The 2020 Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame class honorees are Chris Brunton of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; the late Thurston Griggs of Baltimore, Maryland; Warren Doyle of Mountain City, Tennessee; and the late Jim Stoltz of Helena, Montana.
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Chris Brunton emigrated to the U.S. from England in 1967. Soon after that, he joined the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Chris has been a dominant force in trail construction and maintenance for PATC ever since. Known to most as "Trail Boss", Chris has served for decades as district manager for an A.T. section in West Virginia and Virginia, including three miles that he personally maintains.
In 1979 the National Park service began to acquire land in northern Virginia to eliminate over 14 miles of road walk for the A.T. Chris was one of three trail leaders flagging and then building the new trail. As the work progressed, he also began to help identify additional tracts available for purchase. He was instrumental in helping to develop relationships with local landowners. At the end of the project in April 1989, 55 tracts totaling more than 1,600 acres were acquired and the “Rollercoaster” section of the AT was created.
In 1982, PATC acquired a house just off the A.T. in Loudoun County, Virginia. Chris took over the job of renovating it, and under his leadership, the house became the Blackburn Trail Center, one of the iconic stops on the Trail. Chris is one of the best-known and well-liked personalities on the A.T.
Like many other icons of the Appalachian Trail, Thurston Griggs led a full and distinguished life separate from the Trail. He had a doctorate in Chinese history and worked at the University of Maryland. In addition, Thurston dedicated most of his adult life to the preservation of the A.T.
He joined the Mountain Club of Maryland in 1959 and served two terms as its President. He also served as MCM’s archivist for many decades and in various other positions. He was the first editor of Appalachian Trail Conservancy's newsletter The Register, and a member of its Board of Directors, including Vice-Chair.
He worked relentlessly to preserve and protect the Appalachian Trail-- mostly in Pennsylvania and Maryland. One of his great achievements was working on a project with the Trust for Appalachian Trail Lands. Griggs was a key player in expediting the purchase of Bagtown Road, which has since been named the Thurston Griggs Trail, a side trail to the A.T.
At what many would consider an advanced age, Griggs became one of the first A.T. Ridge Runners. Additionally, he served as the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's A.T. overseer between Turner's Gap and Lamb's Knoll. Shortly before his death in October 2011, the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Office awarded him the Golden Service Award for 50 years of service. Thurston also received the A.T. Museum’s initial Lifetime Achievement Award that year.
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Warren Doyle ranks high on the list of those who have inspired others to attempt a long distance hike of the Appalachian Trail. This is partially due to his amazing personal hiking exploits. Warren has set an informal record by traversing the A.T. a record eighteen times, including nine thru-hikes.
In addition, Warren played a leading role in founding the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association. Founded in 1983, ALDHA is the leading organization devoted to encouraging long distance hiking and promoting the interests of hikers.
Through his Appalachian Trail Institute, Warren educates prospective hikers on the proper strategies to successfully hike the A.T. and other long distance trails. His program covers not only the physical conditioning needed and proper gear, but also emphasizes the emotional and psychological aspects necessary for a successful thru-hike. Scores of thru-hikers credit Warren with inspiring and guiding them to complete their lifelong goal. Warren’s doctoral thesis was on the sociology of a group long distance hike.
Jim Stoltz, universally known as Walkin’ Jim, was a musician, author, photographer, artist, and environmental activist. In his lifetime, he accomplished numerous long-distance treks, including a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1974. In total, he hiked over 28,000 miles of long-distance trips.
Between trips, Jim would create, produce and perform original shows of his travels with photography and music, always incorporating his keen sense of environmental awareness and justice for all things wild. His musical, hiking, and environmental career spanned 45 years.
Jim's produced eight musical albums and one music video for children "Come Walk With Me". His poetry was published as "Whisper Behind the Wind." Jim's lifework and dreams centered on his desire to share the beauty, the unique character, the mood and the value of wilderness through his music, writings, art and activism. In a front page story, the Wall Street Journal called him the Music Man Of The Wilderness. Walkin’ Jim passed away in 2010.