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On a mountain top...

On a mountain top in New England 100 years ago, Benton MacKaye looked south along the Appalachian Mountains and envisioned a trail extending their length, accessible to the millions living in East Coast cities.

A visionary thinker, he gathered supporters, wrote articles describing his vision, and in 1925 organized the first Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC). Members of hiking clubs from up and down the Eastern seaboard gathered in Washington, D.C., to begin the long process of connecting existing trails and building new ones, so a person living in one of those cities could “escape to nature” after a short drive or train ride.

MacKaye envisioned the main path terminating in the North at Mount Washington in New Hampshire and in the South at Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, the tallest mountains in those two states. During that first conference, however, the participants proposed terminating the trail in the South at Cohutta Mountain in Georgia, and proposed extensions to Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, and to Birmingham, Alabama, without specifying exactly where in Birmingham the trail should end.

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Map from the first Appalachian Trail Conference

meeting in 1925, drawn by Benton MacKaye based on discussions at that conference. 

Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library.

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That first conference mostly consisted of New England hikers and trail clubs, and thus lacked strong advocates for Alabama’s rightful inclusion in the Appalachian Trail. The Trail was declared “complete” in 1937 after being extended to Maine at Mount Katahdin and to Georgia at Mount Oglethorpe, rather than Cohutta Mountain as originally considered.

 

Unlike those early pioneers, today we know that Mount Cheaha is both the tallest mountain in Alabama and a proud Appalachian peak, connected to the Appalachian mountains that run the full length of the Eastern seaboard. We can correct the oversight of the original ATC, building a new trail segment for the Appalachian Trail to rightfully include the Alabama sections of the Appalachians.

 

Alabama is ready for the Appalachian Trail: Mount Cheaha sits in a gorgeous state park that makes a fitting Southern Terminus to match the state park in Maine that holds Mount Katahdin, the Northern Terminus.

We have a vision not just to complete the Appalachian Trail following the ATC’s original plan, but also to build a trail that is truly accessible to all of our citizens, regardless of their economic status or degree of mobility.

We need advocates to champion building a new Appalachian Trail segment in Alabama, so every state that is home to the Appalachian Mountains is rightfully included. We can achieve this vision through broad-based political action and advocacy, as well as mobilizing volunteers to prepare to build a new trail.

 

Together, we can complete the ATC's 100 year old dream: the Appalachian Trail running the full length of the Appalachian Mountains,

and that includes Alabama.