Trail food: it’s kind of weird. Think about it. When else do you eat freeze-dried lasagna? Or several protein bars…in one day? Probably not often.
How did trail food become what it is now? And what did hikers do before the wonders of backpacker meals? In this episode of The Green Tunnel, we look back at 100 years of trail food history to understand what hikers ate then and the changes that impacted the food hikers took out on the trail over time.
Amy Bentley, Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity (1998)
Amy Bentley, Inventing Baby Food. Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet (2014)
Larry Luxenberg, editor, Walking the Appalachian Trail (1994), especially the chapter “Food and Lots of It,” by David Denton.
Victoria and Frank Logue, The Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Planning Guide (1991), especially the chapter “Food and Cooking.”
Harriet Barker, The One Burner Gourmet (1981)
MILLS KELLY: Welcome to The Green Tunnel, a podcast on the history of the Appalachian Trail. My name is Mills Kelly and I’m your host. Before we start, I want to say something to the listeners who are paying for the premium version of our show [Screeching sound of a record needle] Actually, no one pays for our show because every podcast we create here at R2 Studios is free and always will be free.
KELLY: But, shows like The Green Tunnel aren’t free to create. We put a lot of time and money into bringing you our show and so today I’m going to ask you to consider supporting our work with a donation. It’s easy! Just go to our website greentunnel.rrchnm.org and click on the “Become a Member” link in the upper right corner. That will take you to a page where you can sign up for our newsletter and there’s a link to our donation page. On the donation page you will be able to donate and you can learn what kinds of thank you gifts we have for our supporters.
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KELLY: Now on with the show.
[Guitar music and cooking sounds]
KELLY: In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking all about the history of food: trail food, that is, and how technological change over the past 100 years has altered what hikers eat on the trail.
KELLY: Talk to any backpacker and they’ll tell you that there are a few things they think about all the time. How much farther do I have to walk today? Is it going to rain? Where’s the next water source? But at the top of almost everyone’s list is–what am I going to eat and when? Breakfast. Snacks. Lunch. Snacks. Dinner. And, of course, snacks.
[Cooking sounds end]
KELLY: I’m a lifetime section hiker and I’m happy to admit that I think about food all the time when I’m hiking. And not just because I like to eat when I’m out in the woods. Food is the critical fuel for any successful hike. It helps us power through the miles, it gives us a smile at the end of a long day, and it keeps us warm at night.
KELLY: Hikers who don’t consume enough calories in a day end up having a miserable time. The average long distance hiker burns through 5,000 to 6,000 calories each day on the trail. That’s a lot of calories.
KELLY: The quest for all those calories can have some pretty weird results.
[Acoustic music begins]
KELLY: I once read an account of an AT thru hike in which the author described his recurrent dreams about butter. Eventually, he became so obsessed with butter that when he went into town to resupply, he bought two sticks, sat down outside the grocery store, and just ate both of them.
KELLY: Or there’s the time several years ago when I was at the John’s Hollow Shelter in Virginia. I was on a long section hike and was there with half a dozen thru hikers. One of them cooked up a pot of Knorr cheesy noodles and as he took the pot off his little stove he accidentally dumped the noodles onto the ground. A normal person would have shrugged (or cursed) and made something else. Instead, he sat cross legged next to his noodles and just ate them off the ground.
KELLY: If it makes you feel any better, he didn’t eat the last layer. Y’know, the ones actually touching the dirt. But that was his dinner, so he ate it.
KELLY: Or there was the time in 2015 when I was at the Maupin Field Shelter, also in Virginia.
[Acoustic music ends]
KELLY: One of the thru hikers who shared the shelter that night did something I’ve never seen and hope to never see again. Just before leaving in the morning, he pulled a bottle of olive oil out of his pack and took a big slug off of it.
KELLY: And then there’s Kitchen Sink.
KELLY: Kitchen Sink was one of the hikers we interviewed this summer about what they were eating during their hikes.
KELLY: Kitchen Sink probably eats more bars than the average hiker, but hikers do consume an awful lot of bars. They’re convenient, they’re filling, and have a lot of protein. And you can buy them almost anywhere along the Appalachian Trail. But is eating so many bars a good plan?
