Grand Opening of Appalachian Trail Museum
The Appalachian Trail Museum held its grand opening on June 5 at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, Pennyslvania. The event was attended by museum directors, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) officials, state and county government representatives, long-distance hikers, and IAT/IATNL President Paul Wylezol. (IAT Founder and Past-President Richard Anderson and IAT Geologist Walter Anderson had hoped to attend, but both were forced to slow down and put their boots up, due to last minute illness. They are now on the trail to recovery, and looking forward to this summer's IAT adventures.)
The idea of the Appalachian Trail Museum was the brainchild of Larry Luxenberg, a former long-distance hiker and author of the book Walking The Appalachian Trail, about the culture of long-distance hiking on the AT. In 1998 he started promoting the concept of a museum that would collect and display artifacts of early hikers and trail builders, before these items were irretrievably lost.
In August 2002, incorporation papers were drawn up and the Appalachian Trail Museum Society became an official nonprofit entity, charged with the task of opening an AT museum. In March 2003, the first Board was assembled at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and within three years it had raised enough funds to hire a professional museum expert to help develop a strategic plan.
In June 2007, the Museum Society's first professional-quality exhibit opened at the ATC visitor center in Harpers Ferry. Shortly after the Old Mill in Pine Grove Furnace State Park - located within three miles of the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail - became available, and plans were made to develop the site as home to the AT Museum.
Among the inaugural exhibits at the AT Museum are interpretive panels and historical items that help paint a portrait of the people, places and culture of the early Appalachian Trail experience.
Earl Shaffer: The First Thru-Hiker
Earl Shaffer Shelter, built between 1959 and 1961
Early Trail Cutting Power Tools
The grist mill at Pine Grove Furnace was part of a sprawling complex supporting a massive furnace that produced cast iron products like kettles and stoves. It had a forge, coal houses, smith and carpenter shops, brick mansion houses, thirty log dwelling houses, and a saw mill. It is unknown when the grist mill was built, but it was probably a few years after the construction of the initial furnace and forge structures in 1764, making the Old Mill more than 200 years old.
Guest speakers at the museum's grand opening included John Quigley, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, David Startzell, Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Rick Rovengo, Commisioner of Pennsylvania's Cumberland County, and Larry Luxenberg, President of the Appalachian Trail Museum
while the official duct tape (ie. ribbon) cutting was performed by AT founder Benton MacKaye's great grandson.
In addition to the museum opening and official ceremony, the day also featured a garden-party atmoshere with trail builders and museum curators "manning" their booths, and long-distance hikers standing still in their boots!
To learn more about the Appalachian Trail Museum, go to their website ATmuseum.org.