By Scott Amundson
The Appalachian Trail makes up one third of the Triple Crown of United States long distance hiking and runs about 2,178 miles. Home to over 2,000 rare species of plants and animals, it starts at Springer Mountain in the state of Georgia and runs all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Animals that are commonly seen along the trail include moose, elk, timber rattlesnakes, and copperheads. Although some sections cross through towns and over rivers and roads, the majority of the trail travels through wilderness.
The trail also follows closely the ridge and many of the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. People who attempt to hike the entire trail in a single season are called Thru-Hikers. Andrew Thompson holds the record for fastest hiking of the entire trail with a time of 47 days, 13 hours, and 31 minutes. Fourteen states are part of the trail. There’s even a 690 mile extension, called the International Appalachian Trail, that keeps going into Canada. Another extension that would run to Newfoundland is under construction.
Conceived by forester Benton MacKaye after his wife’s death in 1921, the original idea was for a grand trail to connect a network of wilderness study and work camps and farms for the benefit of recreational city folk. Following a story in a 1922 edition of the New York Evening Post, the realization of MacKaye’s idea became the top priority of the Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference. The first section of the trail, which stretched from Arden, New York to Bear Mountain, opened on October 7, 1923. The 2008 connection of the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama to the end of the Appalachian Trail shows that the trail may never really be complete.
The preferred way to hike the trail is from south to north. Hikers usually begin their treks in March or April and finish them late in the summer or early in the fall season. The main trail is marked by blazes of white paint, with side trails marked by blue blazes of paint. There are over 250 campgrounds along the trail. The shelters are called lean-tos, huts, or adirondack shelters. They usually have only three walls and wooden floors. About a days walking distance apart, most are located near water and include cords on which to hang food. Many inns are also located along the trail. There have been nine reported homicides on the trail.
With its wealth of scenic beauty, the Appalachian Trail is a place that every American should visit at least once in his lifetime. Adventure, self-reliance, and the American Spirit can be found on this long path. Take the time to hike the Appalachian Trail. You will be greatly rewarded.
Scott Amundson consistently writes compelling articles for popular blog ON HIKING, found at http://www.ultimatehikingguide.blogspot.com.
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