Hiking the Allegheny Trail (ALT) As A Warmup for the AT

Many a dedicated hiker has dreamed of taking on the iconic Appalachian Trail, a rigorous trail that spans almost 2200 miles between Georgia and Maine.  But if you looking for a “shakedown cruise” of a trail to tackle before taking on the BIG one, you might want to consider the Allegheny Trail [ALT].  West Virginia Scenic Trails Association Outreach Coordinator Nicolle Flood-Sawczyszyn explains why.

“Absolutely, and a lot of times Heather what people forget is you might be in the best shape of your life, and you’ve done all the training you could possibly do, the research, but we have what we call gear shakedowns,” said Nicolle. “And this is what people typically do before they do a big hike, similar to the Appalachian Trail.  There a lot of different options to do a gear shakedown – what time of year are you going to go, do you need cold weather or warm weather gear? Come test it, whether that’s your tent, your sleeping bag, your cooking system. Is your backpack comfortable, are your boots comfortable, are they good in wet areas? A lot of time that’s what serious backpackers do, they come out and make notes, they look for rougher terrain; if they see the rain coming, they’re going to go test their gear.”

“What it’s been [ALT] in the last 50 years has been fantastic, but now moving forward there’s going to be a larger effort to incorporate these small towns [near the trail] and have hikers stop and support local businesses and we are on the internet.”

In fact, there’s an app for that.

“It’s the Far Out Guide and they can use this information offline.  It’s all GPS with a listing of campsites, shelters and businesses that are supporters or members of the WVSTA.  We can really start steering a little bit of an economic boost from the hiker standpoint to our local businesses.”

The WVSTA also counts the Mon Forest Towns coalition as one of its many partners.  Seven of the twelve towns in the coalition are considered close enough to be connected to the Allegheny Trail.  As a volunteer-run non-profit, Nicolle says there are also plenty of opportunities to become a trail maintenance volunteer with the WVSTA.

“We have a lot of different work weekends going on throughout the year.  We have 90 of the 311 miles of the trail here in Pocahontas County.  It’s not like you have to come and do backbreaking work – maybe we just need a shuttle driver, or a camp cook or someone to come out and manage the fire.  We take people who are 8 years old with their parents to people in their early 80s.  It’s just a wonderful opportunity to come out, enjoy West Virginia’s pristine woods, clean up the trail, keep it clean, add an element of conservation and understanding about what we have and how we want to keep it, and put our best foot forward to encourage people come and enjoy it.”

Stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio for future conversations with other partners also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Allegheny Trail in a new AMR feature, Trail Talk Thursdays.  If you’d like to find out about volunteer opportunities with the WVSTA, you can more information at wvscenictrails.org.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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