The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

ECCT hosts Appalachian Trail Magic Day

Posted on by ECCT Media

From left: "Dundee" (aka Michael) of Austin, Texas is a section hiker (hiking a defined section) and began May 27; "Captain Hotlegs" (aka DJ) is a thru-hiker (hiking the entire trail) from Columbus, Ohio and started in Georgia on March 11; "Sally Mae" (aka Ashley) of Dayton, Ohio is a thru-hiker and started with DJ in Georgia on March 11; "Pig-Pen" (aka Alli Huggins, ECCT's Digital Associate on leave of absence to hike the trail) of New Haven started in Georgia on March 8; "Foghat" (aka David) began in Georgia March 12 but had to get off the trail in Virginia due to medical issues (he hiked with Alli for a while); and Northwest Region Missionary Eliza Marth. Hikers receive a trail name from other hikers. Right: from top: Outdoor worship next to the Housatonic River in Falls Village; fresh flowers on a picnic table laden with food; Alli Huggins talks to the group about her experiences; group photo with (from left) the Rev. David Sellery (St. John's, Salisbury); Bishop Ian T. Douglas; Alli Huggins; a "flip-flop" thru-hiker traveling the less-common direction north to south; and the Rev. Heidi Truax (Trinity, Lime Rock) with her dog, Keen.

A ministry of hospitality to the hikers

A good crowd of about 30 or so people gathered “down by the river” in Falls Village on Sunday, July 23, to welcome Appalachian Trail (AT) hikers with food and outdoor worship. Unexpected acts of kindness, gifts of food, water, and other hospitality for hikers are colloquially known as "trail magic." July 23 was ECCT's version this year.

The AT stretches about 2200 miles, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Fifty-two of those miles cross the northwest corner of Connecticut. When the AT runs near a church, the clergy and congregation may seize the God-given opportunity to offer a ministry of hospitality. That’s what St. John’s, Salisbury does – offering new socks and an Internet café – and what Trinity, Lime Rock has done - with boxes of snack foods set out along the trail - when the AT has been re-routed to pass nearby them.

The date and location of the July 23 event were planned as a way to celebrate Alli Huggins, ECCT’s Digital Associate, who is on a leave of absence to hike the trail as a ministry. She started hiking in Georgia on March 8 and planned to be hiking near or through Falls Village that day. Unfortunately plantar faciitis in both feet took her off the trail earlier in July, so she had to drive to the event. She expects to be back on the trail July 29.

"Trail Magic" supports the hikers, of course. This event also signified broader ECCT support for hiking-related ministries of our churches and for any related ministry networks.

The Rev. Heidi Truax of Trinity, Lime Rock and the Rev. David Sellery of St. John’s, Salisbury, along with members of their congregations and others, got the needed permissions, organized the worship, set up tables and chairs, arranged for food and beverages, and cleaned up afterwards. Bishop Ian T. Douglas came over after his morning visitation at nearby Transfiguration Chapel in Norfolk and Northwest Region Missionary Eliza Marth joined the gathering as well. Others attending had connections to the area or worked with local groups focused on the environment, or came as a way to show support. Some had their own experiences hiking the trail. Two of these were Tom Evans and Sue Spring of St. John's, Salisbury. She had wanted to thru hike the AT when she turned 65, so they did.

For more photos, link to this album posted on flickr.com.

A few thousand people set out each year to hike the entire trail (thru-hikers), with more every year. Many more hike specific sections of the trail, and even more do day hikes. Somewhere between 18-25% of thru-hikers reach their goal. Most hike south to north because the weather in Georgia allows an earlier start, although there's been a push to promote this "flip flop" thru-hike as a way to lessen the impact of the hikers on the trail.

What's next?

With the ECCT Trail Magic day following so soon after the pilgrimage down the Connecticut River, it's worth considering what God is up to in bringing forward these opportunities to be outdoors and part of God's creation in a deeply spiritual way. What is God up to?

You may be part of it already. Perhaps you're interested in some like-minded people for conversation, or in related ministry network possibilities. Email khamilton@episcopalct.org and I'll set up a small group email list as a way to get started.

For more information about the Appalachian Trail:
  • Link here to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy with official AT information
  • Link here to information about the trail in Connecticut
  • Link here to the CT Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Link here to info on the CT segment from HikeCT
  • Link here to a July 16, 2017 article in The Day, of New London CT, about hiking the CT segment of the Appalachian Trail.