Appalachian Trail Museum Society Museum to Open in Pennsylvania Near Gettysburg

The Appalachian Trail Museum Society passes along this news about its museum that is to open June 5, 2010.

Covering 2,179 miles on foot, over often rugged mountainous terrain that crossed 14 states from Georgia to Maine, takes about six months. When completed, those who succeed are known as Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.

Officials at the Appalachian Trail Museum Society estimate that roughly 10,000 people have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail since it was opened in 1937. The first was York, Pennsylvania, native Earl Shaffer who hiked it end-to-end in 1948. He thru-hiked it again in 1965 and 1998.

When the Appalachian Trail Museum opens on Saturday, June 5, at 11 a.m., Shaffer will be honored along with Gene Espy, the second thru-hiker, who is still in possession of the gear he used during his hike in 1951, Grandma Gatewood, who, in 1955 at the age of 67, became the first solo woman thru-hiker and later became the first person to hike the trail more than once, and Ed Garvey of Falls Church, Virginia, who popularized long distance backpacking in the 1970s.

“It is only appropriate that we are opening the museum and honoring thru-hikers on National Trails Day,” said Larry Luxenberg who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1980 and then wrote Walking the Appalachian Trail. He also is president and founder of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society — the not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2002 to establish a museum to honor the thousands of men, women and families who hike and maintain the trail. “Every thru-hiker is invited to attend the opening, and we hope they will.”

Part of the museum will be a hiker welcome center for current thru-hikers. Here, Luxenberg said museum visitors and hikers can interact. “Thru-hikers are fascinating, and to be able to ask about their experiences at roughly the mid-way point of the trail will be a unique opportunity,” he added. The official midpoint of the Appalachian Trail is located two miles west of the museum in Michaux State Forest.

Like at shelters and other locations along the Appalachian Trail, there will be a permanent thru-hiker trail register in the Hiker Center. This is where thru-hikers can record their progress, make notes and leave messages. Registers from the past that will be on display in the museum will provide a glimpse into everyday life on the trail. A special museum opening-day thru-hiker register will be in the Hiker Center, along with a commemorative poster for all visitors to sign.
Also in the Hiker Center, there will be an ongoing slideshow presentation featuring digitized photos of Appalachian Trail hikers. Nearly 13,000 images of signed and annotated Polaroid photographs representing approximately 18,600 individuals are being incorporated into a searchable online database that will be hosted by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website ( The project to scan and preserve the original photographs and make them available via the web was funded by the Quimby Family Foundation of Portland, Maine. Terry Harley-Wilson, vice president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society and organizer of the photo display, said the pictures were taken over the past 30 years of Appalachian Trail hikers as they stopped at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Trail Museum will be in a 200-year old grist mill that is being restored to house exhibits and other museum attractions. The museum’s board of directors is working with volunteers nationwide, architects, display designers, historians and donors to prepare the building for the June 5 opening.

Information about how to support the Appalachian Trail Museum is available at

About the Appalachian Trail Museum Society
The Appalachian Trail Museum Society, a 501-C-3 not-for-profit organization formed in 2002, is organizing volunteers and fundraising nationwide to establish the Appalachian Trail Museum as a tribute to the thousands of men, women and families who have hiked and maintained the 2,179 mile long hiking trail that passes through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. The museum is located in the Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, Pennsylvania, approximately 15 miles west of Gettysburg. Additional information is available at

A March press release said:

Permits have been approved and work has begun on a 200-year-old historic stone grist mill that is being transformed into the Appalachian Trail Museum — the first museum dedicated to hiking in the United States.

“Years of planning, volunteer hard work and dreaming have gotten us to where we are today,” said Larry Luxenberg, president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society — the non-profit organization that was formed in 2002 to lead efforts to establish the museum. “The museum will be more than a building and the midway point on the 2,178 mile trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia. It will be a tribute to the thousands of men, women and families who have hiked and maintained the Appalachian Trail, making it arguably the most famous hiking trail in the world.”

Exhibits at the museum will tell the stories of the founding, construction, preservation, maintenance, protection and enjoyment of the trail since its inception in the 1920s. The museum will portray not only the history of the trail but also the essence of the physical, intellec­tual, emotional and spiritual human experience of the Appalachian environment and the culture of hiking.

