Carter County Commission honors longtime hiker and hostel owner, Bob Peoples

Published 8:22 am Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Carter County Commission honored a hiking trail legend during its March 18 meeting. This accolade’s timing could not have been more perfect as Bob Peoples is expected to greet his 25,000th hiker at the Kincora Hiker’s Hostel located in Hampton in April. The resolution was a fantastic way to officially recognize Peoples’ contributions and accomplishments to the Appalachian Trail and the many people who he has helped from all over the world.

Many Americans and almost just as many non-Americans hike the vastness of the Appalachian Trail (AT) yearly. The AT, completed in 1937 after almost a decade of work, starts from Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine. At approximately 2,181 miles long, the AT is the longest continuously marked footpath in the world.

The complete trek takes over five months, according to Peoples, stressing it is not a spur of the moment activity. “This trail requires a lot more logistics. You have to carry your food and figure out how many meals you are going to eat…you are not going to stop each night in a town that has a restaurant,” said Peoples.

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Peoples said that set up along the trail are places where hikers can get water, a warm place to sleep, and other amenities depending on the stop. Peoples’ place is referred to as a hiking hostel. Peoples said he bought the area of land and began work on building the hostel. In 1996 with the hiker stop complete and open, Peoples began accepting his first hikers. 

In April, the Kincora (Celtic for kinship of the heart) hostel is expected to have served over 25,000 hikers. Peoples reports out of all those many hikers, he has only expelled two and denied admission to four. “There is a vast diversity of people who come…night to night, you never know who is going to come to your door, and it is great,” he said. Peoples demonstrated this with a story that the previous night, he had a Canadian woman show up who could not speak and had to communicate through writing.

The compassion and generosity Peoples has for hikers and people in general is evident and the driving force behind the near 23-year-long operation of the hostel, where for a “suggested” donation of only $5, trail weary hikers can shower, wash their clothes, cook a hot meal and sleep indoors.

The gratitude of residents who have stayed there is represented by the hundreds of postcards and letters from persons that completed the trail (and some who tried) that line the walls of the hostel.

Peoples’ “generosity of spirit” was cited as one of the many reasons he was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame in 2018 by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.

“What [long distance hiking] does is reestablishes your faith in mankind,” said Peoples, concluding with “there are a lot of good people everywhere that will go out of their way to help you…you may never see them again, but that does not matter.”