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.
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.