Appalachian Trail businesses may be affected by trail officials discouraging long-distance hikers due to COVID-19

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ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – Appalachian Trail officials are discouraging long-distance hikes due to COVID-19, which could impact some local businesses.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy told News Channel 11’s Amy Cockerham that the recommendation is in an effort to prevent hikers from spreading the virus when stopping in communities alongside the trail to resupply and rest.

“If you’re out for a longer distance hike, the odds are you’re going to have to go into local communities to resupply,” Appalachian Trail Conservancy CEO & President Sandi Marra said. “All of this expands the exposure and goes against the guidance of the CDC.”

One of those businesses frequented by hikers is Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel Cabins & Camping alongside the Nolichucky River.

“Last year, we closed for two months when COVID first came out,” Uncle Johnny’s Owner Charlotte Shores said. “At this point, we’re still doing our CDC COVID recommended guidelines.”

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s recommendation could have an impact soon as most hikers aiming to trek the entire Appalachian Trail begin their journey between January and the end of March.

“Last year, financially, it was difficult,” Shores said. “I’m not sure if this year we’re going to have a good year or not, but we’re still going to try.”

For now, trail officials said the recommendation will stay in place until vaccines are more widely available or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention changes guidelines.

“Some of these people have quit their jobs, sold their homes, and I can understand how they would want to get on the trail,” Shores said. “I think it’s a great stress release for a lot of people.”

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