Each year, many people attempt to hike the entire length of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail - better know as the Appalachian Trail, or just the AT. While many do not make it the entire 2,184 miles and 14 states the trail traverses, many including several from the Mid-Ohio Valley have been successful in this endeavor. Those who do make it say the experience changed their lives.
Stretching from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Ga., and touching West Virginia at Harpers Ferry, the AT is quite a challenge, both physically and mentally.
This week, the trail celebrated its 75th birthday. Many people celebrated this birthday the same way they regularly celebrate the trail's presence: by volunteering along its path.
Opened Aug. 14, 1937, the trail was seen as a way for people to get out in the woods and benefit from being close to the natural world. The trail was the dream of forester-philosopher Benton MacKaye who began advocating for the trail in 1921, shortly after the death of his wife. His dream was to create a path that would connect people who lived in the cities with rural areas of the country.
Whether spending just a few hours on the trail or making it the dominant fact of life for months at a time, many AT hikers find the footpath a welcome respite from life in concrete jungles. They go back and often spread the word about what lies just yards from many highways throughout the eastern United States.
And so, the trail has changed countless lives in ways small and large.
Hurray for the AT!