The 2011 Summit took place on June 24-26, in Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Click the links below for more information.
Woman of the Year Award
For the past few 30 years, Cindy Ross has found peace, happiness, and a sublime sense of contentment while walking and cycling the endless trails that are sewn into the fabric of the North American continent. She has crossed the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail as a single woman penning and illustrating her first book, A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail, which has been in print for over 25 years and has become a hiking classic. Then she tackled the 2600-mile Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra and Cascade Mountains with her husband, Todd Gladfelter and wrote and illustrated Journey on the Crest (The Mountaineers Books). Her 6th and latest book, Scraping Heaven–A Family’s Journey Along the Continental Divide (McGraw-Hill), is the rousing adventure of a family’s incredible five-summer, 3100-mile trek over the rooftop of North America. They used llamas as kid carriers and packers to carry supplies and diapers across the Rocky Mountains. The entire journey took 5 summers, hiking 500 miles a shot. The last stretch through New Mexico is all desert, so they traded their llamas in for tandem mountain bikes and pulled trailers full of 100 pounds of gear for the last 650 miles down to the Mexican border.
Cindy had her formal education in Fine Arts Painting, attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She illustrated four of her books. She lives along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania with her husband Todd, their 18-year old son Bryce, and 20-year old daughter Sierra in a log home they built themselves from raw trees. They grow much of their own food on their rural property. As a family, besides the Continental Divide Trail, they have traveled to Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe hiking, cycling and paddling and have traveled extensively throughout the US.
Besides Cindy’s 6 published books, she has written over 500 magazine articles for such national magazines as Outside, Backpacker, Paddler, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Outdoor Life, Canoe & Kayak, Adventure Cyclist, Sailing, Wooden Boat, Scouting, Native Peoples, etc. Travel stories in newspapers include The LA Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, etc. Cindy has appeared on Philadelphia’s NBC “The 10 Show”, "Philadelphia’s ABC “Sunday Live”, NYC’s CBS News “Up to the Minute”, NYC’s Channel 11, Warner Bros. “The Morning News”, and Denver’s CBS. Her family and llamas were featured on a half-hour show on Animal Planet, called “Pet Story.”
Her latest endeavor is working on a new book, tentatively titled Bright Stars–Raising Children Who Love Learning Using the Whole (Natural) World. Cindy’s current passion is to spread the word on the importance the natural world plays in educating our children and how to get them outdoors. This book will ride on the heels of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, and the “No Child Left Inside Act of 2009,” and the tremendous movement spurred by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods- Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Cindy hopes to share her expertise gleaned from 20 years of mothering as an outdoor adventurer, through presentations and workshops. She can also relay the nuts and bolts information on how to help starting parents get their families outdoors but also reach higher goals of outdoor adventuring.
Adventurer of the Year Award
C. Scout Aulenbach, 8 years old
Scout Aulenbach has been a caver since she was literally in-utero. Her first “out of body” caving experience was when she was 5 weeks old, in some wild Florida caves. Since then, she has explored over 80 caves throughout the U.S.
Scout has guided countless first-timers, both young and old, into the depths of the Earth since she could barely walk. Due to her young age and positive attitude, she has the gift of easing nerves. Most people look at Scout and think, “If this little girl can go in there, then I can too!” She understands that, unlike her, not all people feel comfortable being underground. Scout is able to keep a level head and a good sense of humor, even when some participants panic and tell her, “I think I’m stuck!” or, ”There’s no way I can get out of here!” or “I’m really scared. Can I follow you?”
She has led teachers and numerous students into caves who wanted to experience her hobby. Scout is an expert caver in her own right. Her passion and knowledge for the cave environment and life within shine through during every caving trip. People who may enter one of Scout’s guided caving trips fearful always leave the cave comforted and well-educated about the rock formations, bats, crickets, spiders, and even learn that it’s FUN to crawl around and get really muddy!
On October 3, 2010, Scout and her mother Nancy had the privilege of escorting an Atlanta-based group of Trail Dames to a cave in Trenton, GA, called Howard’s Waterfall Cave. A large number of women gathered for the adventure, and Scout readily accepted the challenge of making them all feel comfortable about their new experience. Before entering, Scout advised the group of the safety rules. All of the Dames seemed more than willing to accept the advice of a little girl, and Scout was without a doubt the most important leader of the day. She pointed out bats on the ceiling, kept the conversations positive and light-hearted, and instructed the women where to place their feet and body parts when maneuvering tricky obstacles.
Scout has opened up a whole new world to so many individuals who would have never known the beauty and tranquility right beneath his or her feet.
Spirit of the Dames Awards
She's 72, almost never misses a hike, has donated money to buy gear for the Dames to use. She's a huge inspiration to us all. She's also been printing out all of my hike reports and photos and she's keeping a printed record of our group. She did this entirely on her own.
She never hiked a step in her life before joining us. She was on our very first hike and she has been on almost every single hike since. She's even called in sick to work to join us on a weekday. I have no one else who puts her head down and barrels on the way Carolyn does, even when she's clearly exhausted. She always has a smile on her face and I have often told her she is the most pristine hiker I've ever seen! She dresses in the nicest hiking clothing, never breaks a sweat, and always looks wonderful at the end of even the hardest hikes! She has broken a mold in her family and is so anxious to learn more and go as far as she can.
Kellye is an outstanding, dedicated member of the Trail Dames community, shows remarkable personal courage, has worked hard in the last year to improve her health and get in shape, and she demonstrates true friendship. She is truly an inspiration! Kellye leads hikes for the GA chapter and volunteered as co-leader for many of Shoe's AT series. Kellye shows up for hikes even on the rainiest days, when everyone else bails. She has
helped out in many other ways (including letting the Dames use her cabins to stay at before trips), and sharing her knowledge of the North GA mountains and her expertise as a hiker, backpacker, fire-builder, and hammock hanger. Kellye demonstrates the spirit of the Dames in that she has recently made huge changes in her life to better her health and get in shape. Last year, I saw Kellye really struggling with her backpacking–mountains would leave her in tears (though she tried to hide this)–and she even ended up quitting a trip early. What I didn't know, but which she has shared a little now, is that she was having health issues. In the last few months, she has made huge changes in her life. She changed her diet, lost weight, and started the couch-to-5K program. Now, she is in the front of the pack on our hikes, and recently did 11 miles in one day on a backpacking trip-- her longest ever-- and it was awesome to be able to see that she could now enjoy hiking now that she is in better shape. Kellye has also shown the spirit of the Dames in facing her fears head-on. For example, last year she went white-water rafting on the Ocoee, even though she is deathly afraid of water. That's the kind of true bravery that is really remarkable. The thing that I think sets Kellye apart the most, and why she deserves recognition, is that she is such a caring person and is always thinking about and helping others. Recently, she drove many miles (and made a long trip of her own expense) to support Head Dame Fab on the first NC Trail Dames hike, knowing what it big deal it is to lead a hike for the first time. But Kellye is the type of woman who goes the extra mile and show the true meaning of friendship. Kellye has provided lots of support for Melissa (and me) too, and I am always thrilled when Kellye is on a hike, because I know that she is someone I can trust and count on for anything.
Sandra appeared at the first hike Trail Dames ever had and has been a fixture ever since. She brings her greatest gifts to every event she attends, her huge heart, her beautiful spirit and her beautiful smile. Many times, Sandra brought along Leslie, the young special needs woman that she takes care of. Watching her open a whole new world for Leslie has been a joy and taught all of the Dames about compassion and education.