The Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,000 miles, running from Maine to Georgia. But there’s another trail connecting the towns the AT passes through—and it’s a little off the wall.
The Appalachian Mural Trail Project began back in 2016 and according to Garry Green, the owner of Mountain Trails, an outdoors specialty store in Front Royal, Va., it features murals “designed to depict Appalachian mountain culture, life, flora, fauna, that sort of thing and to beautify rural communities downtowns.”
Green decided to invest in the Appalachian trail community of Front Royal, hiring local artist Jacqui Ris to paint a mural on the wall next to his Main Street store, depicting the trail.
He had seen her prior murals at Fussell Florist and liked her style. Ris says the nine foot by 20 foot mural is her largest piece yet
On Wednesday morning she was standing atop scaffolding, alternating between spray painting and painting by hand to detail a tree toward the top of the wall. By noon, Ris was nearly halfway down the wall, adding shading to a mountain with a can of purple spray paint.
She believes the mural—which features hikers, rock climbers, and a trail head sign—will highlight not only the great outdoors of Warren’s county but also the town’s artists.
“There’s a huge subculture of artists, everything from pottery to muralists to portrait photography. We have a lot of everything so it kinda shows that in a bigger way, literally a bigger way,” she laughed.
Currently, the AT attracts a diverse population, says Green, adding that around 300 hikers have stopped at his store while hiking this AT this year alone, many of whom are from outside Virginia. He’s hoping the new mural will bring an equally diverse crowd.
“People are actually doing a bucket list for the mural trail,” he said, noting the many stops further south in Virginia and North Carolina. The nearly $1,100 he’s spent on the mural is a worthwhile investment if it means more positive attention on the town.
Felicia Hart, Director of Tourism for Front Royal agrees with his hopes.
“From a tourism department, economic development, this means the world, literally, to Front Royal,” Hart said, pointing to the mural.
Hart is in talks with the Appalachian Mural Trail to get the town added to the trail, once Ris is finished painting. Hart says this project showcases the best of the town.
“Everybody has a talent, everybody has a skill set. Some people can write checks, other people can put people together,” she said. “Who can buy the paint? Who can have this talent? And that’s where the community comes together.”