Sunday, August 19, 2012

History Of The Appalachian Trail ( AT )

The Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye, a Massachusetts regional planner and forester for the United States Forest Service, as well as a cofounder of The Wilderness Society. His idea for a continuous wilderness trail was proposed in an October 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, entitled "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning." The trail was to provide leisure, enjoyment, and the study of nature for people living in the urban areas of the eastern United States.

Just two years later, on October 7, 1923, the first section of the Appalachian Trail, from Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park to Delaware Water Gap, was opened. MacKaye then called for a two-day Appalachian Trail conference to be held in March 1925 in Washington D.C., which resulted in the formation of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy). Little progress, however, was made on the trail for several years.

The trail wasn't completed until August 1937 when the Civilian Conservation Corps connected the ridge between Spaulding and Sugarloaf Mountains in Maine. The 1968 National Trails System Act made the AT a linear national park and authorized funds to surround the entire route with public lands, either federal or state, and to protect it from incompatible uses. Roughly 2181 miles in length, the Appalachian Trail is the nation's longest marked footpath. It passes through 6 national parks and touches 14 states.

Although the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye, it was Harvey Broome and Paul Fink that made it a reality in the Great Smoky Mountains.  
Harvey Broome was an early environmentalist, another one of the cofounders of The Wilderness Society, and a longtime president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. He, along with seven others, hiked the 75+ miles of AT through the Park in 1932 before the trail was even completed. He was largely responsible for sighting most of the trail thru the Park.
Paul Fink, another leader of the movement that led to the founding of the Smoky Mountains as a national park, was also instrumental in blazing the AT through the Smokies. Fink was a member of the Board of Managers of the Appalachian Trail from 1925 to 1949, and was the author of "Backpacking Was the Only Way", an account of early 20th century camping and backpacking adventures in the southern Appalachians.

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