If you’re looking for the ultimate hike at some point in your life then you could do a lot worse than attempt the Appalachian Trail. Giving it its full title of The Appalachian National Scenic Trail may be more apt due to the fact that it stretches for a huge distance and commands some of the most spectacular views on the East Coast of the United States, perhaps even the world. Most people (maybe for the sake of saving time) call it by its shortened name, the A.T.
History and Information
The idea of the Appalachian Trail was first formed in the mind of one Benton MacKaye in the early 1920s. A forester by trade, MacKaye’s dream was at first shunned by many but it gained publicity and popularity as the twenties wore on and became the main project of what was then known as the Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference; as early as the fall of 1923 the first part of the trail was opened. Since that time there have been many extensions and re-routes meaning that there has never been a completely accurate measured length; most estimate that the entire trail is somewhere around 2,200 miles but it really depends on who you believe!
The A.T. passes a staggering number of highways, rivers and side trails through its meandering 2,000+ miles. The official route starts at the base of Springer Mountain in Georgia before passing through an amazing twelve states before reaching the end at Mount Katahdin in Maine in the north-easternmost corner of the country. Due to its immense size and the fact that it passes through almost a quarter of the United States, it is maintained by several organisations; most notably the Appalachian Trail Conservancy which is voluntary and has been in existence since the early days of the trail.
Hiking the trail
You would be mistaken for thinking that anyone would be crazy enough to hike the trail in one fell swoop. There are a few hundred people who have the time, inclination and the energy to attempt the full length of the trail in one season. Thru-hikers – as they’re known – tend to start the trail in the spring with the aim to finish before the cooler weather returns in the early Fall. Maintaining a steady pace over such a distance is essential if you want to successfully complete a thru-hike. The majority of people, however, tend to hike the trail over the course of many years. Not everyone can take the strain and a lot more certainly can’t take the time off work!
As you are generally hiking across the wilderness for the majority of the trail, you are no doubt going to encounter some dangers along the way – especially if you’re a thru-hiker – so you need to be prepared. A first aid kit isn’t going to get you very far if you come into contact with a black bear, but thankfully sightings and encounters are very few and far between. Snakes, however are a danger so be sure to keep your ears and eyes peeled.
There are countless spectacular sights along the route including a stunning view of the Delaware River from Mount Tammany and the beautiful Rangeley Lakes in Maine (close to the start or the end depending on which direction you decide to hike).
The Appalachian Trail is certainly one of the wonders of the modern world. From the idea of one man less than 100 years ago it has become one of the most popular and celebrated hikes in the world and offers a wide range of challenges to both walkers and nature lovers alike. Three million plus hikers have Benton MacKaye to thank for this original plan and the hundreds of workers and volunteers that have made the trail into what it is today.