I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.
– Thoreau “Walking”**
The Trail has its northern terminus at Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Marked by 2-inch-by-6-inch painted white blazes or mountaintop cairns, it meanders across the scenic ridges and valleys of the eastern Appalachian Mountains for more than 2,100 miles north from Springer Mountain in Georgia.
As the first National Scenic Trail designated by Congress, it is a unique linear recreational area that links federal, state, and local parklands in 14 states, each with its own natural and cultural characters.
The Appalachian Trail, now a federally protected national scenic trail under the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, is maintained and managed primarily by the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) clubs of volunteers.
The history of the Trail and the ATC can be roughly divided into three eras: construction of the Trail (1921-1937), federal protection of the footpath (1937-1984), and the formal delegation of management responsibility to the Conference since 1984. The latter included securing permanent protection for the footpath, through a “Trailway” or buffer zone on either side of the footpath.
From 1935 through 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps created many miles of the trail in Maine, restoring a substantial portion after the destructive hurricane of 1938. Thanks to the efforts of Myron Avery, a Maine native, the trail was completed on August 14, 1937 with the clearing of a two-mile section in the Maine woods. A plaque on the trail near Sugarloaf Mountain marks the spot and where the 75th anniversary was noted in 2012 by a “hike-in” organized by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.
Currently, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club maintains the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the state. The Club is composed of individual members and organizations, ranging from outing clubs to children’s camps.
Heading south to New Hampshire, the Trail begins at Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, passes Rainbow, Nahmakanta and Jo-Mary lakes and Crawford pond. It traverses White Cap, the Barren-Chairback Range, and Moxie Bald; crosses the Great Bend of the Dead River, in part following the Arnold Trail, Benedict Arnold’s path to Quebec. Then it goes over the Bigelow Range, the Crockers, Spaulding, Saddleback, Baldpate, Old Speck and the Mahoosucs, reaching New Hampshire at Carlo Col.
The 281-mile trail in Maine is primarily in remote forested and mountainous terrain, offering few opportunities for supplies. Relief, however, is available near a few towns.
The origin of the name “Appalachian” apparently emerged from an Indian tribal name Apalachee. “The name was given by Spaniards under De Soto in 1539 for the Apalachee Indians whose name meant ‘people on the other side’ (of a river presumably).”* John Wesley Powell in his 1895 Physiographic Regions of the United States, designated the eastern mountains from New York to Alabama as the Appalachian Ranges.
AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books.
Appalachian Trail Conference Internet site, and its history page at http://www.atconf.org/History/History.intro.html.
Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. New York: Broadway Books. 1998.
Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Augusta, Me. Maine Appalachian Trail Club; Harpers Ferry, W. Va. Appalachian Trail Conservancy. c2009.
McGuire, Harvey Paul. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Maine: 1933-1940.
**Thoreau, Henry David. “Walking.” The Atlantic. June, 1862. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1862/06/walking/304674/ (accessed January 29, 2017)
*Walls, David. “On the Naming of Appalachia.” from An Appalachian Symposium: Essays written in honor of Cratis D. Williams, edited by J. W. Williamson (Boone, NC: Appalachian State University Press, 1977). http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/on-the-naming-of-appalachia.shtml#_ednref20