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Jester2000
10-21-2009, 18:36
This was written in March of 2000, days before I left for my thru-hike:

Most people on the East Coast have at least a vague passing knowledge of the Appalachian Trail. Not unlike my knowledge of algebra. While I have previously described it to people as "a really, really long walk," what follows is my understanding of the trail and its history, culled from various sources.

The trail was conceived by a complete nutjob named Benton MacKaye. Today people refer to him as a "visionary," but you really only get the visionary title after you're dead. So at the time he was nuttier than low-sugar GORP. How else to explain that he first publicly described his vision in a 1921 edition of The Journal of the American Institute of Architects? Architects! Anyway.

The trail, as conceived by Mackaye, was supposed to go from North Carolina to New Hampshire. Local trail clubs gradually began to build portions of the trail, and in 1925 the Appalachian Trail Conference, of which I am a dues paying member, was formed. Under the auspices of the ATC (auspices? I know what you're thinking. "He MUST be plagerizing this." I'm not! Check my SAT scores! I'm so brilliant people have to look at me through a piece of cardboard with a tiny hole in the center so as not to go blind! Now where was I? Ahh, yes, auspices . . .) Under the auspices of the ATC and its president, Myron Avery, construction of the trail really got going, and it was completed in 1937. The trail, measuring 2,025 miles, was an incredible feat of organization, a tremendous example of hard work, a heartening display of volunteerism, and, more than anything, showed that man could triumph over his own selfish nature, the excesses of the Twenties, and the Depression of the Thirties. Before everyone got a chance to get all smug, the trail was overgrown, displaced, demolished, and unusable.

Following World War II, while some members of "The Greatest Generation" were going insane with consumerism ("I NEED a car and a fridge and a television and a 'fill-in-the-blank-with-something-better-than-what-the-neighbor-has.'") Where was I? Ahhh, the Greatest Generation. You know, I can't help but think that the greatest generation was actually the generation of Spaniards who brought the Reconquista to a close and then went on to discover, take over, and colonize the Americas. They're the reason the Irish eat potatoes, for crissakes! Now I'm completely lost. Hang on while I reread the beginning of this paragraph.

Got it.

In 1948 Earl Shaffer completed the first ever thru-hike of the trail, using road maps. Road maps! And at the time, remember, roadmaps were free! He finished his hike the very same month that a magazine released an interview with Avery, who said that it was impossible to hike the trail end to end continuously. Or maybe I'm just making that part up. But the bit with the road maps -- 'struth!

In the 60's and 70's, many, many people were stoned out of their gourds. But that's not the whole story. Also during this time period the government directed the National Park Service to attempt, insofar as it was possible, to create a corridor of protected public land for the trail.

Today, no one seems to have a clue about how long the trail actually is. Some publications give multiple conflicting distances within pages of one another. Some people prefer to say, in an attempt not to be wrong, "longer than 2,000 miles." I have also seen "just under 2,200 miles." I prefer to say, "bigger than a breadbox, and, now that I think about it, ALSO bigger than the Empire State Building."

What no one disputes is that it begins at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ends at Katahdin, Maine. Actually, that's not true. Some will say it ends at Baxter Peak. These people are being nitpicky. They argue over whether it's "Denali" or "McKinley." Others will say it ends at Mount Katahdin. These people didn't understand the redundancy of the title of the syndicated version of "CHiPs" called "CHiPs Patrol."

Ultimately, what no one disputes is that this page has wasted a good five minutes of your time. I apologize. Unless you're at work. In that case, you're welcome.

mudhead
10-21-2009, 18:41
What else did you get in that care package?

TJ aka Teej
10-21-2009, 20:07
Snaps for the Myron Avery mention.

RedneckRye
10-21-2009, 21:05
Reading this kind of bums me out knowing that I probably won't get to hang out with Jester again until the Warmer in February at the Doyle.

At the ALDHA Gathering, Jester led a battlefield hike.
At some point, I have no idea where (have you ever wandered thru the Wheatfield in the pitch dark?), Jester described the difficulty some company or brigade or just some group of guys that got lost in the dark with these words...
"and they got hosed."
I'm fairly sure no tour guide on the battlefield has ever before used that phrase to describe any part of the battle.

The man is a genius, someone hand him a Guinness.

Kerosene
10-21-2009, 22:32
The man is a genius, someone hand him a Guinness.Little known fact: Guinness is great treatment for a wide variety of medical and psychological issues. A fact that I'm sure that Jester is well aware of. Maybe someday I'll have the opportunity to bask in his glow (well, maybe I won't get that close, but you know what I mean).

Gray Blazer
10-22-2009, 14:16
I didn't know Eric Estrada was a member of the ATC.

Jester2000
10-22-2009, 16:05
I didn't know Eric Estrada was a member of the ATC.

He's not, but there's a lifesized cardboard cutout of Eric Estrada that is a member.

weary
10-22-2009, 18:39
.....The trail was conceived by a complete nutjob named Benton MacKaye. Today people refer to him as a "visionary," but you really only get the visionary title after you're dead. So at the time he was nuttier than low-sugar GORP. How else to explain that he first publicly described his vision in a 1921 edition of The Journal of the American Institute of Architects? Architects! Anyway.
.....
Yeah, I know, despite the chosen forum, this was meant to be humorous -- and it is, sort of.

