Leaving Berkshire early on a windy, bitterly cold morning of Sunday, February 26, the van was full of packs, sleeping bags, food and sleepy students. By the time we hit the Blackburn Trail Center in northern Virginia, we were warmer, more awake and excited to start our adventure. We unloaded the van, divvied up the food, set out some dough to rise for pizza and headed out to see sunset, viewed from a ledge off the AT overlooking George Washington National Forest. The hike to the ledge was quick, over some beautiful curved rock steps, up a blue blaze trail and onto the AT. The sun set at a sublimely slow pace creating subtle color changes from yellows to oranges to fiery reds and finally pinks. Warm air promised each of us a great week. Hikers found a spot to call their own for a few moments as the sun eased behind the mountains to the west and took time to consider the beauty and identify expectations for the coming days. Maybe this shows one of the draws of the AT for folks—one is both able to call this bountiful place a personal space, and yet it can be home for a day or for years to millions of travelers.
It’s a simple idea, really. Hike for a few days and combine that with an element of service. This is the foundation for the Pro Vita course Walking and Working in the Woods. During Pro Vita 2012, Fifth Form students Liz Butler, Emma Dietz, Lars Robinson and Cody Turner, along with leaders Nathaniel Blauss and Lissa McGovern headed south to Round Hill, Virginia to spend the week on the Appalachian Trail. Of course, the AT runs within a ½ mile of the Berkshire campus, so if the goal had been simply to hit the AT, we wouldn’t have to travel at all, but given the time of year, and a desire to not only hike, but also to do trail work, the trip sought warmer climes in which we would be able to do useful work for the coming spring hiking season along the AT. During the week, participants engaged for two days AT boundary work, in which the boundaries of the AT corridor are maintained and monitored before setting out on a hike covering twenty miles over three days.
Liz Butler (left) and Emma Dietz (right) near the summit of Mt Everett on our warm up hike last Wednesday.
We’re headed to Virginia for the week. Though it may be a little early yet, we’re hoping that, considering the winter thus far, this is what we’re heading for. For now, enjoy the photo. We’ll tell you all about the trip when we get back.