Bears Den Hostel, Bluefield, VA, January 23 – 24, 2015 — What’s a ruck?
According to Webster, it’s 1a : the usual run of persons or things ; 1b : an indistinguishable gathering. That’s what it was.
Each year the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) hosts a southern and a northern ruck with the hopes of helping prospective thru and section hikers improve their chances of success. Think of it as a seminar for hiking nerds.
Around 30 – 40 folks gathered for the northern ruck this past weekend. Fifteen of them were prospective thru hikers who came complete with all the common anxieties – Will I make it? Is my pack too heavy? What happens if it snows? Will I run out of food? Will I be able to get to town when needed? What if I get hurt? Bears? Snakes? Lyme Disease? Ticks? What if I meet a psychopath? How will I navigate? And all the rest. I can only hope we were useful to them.
The two-day program featured a raffle and presentations on past hikes, the Grand Canyon, pack weight reduction, a bull session where folks could raise questions; all of which was capped off by loads of pot luck fixin’s.
Bears Den is one of the best hostels on the trail. Dana and her husband John do a marvelous job of welcoming hikers and helping them get ready to press on. Believe me, they’ve seen it all.
Bears Den and its surrounding acres was once a summer home for a wealthy doctor and his wife who was an opera soprano. Ultimately the Appalachian Trail Conservancy bought it and contracted its operation to the Potomac Appalachian Tail club. It’s ideally located following a strenuous section of trail known as the “Roller coaster,” a day-and-a-half south of Harpers Ferry.
Several hostels post photos of past thru hikers. These are several people I know from the class of 2013.
Each year thru hikers sign a poster. Several years’ worth are hanging in one of the bunk rooms.
Lots of help in the kitchen.
This guy reminds me of my cat Mustache.
Bears Den as few thru hikers see it.
Did I mention ice storm?