Hall of Fame charter class

A.T. Hall of Fame
inducts its first class

Friday, June 17, 2011

BOILING SPRINGS, Pa. -- The Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame inducted its first class of honorees tonight, with trail founder Benton MacKaye and trail builder Myron H. Avery leading the inaugural group of six inductees.

Rounding out the list are Earl Shaffer, the first person to report an end-to-end thru-hike of the trail; Gene Espy, the second person to thru-hike the trail; Arthur Perkins, the first person to begin making MacKaye's dream a reality; and Ed Garvey, a trail maintainer and hiker whose seminal book on his 1970 northbound hike helped popularize thru-hiking in the 1970s.

Of the six, only Espy is still alive and he was here to receive the award in person, traveling up from his native Georgia to not only attend the ceremony but also to make his first visit to the Appalachian Trail Museum.

"The hike (in 1951) meant a lot to me but my appreciation goes to all the maintainers over these years and the people of the A.T. museum who made this award possible," a brief and humble Espy said as he received his award.

From Left to Right: Nancy Ann Shaffer Nofziger (for Earl Shaffer), Dan Garvey (for Ed Garvey), Gene Espy,
ATC Executive Director Dave Startzell (for Benton MacKaye), ATC Chief Operating Officer Steve Paradis (for Arthur Perkins), and PATC President John Hedrick (for Myron Avery).
For a look at other photos from the event click here.

The induction banquet took place at Allenberry Resort, a few miles from the A.T. Museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where the Hall of Fame will be housed.

Each inductee was presented with a beautifully handcarved walking stick made by John Bodet, aka "Bodacious," that will serve as the Hall of Fame's rendition of an Oscar statuette. Each honoree or his representative received a stick engraved with the person's name. And one additional walking stick was created with all of their names engraved -- that stick will be housed in the Museum.

Because the inductions were presented in alphabetical order, the first person to be enshrined was Myron Avery. His son Hal is still alive and living in Los Angeles, but because of health issues and traveling distance he was not able to be present. Instead, accepting the award on behalf of the family was John Hedrick, president of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club which Avery helped found in the late 1920s.

"By all accounts, he was a doer who put Benton MacKaye's dream into existence," Hedrick said. "Perhaps stated another way, Myron Avery was the single individual most responsible for putting muddy boots on the ground and accomplishing all those mundane and organizational details so very necessary to accomplish a specific goal."

Acknowledging Avery's well-known temper and strong personality, Hedrick said that type of personality was probably essential to accomplishing MacKaye's dream in so relatively short a time. The last section of trail was completed in 1937.

"There is no doubt that his pragmatic approach to building the trail was of an immense influence in creating the most famous footpath in the world, which has provided a positive experience to millions of hikers," Hedrick said of Avery, who unexpectedly died in office as head of the ATC in 1952.

Accepting the award for Benton MacKaye was David Startzell, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy who is retiring at the end of this year after 34 years with the ATC. Hall of Fame coordinator Jim Foster noted in introducing Startzell that he is likely a future Hall of Famer himself.

Dave noted that before he joined the ATC, he was a regional planner, just like MacKaye, who literally wrote the book on regional planning. "MacKaye really created a whole new discipline of regional planning so I've always had a special connection with him," Startzell said.

Accepting the award for the late Earl Shaffer was his neice, Nancy Ann Shaffer Nofziger. She said it was an honor to know that the thru-hikers who have followed in her uncle's footsteps nominated him and voted for him for the award. She always knew that his 1948 hike was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the A.T., which included years of tireless work as a maintainer of trails and builder of shelters.

"It was a flame that started in the late '40s and never died," she said of Earl's passion for the A.T.

Accepting the award for the late Ed Garvey was his son, Dan Garvey. "Ambbassador would be a very apt description of my father," Garvey said. "He loved the mountains and the trail and if he were here tonight he would be working the room."

On Arthur Perkins, Foster noted that one of the purposes for an A.T. Hall of Fame was for people like Judge Perkins, who died on his 68th birthday following a stroke in 1930 and never lived to see his efforts on behalf of the A.T. completed. Both MacKaye and Avery served as pallbearers at Perkins' funeral.

"He is the person credited with taking that A.T. logo and putting it on galvanized steel diamonds as a trail marker," said Steve Paradis, the chief operating officer of ATC who accepted the award on behalf of Perkins.

Here are thumbnail descriptions of the first six inductees into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame, courtesy of Hall of Fame coordinator Jim Foster:

    Benton MacKaye -- He is the person who first proposed the idea of an Appalachian Trail in his 1921 article, "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning." MacKaye was responsible for convening and organizing the first Appalachian Trail "conference" in Washington, D.C., in 1925. That gathering of hikers, foresters and public officials embraced the goal of building the Trail. They established an organization, called the Appalachian Trail Conference (now Conservancy), and appointed MacKaye as its "field organizer." Without his vision and inspiration, the Appalachian Trail would probably never have been built.

    Myron Avery -- Avery and five colleagues formed the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in 1927. Avery was elected president, and remained in that position until 1941. In 1930 he became acting chairman of ATC, and in 1931 was elected to the chairmanship, a position he held until 1952. A dynamo of activity, Avery seized control of the Appalachian Trail and drove it to completion. If Benton MacKaye envisioned the trail, Avery built it. He knitted the trail clubs together into a cohesive group, communicating by letter to volunteers up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Avery had a hand in forming a number of trail clubs, and became the founder of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club in his home state. He was the first person to walk the entire trail, pushing his ever-present measuring wheel in front of him. His vision of the physical trail included a blazing system (he was responsible for the 2x6-inch white blaze), detailed maps and guidebooks, and wide publicity. He wanted the trail to be accessible to the "average tramper" (his words) -- it was to be a "people's trail."

    Arthur Perkins -- An avid outdoorsman who, in the late 1920s, spearheaded the effort to make Benton MacKaye's dream of an Appalachian Trail a reality. After MacKaye's initial inspiration in the early 1920s, work on building the A.T. had largely stalled. Without Perkins' persistence, the A.T. might never have been built. Judge Perkins was also the second chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now Conservancy), serving from 1927 to 1930.

    Earl Shaffer -- While Benton MacKaye developed the Trail in concept and Myron Avery built the Trail, it was Earl Shaffer who pioneered the concept of thru-hiking. His notion of a 2,000-mile continuous wilderness expedition by foot was unheard of at the time, yet it went lengths to popularize the A.T. and propagate how the Trail is thought of today. Thousands of adventurers have since followed in Earl's footsteps, taking journeys that have in many cases changed lives and redirected priorities.

    Gene Espy -- In 1951, Gene became the second person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. His recent book, "The Trail of My Life -- The Gene Espy Story" has inspired many to follow in his footsteps. Gene is almost unique as a trail pioneer who is still alive and able to personally receive the honor of a place in the charter class of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.

    Ed Garvey -- He thru-hiked the A.T. in 1970, when it was still fairly rare to do so. The popularity of his 1971 book, "Appalachian Hiker," arguably did more to raise the awareness of thru-hiking than any other single event. In his book, Ed carefully explained his preparations and gathered useful information along the way that would be of benefit to those who would follow in his footsteps. Mr. Garvey also volunteered countless hours helping to build the trail while working in Washington, D.C.
    For a look at other photos from the event click here.