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  1. #1
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    Default The AT a Hundred Years from Now

    Been re-reading Funnybone's trail blog (he's the dude who's got the most read journal on Trail Journals) and saw the following post from this day five years ago: "the AT 100 years from now." That's an interesting thought! What will the trail be like then?!! Will it exist at all? Should we care?!!!!
    Last edited by Alligator; 06-19-2018 at 00:25. Reason: Politics removed

  2. #2

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    Lottery system for permits. Waiver forms mandatory.

    Special clothing for: bugs (ticks), sun, totally waterproof raingear.

    Pills for food if you so desire.

    Solar chargers at each shelter for sure. (if they even have shelters)
    Trail police.
    Water will be safe as the ATC will install treatment plants at most water sources.
    Packs will generally be under 10 lbs.
    Stem cell treatment centers in every resupply town.
    Everything paid in cybercurrency

    Most importantly: Trail will still be the trail.
    Unfortunately I won't be here to see it.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  3. #3

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    It will be the same as it is now.
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

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    Virtual hiking, nomaching feet!!!!!
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    It will be the same as it is now.
    Overhead jet traffic noise will be much worse---heck it's terrible now.

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    $1000 permits are cheap. That will be the cost of a Snickers Bar 100 years from now.

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    I was actually having a conversation about this with a buddy a few days ago. We were talking more specifically about what the forests will look like. Most of the forests are relatively young. Logging back in the 1800's and early 1900's ravaged most of the eastern U.S. forests and although they are beginning to mature they still have a long way to go. I can only imagine what the trail corridor will look like in a 100 years if it remains protected and the forests are all old growth.

    Also, it would be cool if the scientists can finally figure out a way to come up with a version of the American Chestnut that begins to thrive and come back to the forests like they once were. Maybe in 200 years
    Section hiker on the 20 year plan - 1,480 miles and counting!

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    I can imagine having to get a permit, and can't say it is a bad idea. There are already trail police, technically, in the parks and such. We really should all be trail police with our fellow hikers to ensure everyone is doing the right thing.

    I also think we can all expect lighter, smaller, and much more expensive equipment.

    Odd Man Out is also probably right. If we accept 2% inflation rate per year, he really isn't far off.

    I, for one, would be excited to see what type of composite materials are available. As well as what new trails are available on Mars.
    Last edited by Alligator; 06-19-2018 at 00:26. Reason: Politics removed

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    Quote Originally Posted by hikernutcasey View Post
    I was actually having a conversation about this with a buddy a few days ago. We were talking more specifically about what the forests will look like. Most of the forests are relatively young. Logging back in the 1800's and early 1900's ravaged most of the eastern U.S. forests and although they are beginning to mature they still have a long way to go. I can only imagine what the trail corridor will look like in a 100 years if it remains protected and the forests are all old growth.

    Also, it would be cool if the scientists can finally figure out a way to come up with a version of the American Chestnut that begins to thrive and come back to the forests like they once were. Maybe in 200 years
    There's the positive outlook!

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    Maybe people will be hiking on some unspoiled planet in another solar system. The Alien Trail.

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    El Camino de Katahdin. Complete with thru hiker passports/credentials and thru hiker identifiers which already exist thanks to ATC. Cheap shuttle and slackpacking services along the entire route, actually it is pretty darn close now. The option to have a hostel (or better) bed every night. It will not be what it was, and camping out will be rare but still done. There will be no permits or limits (current ones will be abandoned), the numbers of thru hikers will be unimaginable in today's terms. It may not be any good for a backpacking trail any more but it will be very good for society.

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    Would have been readable if he omitted the political attacks.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikernutcasey View Post
    ...Also, it would be cool if the scientists can finally figure out a way to come up with a version of the American Chestnut that begins to thrive and come back to the forests like they once were. Maybe in 200 years
    They have. This article explains how a single gene introduced into an American Chestnut makes it resistant to the blight fungus. It is an interesting read because it addresses the controversies regarding GMOs. The authors point out that tratitional plant breeding introduces thousands of foreign genes whereas this method makes a plant that is 99.999% identical to the original. They also point out that horizontal gene transfer (i.e. genetic engineering) happens all the time in nature. If approved, this tree would be the first GMO produced for environmental restoration. Of course, the organic farm-to-table restaurants couldn't serve these chestnuts or pork bellies from pigs fed these chestnuts as they aren't "pure". Their loss.

    https://www.acf.org/our-community/ne...d-iconic-tree/

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    All of these are cautionary tales of "if this goes on..."

