October 1 – 4 2020

A weekend to help you prepare for a successful hike of the Appalachian Trail at an iconic trail stop. Email WoodsHoleHostel@gmail.com for the application.

View of Woods Hole Hostel main cabin
Woods Hole Hostel, Picture by Lisa VonLuehrte

Are you ready to turn your dream of thru-hiking or section-hiking the historic, 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail into reality in the near future? Then you won’t want to miss this very special weekend retreat to benefit the iconic Woods Hole Hostel, regularly ranked by hikers among the best hostel experiences on the trail. Join hosts Neville Harris, artist, yoga instructor and long-time owner of the hostel, and Steve Adams, two-time AT finisher and host of the popular Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail podcast—over one million downloads to date—for a weekend of conversation and camaraderie with successful thru- and section-hikers, hostel owners, and an expert from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, who will answer all your questions and get you prepared — and excited — for your hike.

The Event

What: A weekend retreat of presentations and discussion for individuals considering thru-hike or long section-hike of the AT.

When: Oct. 2-4, 2020 (with optional Oct. 1 overnight camping practicum)

Where: Woods Hole Hostel, located on a gorgeous mountain outside Pearisburg, Virginia, some 600 miles north the southern terminus of the AT. Named the “best overall off-trail experience” by Platinum-Blazing the Appalachian Trail, Woods Hole has been described as “A slice of heaven not to be missed” by the AT Hiker Yearbook.

Cost: $250 per person, for bunkhouse lodging or camping, all meals from Friday lunch to Sunday lunch, access to all presentations, presenters and materials. Private accommodations (two safari tents or two private rooms) are $350, subject to availability. All fees benefit Woods Hole; presenters are volunteering their time.

Registration: Email WoodsHoleHostel@gmail.com for application. Attendance limited to 10 individuals, first-come, first-served, with a wait list in case of cancellations. Limited scholarships may be available, based on need, at the discretion of the hosts.

All sessions will comply with applicable physical distancing and other, related COVID-19 precautions, based on latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations. Fee fully refundable if event is canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Bunkhouse at Woods Hole. Photo by Lisa VonLuehrte

Supporting Woods Hole

Whether you attend The Woods Hole Weekend or not, the organizers have created an opportunity to both support the hostel and fund scholarships for this and future weekends. Neville pioneered generosity and ability-to-pay policy years ago with her “Trail Magic Jar,” funded by hikers, for hikers and need and to support the hostel. Please consider donating to help others visit Woods Hole, fund scholarships, and ensure that this iconic hostel will be there for future AT hikers. 

To donate, please contact Neville at WoodsHoleHostel@gmail.com or 540-921-3444.


“It’s more mental than physical”

  • Strategies for maintaining emotional equilibrium
  • Virginia (or any other state) Blues
  • “Never quit on a bad day”
  • Giving yourself a break: slackpacking, blue-blazing, aqua-blazing, and more

“But yeah, it’s physical”

  • Steep, rocky, rooty – the toughest of the Triple Crown trails
  • Avoiding injury
  • Lyme disease
  • Norovirus
  • Water safety

How much should I worry about…?

  • Weather
  • Bears
  • Humans
  • Cows
  • Snakes
  • Insects
Ursus Americanus, American black bears, are a common sight on the AT.

Gearing Up

  • The Big Three – pack, sleep system, shelter
  • Preventing the agony of the feet
  • No rain, no Maine – rain gear options… and expectations
  • Stoves, water safety, and everything else
  • Lightweight, ultra-lightweight – how much does it matter?
  • What are your luxury items?
  • Individual pack shakedowns

Decisions, decisions

  • When should I start? Winter, spring, summer, and bubbles
  • NOBO or SOBO?
  • To flip, or not to flip?
  • How long will it take? Pace, mileage, zero days
  • Celebrate the spreadsheet, but expect the unexpected
  • The great “purism” debate
Katahdin, northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Going to Town

  • Resupply
  • Maildrops, bounce boxes
  • Shuttles and hitchhiking
  • Hostels and hotels
  • Laundry
  • Platinum-Blazing – “must visit” spots along the AT

Hiker Etiquette

So, I’ve heard that…

  • Virginia is flat
  • Pennsylvania is rocky
  • The Whites are the hardest part
  • After the Whites, you’ve got it made
  • Bears… aaaagggghhhh! Bears!
  • Women shouldn’t hike alone
  • The 100 Mile Wilderness is terrifyingly remote
  • Bill Nye is hiking SOBO in 2021
  • Guest questions

Giving Back

  • Who maintains the trail?
  • The Appalachian Trail (and every other trail) needs YOU
  • Trail clubs, the ATC, and other opportunities


Thursday, Oct. 1 (optional practicum; participants must bring required gear)

  • Meet at Trent’s Grocery at 2 p.m.
  • 2-mile hike to Dismal Falls
  • Overnight camping practicum
    • Leave No Trace demonstration
    • Tenting, water filtration, bear hang, cooking, etc.
  • Friday morning, break camp and hike out

