My hearing dog Whoopi and I are endeavoring to hike the 2,183+ mile trail next year to raise funds for Canine Companions for Independence. I’m sure that some would like a little bit of history about the Appalachian Trail (also known as the A.T.), so here goes!
The AT is one of the longest continuous footpaths in the world, and was conceived and started in the 1920’s by Benton MacKaye. It was completed by Myron Avery and the Civilian Conservation Corp by 1937. Today, the trail starts on Springer Mountain in Georgia and travels nearly 2,200 miles along the Appalachian mountains through 14 states to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is marked by a single white 6 inch by 2″ white blaze that is painted at intervals all along the trail on trees, posts, and rocks.
It is estimated that over 2 million people hike the AT each year. Of the 2 million plus hikers on the trail – there are those who choose to backpack on the trail. Backpackers are those hikers who bring their gear in backpacks in order to be able to live on the trail for a few days up to months on the trail. There are 2 types of backpackers on the trail and they are section hikers and thru-hikers. Section hikers hike the trail in small sections at the pace of the hiker, but it can take many years to complete the entire trail. This allows the hiker to do sections of the trail in the optimal season and weather, and also when they are able to due to work and family obligations. Thru-hikers are backpackers who hike the entire trail in one season from Georgia to Maine (known as Nobos) or from Maine to Georgia (known as Sobos). Thru-hikers usually take between 5 to 7 months to hike the entire trail. In any season – the trail is usually always too cold, too wet, too hot, too windy, too muddy, too humid, too buggy, etc. Backpackers however live for those moments though where they come out of the forest on a mountain top where the air clears, the bugs recede, the light shines softly on the landscape, and there is a sense of peace as we look out over the valley below. Those are our spiritual moments that renews our soul and invigorates us.
Approximately 2,000 people attempt to thru-hike the trail each year but it is estimated that 25% of hikers actually make it all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine or to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers get off the trail for many obvious reasons and most are due to poor planning, the trail wasn’t what they expected, injuries, homesickness, lack of funds, and so on. Those hikers however that make it through to Katahdin or Springer Mountain find themselves changed. They are confident, bold, ambitious, goal oriented, and are ready to take on the world.
Whoopi and I are training and pre-paring this year in order to thru-hike northbound the 2,183+ miles from Springer Mountain to Katahdin starting next spring. It will be hard – there moments of frustration and sadness, but there will also be moments of pure joy and happiness as well. We hope that you will continue to follow us in our journey as we raise awareness and funds for Canine Companions for Independence. Thanks for reading!
(Sources: Wikipedia, TheAppalachianTrail.org, TheAThiker.com)