KELLY: After talking to Kitchen Sink I had to know. Was this a terrible idea? Was it genius? To find out I spoke with two registered dietitians who work with athletes. Rachel Artus focuses on clinical nutrition and Dani Bourgeois focuses on sports nutrition.
KELLY: Okay, so. Clif Bars every day. Not a good thing, right Rachel?
RACHEL ARTUS: I would say, I think they’re a great supplement. I wouldn’t rely on them for primary energy sources.
KELLY: Dani explained the science behind why a diet rooted in protein bars probably isn’t so great.
DANIELLE BOURGEOIS: I mean you know when we think about nutrition it’s simple, we need our carbs, fats, and proteins. But variety is truly the spice of life and the spice of nutrition right, so if you’re getting the same kind of quick carbs from bars, you know they they still have some added sugar, which is great for endurance athletes, but variety gives us that freedom of having more micronutrients they’re not too high in fiber so. Yeah, I think my first reaction was just oh no.
BOURGEOIS: The most important thing, I think that anyone, starting with thru hiking or starting an endurance sport is making sure that you know how to maintain your muscles, maintain your weight. I personally know a lot of thru hikers who come back from the trails like emaciated. They’ve lost so much weight, because they didn’t understand how much energy they’re using each day. So I can’t imagine that, even if you’re eating five or six Clif Bars that’s not that’s not sufficient.
KELLY: In his defense, I will say that Kitchen Sink did finish his thru hike last year, so the Clif Bar diet worked for him. But still…
[Classical music begins]
KELLY: The thing about those protein bars is that for the first half century of the Appalachian Trail, those quick and easy snack foods weren’t available for the simple reason that they hadn’t been invented yet. The first granola bars hit the shelves in 1975, exactly 50 years after work on the AT began. Before granola bars, there were Pop Tarts of course, which were first introduced in 1963.
KELLY: Of course, these tasty treats weren’t invented for hikers anyway. They were just two examples of the industrialization of food production in America that really took off after World War II.
[Classical music ends]
[Vintage commercial for foods]
KELLY: Amy Bentley is a food historian at New York University who studies the changes in how people in the United States eat. Technological changes, like advances in food preservation, really transformed what Americans ate and why.
AMY BENTLEY: So the 1950s is the golden age of food preservation, the development of the suburbs, of proliferating supermarkets. Supermarkets double in size, the number of items they stock increases dramatically. Advertisers start advertising all of the products available, all of the little sweets and chips and all kinds of snack foods that have been preserved in one form of technology or another, are just unleashed on the market and it becomes and people have money for the first time in 20 years you know from the Great Depression to the war. And so they have all this money, they have this pent up desire to consume, and there’s all of these products available and advertising helps again teach Americans how to consume this food and what to desire. So it’s a really interesting moment that’s just chock full of food advertising and novelty food items and and the baby boomers you know eat it up, literally.
KELLY: A lot of things were happening all at the same time: changes in food preservation, the spread of supermarkets, and the advertising industry’s push to change the American diet. And they all happened at the very moment that backpacking was really taking off in the United States. Listening to Amy, it dawned on me that what hikers eat on the trail is and always has been governed by two imperatives – provide the fuel needed for the hike and, as much as possible, replicate what we already eat at home. Better food preservation techniques really helped backpackers take their preferred meals along with them into the backcountry.
KELLY: It’s no surprise that this would happen, because food historians like Amy will tell you that foodways – the cultures that grow up around eating – are incredibly powerful and hard to change. We want to eat what we like and what we’re used to. And to the degree we can, we eat on the trail the same way we eat at home.
[Banjo music begins]
KELLY: This desire to eat on the trail the way we eat at home is obvious if you look at some of the packing advice for hikers that I’ve found in the archives of the various AT clubs. Those archives contain what hikers used to call old “grub lists.” I found a bunch from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and those old grub lists tell a very interesting story about what hikers ate before so many convenient high calorie and lightweight options were available in their local supermarket.
KELLY: In the Appalachian Trail’s first decades, hikers had to rely on what they could buy at their local grocery store. Advice for hikers – those grub lists I just mentioned – provide a window into how different long distance backpacking was before the 1960s.
