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  1. #1
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    Default Hostels Now and Then

    On a recent thread someone asked how many hostels are along the AT. I was surprised at the number. This raised my curiosity. I thought I would look at the number of hiker accommodations through the years. I used the "Thru Hikers Companion" for the years 2017, 2014, 2012, and 2010 for my references. The Companion has a list in the back of hostels, campgrounds, and showers along the trail. I first totaled the number of hostels using the Companion's list. I then added other hiker accommodations that were not listed as a hostel. These included places that have inexpensive and/or group lodging, ie. bunks.


    In 2017 there are 56 places listed as hostels. Add in another 13 places that are not listed as hostels (eg. Shaws, Pine Ellis, Mt. Harbour, etc.) and the total comes to 69. This does not include the new hostels that opened this year after publication of the Companion.


    In 2014 there were 45 listed as hostels and another 9 for a total of 54. In 2012 there were 39 listed as hostels and an additional 9 hiker accommodations for a total of 48. In 2010 there were 40 listed as hostels and another 12 not listed as hostels for a total of 52.


    I also compared the years 2010 and 2017 to look at the number of new hiker accommodations and the number of places that closed. There are 32 places that are in the 2017 Companion that were not listed in the 2010 edition. There are 16 places that were listed in the 2010 edition that are no longer in operation. This includes some noteworthy places such as the Blueberry Patch, Happy Hiker Hollow, and Palmerton Jail. South of Harpers Ferry there were 24 new places and 5 that closed between 2010 and 2017. North of Harpers Ferry 8 new places opened and 11 closed between 2010 and 2017.


    For a twist I compared 2017 number with numbers from 40 years ago. In 1977 there were 14 places for hikers to stay. I used an annotated version of the "Appalachian Trail Mileage Facts" published by the ATC in August 1975. There were only 5 true hostels and 3 of them are still in operation, The Place, Holy Family Church, and Church of the Mountain. The fourth hostel was the Jesuit Hostel in Hot Springs which today is known as the Laughing Heart Lodge and Hostel. The fifth was Ken's Old Church in Monson. Other places offering a place for hikers to stay included fire stations in Waynesboro, VA and Duncannon, the YMCA in Erwin, a place in Wesser that was known as the Outdoor Motel (today we know it as NOC), and Mt. Meadows in Killington.
    More walking, less talking.

  2. #2

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    When I did most of the trail in 1988/89, the few church hostels was pretty much the size of it. I was lucky enough to eat dinner with the friars and spend a night in a monk cell at the Graymoor monastery.

    Accommodations have definitely multiplied since then. 2200 miles / 69 hostels or equivalent = one every 32 miles. Give or take. Not bad.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3
    Registered User DSPeabody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soilman View Post
    On a recent thread someone asked how many hostels are along the AT. I was surprised at the number. This raised my curiosity. I thought I would look at the number of hiker accommodations through the years. I used the "Thru Hikers Companion" for the years 2017, 2014, 2012, and 2010 for my references. The Companion has a list in the back of hostels, campgrounds, and showers along the trail. I first totaled the number of hostels using the Companion's list. I then added other hiker accommodations that were not listed as a hostel. These included places that have inexpensive and/or group lodging, ie. bunks.
    Soilman,

    Thanks for the research. I'm the one that asked the original question in the other thread. Like you, I was really surprised there are so many. I'm learning more and more about this 'underground world' of hostels.

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    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    When I did most of the trail in 1988/89, the few church hostels was pretty much the size of it. I was lucky enough to eat dinner with the friars and spend a night in a monk cell at the Graymoor monastery.
    We lucked out when we got to Graymoor. They were having an ordination ceremony and had a big dinner with an open bar before dinner. It was great drinking and joking with the brothers and friars.
    More walking, less talking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soilman View Post
    We lucked out when we got to Graymoor. They were having an ordination ceremony and had a big dinner with an open bar before dinner. It was great drinking and joking with the brothers and friars.
    LOL, this had us laugh, on El Camino there are 2 monasteries in Leon, one for the sisters and the other for the brothers. The sisters one was where we stayed, it was basic, utilitarian, and 3 massive overcrowded bunkrooms. They offered prayer service for the pilgrims (hikers). On the way out we stopped by the brothers, which had a beautiful hostel with private rooms and we joked many miles about while the sisters were praying for and with the pilgrims kneeling on hard floors, the brothers were probably partying and drinking with the pilgrims. Cost difference 5 euros for the sisters, 7 or 8 euros for the brothers.

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    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    I know, back in 1981 when I hiked Damascus to Harper's Ferry, I stayed at only two hostels, "The Place" and the "Holy Family Hospice". There were perhaps a couple others available, but not sure they were open, as we were way ahead of the normal thru hikers. Rusty's may have been in existence back then. Can't think of any others off hand.

