Beyond the White Blaze: Appalachian Trail Guide

The Appalachian Trail is the country’s most famous footpath. Stretching 2,189 miles from Maine to Georgia, it attracts three million hikers each year—including over 2,000 thru-hikers. That number is expected to grow with the release of the Hollywood blockbuster A Walk in the Woods starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Will crowds swamp the A.T. or help save it?

The Appalachian Trail of today stretches some 2,189 contiguous miles from the forested summit of Georgia’s Springer Mountain to the knife-edge peak of Katahdin in Maine, but Benton MacKaye’s initial vision laid out a different path.

He thought the trail should begin on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest point in the northern Appalachians, and culminate atop North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

He envisioned an uninterrupted footpath along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains with intermittent shelters along the way, much like the A.T. that exists today, but his broader goal for the trail was different from what it would eventually become. “Community groups,” he said, would be sure to “grow naturally out of shelter camps. Each would consist of a little community on or near the trail where people could live in private domiciles.”

Blue Ridge Outdoor’s Appalachian Trail Guide examines the past, present, and future of the A.T.—including interviews and video of inspiring trail personalities, colorful thru-hikers, speed record holder Scott Jurek, and homegrown heroes like Jennifer Pharr Davis. They highlight the trail’s iconic landmarks and feature the trail communities and clubs working to protect the beloved green ribbon of trail.

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