PATC 90th Anniversary Celebration in Charlottesville

by Jeanne Siler
Photos by Dave Borszich and Iva Gillet

When something lasts for 90 years, it deserves a party.

The Charlottesville PATC chapter chose Sunday afternoon, October 15, to celebrate the founding year of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

As befits a birthday celebration, there was cake. There was ice cream. There was a big balloon.

More importantly, there were close to 60 PATC fans—from both the Southern Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville chapters, including trail maintainers, district managers, hikers, and EXCOM members from the Virginia and Maryland area—who made their way to Dunlodge Cabin in Charlottesville with potluck dishes and stories to share. Steve McLaughlin, supervisor of membership, John Hedrick, supervisor of trails,  and Mel Merrit, cabins operations chair, along with our guest speaker, Tom Johnson, traveled hours to join us.  Those present were treated not only to a dining room table full of food and beautifully warm outdoor weather, but also to a fascinating chronology of PATC history.

Charlottesville chapter treasurer and professional crooner, Barbara Martin, led the group in the traditional “Happy Birthday” song, kicking off the formal portion of the evening. (If an outdoor picnic full of hikers and a raffle drawing can even be called formal.) Charlottesville Chapter President Iva Gillet hosted, and together with Martin, presided over a free raffle with a generous array of goodies from the PATC office and donations from local outfitters, Great Outdoor Provisions and Rockfish Gap Outfitters.

Eating and socializing dominated until Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter president Dave Bennick introduced the evening’s speaker, Tom Johnson, PATC’s official archivist, past president, librarian, and club historian.

Johnson kept his audience’s attention by lobbing questions at them, such as “Who was Myron Avery?”

As they soon learned, Avery was the dedicated hiker from Maine who established the first stretches of the Appalachian Trail 90 years ago in 1927. Avery purportedly kept a pace few could match as he blazed the ridgelines and the valleys between Harper’s Ferry and Front Royal in 1928—and always pushing a measuring wheel. And this was before the Shenandoah National Park was created in 1929 and 1930. Avery is credited, too, with organizing the entire AT route south of the Delaware River to Springer Mountain, GA.

Johnson quizzed the audience about George Freeman Pollock (who established Skyland resort) and P. L. Ricker (early president of the Wildflower Preservation Society.)  Like Pollock and all PATC hikers who would follow, these two were prominent among early admirers of the Appalachian mountains. Johnson shared tales of the “Red Triangle Society,” an early hiking group out of D.C. and fielded questions about the more contemporary histories of the regional PATC chapters, most established in the 1980s.

And after hearty applause, the raffle (and cake eating) continued.

Hats, guide books, hiking shirts, gift certificate and drinking cups were all distributed before Ted Chang and Lynn Cameron each won an Osprey backpack, courtesy of their lucky numbers and Great Outdoor Provisions and Rockfish Gap Outfitters.

For more information about PATC history, contact archivist and librarian Tom Johnson at archives@patc.net; for more about hiking with central Virginia local PATC chapters go to Charlottesville area hikes or Shenandoah Valley area hikes or visit the PATC website.