Map of the Appalachian Trail

Map of the Trail, running from Georgia to Maine

The Appalachian Trail is a footpath, winding from Spring Mountain, Georgia, to Mt. Katahdin, Maine, nearly 2200 miles over the highest part of the Appalachian Range.  The idea for a trail stretching along the length of the East Coast was first proposed in 1921 by Benton MacKaye, an odd combination of a regional planner and wilderness preservationist, and took nearly twenty years to complete.  It was originally envisioned as the backbone to and passageway between potential sustainable agrarian communities, but evolved through the trail-building process to a simple footpath, usually less than two feet across and marked by white blazes on trees and rocks, with low-maintenance shelters scattered along its length.  It passes through grassy meadows, across boulder fields, up steep mountainsides, and through small towns.
The trail was a product of human interest and community effort.  The federal government took no part in its creation or preservation until nearly thirty years later with its inclusion in the National Trails System Act of 1968.  The backbreaking trail-building labor was provided by loosely-organized, locally based groups, usually interested in recreation, wilderness preservation, or community betterment.  The organizational head of the Appalachian Trail effort, the Appalachian Trail Conference, was established in 1925, and provided guidance to these interest groups, but both the labor and materials were all donated by members of communities along the length of the trail.  Rather than gaining rights to the land that the trail passed through, landowners were simply asked if the trail could pass over their property.  The creation of the Appalachian Trail is a great testament of the dedication to nature, hardworking mentality, and giving spirit of the American people. 

To read more about the trail, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Website:

http://www.appalachiantrail.org/

Elizabeth Byers, Appalachian Trail researcher and writer