    It never does go on. History takes strange turns. It's wise to listen to the tales, because they teach us to defend against what will happen "if this goes on." But they are the shadows of what may be, not the inevitable foretellings of what will be.

    There is a world view, common to many of the great religions, that the world progresses from better to worse. The Ancient Greeks believed in the Ages of Gold, Silver, and Bronze, followed by the Heroic Age, our own Iron Age, and the Leaden Age that is to come, in which debased humans will at last have no more wisdom nor understanding than the beasts. The Abrahamic religions believe in a constant decline from Eden to Armageddon, to be relieved only by the coming of haMoshiach / second coming of Jesus / coming of the Mahdi and the destruction/renewal of the world. The Old Norse also believed in constant decline from the Time of the Elder Gods, to the coming of the Vanir (Younger Gods), and the eventual downfall of the Gods and destruction of the world at Ragnarök - with a new world, and a new Askr and Embla, to be reformed from the ashes of the old.

    By contrast, the Hindus and the Buddhists see an endless cycle of death and rebirth, destruction and rebuilding, falling down and rising again, always changing and never changing. Progress is an illusion, but so is downfall, degradation and destruction. Everything is transitory, and enlightenment consists in stepping off the Endless Wheel and seeing it from without.

    Even in those contexts, though, there have always been those with the idea of progress. From the time of Xenophanes, there was a countercultural sentiment, "The gods did not reveal to men all things in the beginning, but men through their own search find in the course of time that which is better." With the Enlightenment, which informed as well the founding fathers of the American Revolution, the idea of progress entered the mainstream. While the horrors of world wars and the depredations of both robber barons and dictators showed that progress is not inevitable nor inexorable, still optimism remained: Martin Luther King was able to state, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

    The AT is less than a hundred years old. Its time has seen two world wars, the rise of innumerable dictatorships, and numerous environmental catastrophes. Nevertheless, look what has happened in the world around it.

    A hundred years ago, the median life expectancy in the us was 48.4 years (male), 54.0 (female). (I use the 1917 statistics, because the 1918 ones were dominated by the influenza epidemic and are not representative of the period as a whole.) Surely my own experience bears out the tremendous progress that has been made. Were it not for late-1950's medical technology, I would surely have spent all the time since early childhood deaf, if I survived my illnesses at all. A cousin a few years older than me was not fortunate enough to be born soon enough, and is now profoundly hard of hearing as a result of the same condition. Were it not for 1990's surgical technology, I wouldn't be here, but the doctors were able to perform complex and exacting surgery on me, working with no incision bigger than a keyhole, and I have few if any lasting ill effects. In the 1980s, my family watched an auntie go inexorably blind, with nothing to be done for it; two years ago, I contracted the same eye condition and had my retina repaired with surgical techniques developed only in the last couple of decades, with no permanent loss of vision. And, then as now, common illnesses resulted in victim-blaming. Scourges such as tuberculosis, cholera and syphilis were thought in the 1910s to be largely caused by a dissolute lifestyle, even though the causative bacteria were known. Only moral living could prevent them, so the narrative went. The same was said of heart attacks, strokes, and stomach ulcers in the 1970's - they were caused by stress, and might even be badges of honor for executives. Ulcers now are believed to be caused by infection, and successfully treated with antibiotics. The causes of cardiovascular disease are complex, and it's now identified with a lifestyle that is associated with poverty (tobacco addiction, obesity and lack of exercise are conditions of the poor, not of the rich). Treatment is spectacularly more effective; many people are walking around after five or six heart attacks or a couple of strokes, while a century ago, over half died on the first attack, and subsequent ones were even more deadly.

