Joe Harold may have just begun serving as director of the Appalachian Trail Museum, but he’s already leading plans to triple its size.
The museum, which opened in 2010 in Pine Grove Furnace State Park just off of the trail, is perhaps best described as quaint — big on ambiance from wooden paneling, a new grass-covered wheelchair ramp, and scenic views, but short on space.
“We want to keep showing the history of the trail any way we can, and we just need the space,” Harold said. “There’s not a whole lot of room left to do anything new.”
The Appalachian Trail Museum Society plans to expand the museum from one story to three, maintaining the current historical exhibit on the main floor and adding a basement exhibit for children and an upstairs dedicated to current events, including tributes to the people maintaining the trail and those setting speed records, he said. The attic of the building will become a reference library for people researching the trail.
The society has plenty of equipment to put in the expanded space, much of which is currently sitting in a storage unit in Carlisle — including a hiking pack belonging to a record-setting hiker known as Billy Goat, who completed 45,000 miles of hiking in his lifetime.
Ultimately, they would like to expand to new locations, creating satellite museums throughout the trail, he said.
The museum averages about 7,000 to 8,000 visitors per year, including local residents, campers at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and trail hikers, he said.
The museum already features a variety of memorabilia from thru-hikers, information about the history of the trail, and busts of some of the trail’s pioneers, and Harold isn’t waiting for the expansion to begin adding new displays. An exhibit on the white blazes that mark the hiker’s path is new for this year, as is the old shelter at Peters Mountain near Duncannon that was used by Earl Schaffer, the first person to complete a through hike.
Promoting the trail isn’t difficult for Harold, who describes himself as an “outsider,” or someone who spends more time outside than inside.
“I’m pretty much obsessed with the Appalachian Trail right now, so finding a job like this, where I get to basically walk on the trail every day, is kind of like my dream job,” he said. “Everyone should come down and get a little piece of history.”