“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth….The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-2,8
In 1921, it was just a gleam in the eye of former forester and newspaper editor Benton MacKaye. But his vision—to create a place for urban souls to escape and reconnect with the wilderness—inspired him and a group of passionate volunteers to create the Appalachian Trail, one of our finest national treasures in America.
Today, almost a century later, the AT meanders nearly 2,200 miles through 14 states, with long stretches of it near our home. According to businessinsider.com, between 2 to 3 million people tread its lofty path in bits and pieces every year—day hikers like me and overnighters like my son and husband.
When the mountains start calling, the AT is a “pinnacle” attraction. You’ll find beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and lots of other friendly hikers along its daunting route. There are even a few places accessible to the physically-impaired where they can enjoy the views from wheelchairs.
Some 2,000 daring souls start out each spring in hopes of completing a full-length foray as thru-hikers, but only a mere 500 actually make it. So if you’ve gone the whole way from Georgia to Maine or vice-versa, I tip my hiking cap to you—it’s a huge accomplishment that takes around six months to complete at 15 miles a day.
Last weekend, my husband and I traveled to the southernmost terminus of the AT, taking the short trek from the parking lot to Springer Mountain. With fall weather advancing, there were no encounters with thru-hikers (most of them done now) or black bears…based on posted warnings, it seems that ursine inhabitants like to pester overnighters there.
But it was still a poignant moment to take in the view and stand on that spot: the starting point for so many hopefuls, or the finish line for the stalwart few who started in Maine. While completing a thru-hike is very very low on my bucket list, I couldn’t help but feel a bit wistful—wishing I could start that very minute and plant my hiking poles and feet on every stretch of the trail. Fortunately, my husband was there to remind me that it would take a bit more planning and gear than the apple, granola bar, and water bottle I was carrying.
If you’re among the millions of people privileged to live within a few hours of the AT, I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone, throw on some good walking shoes, grab a big stick and a protein bar, and set out for a short excursion on one of the longest trails in the world. It’s an unforgettable experience, and just as MacKaye envisioned, it will reconnect your soul to the wilderness. You can also draw closer to the Creator who formed the great mountains you’ll tread. Thank Him for planting this dream in the hearts of the AT trail-blazers and for showing us breath-taking views of His majesty!
Awesome Father, thank You for Your incredible mountains, valleys, trees, rocks, and winding trails. Thank You for giving us a way forward, for giving us Your word as a light unto our path. Thank You for blessing us with the extraordinary privilege of living in such a beautiful world…teach us to cherish it and guard it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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