Friday, Oct. 2

  • Arrive at Woods Hole
  • Noon-1:30 p.m. – Welcome lunch
  • 1:30-2:45 p.m. – “It’s more mental than physical”
  • 2:45-3:00 p.m. – Break
  • 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – “But yeah, it’s physical”
  • 4:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Break
  • 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Social Time
  • 6:00 – 7:10 p.m. – Dinner
  • 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Decisions, decisions: It’s not just putting one foot in front of the other

Saturday, Oct. 3

  • 7:30-8:30 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 9 a.m.-noon – Gearing up
  • Noon-1:30 p.m. – Lunch
  • 1:30-3 p.m. – Individual pack shakedowns
  • 3-3:15 p.m. – Break
  • 3:15-4:30 p.m. – Going to town
  • 4:30-5 p.m. – Break
  • 5-6 p.m. – Hiker Etiquette
  • 6-7:15 p.m. – Dinner
  • 7:30-9 p.m. – Optional breakout groups:
    • Issues for women
    • Getting through the Whites
    • Social media, YouTube and podcasts

Sunday, Oct. 4

  • 7:30-8:30 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 9-10 a.m. – Giving Back
  • 10-10:15 a.m. – Break  
  • 10:15 a.m.-noon – Panel discussion and Q&A
  • Noon-1:30 p.m. – Departure lunch
The View from Woods Hole. Photo by Lisa VonLuehrte


Neville Harris started coming to Woods Hole at age 3 to stay with her grandparents, Tillie and Roy Wood. She helped run the hostel for two years with her grandmother before her passing. Neville holds a Master’s degree in Art Education, is a certified massage therapist and yoga teacher, and a practitioner of Vipassana meditation.

Steve “Mighty Blue” Adams is a native of England who has lived in the United States for many years. In 2014, at age 61, he completed his first AT thru-hike. In 2016 created the Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail podcast, which has more than one million downloads to date. In 2018, he started the Hiking Radio Network, “Where we talk the walk, with shows by hikers, about hikers … for everybody.” In 2019, he completed his second AT thru-hike, at age 66, and hopes to become the first person to complete three while in his 60s. He lives in Florida.

After completing a 2009 southbound AT thru-hike, Tina “Chunky” Tempest began dreaming of owning a hostel on the trail. After a three-year search for the right property, she and her husband Brett opened the Quarter Way Inn just a quarter-mile off the trail near Ceres, Virginia. Today they host hikers three months each year and raise honeybees at the now-solar-powered hostel. Tina and her friend Kate created the game, Lord of the Things.

Bruce “RTK” Matson is a retired attorney from Richmond, Virginia. He achieved a lifelong dream when he completed a thru-hike of the AT in 2018, a year famous for its brutally cold, snowy spring, and his hike was documented in the weekly Hiking Radio Network podcast, Returning to Katahdin. He is the author of three books about the AT, Platinum-Blazing the Appalachian Trail, Thinking About a Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail? Some Observations and Recommendations, and the new memoir, Returning to Katahdin. Bruce has also hiked Spain’s Camino de Santiago, the Milford Track in New Zealand and the Overland Track in Tasmania.

Clay Bonnyman “Pony” Evans is a freelance writer and author. In 2015, inspired by a young neighbor, he completed his first thru-hike — not counting a 50-miler with the Boy Scouts — walking 486 miles of the Colorado Trail. Smitten, he completed a flip-flop thru-hike of the AT and has since hiked the Foothills Trail, Alabama Pinhoti Trail and the pilot trail of the Great Plains Trail. His most recent book is Bones of My Grandfather: Reclaiming a Lost Hero of World War II and The Trail is the Teacher tells the story of his AT hike. His articles regularly appear on The Trek.

Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Julie “Jester” Gayheart was always intrigued by the Appalachian Trail. In 2006, she hoisted her pack, tied her boots, and began a 2,189-mile odyssey. Over the next 13 summers, she turned into a “serial section hiker” and today has just 500 miles to go before completing the trail for a second time! She hosts the Hiking Radio Network’s Jester Section Hiker podcast.

Based in Roanoke, Kathryn Herndon-Powell collaborates with trail clubs, agency partners, and A.T. Communities as the education and outreach coordinator in ATC’s Virginia Regional Office. She thru hiked the A.T. in 2006 and the PCT in 2010, and logged even more trail miles during her years as a backcountry caretaker in Vermont and a crew leader for ATC’s Konnarock and Rocky Top Trail Crews. Her current role is more office-based, but still exciting. Whether it’s training Ridgerunners, teaching Leave No Trace, or supporting A.T. Communities and educators, there’s always something new to discover about how the Trail connects people to the land and to each other. Kathryn’s next big adventure will be taking her son, born in December 2019, on his first backpacking trip.