KELLY: We’ve posted some of those grub lists in our show notes. When you take a look at them, the first thing you notice is that the food was a lot heavier. These days, backpackers are advised to keep their food weight under a pound to a pound and a half per day. In the 1920s and 1930s the standard advice was to plan on around two and a half pounds per day.
KELLY: And here are just a few examples of what hikers were advised to carry for a week on the trail:
3 pounds of bacon
1 ½ pounds of ham
1 pound of powdered soup
1 pound of powdered milk
3 ½ pounds of flour
1 ½ pounds of cornmeal
3 pounds of sugar
1 ½ pounds of rice
1 pound of raisins
5 Erbswurst for something called Dynamite Soup
KELLY: Then there was the matter of how they cooked that food. Your typical AT hiker carried a steel pan that could be used for frying bacon or baking biscuits and a steel pot big enough to make soup. Lightweight backpacking stoves didn’t appear on the market until 1955. So all those hikers had to cook over an open fire. Cooking over an open fire meant they also had to carry a hatchet or something that they called a “hand ax” – a kind of short handled axe – to cut wood for their fires. So, in addition to heavy food, hikers carried very heavy gear to cook that food.
[Banjo music ends]
KELLY: I have to digress for just a minute to say that I bought a version of that 1955 Swedish backpacking stove – the SVEA 123 – when I first started hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 1971. It still works just fine and I take it with me from time to time when I hike. We have a short video in the show notes of that old stove firing up.
KELLY: When we showed those old grub lists to Amy Bentley, she pointed out that they were perfect examples of how hikers try to eat on the trail the same way they eat at home.
BENTLEY: it’s trying to recreate just a very typical mainstream middle American diet, with an eye towards technologies of preservation and then how to prepare it, presumably over a campfire in maybe a Dutch oven or a cast iron pan is my guess.
BENTLEY: For breakfast you’re probably going to have eggs that are reconstituted from the egg powder, bacon or ham. Biscuits that are made from the flour and or corn bread from the cornmeal and flour, I think there was some yeah baking powder. Crisco to fry everything in. So that’s going to be like a midday, a morning meal. Probably during the day you’re not going to stop you’re not going to stop to cook food so they’re the dried apples dried apricots raisins chocolate come in handy as quick energy dense kinds of foods. Then in the evening you’re going to break for camp, make a fire, and probably make a one pot soup or stew with the beans, with the dehydrated vegetables, potatoes, rice, powdered soups, bouillon cubes. It’s going to be some variation of a similar type thing, a soup or a stew with rice, or potatoes every night and then you’ve got coffee tea you’re going to have that daily some chocolate as a treat.
KELLY: Compared to a diet of Clif Bars and pizza or cheeseburgers in towns along the trail, hikers in the first decades of the trail ate well.
BENTLEY: It’s very nutritious, very heavy and dense, which you’re going to need if you’re hiking on the Appalachian Trail every day for miles.
KELLY: Before the Second World War, hikers packed raw ingredients and made fresh meals each time they cooked. I cringed at all the weight, but a three pound slab of bacon? I could get behind that.
KELLY: You might be wondering though how hikers in the 1930s or the 1940s kept a big old slab of bacon in their pack without greasing up the entire thing? It turns out that Abercrombie and Fitch, which used to be the world’s premier backpacking outfitter, sold something called a “pork bag” for just that purpose. A pork bag…
[Mountain music begins]
KELLY: By the 1930s, canned food began to show up in those old grub lists.
BENTLEY: In the 1930s you start to have the rise of brand names, so College Inn Chicken a la King. [Mountain music ends, vintage commercial music begins] So the 1920s and 30s is the rise of industrial food production, so mass produced foods that really take hold and even in the depression, are very popular.
KELLY: As much as the advertising industry had an impact on what hikers could buy in their local stores or the stores they visited along the AT, it was the Second World War that really changed the ways hikers ate. [Vintage commercial music ends]
[Newsreel audio from World War II]
BENTLEY: The army in particular was doing a lot of research and development in food preservation techniques so microwaves, freeze dried technologies, other kinds of shelf-stable TV dinners — I’m trying to think what else, you know everything in a can was tried in order to package be the best package material, food materials to send overseas overseas. And after the war, all of that technology was unleashed upon the American consumer.
