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Appalachian Trail Museum Advocates for the Preservation and Enjoyment of the Hiking Trail

By S. Mathur

The Appalachian Trail runs across 14 states from Maine to Georgia and attracts thousands of hikers each year. Since 2010, its history has been preserved and commemorated at the Appalachian Trail Museum. The Museum building is an old grist mill and a historical artifact in its own right. It is the first museum in the country dedicated to hiking.

According to the mission statement, the Museum "serves the Appalachian Trail community by telling the stories of the founding, construction, preservation, maintenance, protection, and enjoyment of the Trail since its creation." The building is located near the halfway mark on the Appalachian Trail, across the road from the Pine Grove general store which has its own place in hiking lore. There is a standing challenge for thru-hikers to celebrate reaching the landmark by eating a half gallon of ice cream in one go.

"Pioneer trail hikers and builders were getting older and soon their gear, memorabilia and memories of the early days of the trail would be lost and we wanted to preserve that for future generations," Museum President Larry Luxenberg said. "The idea for the Museum was announced in 1998, only fifty years after the first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. At that time, all three of the pioneer hikers were still alive as were many of the influential trail builders."

Exhibits at the museum include sections devoted to the early founders, including Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery, and pioneer thru-hikers like Earl Shaffer, Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy, and Ed Garvey. There's a model shelter and a welcome area for hikers.

A new addition is a children's museum. It is intended to get children acquainted with the joys of outdoor adventure according to Luxenberg.

"It features a mock up of the Appalachian Trail with one panel for each of the 14 states," Luxenberg said. "The panels have pictures and include wildlife and fun facts about the states." There's also a reading nook with books for children on the Appalachian Trail and hiking.

The Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame was established in 2011 to honor those who have made a significant contribution to the trail. It has 28 members so far, and a banquet is held each year to induct a new class. Besides its educational and historical preservation functions, the museum is also a meeting place for hikers.

"It's a great place to sample some of the history of the trail, to meet current hikers or to talk trail with our staff and visitors," Luxenberg said.

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