Luxenberg said the initial featured exhibit at the museum will tell the story of one of the region’s favorite sons – York County, Pennsylvania, outdoorsman Earl Shaffer, who in 1948 became the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail in a single season. The trail shelter that this humble hiker, poet and WWII soldier built on Peters Mountain, Pennsylvania, was recovered in 2008, and it will be part of the exhibit.

Artifacts from other early hikers including Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy and Ed Garvey and general trail history will be on display. Also planned is a children’s discovery area to introduce children to the trail, hiking and other outdoor activities. The museum will include an inside and outside center to welcome hikers and give visitors a chance to hear directly from them about their Appalachian Trail experiences.

The museum also will display on a large screen the more than 12,000 thru-hiker photos taken at Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, since 1979. Thru-hikers are hikers who hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish rather than in sections – an experience that typically takes six months. The photo project, with support from a grant by the Quimby Foundation and in cooperation with ATC, includes a website where all the pictures will be accessible. More information and forms granting permission to display individual photos are available by writing to

The grand opening for the museum will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5 — National Trails Day. The museum is approximately 15 miles west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. “We will mark the occasion with a grand celebration: a ribbon cutting ceremony, three days of hikes sponsored by local clubs and interpretative programs with children and families in mind,” Luxenberg said. “At first, the museum will operate on weekends in the spring and fall and five afternoons per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.”

The museum is adjacent to the National Historic District of Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the Pine Grove General Store. It also is near the Ironmasters Hostel, and two miles from the midway point of the Appalachian Trail. Both the store and the hostel are popular stops for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.

Restoration work on the Old Mill will be done largely by volunteers under the leadership of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s North Chapter “Yankee Clippers” crew. Luxenberg said the museum society is looking for volunteers to help staff the building and others to lead programs such as talks, nature walks and demonstrations of outdoor skills with an emphasis on programming for children. The museum society is continuing to collect artifacts. More information is available at the museum’s website, and

We received this press release on May 12.

Hikes to Highlight Appalachian Trail Opening Weekend

GARDNERS, PENNSYLVANIA — Hikers from near and far will enjoy a weekend full of hiking and trail care when the Appalachian Trail Museum opens in Pine Grove Furnace State Park on Saturday, June 5.

“Hiking and trail maintenance go hand-in-hand. The Appalachian Trail hiking community prides itself in not only using the trails but keeping them maintained so others can enjoy them safely,” said Larry Luxenberg, president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society. “Both the hikes and the trail work will be significant parts of the Appalachian Trail Museum opening.”

Kicking off the weekend will be the “Hike to History” from Kings Gap to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, a distance of six miles along the Buck Ridge Trail. It will start at 7:45 a.m. at Kings Gap and arrive at the Appalachian Trail Museum in time for the 11 a.m. grand opening ceremonies.

“Because of the anticipated popularity of this hike, pre-registration is required and there is a fee of $25 per hiker if you register by May 15. The fee after May 15 is $35. The last day to register is May 28,” Luxenberg said. “Not only is this a terrific way to celebrate the opening of the museum, it is a way to participate in National Trails Day which also is on June 5.”

In addition to hike participation, the “Hike to History” fee includes a light breakfast, preferred seating at the museum opening and a special edition of the Appalachian Trail Museum commemorative patch. “Hike to History” registration information is online at

Luxenberg said there also will be hikes along the mountainous and scenic trails near Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Four hikes will begin on Friday morning, June 4, and three will begin on Sunday morning, June 6. Hike distances will range from 8.6 miles to 16.3 miles. Luxenberg said space is limited on the hikes and to reserve a place Karen Balaban with the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club should be contacted at or 717-232-3708.

Additionally, trail maintenance outings will be hosted on June 6 by area hiking clubs at Peters Mountain, north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and South Mountain — the mountain range that includes Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The contact for the Peters Mountain cleanup is Jim Hooper with the York County Hiking Club at or 717-252-3784. The contact for the South Mountain initiative is Jim Foster with the Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club and the Mountain Club of Maryland at

The Appalachian Trail Museum is conveniently located near Carlisle, Gettysburg, and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Visitors also will enjoy visiting the historic iron furnace of Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the Pine Grove General Store. The midway point of the Appalachian Trail is approximately two miles west of the museum in Michaux State Forest, but the trail itself is an easy walk from the museum as it weaves through Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

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