The Madison County Arts Council presents Give Me Shelter, a collection of photographs and stories about the iconic lean-tos and huts located along the Appalachian Trail, on display through Friday, April 30, at the Arts Center in downtown Marshall. The exhibit consists of material from the book The Appalachian Trail: Backcountry Shelters, Lean-tos, and Huts, written and photographed by Sarah Jones Decker and released in the spring of 2020.
“I wanted to capture these shelters in a time capsule love letter to the trail,” says Decker. “It was an honor to photograph all of them and put them in one place for the first time.”
Doing so was a monumental task that included contacting nearly 100 people from across the country to gather information and stories, as well as hiking the trail in sections as a new mother. Having thru-hiked it ten years prior as a twenty-something fresh out of graduate school, she gained a new perspective on the experience. Over two years, she re-hiked all 14 states, sometimes while carrying her young daughter.
“Being back on the trail was amazing,” says Decker. “I made a goal to hike a section every month, and it turned into the biggest project of my artistic life to date.”
Though her first thru hike was in 2008, Decker has been frequenting portions of the trail most of her life, first while growing up in Virginia and then as a Madison County resident. She recalls hiking after school with friends to watch the sunset and accompanying her 71-year-old grandfather on a New Hampshire section when she was 16.
While overnighting in the Lakes of the Clouds hut below the base of Mt. Washington, she flipped through the old trail journals and found her father’s signature from when he was nine years old.
“It is hard not to feel the history of a place like that,” says Decker. “My hope is that this book will hold these places in time for future generations and inspire folks to get out there and make their own experiences.”
The Arts Center is located at 90 South Main Street, in Marshall. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn more about this exhibit and the Arts Center at MadisonCountyArts.com or call 828.649.1301. Learn more about Sarah Jones Decker and her work at SarahJonesDecker.com and RootBottomFarm.com.