But since Jester asks, let me offer an explanation for why MacKaye chose an architectural journal. It's simple really. A hiking buddy saw his friend was depressed and offered to use his influence to publish what I'm sure everyone thought was a cock eyed idea -- a 2,000 mile trail along the summits of the bony Appalachians.

The subtitle tells part of the reason. It calls MacKaye's vision "an exercise in regional planning." or words to that effect. Whatever. In addition to fathering the idea of a long distance trail, MacKaye was among the first to promote the idea of regional planning -- or any planning for that matter.

Why not a planning journal?. Planning, regional, or local, had hardly been thought of at the time. The few dozen people that professed to be planners, hardly needed -- nor could they afford, a journal.

Weary
.

10-22-2009, 18:56
Just one question:
...Before everyone got a chance to get all smug, the trail was overgrown, displaced, demolished, and unusable...
In this quote, you said that the trial was displaced, sorta like losing it? HOW DO YOU LOSE A 1500 MILE LONG TRAIL!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? :confused:(americans.)

Skidsteer
10-22-2009, 19:38
Just one question:
In this quote, you said that the trial was displaced, sorta like losing it? HOW DO YOU LOSE A 1500 MILE LONG TRAIL!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? :confused:(americans.)

World War II.

Folks were a tad busy for a few years.

Jester2000
10-23-2009, 09:51
Just one question:
In this quote, you said that the trial was displaced, sorta like losing it? HOW DO YOU LOSE A 1500 MILE LONG TRAIL!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? :confused:(americans.)

"Displaced" does not mean "misplaced."

Red Hat
10-23-2009, 10:24
Don't think we've met, but after reading this, I have to meet you! You are a hoot! Fabulous writing.... Maybe I'll find you in Harpers Ferry, if we don't meet on the trail sometime.

Jester2000
10-23-2009, 11:39
Yeah, I know, despite the chosen forum, this was meant to be humorous -- and it is, sort of.

But since Jester asks, let me offer an explanation for why MacKaye chose an architectural journal. It's simple really. A hiking buddy saw his friend was depressed and offered to use his influence to publish what I'm sure everyone thought was a cock eyed idea -- a 2,000 mile trail along the summits of the bony Appalachians.

The subtitle tells part of the reason. It calls MacKaye's vision "an exercise in regional planning." or words to that effect. Whatever. In addition to fathering the idea of a long distance trail, MacKaye was among the first to promote the idea of regional planning -- or any planning for that matter. . .

Yeah, if you look into his entire vision (more than just a trail) it does make sense, particularly when you take into account the debates going on at the time in the architectural community vis a vis cities and the effect of living space on health and happiness.

It's just that my version was funnier.

The Old Fhart
10-23-2009, 12:49
Jester-""Displaced" does not mean "misplaced.""
I assumed by displaced you were referring to Archimedes principle which states: " Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object."

So the trail was flooded during this dark period in its history? :-?

Jester2000
10-23-2009, 13:38
I assumed by displaced you were referring to Archimedes principle which states: " Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object."

So the trail was flooded during this dark period in its history? :-?

Well, I was naked and in a tub when I wrote part of that.

But I was referring to something similar to the paths created to move around difficult blowdowns, but on a larger scale. As the trail became difficult to find in places, hikers made their own paths, some of which were used repeatedly -- creating new trail that was not the original AT. So I was using it in the sense of "to move or put out of the usual or proper place."

Hmmm. That sounds far too rational an explanation. I'm instead going to go with the explanation that often the trail was supposed to be in "dat place," but was instead in "dis place."

Disney
10-23-2009, 15:33
Hmmm. That sounds far too rational an explanation. I'm instead going to go with the explanation that often the trail was supposed to be in "dat place," but was instead in "dis place."


That's a horribly brilliant pun. I think displaced in this context has more to do with your earlier line about the Spaniards conquering the Americans. Part of the effect was to displace the locals. It's not quite the same as misplaced. (Did you see those millions of Indians I was just holding? I could have sworn I just put them down for a second. If I find their trail, there's going to be tears I can tell you that.)

And yes, I am at work. So thank you.

The Old Fhart
10-23-2009, 18:00
Jester-"Well, I was naked and in a tub when I wrote part of that."Now that's an image I will spend a lot of time, and possibly several Yuenglings, to erase from my memory bank. :eek:

mudhead
10-24-2009, 07:28
Screw Archimedes.

The Old Fhart
10-24-2009, 08:27
mudhead-"Screw Archimedes."Screw Archimedes! (http://www.redstoneprojects.com/trebuchetstore/archimedesscrew.html) I didn't realize you were dyslexic. Good post :D

Jester2000
10-27-2009, 18:18
Don't think we've met, but after reading this, I have to meet you! You are a hoot! Fabulous writing.... Maybe I'll find you in Harpers Ferry, if we don't meet on the trail sometime.

Thanks! Hope to meet you!
I'm much better in print though.
In person you'll find --

Drab as a fool, as aloof as a bard.

ki0eh
10-27-2009, 20:46
Screw Archimedes! (http://www.redstoneprojects.com/trebuchetstore/archimedesscrew.html) I didn't realize you were dyslexic. Good post :D

For the person who has everything else you could buy your very own (http://www.lakeside-equipment.com/products/screw_pumps/screw_pumps.aspx)