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Naturally speaking: Appalachian Trail turns 100

The Appalachian Trail aka “The AT” celebrates an important milestone in its long history this month as it turns 100 years old! It was in December 1921 that Benton MacKaye proposed it in an article titled “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.”

MacKaye was a former forester and newspaper editor and a co-founder of the Wilderness Society but is best known as the originator of the Appalachian Trail. He hoped that the trail would be a way for people to escape city life and reconnect with nature.

The trail has really made an impact for southern Schuylkill County as for the most part it serves as our county’s boundary line. The AT has also made an economic impact as trail users pass through and enjoy the hospitality that southern Schuylkill County is noted for.

The trail was built by private citizens and finally completed in 1937. It is the longest hiking-only marked trail in the entire United States. It’s famous white trail markings are internationally-renowned.

Today, the trail is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy along with numerous state agencies, organizations and thousands of volunteers.

Locally, the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club performs many trail maintenance tasks including maintaining shelters and the trail itself.

It’s a popular trail to trek too. In fact, more than 2 million people trek it every year. You may have heard of 83-year old M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart of Alabama, who strode into the record books this year as the oldest hiker to complete the entire 2,193 miles. His trail name is Nimblewill Nomad. Hey, you are never too old.

It takes an average person five to seven months to walk the trail. Thousands try to walk its entirety but only 1
in 4 make it. According to records kept by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, as of this writing there have been 14,485 successful thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail since its inception.

The trail’s full name is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. It cuts right through the oldest mountain range on the planet. It stretches across 14 states from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Pennsylvania is renowned as a place where “boots come to die,” as the trail is pretty rocky along the state’s 229 AT miles.

There are some really nice local points of interest along the trail in our area. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is less than a mile from the AT and historic sites, like Pilger Ruh (a historic watering hole just off Route 501), are trail highlights.

Other nice points of interest include Bake Oven Knob which sits on the ridge where three counties (Lehigh, Carbon and Schuylkill) meet. Not far from this location is Bear’s (or Baer’s) Rocks where you literally can stand on top of the mountain and view 360-degrees.

An easy access point (and my personal favorite for its beauty and history) is the Route 183 point. You most likely have seen vehicles parked along the edge of the roadway as you traveled to the top of Blue Mountain.

The Route 183 access leads you either east or west. If you go west, you will see a marker for historic Fort Dietrich Snyder, which was constructed during the French and Indian War. The only thing left of this site is a large pit showcasing the size of the fort.

Take time this month to walk off that holiday and shopping excursion stress. The AT stands ready to welcome you to reconnect with nature as Benton MacKaye said so eloquently 100 years ago.

Source: Berkshire mont

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