Vermont had significant role in the development of the Appalachian Trail
The Green Mountain Club today welcomed this week’s 75th anniversary of the Appalachian Trail which the club manages through Vermont. The club and the state played a key role in the creation and management of this iconic trail stretching from Georgia to Maine, which was finished on August 14, 1937.
Vermont’s Stratton Mountain is thought to be the summit on which, separately, both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail (“A.T.”) were conceived by the trails’ respective founders James P Taylor and Benton MacKaye.
In 1910, the Green Mountain Club began work on the Long Trail, completing it in 1931, thus establishing America’s first long distance hiking trail. MacKaye returned to Vermont in 1922 to study the L.T. in detail, hoping to make it part of his plan for the “great super trail” to run from Maine to Georgia.
Today, the Green Mountain Club has MacKaye’s personal copy of the 1922 Long Trail Guide book (see attached) with notations he presumably used to help establish the A.T. and this Appalachian Trail Conference (now conservancy) to establish and manage the trail. MacKaye adopted from the Long Trail such lessons as the importance of an extensive trail shelter system, white blazes to mark the main trail, and a cooperative management system that relies heavily on local volunteer groups with responsibility for a specific section of trail. Today, the Green Mountain Club has 14 Sections (i.e. chapters) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy works with 31 trail maintaining clubs including the Green Mountain Club.
The Bennington Evening Banner featured MacKaye’s visit on its July 17, 1922, front page: “Mountain Trail Asset of Back to Land Movement.” The article detailed how MacKaye sought to study the Long Trail “with the hope of making it part of the great super trail.” His interest was not solely in developing a mere hiking trail. “His project is something more, as he conceives it, than a trail for hikers,” the Banner wrote, “it is a ‘new approach to the problem of living’, … an offset and relief from the various shackles of commercial civilization.”
The Green Mountain Club today manages the A.T. throughout Vermont in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, and the State of Vermont. This stretch of trail includes more than 100 miles where the A.T. runs along the Long Trail from the Massachusetts border to Maine Junction in Killington, and a more than 40 miles stretch of A.T. from Killington to Norwich, Vt. after the historic trails go their separate ways.
Source: WATERBURY CENTER, Vt., August 16 – The Green Mountain Club
Two thousand twelve marks a major milestone for the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Seventy-five years ago, on August 14, 1937, the A.T. was first completed. This task of building the original trail took more than 15 years and involved a few hundred volunteers, state and federal agency partners, local Trail-maintaining clubs, workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The A.T. is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
Since the A.T was first completed in 1937, it has undergone a remarkable transformation. Most—probably 99%—has been relocated or rebuilt. Hundreds of miles of the original route were along roads and passed through private lands. Thanks to the determination of Myron H. Avery and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) he chaired for more than two decades, passage of the National Trails System Act, and the work of many partners and volunteers, more than 99.7% of the A.T. is now in public ownership. Not only is the footpath itself protected, but a corridor of land, averaging one thousand feet in width, is also protected.
The Trail today is not only better protected but traverses more scenic landscapes than the original route. Many of the A.T.’s most cherished highlights were not part of the A.T. in 1937: Roan Mountain, Tennessee; the Mt. Rogers High Country, including Grayson Highlands, Virginia; the Pochuck Creek swamp, New Jersey; Nuclear Lake, New York; Thundering Falls, Vermont; and Saddleback Mountain, Maine, to name a few.
The treadway itself each year becomes more sustainable. Except for places where the Civilian Conservation Corps was brought in (mostly in Shenandoah National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Maine), the original Trail often was routed straight up and down mountains, making for rough hiking and a treadway prone to severe erosion. The ATC’s trail crews and volunteer trail-maintaining clubs have relocated or rehabilitated countless miles of Trail, and each year continue to improve the treadway.
Today, 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of home and work life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.
The A.T. is a unit of the national park system and is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes, among others, the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, an array of state agencies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs.