The Story of The Rag Tag Rangers Outdoor Group

< Back



Back in the winter of 1994-1995 a number of individuals thought that it would be a neat idea to hike the Appalachian Trail by way of a tag team relay hike. They were with Backpacker Magazine and thought that this would be a good promotion. So they approached the Appalachian Trail Conference (which would later become the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) and AOL (then called America Online and, at the time, the dominant player in the online community) and asked them to help out.

They then sent emails to AOL members that had hiking or backpacking in their online profile as well as other intersted individuals asking if they would like to participate in a tag team relay hike of the Appalachian Trail. They divided the AT up into 60 segments. Each segment was about 30-50 miles. They then assigned people that responded yes to their email request to various teams. These segments would then each have a team assigned to it. . Each team would have 1 to 7 members. The hike was scheduled to start on National Trails Day, Saturday, June 3, 1995 on Mount Katahdin, ME and end on Springer Mountain, GA on Sunday, December 31, 1995. It should be noted that there was another tag team relay hike of the AT in 1995 that was organized by a of group of newspaper reporters.

A team leader was assigned to each team. The way the hiked worked was that a rock from Mount Katahdin, a trip log and a flag was passed from team to team. Each team had 4 to 5 days to complete their segment. The members of each team were required to have their own eqipment, be in good shape and be familiar with their assigned area.

I replied yes to the email that I got asking if I wanted to participate in this tag team relay hike. Originally I wanted to do the segment from Harpers Ferry, WV to Linden, VA. However, the organizers told me that segment was full and asked if I wanted to be part of the Maryland team. I said yes. They then asked me if I wanted to be the team leader. I said yes to that also. Our team number was 29 out of 60. Since I worked at AOL at the time and they were a sponsor, I was able to actually get paid while doing this hike.

So I contacted the other members of our team that spring. We had numerous email conversations throughout the next few nonths about things like where we should camp, how far should we hike each day, what should we carry, etc. We had a couple of practice hikes before we were scheduled to hike our segment. What we did was carry loaded backpacks on day hikes. We hiked in Green Ridge State Forest, MD and Gambrill State Park, MD.

Now for confession time: I had never backpacked before in my life! I am pretty sure that the other 6 members in our group had done so. I had done a lot of day hiking and a good deal of car camping. But I had never carried all of my supplies on my back and set up camp in the wilderness. I would learn how during this hike. But it would not be easy.

The trip log for this initial trip for our group is located Here. Now for a few things that were not in the trip log. It was cold the night before the hike. Some of us camped out the night before the hike within PenMar Park. I had a cheap sleeping bag and the cold kept me awake. I also had a tough time sleeping because, when the bars closed at 2:00 AM in Thurmont, MD, all the rowdies drove up to PenMar Park and were driving around the park quickly, laughing and blasting their music.

So I was tired for the start of the hike. My pack weight at the start of the hike was 75 pounds. We did about 10 miles the first day. I thought that I was going to die the last few miles. I was so weak at the end of the first day that I was too tired to eat. I knew that I was in trouble. So I solicited the advice of my fellow hikers and placed items that I did not need in plastic trash bags and hid them at road crossings. I would come back and retrieve them after the hike. By the end of the hike I was having fun and was hooked on backpacking.

All of us on the team got along well during the hike. So we decided to do some more hikes together after the tag team hike was over. Originally we were going to hike every month. But that became between 2 and 5 times a year. We then thought up a name for ourselves. We called ourselves the Rag Tag Rangers. We had a web site way back in 1996 and got our own domain a few years later.

Over the years I got better at backpacking. The Rag Tag Rangers would go onto hike over 500 miles spread among 50 plus hikes in 4 different states. The hikes would be anywhere from a day hike to a week long backpacking trip. We had as many as 50 dues paying members at one point. One trip had 11 participants. In 1999 I took a 6 month sabatical from AOL and hiked the AT from GA to central VA. It was a lot of fun.

We had people come and go over the years in the group. In the 2008-10 period participation dwindled down to 3 or 4 of us. We kept hiking in some really neat places. But it started being a drag just keeping it going for the sake of keeping it going. And we had all grown in different directions over the 15 years that we had been doing this. And we didn't get along as well as we used to. So in 2010, it was over. I didn't want to lead it anymore and no one else wanted to. So the Rag Tag Rangers then ceased to exist. I plan to re-post the majority of our trips on this site at some point. We had fantastic memories of good times in the past. But it was time to move on.

You may see some images with the URL ragtag.org on them. This was the domain of the Rag Tag Rangers Outdoor Group. If you try to navigate to that domain now it will take you to a site that appears to be an association of progressive developers. I'm glad that they got this domain.

The patch at the top of this screen was the official patch of the Rag Tag Rangers. It was also the logo on our web site.

< Back  |  mikecalabrese.xyz  |