The story of ten hikers who have traveled the 2,000-mile-path through the eastern United says tell the history of the trail


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The Appalachian Trail crosses 14 states, six nationwide parks and eight national forests. Marc Muench / Corbis

At 2,178 miles, the Appalachian trail is the country longest significant footpath. Beginning at Springer mountain in Georgia, it the cross 14 states, six nationwide parks and eight national forests on its method north come Maine’s mount Katahdin. But despite the trail’s difficult length, an ext than 10,000 people—called “2,000-milers”—walked it in that entirety, in sections with time or as a whole. In light of “Earl Shaffer and also the Appalachian Trail,” an exhibition honoring the very first person come hike the trail in one constant trip (at the Smithsonian national Museum of American history through October 11), we take a minute to reflect on the trail’s groundbreakers, document holders and legendary characters.

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1. The Founder

The Appalachian Trail to be the brainchild the Benton Mackaye a land-use planner. Mackaye, who flourished up about 30 miles west of Boston in Shirley Center, Massachusetts, to be no stranger come mountains. The first peak that “bagged,” as climbers say, was Mount Monadnock, simply a couple of miles far in brand-new Hampshire. And also after graduating from Harvard in 1900, he and also a classmate hiked what would certainly later end up being Vermont’s long Trail with the green Mountains. As the story goes, Mackaye to be sitting in a tree atop Stratton hill in Vermont when the notion involved him that a trail following the Appalachian hills from Maine to Georgia. The editor the the Journal of the American institute of Architects convinced Mackaye to compose an article about his idea. Released in October 1921, “An Appalachian Trail, A project in regional Planning” fleshed the end Mackaye’s vision. More than just a go path, his Appalachian Trail was to it is in a destination where East coast city dwellers can go to get earlier to nature—a place for recreation, recuperation and as he ever so transcendentally placed it, “to walk, come see and to view what you see.”

2. The trace Blazer

Benton Mackaye may have actually been a thinker, however it took a doer to rotate his vision right into a reality. Myron Avery, a maritime lawyer and also avid hiker native Washington D.C., took lead of the project in 1930, mapping the trail’s route and also organizing crews of volunteers to develop it. If his call serves the right, he no the many amiable the men. Bill Bryson composed in his book A walk in the Woods the someone had once asserted Avery blazed 2 trails in between Georgia and also Maine: “One was of ache feelings and bruised egos. The various other was the A.T.” however Avery did control to complete the trail in a mere seven years; the last swath ~ above the southern side the Sugarloaf hill in Maine was cleared in 1937. Having actually rolled a measure up wheel over many of it, acquisition notes because that future guidebooks, Avery was the an initial person to hike the whole Appalachian Trail. That did it end the food of 16 years, indigenous 1920 come 1936.

3. The first Thru-Hiker

Essentially, there are two breeds of Appalachian follow hikers: ar hikers and “thru” hikers. Ar hikers, choose Myron Avery, hike the Appalachian follow in pieces, regularly over the course of years, vice versa, thru hikers take on every 2,178 miles in one trip. In 1948, when civilization had their doubts that such a feat was possible, Earl Shaffer indigenous York County, Pennsylvania, perfect the very first known thru hike. Having read about the trace in an outdoor magazine, Shaffer, a people War II veteran fresh out of the service, decided that it would be a good way come “walk the army out of system.” without guidebooks, just road maps and also a compass, he left because that his “Long Cruise,” together he referred to as it, top top April 4, from mountain Oglethorpe, the A.T.’s original southernmost point in Georgia. Averaging 16.5 miles a day, he got to Mount Katahdin 124 days later. The moment, for him, to be bittersweet. “I virtually wished the the Trail yes, really was endless, that no one might ever hike that length,” composed Shaffer in his book Walking with Spring. He recorded the bug. In 1965, he would hike the trail again, this time indigenous Maine come Georgia, ending up being the first person come walk the follow in both directions. And, then, in 1998, at period 79, the hiked it yet again.

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4. The first Female Thru-Hiker

When Emma Gatewood set out to hike the Appalachian follow in 1954, no women—and only five men—had ever hiked the continuously. The farmer, mother of 11 children and also grandmother that 23 was in her mid-60s at the time, earning it s her the trail name “Grandma Gatewood.” She had never hiked a mountain in her life, however that July, she began in Maine, through the formidable 4,292-foot high Mount Katahdin, and every on purpose of walking “a ways” under the A.T. In two days, she to be lost. ~ running out of food, she turned up days later back on the trail in ~ Rainbow Lake, wherein she had actually made she wrong turn. Reportedly, she said a Maine Forest company ranger that she no lost, simply misplaced. The incident spooked she though, and she went residence to Ohio. The adhering to spring, however, she was earlier at it, this time starting in Georgia. 5 months later, on September 25, 1955, the 67-year-old finished the entire trek. “I would certainly never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, yet I couldn’t, and wouldn’t quit,” she said Sports Illustrated. Grandma Gatewood would thru-hike the A.T. A 2nd time in 1957 and a third in 1964.

5. Trail Celebrations

The Appalachian Trail has its dangers: poison snakes, bears, lightning storms, conditions like giardia and also Lyme’s, also murder. Yet the trail definitely celebrates life. In 1978, thru hikers Richard and also Donna Satterlie discovered out while hiking through warm Springs, phibìc Carolina, that Donna was moving a child. She was seven and a half months pregnant by the moment she hiked mount Katahdin. In honor of their accomplishment, they called their infant girl Georgia Maine. And also it was in Cathedral Pines, a stand of white pines in Cornwall, Connecticut, once part of the Appalachian Trail, the avid hikers Mike Jacubouis and Cara Perkins acquired married. About 60 guests to be in attendance, wearing “comfortable long walking clothes,” together the invitation suggested, and also the bride and bridegroom wore denim and also hiking boots. The Rev. Invoice Kittredge the Lewiston, Maine, check out an excerpt that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, consisting of his words, “We can never have sufficient nature.”