KELLY: Those new food preservation techniques meant that backpackers could now eat on the trail the way they ate at home – but without carrying all those heavy foods. Less weight meant hiking was easier, which meant more people could imagine putting on a pack and taking off into the mountains for a few days, a few weeks, or even an entire season. Beginning in the 1950s hikers were able to purchase more and more dehydrated or freeze dried foods. By the time I first started hiking on the AT in the early 1970s, Mountain House freeze dried meals had only been around for three years. A year after I started hiking, a product hit the market that’s been a staple of my hiking diet ever since: Lipton’s Cup-a-Soup.
KELLY: Of course, these days outfitters are filled with freeze dried meal options. Lasagna, stews, breakfast skillets, even ice cream and cheesecake. You can buy them all and just like those hikers in the early days of the AT, you can take your preferred meals with you on the trail.
KELLY: And, as the population of hikers has become more diverse, so have the meal choices. These days you can get risotto, Pad Thai, or freeze dried Pho. Jennifer Schism is the CEO and co-founder of Good to Go Foods, a company that makes an increasingly wide variety of meals.
JENNIFER SCHISM: I didn’t come into this business through the back through backcountry or backcountry cooking. I came at it as a chef and I was a chef in New York City. I owned a restaurant in New York City, I had A Michelin Star and three stars from the New York Times, and I was the typical foodie and a sommelier. And then I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband, who was the outdoors guy, and one of his favorite sports was backcountry hiking.
SCHISM: He took me to REI and suited me up and we went out and I absolutely loved it. I was like this is amazing, I had never done anything like that backcountry hiking. And I loved everything except the food. He started off with his rice and beans. We tried some of the meals that were out there and it was, like just a little bit too much sodium for me, not really the flavor profiles that I was looking for. And so I just started making food for us, and I would test stuff on my little tabletop dehydrator and um it really was not going to be a business. I had left New York City, and I was living up in Maine, and I wanted to actually do either food testing or I also did catering. But once I started making Good to Go, or what we called “Jen’s Dried Food,” we would share it with friends and people really liked it and they were like oh my God, you’ve got to sell this stuff.
KELLY: And, just like the AT hikers of the 1920s and the 1930s, Jennifer makes meals she would eat at home.
SCHISM: I think like I literally went hiking I’m like what would I want like what would I want right now. And then I’ll think of like okay, this is what I want. And then I’ll spend the next three hours deconstructing it and thinking, “How would I make it? How do you know what do? What do I need? Are the ingredients clean? And so it’s a lot they’ve been developed more out of my desire as I’m thinking of what I want to eat.
KELLY: Of course, Jennifer also wanted to cut down on pack weight. So it wasn’t just, what do I want and how will I make it, but also how can I make it light?
SCHISM: There were four years there that we had these packs that were like 50 pounds I’m not kidding you, and when you know it was way over the top of my head.
KELLY: Because hikers today prepare their freeze dried or dehydrated meals using lightweight stoves and can generally just pour boiling water into the package, they also don’t need to carry a steel pan and a soup pot the way they did 50 or 75 years ago. These two technological changes – lightweight stoves and lightweight tasty meals – have made the backcountry so much more accessible and thus have helped fuel the backpacking boom that we see out on the AT today.
[Guitar music begins]
KELLY: Of course, the Appalachian Trail runs through or close to many small towns. One of Benton MacKaye’s hopes for the AT was that it would fuel economic growth in these towns as hikers stopped in to buy groceries. And it has. But stopping in town doesn’t only mean a resupply. It means town food. Which brings us back to Kitchen Sink.
KITCHEN SINK: I would say that I definitely dream about Taco Bell, like all the time.
KITCHEN SINK: Yesterday, I went into Front Royal and walked down to the Taco Bell. They do not serve people without vehicles apparently. So I waited until somebody came out cause I guess their lobby was closed. I waited for somebody to come out that was in there. And, um, I asked them if they would drive me around through the drive through so that I could get food. And they, they said, yeah, they didn’t understand, but they were totally happy with it. And, uh, yeah, that’s how I got like $30 or $40 worth of Taco Bell last night. Yeah. I definitely dream about Taco Bell a lot.
