Summit 2018

The 2018 Summit took place on July 13-15, at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Click the links below for more information.


Keynote Speaker | Friday Night Speaker | Clinicians | Schedule | Sponsors | Photos


Kylena Cross

Blogging Your Adventure!

Hi! I am an empty-nester, a math professor, an avid hiker, and Head Dame for the Maryland Chapter of Trail Dames. A native Hoosier, I spent many wonderful hours of my childhood running in the hills of southern Indiana with our cows. When my son left for college in 2012, I reinvented my life…and found a whole lot of world to explore! I started hiking and backpacking with zeal, scouting out new trails, dragging my partner or my dog along with me, and taking on challenges I never thought myself capable of doing. Fast forward to 2018 and you will find me, on many weekends, somewhere along the Appalachian Trail (AT).
I created my blog, “Girl Gone Hiking”, to exercise my writing skills, which as a math professor, weren’t getting a lot of love and to document my hiking adventures. The blogging community has enriched my life and allowed me to connect with other hikers who share my passion for the outdoors. I would love to help you get started sharing your own adventures through blogging!

Amy Duernberger

Exploring Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds

Duernberger is a longtime lover of the outdoors and has worked for the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She now lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She holds a masters degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina.

Christine Gautreaux

Accessing Your Body Wisdom

Christine Gautreaux holds a Masters in Social Work and is a Life Coach and Certified InterPlay Leader. She is dedicated to the pursuit of play, joy, art & social justice. Her superpowers include connecting people, helping folks manifest their dreams, standing up against injustice and using art to make a difference in the world. Christine uses performance art, movement, poetry, storytelling and Interplay to help women who are incarcerated, people living with severe and persistent mental illness, and homelessness. She also works with women, activists and artists to maintain balance and self-care during these intense times we find ourselves living.

Julie "Jester" Gayheart

"Nothing Traditional": 12 years of section hiking the Appalachian Trail

Ever since she was a small girl growing up in Ohio; Julie Gayheart has been intrigued by the Appalachian Trail. She and her Dad would have many conversations and dreams about hiking the AT. Julie, who lives in Charlotte, NC and is a high school teacher with summers off, found she could work on her pursuit of the dream. So, in 2006, Julie (trail name "Jester") loaded up her pack, put on her boots and set off on a 2,189 mile journey. For the next 12 summers, she would venture out to the trail and hike, sometimes only for a week, other times for multiple weeks and hundreds of miles. Sometimes with people, sometimes by herself. She soon turned into a "serial section hiker." Along the way she met amazing people with stories, learned hiking "do's and don'ts," and felt both the pain and joy of conquering a trail filled with beauty, difficulties beyond words, swollen feet, rain soaked days, cold nights, hot days and how coming into a town and eating pizza can be simply amazing. In the summer of 2017 after 12 years of hiking, Julie finished her life long dream of completing the entire AT. She and her Dad also hiked 80 miles in Maine together which was a remarkable experience. "Jester" loves to "talk trail" and she will always share her knowledge and experience of what it's like to hike as a female and section hiker. And if you were to ask her why she chose to hike the AT she will simply tell you, "because on the trail, I am the best version of myself."

Deana "Roo" Giordano

Intentional Hiking: A Practical Guide to Modern
Pilgrimage through Long-Distance Hiking
Yoga for Hikers

In 2017, Roo hiked 1800 miles of the Appalachian Trail and plans to finish what she started in 2018. She has long distance hikes planned for more summers than she can count. Never content to be known for one thing, besides intentional hiking, Roo has also been known as a professional pet sitter (at Asheville Pet Works); a blogger (at Ruby Throat Journal); a licensed physical therapist; a sketchbook artist; a yoga instructor; a life coach and a gallery owner (to hit the highlights of the last twenty multi-passionate years). She lives in Asheville with her husband and pets and they spend summers at their cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Judy Gross

I’m Judy “HeartFire” Gross, the owner of LightHeart Gear. I live in the Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina (a few feet south of the city of Asheville). I have been making tents and other ultralight backpacking gear since 2009. I started out just planning on making a tent for myself, but a friend suggested I make kits and sell them ‘After all, hikers like to make their own gear’. Well, I decided to make the tent and sell it- and thus a business was born. This session is all about the fun you can have making your own gear! In the class we can sew stuff sacks, rain skirts etc. I will bring some scrap fabric, and if you want to make a rain skirt, or other larger item there will be a fee for the yardage. For participants, bring a sewing machine if you can. I’ll bring two machines, and we can continue working in the evening.

Jody Koonce

Why Knot?!
Creative Camping Cuisine: How to cook gourmet meals on the trail.

