One hundred years ago, Benton MacKaye was a bit lost. He had lost his job and, more tragically, had just lost his wife to suicide. MacKaye turned to the Appalachian woods he loved for solace.
In an essay published in The Journal of the American Institute of Architects in 1921, Benton MacKaye gave voice to his vision of "An Appalachian Trail." He spoke of the "vast areas of secluded forests, pastoral lands, and water courses, which, with proper facilities and protection, could be made to serve as the breath of a real life for the toilers in the bee-hive cities along the Atlantic seaboard and elsewhere."
Along the spine of the Appalachian mountains, he believed, "There would be a chance to catch a breath, to study the dynamic forces of nature and the possibilities of shifting to them the burdens now carried on the backs of men." MacKaye envisioned "a walking trail" that would connect communities from New England to Georgia.
Though it wasn't completed until 1937, the Appalachian Trail was born in MacKaye's vision. Less than 16 years after his article was published, his "long trail over the full length of the Appalachian skyline" became a reality.
Want to know more about the Trail's origin story? Check out festival speaker Jeffrey H. Ryan's book, Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery and the Rivalry that Built the Appalachian Trail.
Round Hill AT: Join us in bringing together local friends and family to get outside. Let’s discover our amazing backyards — from national treasures like the Appalachian Trail to new local and regional parks.