There’s something about the Appalachian Trail – or, A.T., as it’s affectionally known by enthusiasts – that draws people to it, from day-hikers, to section-hikers who spend days, weeks, or even months traversing its sections’ ups and downs, to “thru-hikers” who hike the entire trail, from start to finish.
“The A.T. is a place that balances me; it grounds me,” says section-hiker Maureen Cacioppo of St. Petersburg, Florida, who has hiked sections of the A.T. in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine over the course of about 14 years. “I can reconnect with myself and Mother Nature.”
When Benton MacKaye revealed his proposal for “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning” in October 1921 and established the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 1925, he probably imagined just that – a place where people could get away from their daily surroundings and immerse themselves in nature.
Over the course of the following decade or so, conservancy leadership and volunteer clubs worked side-by-side, and in August 1937, the (roughly) 2,190-mile-long, footpath was complete from Maine to Georgia, passing through 14 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. The A.T. is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which operates with a mission to “preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come,” an estimated 3 million people each year lace up their shoes, leave the comforts of their homes and hit the A.T.
“In the 80 years since the Appalachian Trail first offered a continuous hike from Maine to Georgia, millions of individuals have been inspired by both the unique experience the Trail provides and the legacy of volunteer commitment that is the heart and soul of the A.T.” said Ron Tipton, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to honor the visions of Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery and our 31 trail clubs that contribute more than 260,000 hours of volunteer…