Regina Reiter

5 Essentials to a Radiantly Fulfilling Walk

When her third son finished homeschooling in 2007, Regina walked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. At 52, it was now her time to walk into her dream. Getting to the trail, completing the journey, and navigating the stormy relationship waters of attracting a hiking partner gave Regina plenty of personal experience to test her new skills as a certified Radical Forgiveness Coach. She had hiked the AT to get it out if her system only to realize that walking in Nature for personal transformation IS her system. Regina is an expert hiker and backpacker and shares her well-honed, creative skills with everyone who hikes with her. She shares her love of walking in Nature and all the skills that go with it in her life coaching business, She offers individual, personal coaching sessions, videos, online teleclasses and Forgiveness Walks ranging from 2 hours to 6 months. Her clients, both hikers and home-bodies alike, love Regina's gentle, warm, spontaneous ability to love them just as they are as she helps them take their next steps to self-love and to new perceptions of their past. With their path clear of old emotional baggage, they are free to walk into their lifetime dreams.

Carla Robertson

Listening to Wild Nature
Tips and Tricks of a Lazy Thru-Hiker

Carla Robertson is a master life coach who specializes in helping busy people find their true selves and reclaim their sense of wonder and joy. She works with individuals and groups and leads courses and retreats in everything from indulgent money management to stress reduction to stillness in nature. With a former career in education and educational consulting, Carla loves to teach, and her presentations reflect her enthusiasm for empowering participants and making learning fun. Carla has been camping out since Girl Scout summer camp and she solo thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2009 (Trail name Zipper.) She is the founder of Wild and White Blazing, a "virtual campfire" program for women planning a long distance hike. Via WWB, women can hear the stories of dozens of successful women hikers of all ages and get support about everything from fears to gear to food preparation to planning. No matter what, Carla puts her feet on the Appalachian Trail somewhere each year. Carla writes for Appalachian Trials and is the author of Badass Women on the AT.

Karen Rutter

How a Homeless Golden Retriever Turned Me into a Hiker and an Author
Taking the A.T. into the Classroom

Dr. Karen Lord Rutter is a retired high school Principal and the author of Northbounders: 2,186 Miles of Friendship, a story of Copper, the Golden Retriever, and Blast the thru-hiker on their Appalachian Trail adventure. The book is based on the true story of her son and a rescued Golden Retriever who thru-hiked the A.T. in 2013. Copper tells the story with his dry humor, raw emotions and penchant for honesty.
Karen has always loved nature but got up close and personal with the great outdoors when she and her husband took a 2-1/2 month cross country family camping trip from Georgia to Alaska with their 6 year old daughter and 9 year old son. After that trip, she was hooked. The family continued the camping and hiking adventures each summer and reveled in the family time together and beauty of living in the great outdoors.
As the children got older and moved on to college, the outdoor adventures ceased. That is, until her son, David, announced that he was going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with the family dog. David was finishing up his Master’s degree at Georgia Tech and nominated his mom to start getting the dog ready for the hike. As a result, Karen started hiking longer distances. After David started hiking the A.T. with Copper, he invited his mom to join them periodically to enjoy a hike.
Thanks to those invitations, Karen has now hiked a small portion of the A.T. in each of the 14 states except for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. She was even given the trail name of Super Mom by fellow A.T. hikers! She has provided trail magic numerous times and supported her son and other thru-hikers on their treks northward.
Her book, Northbounders: 2,186 Miles of Friendship will be available for purchase at both presentations as well as at the Author Table. Be sure to have your copy signed with a heartfelt inscription for you or someone special!

Carol Steiner

Slackpacking the Appalachian Trail: Downhill to Fine Wine and Accommodations in North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee

Come join Carol as we celebrate her new book! In it, she talks about the beauty, kindred spirits, and surprises on the Trail, the logistics of planning, and the treasures in the small towns along the way. Carol day hiked over 700 miles or one third of the Appalachian Trail during the last 10 years. She day hiked 150 miles of the El Camino in France and Spain and the 100-mile Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in France. She backpacked the Georgia portion of the A.T. with her son, Harmon, and his friend, Justin, in 1988. In 1997, Carol and her husband, Jim, supported their son, thru-hiking the A.T. by sending him food and supply packages. Carol loves exploring the outdoors and traveling to new places. As a young girl, she explored the piney woods of North Florida on foot and the inland waterways by canoe with the Girl Scouts. In 1962, she was selected to attend the National Girl Scout Roundup in Button Bay, Vermont. In her 20’s and 30’s, she explored the airways as a private pilot, flying from the California to New York in the Power Puff Derby, vacationing in the Bahamas, and training public health nurses throughout Georgia. Carol’s professional career in public health spans 39 years. She began as a county public health nurse and then went back to graduate school. After receiving her masters in nursing, she taught public health nursing at Georgia State University before joining the Georgia Division of Public Health in Cancer Control. She retired as the Director of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in 2005. During her public health career, Carol began researching and writing articles for professional and scientific journals. She authored more than a dozen articles, receiving the Dorothy Barfield Award for Scholastic Achievement in the Promotion of Public Health in Georgia for her article, “Access to Cancer Prevention, Detection, and Treatment,” published in the Supplement to Cancer, March 15, 1991. Carol was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. She received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Florida and her Masters in Nursing from Emory University.

