition and long-distance hiking:

William V. Appleby AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
11:00am – 12:00pm Gateway to Hiking Trail Alternatives

Other hikes and trails in the area

Panel: Benton-MacKaye Trail, Bartram Trail, Ga Pinhoti Trail Alliance, ALDHA AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
12:00-1:00 DIY Backpacking Food Judy Gross, Lightheart Gear AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
1:00pm – 2:00pm Gateway to Inspiration

American Camino, Walking as a Spiritual Practice on the Appalachian Trail

Kip Redick AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
1:00pm

 

Animals of Amicalola

Meet the Live Ambassador animals

AFSP Naturalist AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
2:00pm – 4:00pm Meet Gene Espy

Recognized as the 2nd person to finish through hiking the AT

AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
2:00pm – 3:00pm Gateway to Food Protection

Can It! Bear Behavior and Food Storage

USFS; DNR; ATC AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
3:00pm – 4:00pm Gateway to Clean Hiking

Hip Hygiene

GA Ridgerunner & GATC AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
4:00pm – 5:00 pm Gateway to Knowledge

Ridgerunner Rap

GA Ridgerunners & GATC AFSP Lodge – Downstairs
4:00pm Animals of Amicalola

Meet the Live Ambassador animals

AFSP Naturalist AFSP Lodge – Main Lobby
6:00pm Don’t Go Batty!

 

Bats of Georgia

Larry and Laurie

AFSP Lodge – includes a 30 minute “bat walk”
7:00pm Social Hour Lodge Conference Room
 Sunday, March 3rd
Time Session Presented by Location
8:00am – 4:00pm AT Base Camp GATC Trail Ambassadors AFSP Visitors’ Center – Arch Room
9:00am

 

Trail Maintenance Work Trip GATC TBD
1:00pm Trail Maintenance Work Trip GATC TBD

Program Descriptions

All Weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)

AT Basecamp.  GATC Trail Ambassadors present short “Start Smart” presentations, register aspiring thru-hikers and provide the 2024 hangtags.  Here the Arch beckons for photo opportunities and family and friends’ sendoffs!

Animals of Amicalola.  Join an AFSP Naturalist to meet and learn about the live animal ambassadors of Amicalola.   You may encounter an animal or two on your hike.

Friday Evening, (March 1)

Welcome/AT History. Welcome to AT Gateways, with a bit of AT History and humor, setting the stage for the weekend’s programs and activities.

AT Culture.  Join iconic AT Trail Angels (cue up Miss Janet) in storytelling, sharing adventures, and swapping tales about the AT.

Saturday, March 2

Vendors – Gateway to Equipment, Services and Information.    Spend time with our outstanding vendors learning about backpacking equipment, get information about the services in our AT Communities, and learn about various non-profit organizations who maintain and support our trails.

AT Maintainer Magic.   Visit with the original Trail Magic providers, GATC expert trail maintainers, and learn what’s in a maintainer’s pack, the various tools used in trail maintenance and how the trail is maintained.   This all-day program at Picnic Shelter 1, also includes a Rock Crew Demonstration by members of the GATC’s very own Georgia Rockers.  Have you ever wondered how those rock steps appear in the trail? Do you know how to move a 2,000 rock by hand? Do you think you could split a rock in a straight line using only hammers? The Georgia Rockers Rock Crew will show you how to do these things and more. You will get to split a rock with hand tools and see how rock work is done on the Appalachian Trail.  We love “Rock and Roll!”

Meet and Greet – Gene Espy.   Our very own Georgia native, Gene Espy, was the second individual to thru hike the A.T. in 1951, experiencing more wilderness, solitude and difficulties than today’s hikers.  His book, “The Trail of my Life:  The Gene Espy Story,” shares his A.T.  thruhiking adventure but other many of the other activities he pursued for “fun.”    Now a young 97,  Gene will be at the Visitor Center A.T. museum where his vintage backpacking equipment is displayed on Saturday morning and at the Lodge, upper lobby fireplace area, Saturday afternoon.

Foot Care to Get You There!  Feet, feet, feet.   How many feet will you meet?   Learn how to take care of those fantastic feet with proper footcare and shoes from Outdoor 76 experts, Rob and Cory.   Feet are “fee-nominal.”

