The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a footpath that wanders up and down the mountains of the Eastern United States from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.
FACTS: (From the Appalachian Trail Conservancy)
- The AT is approximately 2,180 miles long. (Relocations alter the distance every year, making exact figures difficult.) We will cover 10-15% of the trail in the two months we hike.
- It is among the longest, continuously marked footpaths in the world! It takes approximately 5 million steps to complete the trail from one end to the other.
- The AT passes through 14 states. During our two month adventure, we are starting in Maryland, will cross the state with the least amount of trail in just one day (WV with 4 miles), and spend most of our time in the state with the most miles of trail (VA with 550 miles).
- There are more than 250 three-sided shelters along the trail—used by hikers in addition to or in place of tent-camping. Shelters and the trail itself are maintained by volunteers (who contribute 220,000 hours of work each year). We are carrying a tent with us to use most of the time.
- About 2000 hikers attempt to “thru-hike” each year, with about 25% of them completing the challenge. Hikers include folks of all ages, ability levels, and fitness levels. Whew! We, too, can do this activity!
- The total elevation gain for someone hiking the entire AT is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times! (And “thru-hikers” average just 5+ months to hike the entire trail from end to end…) Okay, I admit it, this fact is both crazy and scary!
- Almost 3 million visitors walk at least a short distance on the AT each year. But most of the year for most of its length a hiker sees few other people on the trail itself.
“The Appalachian Trail derives much of its strength and appeal from its uninterrupted and practically endless character. This is an attribute which must be preserved. I view the existence of this pathway and the opportunity to travel it, day after day without interruption, as a distinct aspect of our American life.” –Benton MacKaye
HISTORY: The AT is the same age as my mom! It was proposed in 1921. The initial path was completed in 1937 with continual relocations and improvements since then. In 1968, the AT became a National Scenic Trail and was placed under federal protection. In 1970 the first person completed a “thru-hike.” I started reading about and dreaming of hiking the AT in the late 1970s.