Appalachian Trail documentary is a ‘labor of love’

Imagine embarking on a 2,178.3-mile hike through 14 states on the Appalachian Trail alongside your best friend and sibling with a video camera rolling.

That is exactly what Katherine “Ringleader” Imp, a former resident of Mt. Laurel and graduate of Lenape High School, did for five months in 2010.

“The three of us are very different,” Imp, the documentary’s director, said. “The one thing we have in common is that we all love adventure.”

Approximately 2,000 people attempt the journey each year, but only 1 in 5 actually reach the end point: Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

The three young hikers added an extra element to their adventure: a video camera.

Head out to Lenape High School at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 for a documentary screening of “Beauty Beneath the Dirt.”

As a result of months of editing work on about 80 hours of material, the film is currently 68 minutes long.

There is an entrance fee of $10 at the door.

Imp, her brother Brandon “Monkey” Imp and best friend Emily “Lightning” Ginger began the Appalachian Trail thru-hike at Springer Mountain, Georgia in March of 2010.

“We didn’t know anyone from Mt. Laurel or the South Jersey area who had done this,” Imp said. “This film is less about hiking the Appalachian Trail and more about three young city kids.”

The trio averaged about 20 miles each day on the trail with days exploring in nearby towns to try some southern cooking, a wine tasting and even a trip to Manhattan, as evidenced on their YouTube channel, ATHike2010.

The most difficult aspect of the trip, Imp said, was hiking as part of a group.

“I don’t regret doing it that way,” she said. “Obviously, hiking for five months is challenging.”

“I wanted to experience (the hike) with the people that I loved the most. I wanted to see if this journey would help us learn new things about ourselves.”

Imp is glad to have cinematic material now as she looks back, but on the trail, lugging a video camera around wasn’t all too fun.

“It was really difficult having a camera with us,” she said. “At the same time, we now have this huge, arduous, crazy adventure of ours on camera and on film and we get to keep that for the rest of our lives.”

The decision to press record largely depended on the moods and emotions of the day, she explained.

“If I saw something that I thought was interesting to film, then I filmed it. It really depended on what was going on.”

Editor Jason Furrer said that the process of cutting video was challenging.

“We knew once we started getting footage back we wanted to promote the project,” he said. “It was really difficult to have the director be on the trail. She obviously wanted to make sure she was pleased with the stuff that was coming out.”

“She had absolutely no way of seeing the videos until I put them up,” he added.

Furrer referred to the process as a “labor of love.”

College students and individuals in their 20s are the target market.

“I think this film really speaks to that audience,” he said.

Many college students may have a gap between graduation and the beginning of their career, he said. In that transitional period of their lives, they can do something adventurous and view the beauty of the country’s national and state parks.

“I’ve known Kate for a long time,” he said. “When we started out with this, her driving goal in completing the project was to inspire people.”

The film has dramatic moments, he said, but has captured that underlying inspirational message.

“It’s never too late to come up with a new dream and go after it wholeheartedly,” he said.

Currently, the trail team is attempting to raise $10,000 to fund a university and college tour in the fall on Donation pledges must be submitted by Tuesday, July 17 at 7:24 a.m. and they must reach their goal to receive the support.

“This film has been self-financed, which has been hard,” acknowledged Imp.

At Lenape High School, $50 bundle raffles from their sponsors will be given out, Topher Wright, who provided original music for the film will be on hand and the Imp siblings will be available for a Q&A session.

“It should be a really, really fun event. I’m excited,” said Imp.

Currently, Brandon has been on a 30-venue tour from Georgia to Maine. For this stop, Katherine, now 26 years old, is flying in from her current home in Chicago where she is an attorney.

“This is a chance to bring this film to the place where we grew up,” she said.

“The thing that makes this film unique is that it is the brainchild of just three South Jersey kids,” she said, referencing herself, her brother and Furrer.

Imp is hoping for a high turnout.

For those who cannot attend at Lenape, there will be an encore screening at Marlton REI, 501 Route 73 South, for the same price on Sunday, July 1 at 2 p.m.

Due to profanity, the film is not suitable for children under 13.

What would Imp suggest to someone who might be interested in taking on a similar journey?

“My advice to someone who would want to do this trip is to take the first step. Anyone is capable of doing this journey if it’s something that you want to do,” she said. “You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete and you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to hike this trail. You just have to believe in yourself and believe in the support of the people around you.”

“You just have to do it.”

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