Nutrition and Long-Distance Hiking.   Food, glorious food!   It’s more than ramen bombs, Snickers bars and tuna!  What fuels your body and how is your body affected by long distance hiking? William V. Appleby, received his Exercise Science Master’s Degree in Human Performance and Clinical Exercise Physiology, presenting his thesis: Effects of thru-hiking the Appalachian  Trail on nutritional sufficiency, anthropometrics, and muscle strength. His study of 2023 Thru hikers, might help ensure you are getting your RDA’s, even when food weight is such a dynamic variable. You’ll come out of this session thinking a bit more about what food goes in your pack!

Alternatives Trails in the Appalachian Mountains.  In love with long distance hiking?   The AT has many nearby trail cousins, including the Pinhoti, Benton MacKaye and Bartram Trails.   Join representatives from these trail organizations and ALDHA to learn more about these trails and other alternatives to the AT for day, section and long-distance hikes.

DIY – Backpacking Food.  What better way to spend the lunch hour than learning about making your own backpacking food?  Even better if you get to taste some delicious Do It Yourself (DIY) dehydrated meals?   Judy Gross, Lightheart Gear, has been making her own backpacking meals for years and is eager to share her knowledge with you!

American Camino, Walking as a Spiritual Practice on the Appalachian Trail.    Author Kip Redick shares a phenomenological exploration of the relationship between long distance hiking – in this case the Appalachian Trail –  and spiritual pilgrimage.   Perhaps, one is more than just a hiker?   Maybe one is a modern-day pilgrim?  Come and find out for yourself!

Can It!  Bear Behavior and Food Storage.   OMG!  It’s a BEAR!  One of the most asked questions by any hiker is what if I encounter a bear on the trail or in camp or anywhere out in the woods?   Annie Beadle, with Georgia Wildlife Resources, has the answers as she has worked extensively with the bear management program in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and now with Georgia DNR.   In addition to sharing about black bear behavior, this program will also cover the new USFS Food Storage Order for the Southern Region, which includes the Chattahoochee-Oconee, Nantahala, Pisgah, and the National Forests South of Shenandoah National Park and is specific to the A.T. corridor.   We promise this will not be overBEARing!

Hip Hygiene on Trail.   Is there anything exciting about dealing with human waste on trail?   It can be embarrassing, right?    Maybe not!   Learn some hip ways to deal with hygiene on trail from Chelsea (Ridgerunner) and Brent (GATC LNT Master Educator), in this highly entertaining and informative session that will leave you eagerly wanting to try what you learn the next time “your personal business needs” are calling!

Ridgerunner Rap.  Past Ridgerunner (Bill), present Ridgerunners (Chelsea and Chris) and GATC Trail Ambassador Coordinator (Ashley) comprise a panel moderated by ATC Regional Manager (Sarah), as they “rap” about what they encounter on trail and the roles they all play in Protecting the Appalachian Trail Hiking Experience (PATHE).   It will be lively, fast paced and will provide a wealth of knowledge!

Don’t Go Batty!   We’re going to bat for the Bats in Northeast Georgia!   Join Larry and Laurie for a short presentation, followed by a “bat walk” and learn about these unique mammals.  In fact, did you know that bats are the only flying mammal?  A fun fact and there are more!

Sunday, March 3

Trail Magic!  Give Back to the Trail!  Would you like to give back and participate actively in trail maintenance? Join the GATC, AFSP personnel and Friends of Amicalola,  on Sunday, March 3,  for a day of trail work just outside the Arch where the trail is heavily used and eroded. We will be moving and setting new log check steps, narrowing the extremely wide trail, and improving the drainage to get water off the trail. GATC provides all the training, tools, and hard hats.  There is a morning work session from 9:00-12:00 and an afternoon session from 1:00-4:00. Be a Trail Angel and give back to the park for their support of the A.T.

Sign up in advance (here).

MEET THE AT GATEWAYS PROGRAM PRESENTERS and SPECIAL GUEST

Foot Care To Get You There

Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall, Owners Outdoor 76, Clayton, GA and Franklin, NC.  Outdoor 76 is an outfitter in the Appalachian Trail Community known for its shoe fittings, gear, and excellent customer service.

Rob Gasbarro: I cut my teeth in the outdoor industry working closely with shops in the Bay area and holding chair positions with the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers. Professionally, what makes me tick is taking care of people. Offering a unique flavor of service is really the only way shops can set themselves apart.

Cory McCall: I grew up exploring the mountains of western North Carolina. I ran competitively in high school and college. After college, I began road and mountain biking. I knew that I always wanted to own my own business because it means that you control your destiny. It takes a lot of self-evaluation to stay dedicated to your business. The only way to make sure I keep growing personally is to challenge myself every day.

Nutrition and Long-distance Hiking

William V. Appleby (Bill), USA (ret.), CPT, PMP,  received his Master’s Degree in Human Performance & Clinical Exercise Physiology, presenting his thesis:  Effects of ThruHiking the Appalachian Trail on Nutritional Sufficiency, Anthropometrics and Muscle Strength,  CT State University.

Alternative Trails – Panelists:

Bob Cowdrick

Bob is currently the President of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA). He has held prior positions as the BMTA’s Director of Trail Maintenance and BMTA’s Outreach Coordinator. His background includes 30+ years’ experience in sales and marketing with a passion for hiking, conservation and preservation.

Janet Jolly Edwards

Janet has been an athlete and outdoors enthusiast her entire life.  She is an AT section hiker and has hiked many other trails with the United States and overseas.  She is a Highpointer, which means she is attempting to reach the highpoint of all 50 states.  She is currently at number 46!  She is an avid mountain climber and ultra trail runner and serves on the Board of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association.  She is also a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail club and Women’s Outdoor Club of Alabama

Dennis Newton “Trail Pilgrim”

Coordinator for ALDHA, Chaplain, Colonel, US Army, Retired

Brent Martin, Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy

Brent Martin lives in the Cowee community in western North Carolina and is the full-time director of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy.  He has served as the Southern Appalachian Regional Director for the Wilderness Society, Executive Director of Georgia Forestwatch, and Associate Director of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, now Mainspring Conservation Trust. He has an M.A. and ABD in History from Georgia State University. He is the author of George Masa’s Wild Vision: A Japanese Immigrant Imagines Western North Carolina, winner of the 2022 Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize, and The Changing Blue Ridge Mountains: Essays on Journeys Past and Present. 

DIY Backpacking Food

Judy Gross, Owner Lightheart Gear

Judy Gross didn’t get her nickname, “HeartFire”, from just anywhere. She got it while hiking the Appalachian Trail. In fact, over her lifetime Judy has hiked over 4,000 miles of trails, coast to coast.  udy Gross’ story is a story of hard work and perseverance against the traditional.  Having hiked all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, countless miles of the AT, and thru hiked the Colorado trail to name but a few…she knows what backpackers need to be successful finishers.  She started out wanting to make something that worked for herself, and instead became a major player in the lightweight, cottage industry gear market; her trail, 7 years later, has landed her exactly where she never expected to be.

American Camino:  Walking as Spiritual Practice on the Appalachian Trail

Kip Redick

Kip Redick is the author of American Camino:  Walking as Spiritual Practice on the Appalachian Trail.  He is a professor of Philosophy and Religion at Christopher Newport University.  Kip engages in a phenomenological exploration of the relationship between long-distance hiking and spiritual pilgrimage.

Can It! Bear Behavior and Food Storage

Annie Beadle

Annie Beadle is an Appalachian native raised in east Tennessee and grew up hiking around the Great Smoky Mountains. She received a degree in Wildlife Management from the University of Tennessee where she discovered her passion for bears while working as a biological technician for a hair snare project in the Nantahala National Forest. Her path took her to Great Smoky Mountains National Park where she worked as a seasonal wildlife ranger assisting the bear management program. She now works with Georgia Wildlife Resources on their bear project conducting den surveys and tracking the movements of GPS collared bears.

Hip Hygiene

Brent Binion,

Member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club,  Leave No Trace Master Educator, and GATC Trail Ambassador.  In his professional life Brent leads a global community of practice around highly effective learning and adoption methodologies.  He brings his passion for learning and education to his role as a Trail Ambassador for the GATC.

Chelsea Parrott

Georgia Ridgerunner.  As an outdoor educator, Chelsea loves to share tips and techniques for helping hikers have successful and sustainable adventures on the Appalachian Trail. Chelsea utilizes her Communications background in combination with her variety of roles held in the outdoor industry to help spread clear and egalitarian knowledge about the best ways to recreate on our Public Lands. Through the years, she has enjoyed leading backpacking trips in the Great Smoky Mountains, performing trail maintenance with the Backcountry Trails Program of California, and representing non-profits through AmeriCorps and Community Television of Knoxville, Tennessee. Chelsea lives in the North Georgia mountains with her husband and furry pets and when she’s not hiking, she’s probably hiking!

