Discovering the Appalachian Trail meandered right through the “home base” of our 6 month sabbatical immediately drove me into an obsessive search to learn as much as I could about the famous hiking path. Several months before we moved to Carlisle, I joined a few Facebook hiking and/or trail groups, read several books on the subject and like always, conducted hours and hours worth of online research.
I don’t know what it is, but the trail calls to me.
When the first day with temps in the 60’s finally arrived, my family and I experienced our 23rd of 100 adventures–a 4.2 mile hike on the magnificent Appalachian Trail, the longest, hiking-only trail in the world. (It will not be our last!)
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) welcomes an astonishing 2-3 million visitors a year. First proposed in 1921 by a regional planner named Benton MacKaye, the famous route began with volunteers linking existing trails to create one, long continuous footpath.
In 1925, a group of 24 supporters created the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to protect and maintain the path.
Completed in August of 1937, the 2,190 mile long Appalachian Trail winds through 14 states, 8 national forests and 6 national parks. The trail begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia and concludes in Mount Katahdin, Maine. It is marvelously beautiful, even on a rare warm day in the middle of winter.
**Fun Fact: Earl Shaffer, a WWII veteran from Pennsylvania, was the first reported person to hike the entire trail in a single journey. He completed his first hike in 1948, as a way to cope with returning home from the war. Mr. Shaffer also finished continuous hikes in 1965 and in 1998, at the age of 79.
Hiking experiences are divided into three main descriptive categories:
- Day hikes
- Multi-day hikes
- Thru-hiking (walking the entire trail within one calendar year)
Our quick 4.2 mile hike obviously represents a very small “day hike”. 🙂
**Fun Fact: Thru-hikers make up nicknames called “trail names” and rarely use their real names when meeting other hikers on the trail.
2″ x 6″ white rectangles called “blazes” found on trees, posts and rocks mark the sometimes treacherous path of the Appalachian Trail.
Blue rectangles mark trails to shelters built and maintained by volunteers to give multi-day and thru-hikers respite from extreme weather and exhaustion.
**Fun Fact: In 1968, the National Trails System Act became law, making the Appalachian Trail the first national scenic trail in the United States.
Most thru-hikers finish the A.T. in 6 to 9 month, but the quickest was completed in just 46 days. Anyone who completes the trail, in any combination or manner, earns the title of “2,000 miler”. The oldest 2,000 miler was 82 years old–the youngest, just 5 years.
Between the years 1936 and 1969, 59 recorded completions were documented and only ten people finished the trail in 1970. 7,418 hikers reported completions between 2010 and 2017.
**Fun Fact: About 29% of A.T. hikers are women.
Access to the trail varies, but we drove to an area that provides parking. We left our car behind, wore comfortable shoes, carried lightweight jackets and water and began our first exploration of the peaceful, mostly undisturbed, natural and historical Appalachian Trail.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail fueled my spirit with a complete and calming submersion in the wonder of raw nature, a tranquil experience that planted an essential seed of eager desire to return for more.
I am currently researching the 14 state challenge and thinking about adding it to my bucket list. 🙂
For more information, visit The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Why are we attempting 100 adventures? Read this!
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