I was recently given the opportunity to read an advance copy of "The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America's Hiking Trail." Released today, September 25th 2012, the book documents the history and the stories behind the creation of the trail that is celebrating its 75th anniversary. From its inception until its completion, you will read about the fascinating people who dedicated not only hours, but years of their lives to making the dream a reality.
The AT isn't just a random footpath through the forest. It was purposely constructed with the hiking experience in mind. The trail was originally conceived by Benton MacKaye in 1921 as The Appalachian Trail Project and published as an article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. (page 18) MacKaye envisioned the purpose of the trail to be "1, to walk; 2, to see; 3, to see what you see." (page 112) Completed in 1937 and spanning 14 states, the AT takes hikers from forests and meadows, to skyline drives and mountain peaks. The trail means something different for each person who steps foot on its path and everyone who hikes it will experience the journey in a different way.
In the decades since the trails' inception, it's the dedication of hundreds of individuals who were instrumental in the vision and building of the trail. Learn the names of the people who fought for funding, blazed the trails, installed markers and maintained over 2000 miles of footpath. If you've ever seen the iconic bronze plaque that marks the first northbound steps of the trail atop Springer Mountain, then you'll read about who posed for that plaque and what role he played. The time it takes to hike the trail varies from person to person. I will tell you that it ranges from 46 days to 46 years. Did you ever wonder who was the first soul to hike the entire trail and the reason why he was on that trail in the first place? My personal favorite story is the one about the first woman to thru hike the entire length. She did it with a simple sack tossed over her shoulder and guess what, she was 67 years old! You will have to read the book to learn more about her and others as well.
At 10 x 1.4 x 10", this is not a guidebook. This marvelous book contains 336 pages of history, documents and essays which piece together all the events and people who are responsible for making the trail a reality. For me however, the true stars of the book are the 300 gorgeous photos. They put you on the path, strolling in dense forests and dewy meadows, fording swollen streams and looking out over breath taking views as far as your eye can see. Part of the book is broken down by state, with photos depicting various landmarks. If these photos don't make you want to strap on your hiking boots and experience The Appalachian Trail for yourself, then I don't know what will. As an extra bonus the rear of the book contains a full size, removable National Park Service Map of the entire Appalachian Trail.
I will treasure this book. It was exceptionally well written and the collection of photos speak for themselves. This is a book that will sit out on my coffee table and I will pick it up and not only re-read it, but lose myself in the pictures and dream of the day when I will step foot on the Appalachian Trail.
Released today, The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America's Hiking Trail has been published by Rizzoli Publishing with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and you can visit their website for more information on the AT and on purchasing the book.
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I was provided an advance copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.