Ridgerunner Rap

 Chris Minnich grew up in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. In 2014, he thru-hiked the A.T. He enjoys working and volunteering for the protection and conservation of public lands. Since 1997, he has volunteered with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He has worked as a park ranger and volunteered with the National Park Service since 2020. This will be his second season as a ridgerunner in Georgia. Chris currently resides in Rochester, NY with his partner Jamie. In his free time he enjoys hydroponic gardening, bicycling, canoeing, and exploring local parks.

Chelsea Parrott is excited to work as a Georgia RidgeRunner for her 4th season. As an outdoor educator, Chelsea loves to share tips and techniques for helping hikers have successful and sustainable adventures on the Appalachian Trail. Chelsea utilizes her Communications background in combination with her variety of roles held in the outdoor industry to help spread clear and egalitarian knowledge about the best ways to recreate on our Public Lands. Through the years, she has enjoyed leading backpacking trips in the Great Smoky Mountains, performing trail maintenance with the Backcountry Trails Program of California, and representing non-profits through AmeriCorps and Community Television of Knoxville, Tennessee. Chelsea lives in the North Georgia mountains with her husband and furry pets and when she’s not hiking, she’s probably hiking!

Bill Bryant

Bill served as an ATC Ridge Runner in Georgia for three years.  Long-time supporter of the Appalachian Trail, he completed his hike of the Trail in 2021.  Bill served on the ATC Stewardship Council for six years; was a member of the Board of Directors for the GATC for three years; maintains a section of the AT in Georgia; and serves on the Speakers Bureau for the GATC.  He has also served as a Trail Ambassador in Georgia since the beginning of the program.

Ashley Luke

Ashley Luke has been a Georgia Appalachian Trail Club Trail Ambassador for 5 years and enjoys sharing information on how to protect wilderness resources as a Level 2 Leave No Trace Instructor. She also maintains a section of trail on Blood Mountain, including the historic Blood Mountain shelter, is the GATC Membership Director and is on the ATC Stewardship Council.

Gene Espy

Gene Espy (born 1927) is recognized as the second person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, making the entire 2,025-mile journey alone in one outing, covering 14 states in just over 123 days.

Born and raised in Cordele, Georgia, Espy first heard about the Appalachian Trail from his seventh-grade teacher. Several years later, Espy and a friend hiked a section of the trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, but it was not until shortly after his graduation from the Georgia Institute of Technology that Espy decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. On May 31, 1951, Espy and a hometown friend set out from Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia, but after the first day Espy’s friend dropped out, leaving Espy to hike the remainder of the trail alone. He would frequently go an entire week without seeing another person as the trail was relatively new, having been completed only a few years earlier. Espy traveled light, mailing replacement boots and other supplies to post office boxes at towns along the way and living off a diet of sandwiches, dehydrated potatoes, pudding and cornmeal, none of which required cooking. Espy arrived at the top of Mt. Katahdin, Maine, on September 30, 1951.

During his hike, Espy chanced to meet Chester Dziengielewski, who was thru hiking southbound, at the Smith Gap Shelter in Pennsylvania on August 6, the first ever meeting of a northbound and a southbound thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail. Dziengielewski completed his hike 10 days after Espy.

On June 17, 2011, Espy was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame at the Appalachian Trail Museum as the only living charter member.

2024 A.T. Gateways Vendors

Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, Friends of Amicalola Falls State Park, Outdoor 76, Author Kip Redick, Merry Inn Hiker Hostel, LightHeart Gear, ZPacks, Etowah Outfitters, Benton Macaye Trail Association, Hike Inn, Appalachian Long Distance Hiker Association, Rambling Roots Hostel, Kindred, Jolly Gear, Currahee Outdoors, Quarter Way Inn, On-Running, Tye Crossings, Lazy Hiker Brewing, ALTRA, Sawyer Products, Carpenter Works, Appalachian Trail Club, Ed Shaffer Foundation, Goose Foot Gear, Author Karen Rutter, Public Lands

Don’t see your name on the vendor list?! Contact t.geonis@amicalolafallslodge.com if interested in becoming a 2024 vendor

iStock Appalachian Trail Sign

 

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