If you have ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, you may sometimes wonder how it started and who keeps it maintained. With the help of over 6,000 volunteers putting in over 200,000 hours every year, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy preserves and makes it possible that the trail's natural beauty and heritage is there for people to enjoy.
The dedication and hard work of the volunteers each year is priceless to the maintenance of the trail and the sustainability of the environment.
The Appalachian Trail was born from the thoughts of a
visionary man, Benton MacKaye. MacKaye was a forester, planner, and conservationist. His philosophy in life was to find ways to balance the needs of humans with all in nature. In 1921 MacKaye began to put his thoughts of a trail in the Appalachians down on paper and wrote an article titled "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning". What began as an idea and dream eventually became reality that is now a trail stretching approximately over 2,179 miles.
The first part of the trail was opened in October of 1923.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy got its start from a two day conference that MacKaye scheduled in March 1925 to discuss further planning and conservation. He called it the Appalachian Trail Conference which eventually changed to its current name and became the focal point of preservation for the entire trail.
With the planning and dedication by MacKaye and many others, the entire trail was completed in 1937. It is now a popular destination for hikers.
It takes one full season, five to seven months, to hike the entire trail. There are many people who do this quite often and they are referred to as "thru hikers".
The first woman to walk the Appalachia Trail from beginning to end was Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder. She became known as "Peace Pilgrim". A transcript of her "Steps Toward Inner Peace" was published in 1964.
Thanks to Benton MacKaye, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the many volunteers who give time and labor the Appalachian Trail continues to be a beautiful connection between humans and the wilderness. It takes one who is a warrior of Mother Earth to continually protect, preserve, and maintain the natural beauty of the wilderness. By keeping the trails usable for hikers, the wilderness is then kept as it should be so the flora and fauna of the Appalachian Mountains are free to be as they are meant to be.
Appalachian Trail Map