An Appalachian Trail Anniversary II

November 25, 2012

At Farmington, Ct.

It was a huge project that took 16 years of rugged work, but in 1937 the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia was completed. We are celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Mount Katahdin in Maine is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. In 1995, journalists from five eastern newspapers hiked the trail over a period of six months, each newspaper responsible for a section of the trail. From left, the Hartford Courant team posed on the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the trail. From left, editor Vic Kodis, writers Steve Grant and Susan Campbell, photographer Michael Kodas and graphic artist Phil Lohman. Click to enlarge.

Mount Katahdin in Maine is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. In 1995, journalists from five eastern newspapers including The Hartford Courant hiked the trail over a period of six months, each newspaper responsible for a section of the trail. The Courant team, posing on the Katahdin summit, included, from left to right, editor Vic Kodis, writers Steve Grant and Susan Campbell, photographer Michael Kodas and graphic artist Phil Lohman. Click to enlarge.

A couple of Connecticut natives were key figures in its conception and execution. Benton MacKaye, born in Stamford, was a visionary forester and planner who proposed the trail in an article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in 1921. But MacKaye was a thinker not an organizer, and work on the trail languished by the mid-1920s. Along came G. Arthur Perkins of Hartford, a retired judge who loved to hike. Perkins threw himself into the project, overseeing the cutting of hundreds of miles of trail.

“I really think he was essential,” said Brian B. King, author of the the just published book “The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail.”

Today the 2,184-mile trail is used by upwards of 3 million hikers a year. It is perhaps the best known hiking trail in the U. S., and one of the nation’s three grand, long-distance trails, along with the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails.

The 52.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut are maintained by the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Last year, 102 people spent 5,313 hours caring for the trail in Connecticut, said David Boone, trails committee chairman for the chapter.

My story on the 75th anniversary of the trail appears today on the front page of The Hartford Courant, with historic images of MacKaye, Perkins and others, courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the private group that is part of the unique management structure of the AT, involving the National Park Service, other federal and state agencies, and 31 hiking clubs.

“The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail,” is available through bookstores, Amazon.com and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, www.appalachiantrail.org. The conservancy site also has extensive information on the trail, as does the National Park Service page http://www.nps.gov/appa/index.htm.

An Appalachian Trail Anniversary

Nov 20, 2012

Rand's View is one of the best known vantage points on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. Click to enlarge.

Rand's View is one of the best known vantage points on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. Click to enlarge.

The 2,184-mile-long Appalachian Trail is part of the triple crown of long-distance hiking trails in the U. S., rivaled only by the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails.

All of them are wonderful, but only the Appalachian Trail is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its completion this year. For those of us in Connecticut, through which 52.3 miles of the trail pass, this is a great time to do a piece of a trail that gets us out of our routine and into the place where we belong. Outdoors.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut come up Giant's Thumb, an unusual rock formation.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut come upon Giant's Thumb, an unusual rock formation. Click to enlarge

The trail enters Connecticut in Sherman and trends north mostly in the hills above the Housatonic River to the Massachusetts border at Salisbury. Let me toss out a possible outing. It involves a steep ascent, a round-trip hike of 6.6 miles and includes a famous vantage point. You’ll hike from Route 44 in Salisbury easterly on Prospect Mountain. Most of this hike is moderate ups and downs through forest, once you’ve finished the ascent.  Just be especially careful in the steep section, whether going up or down, if the trail is wet and covered with leaves.

You’ll find parking about a half mile east of the village of Salisbury. Look for a small oval sign identifying the trail. Follow the trail a short distance through a field and you will come to a kiosk with trail information. A hike of 3.3 miles will take you to Rand’s View, where, suddenly, the trail comes out of the woods and skirts a meadow with long views of the Taconic Range and the Berkshires. This is a premier vantage point, worth the walk. Details of the hike can  be found in my Hartford Courant column appearing on-line today and tomorrow and in print editions tomorrow, Nov. 20.

Connecticut’s Resilient Forests

Nov. 12, 2012

David R. Foster, director of the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Ma., said the October, 2011, snowstorm that did so much damage in parts of Connecticutl was the kind of event that statistically is not likely to happen more than once in a few hundred years. Click to enlarge.

David R. Foster, director of the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Ma., said the October, 2011, snowstorm that did so much damage in parts of Connecticut was the kind of event that statistically is not likely to happen more than once in a few hundred years. Click to enlarge.

A year after Tropical Storm Irene and the freak October snowstorm, and just two weeks after the mega-storm Sandy lashed the state, foresters and forest scientists are once again assessing damage and estimating long-term impacts on the health of Connecticut woodlands.

Incredible as it may seem, they say the state’s  forests weathered the three storms with far less damage than might be expected.

Roadside hardwood trees and ornamental hardwood plantings around homes tended to sustain the heaviest damage from the snowstorm and Irene. With Sandy, it appears softwoods like pines and spruces were hardest hit.

Meanwhile, one prominent forest scientist said the freak, heavy snowstorm last October that caused enormous tree damage in parts of Connecticut, including the Farmington Valley, was so extraordinary it was the kind of catastrophic event not likely to be seen again in many lifetimes.

Many streets in Connecticut's Farmington Valley were impassable after a freak October snowstorm downed trees and limbs that still had not shed their leaves for the season. Click to enlarge.

Many streets in Connecticut's Farmington Valley were impassable after a freak October snowstorm downed trees and limbs that still had not shed their leaves for the season. Click to enlarge.

“My guess is you are talking many hundreds of years for an event like that,” said David R. Foster, director of Harvard University’s Harvard Forest in Petersham, Ma., and an authority on the ecology and history of New England forests.

My story with details on how Connecticut forests are doing after the three big storms – and why – appears in The Hartford Courant today on the front page.

Jeffrey S. Ward, chief scientist in the department of forestry and horticulture at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, offered a rule of thumb for suburban trees. Those with less than 30 percent crown damage will quickly recover, though some will have more cavities in coming decades. Those with less than 50 percent damage will survive, but will not grow as quickly. Those with more than 75 percent crown damage will die.