On Saturday, July 14, Pawling hosted many out-of-town visitors as the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community (HVATC) and Native Landscapes and Garden Center sponsored Trail Magic Day. Held at Native Landscapes on Route 22, the event saw numerous hikers take a break from the rigors of hiking for rest, refreshments, and a chance to meet many of the local volunteers who were helping to promote and maintain the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Pawling.
The summer is typically a season when the majority of northbound thru-hikers (a group often referred to as “the bubble”) come through this region. The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. Typically, hikers make the trek heading north, and the Harlem Valley represents a point roughly two-thirds of the way to their final destination. At Native Landscapes, numerous volunteers from the HVATC were on hand preparing food and engaging both thru-hikers and those simply enjoying the trail for the day. In addition, several members of the local scouting community were on hand to conduct surveys of the hikers as part of an economic pilot study being conducted in the region.
In all, Trail Magic Day saw 33 long distance and overnight hikers, as well as 26 day hikers pass through. “Trail magic day was an opportunity to give back to the trail and the thru-hikers who are some of the best ambassadors of ATC’s work around protecting one of the last remaining contiguous open spaces in the east,” said HVATC Co-Chair Stancy DuHamel. “Thanks to all who were involved in Making Trail Day a success, especially Dave and Julie Kelly, Donna Chapman, and Pete Muroski.”
Many of the thru-hikers who traverse the Appalachian Trail are given “trail names” by their fellow travelers. These monikers are used for the duration of their journey. The guest sign-in book at Native Landscapes recorded colorful name entries from numerous travelers, including “Helpdesk,” “Nancy Drew,” “Gump,” and “Mr. Snickers.”
Trail Magic Day also saw a reunion, as a husband and wife from Nova Scotia who had been traveling separately were reunited in Pawling. “Whip” and his wife, “Maple & Spice,” had been navigating the trail alone and chose Pawling as their rendezvous location since it is the only place on the trail that has a train stop. “I came out of the woods, and when I saw the ATC banner, my mouth dropped,” said Whip. “It’s incredible to see the way people support the trail. The only better sight was seeing my wife when she got off the train.”
“It was hard letting him go, but I knew he would be okay with so many good people watching out for him,” said Maple & Spice.
Several members of the local scouting community were on hand, helping to survey hikers.
“Many hands made our first trail magic project a success,” said DuHamel. “Scouts from Dover and Pawling rocked a preliminary survey to collect data on hikers from the AT/ATC economic assessment pilot study for Dover and Pawling. Our AT community is one of four groups chosen to participate and we’ll help shape the outcome. The new ATC president, Suzanne Dixon, is the driving force behind the study which will form the backbone of the AT Geo-tourism Project to follow.”
In addition to helping with the survey effort, volunteers were also just happy to be involved with Trail Magic Day. “You get to be a part of their journey,” said Jerome Scott, who represented Pawling Scouting along with sons Joe and Jerome. “They start in Georgia and go all the way to Maine. And a little part of their experience is right here in our town.”
Trail Magic Day proved to be a success and a labor of love for the many volunteers who gave their time to support the hikers and the HVATC. Local photographers Justin Goodhart and Jane Haslam were on hand to take portraits of the hikers for a project entitled Faces of the Appalachian Trail. “This is one of the most beautiful places in Pawling,” explained Justin. “It’s wonderful to be able to see people hiking in this environment.”