    While progress has been uneven, we live at a unique time in human history. For the last couple of decades, and at no other point in recorded time, the world produces enough food to feed itself. Surely, a significant part of the world continues to suffer food insecurity, but the outlook is bright. In 1965, 56% of the world's population lived in countries where food availability fell short of the FAO minimum of 2200 kcal/day. That number declined to 10% by 1995. Current projections are that the world population will peak at about 11 billion - the curve has already inflected - and that there are enough opportunities to improve sustainable agriculture in the developing world that food production will keep pace. We've already passed the time of the catastrophic famines predicted by the Club of Rome. That particular Doomsday appears to have been cancelled. (Of course, it still bears watching! But in the 1960's it looked inevitable!)

    What did the country that the AT goes through look like a century ago, before the Trail itself was a gleam in MacKaye's eye? I'll look just at the New York section, because that's the area that I know best.

    At that time, there was very little protected land. Bear Mountain/Harriman was the first of the great parks of the Hudson Highlands, created in 1910 by a gift of land from Mary and W. Averell Harriman, the widow and son of rail baron Edward W. Harriman. The region was not the lovely woodland that we see today. Far from that, it was an industrial wasteland. The Harrimans were unloading 10,000 acres of nearly useless real estate and donating a million bucks in order to stop the state from building a prison at Bear Mountain, so that the Harrimans wouldn't have the institution anywhere near their estate. At the time, the Highlands were still sputtering along producing iron - at their peak, they had produced 17% of the world's supply. They also had denuded most of the Northeast of trees, to provide charcoal for the insatiable maws of the furnaces. Thomas Edison's company was still trying to make the magnetic ore separator practical - and Edison had sold most of his stake in GE to pay for it. While he bought 145 mines in New York and the neighboring states, and set up huge workings near Doodletown and at Ogden, NJ, the engineering problems were never worked out and the company eventually failed.

    With timber in the late 19th century having to be floated downriver all the way from the Adirondacks, the mines eventually were priced out of existence by cheap Pennsylvania coal and Great Lakes iron. The last of the mines closed in the Great Depression. Much of the land that they were on passed to the state, or to the Federal government, expanding the West Point reservation far to the west. Some of it came into the hands of private conservancies like Black Rock Forest and Sterling Forest Corporation (which was bought out by the state much later).

    The mines and furnaces were never truly cleaned up - you can still spot ruins all over the park. I still won't drink from Surebridge Brook, which flows out of a tailings pond, tastes horrible, and is surely full of heavy metals. Nevertheless, Harriman/Bear Mountain/Sterling Forest is no longer the land of bare rock, churned mud, weeds, and tailings heaps that it was before. The miasma of iron furnace exhaust no longer floats above it. Mother Nature is well on the way to healing it. The trail through New York is now largely a walk in the woods - woods that simply did not exist in 1918.

    The remaining woodlands of New York in 1918 were critically threatened by overuse, with the destruction coming largely from guests at the grand resorts, such as the Catskill Mountain House, the Laurel House, the Hotel Kaaterskill, the Overlook Mountain House, and the Highmount Grand Hotel. All of these were somewhat in decline (although they hung on to the Second World War and a few beyond). They were eclipsed by the great camps of the Adirondacks (for the rich) and even grander resorts such as Grossingers (south of the Catskills) and Sacandaga Park (in the Adirondack foothills) for the middle class. All of these resorts now lie in ruins, and even the ruins of the Catskill Mountain House have been removed, leaving only its wonderful overlook celebrated in Cooper's The Pioneers. Grossinger's is boarded up. Most of Sacandaga Park's facilities now lie beneath the waters of Great Sacandaga Lake. The burnt-out stone hulk of the Overlook House still presides, spookily yet majestically, over the summit of Overlook Mountain. Several of the Great Camps still stand - as museums and historic sites, their guest rooms vacant and their railroads long since torn up. The overuse pressures have simply passed on to other places, and the formerly-stressed lands are recovering.

    What remains of New York's virgin forest, far from Harriman, has had protection enshrined in New York's state constitution for a century and a half - and the woods beyond, also protected, have progressed to a state for which the foresters have had to invent a term: "old second growth." To a trained forester, it is distinguishable from virgin forest, but it is grown to mature forest that is definitely "old growth". The wasteland through which the AT ran has many decades yet to grow to that state, but there is enough protected land - jealously guarded to safeguard the watershed on which the suburban towns depend - that it, too, can be expected to get there eventually.