  7. #7

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    Sad to see the church hostel in Vernon, NY close. Not many church hostels left compared to years ago.

    Of course, the Twelve Tribes Yellow Deli's seems to be picking up for the loss of the old time churches.
    Order your copy of the Appalachian Trail Passport at www.ATPassport.com

    Green Mountain House Hostel
    Manchester Center, VT

    http://www.greenmountainhouse.net

  8. #8

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    In 2002 I hiked from Springer to Waynesboro and remember the following places to stay...I won't mention motels:

    Bunk house at Neel's Gap
    Rainbow something campground at Winding Stair Gap
    Was there a bunk house at NOC? I just took a shower there...
    Blueberry Patch - don't remember where this was but it was early in the hike
    Bunk house at Fontana Dam
    Mountain Mama's at Davenport Gap
    Another hostel just past Davenport Gap had just opened...don't remember the name.
    Elmer's and some B&B's in Hot Springs
    Uncle Johnny's in Erwin
    Kincora - Bob People's place at Dennis Cove
    The Place in Damascus...I think there were two or three other options in town
    Church hostel near Troutdale was in the process of being built
    Campground next to a gas station that had showers right on the trail just before Bland
    A couple in Bland who had hiked the trail in the past let hikers stay at their place
    Church hostel in Pearisburg...it was out of the way so most people stayed at the motel that was right on the trail which has since burned.
    4 Pines Hostel near Dragon's Tooth, Catawba
    YMCA had a lot they let people camp on by the river in Waynesboro

    So that's at least 17 towns/road crossings where accommodations were available for the first 850 miles, not including motels...most of those places had showers and laundry services.

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    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Shaws isnt listed as a hostel?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    When I did most of the trail in 1988/89, the few church hostels was pretty much the size of it. I was lucky enough to eat dinner with the friars and spend a night in a monk cell at the Graymoor monastery.

    Accommodations have definitely multiplied since then. 2200 miles / 69 hostels or equivalent = one every 32 miles. Give or take. Not bad.
    In '90 there was: Walasi-Yi, Rainbow Springs, Elmers' in Hot Springs, NOC (Wesser), Nolichucky Expeditions in Erwin, The Place in Damascus, Levi's place in Bastian, Woods Hole just south of Pearisburg. Just off the top of my head.

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    Shaws was there in 90 and probably many years before then... As was the Doyle.

    Yes, a lot of church hostels, the one in Pearisburg (long walk from trailhead) and the one in DWG was there also.

    Kincorra wasn't a thing yet, nor was Ms. Janet's. Rusty's Hollow is long gone, as is Rainbow Springs. There used to be places for hikers to stay on the Dartmouth campus in Hanover but I think that's also gone by the wayside, mostly.

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    I stayed at Shaws last year after the HMW. Poet and Hippie Chick are a nice couple. I hope they do well in their business venture. I really hope they survived their first Winter in Maine :-)

  13. #13
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    Shaws isnt listed as a hostel?
    In the Companion I used a column with the heading "Guest Fee". In this column there is a letter, H for hostel, B for bunk, C for camping, S for shelter, and L for lodging. I first totaled all the "H's" in the Guest Fee column then added other places with a B using some judgement on my part. Shaw's is listed as Shaw's Hiker Hostel with B and C in the Guest Fee column. So I didn't include in the hostel sum. Places like Shaw's and Pine Ellis Lodge that have a B in the Guest Fee column I then added to the "H's" to get the total of hiker accommodations.
    More walking, less talking.

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    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soilman View Post
    In the Companion I used a column with the heading "Guest Fee". In this column there is a letter, H for hostel, B for bunk, C for camping, S for shelter, and L for lodging. I first totaled all the "H's" in the Guest Fee column then added other places with a B using some judgement on my part. Shaw's is listed as Shaw's Hiker Hostel with B and C in the Guest Fee column. So I didn't include in the hostel sum. Places like Shaw's and Pine Ellis Lodge that have a B in the Guest Fee column I then added to the "H's" to get the total of hiker accommodations.
    Shaws has private rooms, bunk houses, and outside camping. I guess they are the oddball/outlier in the companion. Eh. Just quibbling cuz I'm bored.

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    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    In 1976 Shaw's Boarding House was in operation. There was also a hostel in Monson called Ken's Old Church which was located in the old church along side the lake. The church has since been restored and used as a Christian Resource and Study Center. It is also on the National Historic Register. I was SOBO in 1976 and there were no resources like the Companion or AWOL. Hikers had to rely on the trail grapevine to learn of places offering services to hikers. Coming into Monson I had only heard of Ken's Church and that was where most of the hikers were staying. Hiking the AT was a whole lot different then. Some of the simple things we take for granted today. There were no cell phones. Shoot I don't think I even had a phone card. Relied on pay phones or collect calls for communications with the outside world. I didn't have a credit card. I was fresh out of college and financial institutions did not give out credit cards to college grads with no job. So I used travelers checks (remember those?) and Western Union wire transfers for cash. We would go weeks without a shower. The longest for me was 20 days. The following is a list of places I spent a night off the trail in 1976-77.

