By John Clise
The Appalachian Trail is quite a wonderous adventure to undertake so I have been told. I’ve taken a few short hikes on the 2,200-mile trail that spans from Georgia to Maine. More than 2 million people are said to take a hike on part of the trail at least once each year.
Thru-hikers are the real hikers to me as these courageous souls attempt to hike the trail in its entirety in a single season. Thru-hiking, or through-hiking, is the act of hiking an established end-to-end trail or long-distance trail with continuous footsteps in one direction. According to statistics, the number of thru-hikes per year has increased steadily, with 715 northbound and 133 southbound thru-hikes reported in 2017. Some of these hikers also do a yo-yo, which means they hike from one end to the other of the trail and repeat back the other way to where their journey began.
My longest hike was about 10 miles out and back which I undertook on a whim. That’s when I realized the real amount of preparation it should take a hiker intent on making the trek in one season.
Thru-hikers will touch or pass through 14 states on their journey. Obviously, it’s been the inspiration for many books, movies, blogs, and other media throughout the years.
The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan—called “An Appalachian Trail, A Project in Regional Planning,” not long after the death of his beloved wife in 1921. Since then, the trail has continued to grow and prosper. Through the efforts of private citizens, it was completed in 1937. Today the trail is managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.
The views on the trail are mesmerizing, incredible, breathtaking, amazing, beautiful, freeing, intriguing, wonderous, and so much more. I think the experience hits everyone differently. I know it’s something you never forget, and never experience anywhere else.
I remember standing on the trail with the afternoon sun on my skin, and a gentle breeze wrapping around me. Looking out across the valley it seemed like I could see forever. I hadn’t had that feeling since I last visited Rock City years ago. This feeling was much bigger.
A good place, if you’re in the neighborhood, to take a short walk on the trail is Round Bald. Round Bald via Appalachian Trail is a 1.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Roan Mountain, Tennessee that features beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Click the images below to enlarge for viewing.