We sit and share pizza with fellow thru-hikers and the handful of locals who filter in. With more than 1,700 hikers passing through Erwin already this season, the AT is a stealth economic engine that fuels tourism during the off-season, before river rafting becomes big. Hikers stay at hotels, eat dinners out, and buy groceries.
It’s hard work getting that point across to local communities. A few days after the downtown shindig, a deranged man with a gun held AT hikers hostage at Beauty Spot, just seven miles from Erwin. The incident ended well, with the offender overpowered and in custody, but damage is done. “It will take years to recover,” Miss Janet said, the goodwill and trust built up, the positive feelings of the AT as a community resource. This ambassador, however, will keep working at it.