Megan Talton

First Aid in the Outdoors

Hi, my name is Megan Talton, and I’m from West Monroe, Louisiana. I have been a paramedic for the last 18 years, and I have been a registered nurse for the 6 years. I’m currently employed as a training officer for Monroe Fire Department in Monroe, Louisiana and as a registered nurse for MedCamps of Louisiana, a summer camp for mentally and physically challenged children.
I will be teaching a session on First Aid in the Outdoors using only what you can find or what you can bring with you in a small first aid kit. This session should teach participants how to think under pressure and the importance of using whatever you can find in order to provide some type of stabilization right at that moment. Get ready to think outside the box!
I grew up as a small town country girl, and that country living fostered my love for the outdoors as being outdoors was our form of entertainment. My favorite part of being outdoors is simply that … being outdoors and enjoying the fresh air and whatever the great outdoors throws at me, from wonderfully sunny weather to cold and rainy weather. My favorite outdoor activities include whitewater rafting, hiking, and ziplining. My never-leave-home-without piece of gear is a simple pocket knife. It can be used to get an outdoors person out of all sorts of jams!
For women new to the outdoors or simply nervous about getting out there, the one piece of advice I would have would be to just do it. Don’t overthink it. Learn from your mistakes. You will eventually become a pro, and others will be asking you for tips and tricks to navigating outdoor adventures.

Nora Tocups

A Gazillion Fun Tips for Gals on the Trail

Nora grew up car camping with her parents and the Girl Scouts, but she abandoned the wild by throwing her life away working incredibly long hours as a patent, trademark, and copyright lawyer. Now that she’s into her “glory years (60+)”, Nora has returned thankfully to the natural world via Trail Dames, but she still practices IP law, too, because Nora has a wonderful daughter to see through college and beyond. Via slide presentation and hands-on samples, Nora will pass on tips, tricks, and advice she learned her first year of getting back into the wild with Trail Dames. Avoid her mistakes–don’t sleep with your Camelbak water bladder even if it’s really sexy (unless you 100% sure it won’t leak); don’t eat reconstituted Chili Mac unless you want a visit from some hungry bears; and don’t challenge the group’s fire diva or you may find yourself in a flame war.

Susan "Hammock Hanger" Turner

The World Down Under: Fun in Australia and New Zealand

Join Susan "Hammock Hanger" Turner as she shares stories, photos and adventures from hiking in Australia and New Zealand. Hammock Hanger has hiked just about all the long trails on the east coast i.e.: AT, LT, BMT, BT, GET, FL and many smaller trails, too many to mention. Her passion for the long trail adventure has taken her westward to complete the John Muir Trail and dabble with the CDT.
After replacing her worn out knees she started hiking internationally. She traveled to Spain where she completed the Camino de Santiago. And then continued onto trails in the UK such as the Coast to Coast, the St. Cuthbert's & St. Oswalds Ways, Sussex Ridgeway, Ridgeway Trail, Ickneild Trail, Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path.
In 2014 Trail Dames presented her with the well-earned Adventures of the Year Award. For more on her adventures, visit her blog at

Margaret Webster

Paint Night with a Purpose
Lessons From The Road: USA
Facing your Fears and following your Passion: 3 Simple Steps
for Building a Life that you Want

Margaret Webster grew up in Connecticut. She has had a lifelong love of the outdoors, travel, and exploration. As a child, she aspired to be a cross between Jacques Cousteau and Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. After raising her two sons, she decided to embark on a solo cross-country odyssey that essentially lasted eight years. She had been working in a job that enabled her to work anywhere she could get an Internet connection. She loaded up her pickup truck with her laptop, tent, camping gear, bicycle, and kayak and went in pursuit of adventure and discovery.

Sue Williams

Sue Williams

Common Sense Ideas for Lightweight Backpacking
Prehap: Hints to Staying Healthy

"I have been a lifelong lover of the out of doors, starting with Girl Scouts. As a family, we raised our daughters camping and day hiking but I didn’t realize you could backpack as a 5’3” older female until I met Bill Irwin, a blind thru hiker, on the Appalachian Trail. I started backpacking in 1995 at the age of 47 and since I was an older female, I had a thirst for knowledge on how to do this the smart way. There was so little written about how to do it, we did trial and error, mostly error. When John, my husband, and I were canoe trekking in Canada, we were laughing about all the mistakes we made and realized some could have been life threatening. So we started in 2007 to share knowledge on all human powered activities. Our goal is to get more people outdoors safely and enjoying life more. Since then, I have reviewed tons of products, attended conferences all over the country, read everything I could put my hands on, joined internet groups, and asked a zillion questions. I have been doing seminars on Lightweight Backpacking and Prehab since 2008."