Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Doing the Appalachian Trail

In case you are not on the east coast, I will tell you that the weather here in Pennsylvania has been unseasonably mild this winter.  Therefore, needing to take a break from reading about airborne operations in the Pacific during WWII, the girls (the wife Sheila and the cattle dog Sydney) and I decided to take a walk on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail last weekend.  We had never been on the “AT” even though in passes right through Cumberland County between Carlisle and Mechanicsburg, around five miles from where I live.

Again, for those not in the know, the AT is a hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  Folks who cover the entire 2,184 miles (approximately) in one summer hiking season are referred to as “thru-hikers.”  If you aim to complete the whole thing, but not in one season, you are a “section hiker.”  The rest of us, are just hikers.  The trail is one of the “Triple Crown” of long distance hiking trails in the United States.  The others are the Pacific Crest Trail at 2,663 miles and the Continental Divide Trail at 3,100 miles.
For a very entertaining read and to find out more than you ever wanted to know about the AT, check out “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.  Or for an even quicker history of the trail, read the Wikipedia article.  The idea for the trail was advanced by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921.  The trail was completed in 1937.  In 1968 the AT was designated a National Scenic Trail and placed under the management of the National Park Service in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  However, the trail is maintained by volunteers from more than 30 trail clubs and partner organizations who do the work and raise the money.  In fact, a new parking area was created on Hwy 641 between Mechanicsburg and Carlisle through the work of the Cumberland Valley A.T. Club.  I passed by this new feature on my way to the AHEC last week, and that is what prompted me to go for our little walk.  Also, my thanks to the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club for the map graphic of the Appalachian Trail, and for providing an online listing of hiking opportunities in south-central Pennsylvania. ;-)

So we finally "did the AT."  Admittedly, we didn’t do the whole 2,184 miles last weekend.  We really only did four.  But it was a great way to get out and get some fresh air and exercise in order to chase away the post-holiday winter blues.  And now, we can say, “Oh sure, we’ve done the AT.”  What?  Like it’s hard?

Oh, by the way, I had to throw this picture in at the last minute.  I love how you get over a fence on the AT. -->

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