I've done more research on the Appalachian Trail in the last few months than I ever did for any research paper or project I ever did in college. I guess this makes sense though. There is a much greater chance of bear maulings while hiking the AT than in front of a panel of professors . In one instance I could get an F; in the other instance I could get hypothermia. Priorities. So for those of you who may not know much about the Appalachian Trail, I want to give some general information, facts, and figures.
- The Appalachian Trail is formally known as The Appalachian National Scenic Trail and is commonly known as The A.T. The AT is a continuously marked hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The exact length of the trail changes slightly every year due to trail maintenance, rerouting, or modifications. In 2015 the trail will be 2189.2 miles long. That loosely equates to about 5 millions steps to get from one end to the other. The AT goes through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
- The first idea of a trail that would run the length of the eastern United States Appalachian Mountain Range was conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye. In the 1920's, this guy was already fed up with the growing eastern seaboard metropolises and wanted a place for these poor city slickers to be able to escape to the wilderness to replenish their souls. The trail was officially completed in 1937 with great help from Myron Avery, the chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now called Conservancy) from 1932 to 1952.
- The first guy to think it was a good idea to walk the entire thing from one end to the other in one continuous journey was Earl V Shaffer in 1948. Before then, people thought such a thing was impossible. Since Shaffer achieved the impossible, many others from all different walks of life have joined him. Over the years, hikers that have stood atop Mt Katahdin as successful thru hikers include: a completely blind man, a 67 year old grandma, an above the knee amputee, an 81 year old man, and a 5 year old kid. So if I ever think it is too hard, come find me and slap me in the face.
- Every year the popularity of the AT increases. The number of reported, completed thru hikes in 2013 was 875. This number has gone up every year in recent memory. 2014 numbers are at 906, but could continue to climb as more completion reports come in. About 90% start in Georgia and walk north, while the other 10% begin in Maine and head down south to the land of the pine. Even though the number of hikers change each year, the completion percentage has stayed pretty constant over the years. About 25% of all attempted thru hikes are successful. So 3 out of 4 people who attempt to thru hike the trail don't make it for one reason or another. Tough odds.
- Here are a few more interesting facts. The AT is entirely maintained by volunteers. There are approximately 165,000 white blazes that mark the entire trail. The elevation gain while hiking the entire AT is equivalent in feet to climbing up Mt Everest 16 times. Less than 16,000 people ever in the history of the world have completed an AT thru hike. The trail runs through the oldest mountain range in the world.
- Here are a few facts about the AT I assume are true, though I have no proof or references. AT thru hikers get really good at pooping outdoors. Everyone's favorite part of the AT is the wild ponies in the Grayson Highlands. On the trail, anything can be wrapped in a tortilla and be delicious. Daily plans along the AT are really just loose guidelines.