KELLY: I just want to be clear that I am not throwing shade on hikers who gorge on fast food when they pass through town. I have certainly been known to eat more than one large cheeseburger at a Wendy’s or a Burger King during a long hike. I mean, why not?
[Guitar music returns]
KELLY: The reason hikers gorge when they’re in town is not just because Taco Bell or Wendy’s food is so good. I mean, it’s not that good. Instead, it’s because long distance backpackers just can’t carry enough calories – even with freeze dried meals – to make up for what their bodies burn on the trail. It can get so bad that a condition known as “hiker hunger” can set in. That’s what happens when you just can’t eat enough to replenish all those calories.
KELLY: I asked Dani to explain how this works.
BOURGEOIS: This insatiable hunger is our body playing catch up. So when we’re in a situation of stress right a stressor on our body means that you know our blood sugars, are trying to balance themselves. In a typical situation of a sport or playing a game or hiking that’s that’s normal stress on our body that we respond to and our body has that capability of doing. But when it’s in fight or flight meaning, “I just need to keep this person alive,” maybe your body isn’t getting enough calories it drops its metabolic rate.
BOURGEOIS: So the way that we avoid the situation will be consistent fueling and I know this is something that we just keep saying, but it’s so so important that they’re keeping in mind like. They are supporting their metabolism and muscle mass through what they’re eating on these hikes right so, it’s just going to be so important for them to be eating consistently and enough.
KELLY: Of course, eating consistently is not what happens on the trail. Which is how hikers end up craving butter or drinking olive oil straight from the bottle. Rachel had a take on how those cravings work.
ARTUS: I like to compare cravings to a bow and arrow. The more energy you put into kind of avoiding those cravings whether it’s by choice or not, the amount of energy you put into pulling that bow and arrow back, the farther it’s going to go in the opposite direction. If we’re depriving ourselves of a certain food, sodium, carbohydrates, fat, whatever it is, when we have access to that we’re probably going to go a little bit overboard and that might mean sitting on the side of the road, having two sticks of butter, but I definitely believe that we can make tend to make up for it if we’re not getting what we need.
BOURGEOIS: The tough part of a thru hike is recovery time for a lot of them, so the only time you’re getting to recover is when you’re sleeping at night. And you know you’re out in the wilderness, for months, at a time, sometimes, so your immunity takes a hit, which is another huge importance of getting these micronutrients, making sure that your immune system is staying up and helping you with this recovery and rejuvenation night after night. So take advantage of both parts of this. Find your micronutrient dense foods and also take care of these cravings that you’re having maybe not with two sticks of butter, but hey whatever works.
KELLY: But does it really work? Through a twist of fate, I recently met that hiker who drank the olive oil straight from the bottle. I was at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace, Pennsylvania and the new Librarian of the Museum, Kurt Bodling, was helping me find some videos I needed. While we were chatting it suddenly dawned on me – He’s the olive oil guy! I asked him to explain the whole olive oil thing to me.
KURT BODLING: Well I’ve been interested in nutrition, for a long time, healthy eating and I’ve been been a vegetarian for over 25 years at this point. I started adding it to the dehydrated soups that I was cooking in the evening and here and and then I said to myself, you know I could I could avoid having to cook things if I just ate the oil, you know drank the oil. And it seemed to work, you know. If you’ve got got a plastic bottle something that won’t break in your pack course and and you’re carrying along your calories in liquid form and drinking enough, it just it just seemed to make sense. So I started drinking the olive oil directly, y’know, maybe a tablespoon in the morning, give me a boost to get going and in the afternoon when i’d arrived at the shelter or something sometimes in the middle of the day.
KELLY: I also asked Kurt what it was like the first time he tried drinking straight from the bottle.
BODLING: Um the first time I did it wasn’t fun.
KELLY: Just in case you were thinking that drinking straight olive oil is for you, Kurt has a health and safety warning.
BODLING: You have to be careful not to inhale while you’re drinking it. You don’t want it in your lungs, so I always take a breath and then take my olive oil.
KELLY: I like to think of myself as one of those hikers who will eat just about anything as long as it gets me up the trail, but I’m not sure I could eat two sticks of butter or drink olive oil straight from the bottle. But I could definitely take a shot at one of the Appalachian Trail’s most beloved traditions – the Half Gallon Challenge.
