The Appalachian Trail Institute

Michelle EllwangerMichelle's Journal3 Comments

Who signs up for a workshop two weeks before Christmas?

Apparently, me and 10 classmates named Pete, Steven, Carowyn, Sarah, Evette, Dave, Rosemary, Jeremiah, Brian and Richard.

I expected to be the oldest. Wrong. I expected to one of the only females. Wrong again.

I nicely blend with the other people who have come to learn about hiking the Appalachian Trail. We range in age from college student to retiree.

We arrived at Laughing Heart Lodge and Hostel in Hot Springs, NC not knowing what to expect. What we are quickly finding is a tribe. A tribe called hiker. Anybody can be a hiker. You just have to be willing to hike.  The challenge seems to be the need to surrender to nature and the inevitable curve balls it will throw you. But back to the Appalachian Trail Institute.

Normally, Warren Doyle is the facilitator of this workshop. But for some reason, Jennifer Pharr Davis is our guide for the four day experience.  Jen has taken time out of her schedule to inspire and share her personal experiences with us.  The nominal $250 per person price tag for this workshop does not begin to compensate her and her spouse for taking time out their life to hang out with us.

I am quickly finding that the hiking community does not abide by the rules of the world.  Meaning and purpose often trumps financial gain.  Hikers are not your typical bear.

From the beginning, I have been amazed by the almost instant bonding that has occurred with our class. I feel connected and loved by this very diverse crowd of people. We are staying up late listening to music and singing together within days of knowing each other. We are laughing and hiking and eating with each other like a family does.  I have to wonder why this can’t occur more often in life? The world would be a better place if it did.

The workshop has covered almost every topic you could imagine from equipment to knowing about different sections.

Jen’s newborn, Gus, who is 10 weeks old, is listening (and ok, often sleeping) as his mother delivers lessons. Brew, Jen’s spouse, has shared his insights regarding section hikes and performed for us at night the songs he has been recording.  Brew looks like a mountain man which masks his deep and emotional spirit that pours forth from his music.  The free concert was priceless.

The classroom workshop has been complimented by day hikes ranging from 4-7 miles on the Appalachian Trail. We’ve been given a nice December mix of weather that has included a cold day, a rainy day and a nice day. One of Warren’s quotes is:

The workshop ends today at a small diner that had been feeding us.  We all will leave the way we arrived with the exception of a small beautiful seed that is now planted in each of us.

Time will tell how each seed germinates and grows.

3 Comments on “The Appalachian Trail Institute”

  1. are you still holding class because of livid? planning on coming up to take a class, this summer. would like some info. I am going to do a through hike next summer. i have hiked the trail four times in the past. only in G.A.. and in N.C. Going to try a flip flop, can you help me what I need to know ? Thank’s al lot. you are welcome to call any time if you have any time. thank’s. Gary M
    321 474 9634.

    1. Hi Gary,

      I was a student, not an instructor.

      I chose Warren Doyle’s Appalachian Trail Institute: Appalachian Trail Institute and had a wonderful experience.

      Jennifer Pharr Davis was our instructor that year. Warren Doyle and Jen’s husband Brew came in for a presentation. Jen and Brew run the Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville which might have some options for you as well: Blue Ridge Hiking Company

      Wishing you all the best with your hike!


  2. Journeys have so many parts to them, don’t they! It is difficult in the midst of a journey to see exactly what you are seeing. The notes along the way may become points to reflect on later. Thinking of you….gwynn

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