The Appalachian Trail
Over the first 20 years of the 1900's, a great interest in hiking began, especially in New England and New York. Many people dreamed of a long trail running from New England south through the Appalachian Mountains. In October 1921, journalist Benton McKaye, made public his idea for a long trail called the Appalachian Trail. It would run from Maine to Georgia. It would have 3 parts: The Trail itself, food and shelter along the way and transportation to and from the entrances to the trail. The project should be an escape from civilization for those who choose to experience it. By 1925, a group was organized to begin planning the trail. The organization was called the Appalachian Trail Club.
In the late 1920's, Connecticut judge Arthur Perkins took over and made this project known to people in Washington, D.C. Myron Avery, a federal judge, and his friends of the Potomac Appalachian Club took over the project. In August 1937, a trail was established from Maine to Georgia. Also, Avery had begun plans for building overnight shelters along the trail.
In 1938, the trail through New England was badly damaged by a severe hurricane. After that, many of the volunteers were called to serve their country in World War II. Further work on the trail was stopped. However, three years after the war (1948), Earl Shaffer, a veteran of the war, hiked all the way from Georgia to Maine. He could locate the trail well enough to do this.
In 1951, Myron Avery died. Murray Stevens of New York and Stanley Murray of Tennessee became the new leaders of the Appalachian Trail Club. They believed that the federal government must have a part in building and maintaining the project. Membership in the organization grew to 10,000. In 1968, with the help of Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, the National Trails System Act was passed. The Appalachian Trail became part of the National Park System of the United States.
The National Trails System Act required that land purchases be made all along the Trail. The main office of the ATC moved from Washington, D. C., to Harpers Ferry, VA, closer to the Trail. Much of the land purchases were delayed until 1978. At that time, Congress said they had to buy the land along the foot path and provided a budget to do that.
In November 1986, with only about 100 miles of the land left to be bought, David Sartell was made the Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Club. Although Congress provided enough money to purchase the land, a fight over a protected route across Maine's Saddleback Mountain delayed the completion of the purchase. This last 100-mile piece was not acquired until 2014.
In July 2005, the name of the leadership organization was changed to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. A conservancy is an organization concerned with the preservation of natural resources. The goal of the ATC today is to preserve the entire trail and the natural resources along the way.
The best time of the year to begin a hike along the whole Trail is during the second half of April at Springer Mountain, Georgia. A hiker could probably expect to reach the end in Baxter State Park in Maine by about October 15. Weather, however, can play a big part in the dates because harsh weather can exist in April at the beginning and then arise by October in the northern areas.
Along the way, hikers need to beware of bears who hunt for their food, water shortages due to drought, and fire bans due to very dry conditions. Up-to-date conditions are posted on the Trail's website.
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