    Ken's Old Church, Monson
    Alpine Tourist Home, Gorham
    Mt. Adams Hotel, N. Woodstock
    Bones Gate Fraternity, Hanover
    Gamma Delta Chi Fraternity, Hanover
    Mt. Meadows Lodge, Killington
    St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Kent
    Graymoor Monastery, NY
    Pavilion, Pt. Clinton
    Fire Station, Waynesboro, VA
    Holy Family Church Hostel, Pearisburg
    The Place, Damascus
    Times Square Inn, Elk Park
    Jesuit Hostel, Hot Springs
    Fontana Village Lodge
    Outdoor Motel, Wesser
    More walking, less talking.

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    What is also interesting is how the hostels are run back then, compare to now. I started my hiking back in 1989. Most hostels, back then, offered hikers a shower and a place to sleep. After several weeks in the woods, hikers real forward to a chance to just being clean and eat out in town. The hostels had a caretaker but not as much attention as they do now.

    Years of abuse and low donations forced many closes up shop or required more attention by the hostel caretaker.
    Some hostels back then offered other services such as Shaws. Shaws really set the standard of what many of the hostels offer today. Many hostels now are offering meals, rides, laundry service, etc. All for an additional fee of course. Many present-day hikers even expect some of the additional services.

    It interesting to see all the changes that have been made since my last thru-hike. Some good, some not to my liking but different.

    Wolf

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    Shaws and Elmers' cater to groups other than hikers, which is probably why they've lasted as long as they have.

    Both places are famous for their communal style meals. Elmers takes it one step further with made-from-scratch vegetarian meals. Elmers has a very special vibe.

    A few of the hostels back in the old days were pretty ratty. Not naming names though.

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    As a SOBO in 19AT3 I stayed are every hostel I new about:


    • Monson, ME- Shaws Boarding House --Had fried chicken, milk and pie with Keith's family
    • Gorham, NH-Erwin's Barn-- Space on floor in barn attached to old Victorian house in center of town but could use showers in house for a couple extra bucks
    • Hanover, NH -- Tabard Hall -- spot on floor in communal area of Frat House
    • Dalton, VT-- Community Center -- Nice facility-- slept on matts used to pad the walls behind the basketball hoops. They gave me the key. Indoor pool, I think. They had a different concept of trust and liability even for the time.
    • NY-- Greymore Monastery -- Sweet and Sour Chicken Dinner with the brothers, slept in a cell.
    • NY--Ralph's Peak Hiker Cabin -- not really a hostel, but they had free donuts -- so close enought
    • Pearisburg, Va -- The one all the NOBOs raved about. Considered special.
    • Damascus, WV -- The place. Iconic even then.


    With the exception of Shaw's that was something like $8 with dinner (not sure about the exact amount) and Erwin's Barn that was just a few dollars, they were all free.

    Never even thought about staying at a motel, but I did manage to score a spot on the Cookie Lady's floor (with all the warm hospitality that Bonnie Shipe and her husband were known for) along the Cumberland Valley Walk, and got a bunk in Pinkham Notch thanks to a friend who was working on the AMC construction crew that summer (and who still works for the club).

    At the time one really looked forward to the places. I have forgotten a great deal about many mini-adventures, but for reasons I am sure many on this list will appreciate, I had no need to look any of these up. Some memories are forever.

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    I was surprised in 99 how many hikers scammed the "donation" hostels. Guys camped outside The Place to avoid paying, or stayed in Pearisburg without paying. When the Pearisburg caretaker came I gave him $20 (had spent 2 cold and rainy days there) he started to make change, and was surprised when I told him that was for the 2 days. At the church in DWG I did a supply run (TP, soap, etc) and the other hikers thought I was nuts.

    Don't be cheap, people.

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    I was surprised in 99 how many hikers scammed the "donation" hostels. Guys camped outside The Place to avoid paying, or stayed in Pearisburg without paying. When the Pearisburg caretaker came I gave him $20 (had spent 2 cold and rainy days there) he started to make change, and was surprised when I told him that was for the 2 days. At the church in DWG I did a supply run (TP, soap, etc) and the other hikers thought I was nuts.

    Don't be cheap, people.
    Sadly that has been a common problem for many hostels. Or hikers complete abusing the rules. It always amaze me how many hikers will spend $80 - $100 on a hotel but won't donate a dime to support a hostel. Hostels had to crack down on some of the abuse.

    Wolf

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