[Mountain music begins]
KELLY: Like so many traditions, the Half Gallon Challenge was made up out of whole cloth. In 1980, the managers of the camp store at Pine Grove Furnace State Park – just north of the halfway point of the trail – decided to celebrate hikers reaching that halfway point by creating the “Half Gallon Club.” Anyone who ate an entire half gallon of ice cream in one sitting was a member of the club.
KELLY: At some point the “club” morphed into a “challenge” and ever since hikers have stopped at the store and tried to get down an entire half gallon of ice cold, buttery, salty, creamy ice cream.
[Mountain music ends]
KELLY: That may not sound so hard to you, but if you’ve been hiking for weeks or months, your stomach is definitely not prepared for all that ice cold fat. I’ve watched hikers try the challenge more than once over the past few years. Some succeeded. Some threw in the towel before they finished. And at least two finished, then went back behind the store and threw up. Sorry. I know that’s gross. But it happens.
KELLY: While we worked on this episode, there were so many things we wanted to talk about but couldn’t fit in–the shelter where you can order pizza delivery, what, exactly, Dynamite Soup is, and so on. We’ve covered a few more of those stories in our newsletter, so if you want to know more about the history of trail food, go to our website, greentunnel.rrchnm.org, and click the Become a Member link to sign up for the newsletter. We never, ever share our data with anyone, so the only people you’ll hear from is us. In addition to the newsletter, we’ll send you some awesome stickers just for signing up.
[Mountain music begins]
BRIDGET BUKOVICH: The Green Tunnel is a production of R2 Studios at George Mason University. Today’s episode was produced by me, Bridget Bukovich. Abby Mullen is our executive producer and she also did the audio production for this episode. And as always, Mills Kelly is our host.
BUKOVICH: Our music is performed by Scott Miller of Staunton, Virginia, and Andrew Small and Ashley Watkins of Floyd, Virginia. We have links to Scott, Ashley, Andrew, and their work in the show notes.
BUKOVICH: Before we go, we want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who agreed to be interviewed for this episode–Rachel Artus, Dani Bourgeois, Amy Bentley, Jennifer Schism, Kurt Bodling, and, of course, Kitchen Sink. In case you’re wondering, Kitchen Sink not only successfully completed his 2021 AT thru hike, but is planning on taking on the Continental Divide Trail in 2022 to finish up his Triple Crown. I presume he’ll be eating a lot more Clif Bars.
BUKOVICH: Finally, we want to thank everyone who has been posting about or show in their social media feeds. That really helps us grow our audience. If you listen to the show from one of the main podcast platforms like Apple or Spotify, leaving us a review is another great way to help support the show.
BUKOVICH: Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you soon!
[Mountain music ends]
Rachel Artus is a registered dietitian in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Rachel specializes in disordered eating and works with her clients in the one-on-one and group settings to help them discover food freedom and confidence in fueling their bodies. You can follow Rachel on Instagram @eats_by_rach and discover her original recipes on her website www.rachelartus.com.
Amy Bentley is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University. A historian with interests in the social, historical, and cultural contexts of food, she is the author of Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity (University of Illinois Press, 1998) and Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet (University of California Press, 2014). Inventing Baby Food was a finalist for the James Beard Award and the American Society for Food Studies Best Book Award.
Danielle Bourgeois is a registered dietitian in Southern NH, specializing in sports nutrition and gut health. She works with clients one-on-one to create individualized plans that guide them in reaching their health and wellness goals in a sustainable and maintainable way. You can follow Danielle on Instagram @dbourgeois_rd or request an appointment with her on her company website, nimrd.com.
Jennifer Schism is the co-founder and CEO of Good To Go Foods located in Maine. Jennifer was a very successful chef in New York City for a decade before moving to Maine and co-founding Good To Go with her husband David Koorits.
Kitchen Sink is a long distance hiker who completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2020, the Appalachian Trail in 2021, and is planning to hike the Continental Divide Trail in 2022 to complete the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States.
Kurt Bodling is the Librarian of the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace, Pennsylvania and a long distance hiker who has completed most of the Appalachian Trail. Prior to his post at the AT Museum Kurt was a long-time librarian at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.