Appalachian museum celebrates joys of hiking

Mon May 16, 2011 11:08am EDT
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By Dave Warner

GARDNERS, Pennsylvania (Reuters Life!) - Halfway along a hiking trail that stretches along the east coast of the United States from Georgia to Maine, a museum celebrates the joys and wonders of the great outdoors.

The Appalachian Trail Museum, in the tiny village of Gardners in the Pennsylvania hills, marks the middle of one of the nation's premier natural attractions -- the 2,147-mile trail of the same name which attracts thousands of hikers each year.

"The actual half way point is two miles south of here." said Larry Luxenberg, the president of the museum located in a 200-year-old stone grist mill.

The museum contains photographs of 13,000 trail pioneers and hikers, as well as a reconstruction of a shelter built by Earl Shaffer, the first person who walked the entire trail in 1948.

A festival from June 17-19 will mark the one year anniversary of the museum, which is funded by donations and grants, and include the induction of the first members of its Hall of Fame, according to Luxenberg, who is a hiker and financial adviser.

June is also the month when so-called "thru-hikers" start to arrive at Gardners on their four to six month trek north to Maine.

The U.S. National Parks Service estimates that to complete the entire trail would involve 5 million steps for the average adult.

An estimated 300 to 500 thru hikers complete the entire trail each year, but the parks service said about 4 million people hike parts of it of annually, either in long sections, or just for the day.   Continued...

<p>Larry Luxenberg, president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society, in front of the museum on opening day, June 5, 2010. REUTERS/Appalachian Trail Museum Society</p>