    Of course, there are threats facing the Trail.. Overuse is one, but as we saw in the Catskills and Adirondacks, the overuse is tied to passing fashions. It may take a generation or more, but attention invariably shifts, and overused areas become abandoned ones. It faces a continuing threat from incursion (pipelines, wind farms, mines and logging concerns operating too close to the trail or even encroaching upon it), from political abandonment (the National Park Service is weaker than it has been since the Theodore Roosevelt administration, although Harding had nearly gutted it during his term as well), from pollution (which, however, is surely better today than in the pre-EPA world of the mid-20th-century), and from the urge to exploit it for profit.

    None of these trends is sustainable, any more than the destructive forces that damaged the land on which it rests were sustainable. They too move on; they grow and look monstrous; they wither and decay.

    It will surely be different a century from now. Among human institutions, it's doing remarkably well no have survived - indeed, prospered - for nearly that much time already. It may not still exist. If it does, it will have become something stranger than we imagine - indeed, stranger than we can imagine. But the land will still be there. The shape of the Earth will still be the same. The White Mountains will still split the sky, and continue to suffer the most capricious weather on the planet. (For that reason, they will still be mostly wild - it simply won't pay to tame them!) "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but Earth abideth forever."

    If the Trail is still around, there will still be a great multitude predicting its destruction - from causes that I cannot imagine - and there will be some cadre of visionaries who believe that it can and ought to be saved. Neither will trouble to learn from the sort of historic perspective that I've tried to present in this too-long essay. "There is no remembrance of things past; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after."

    Looking at the history of the ninety-plus years of the Trail's existence, I see tremendous change - and it was overwhelmingly for the better. The Trail now traverses more protected land, and the land enjoys stronger protection, than at any other time in its history. More of it is in the woods than ever before. I can remember a time when the Cumberland Valley was all roadwalk! It enjoys a more favorable view in the public consciousness than at any time in the past, because people are prosperous enough to want to enjoy it. After all, getting back to a more primitive life is the last thing that anyone wants, who endures a hardscrabble and impoverished existence. It has survived the development pressures of two World Wars and the Cold War (from which Nuclear Lake was an unexpected side benefit). It was not wrecked entirely by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the demise of the railroads and the coming of the automobile and the Interstate - and in fact, those things have also shaped it: Fontana Lake, blackberry shakes, the Foot Bridge, and universal access to trailheads have been happy results. Widespread DDT usage is a thing of the past, and the bald eagles, turkey vultures, and red-tailed hawks once again soar over its cliffs.

    There may be more jet traffic in its skies - but there are also no longer the widespread sonic booms from the fighter jets of the 1950's and 1960's. There is surely more incursion from automobiles - but they no longer belch lead from their exhausts. There are no longer coal-fired locomotives igniting forest fires in every fire season. The trail of 2118 may have more amenities and less of a wilderness experience. Nevertheless, it seems just as likely that the current fashion of thousands thru-hiking the trail will subside, as fashions always do. Perhaps, for this reason there will be fewer amenities, as the Trail suffers (or benefits) from a lack of attention.

    Until today, the Trail has continued to grow and prosper, to something that is on the whole better than it was before. We are sometimes overwhelmed by our own generations' greed and short-sightedness, but there is no reason to imagine that we and our posterity will be any more rapacious or myopic than those who came before. We must surely be on guard, but we must likewise be careful not to confuse cautionary tales with counsels of despair. The Trail has had a magnificent past, and there is no reason that it cannot have a magnificent future.

    I would hope that the future would be more expansive and inclusive. Today, the Trail is enjoyed mostly by mountaineers, raised in the hardscrabble country around it, and by fairly prosperous urbanites, who have the time, the money, and the interest to follow outdoor pursuits. I would love it if the overall standard of living were raised to where more people have the desire to get back to Mother Nature. While this will stress Her more, it will also kindle more interest in Her preservation, and over time the latter wins out over the former. Without the overuse that we bemoan, there wouldn't be a Trail, through lack of public interest.

    I would love to see many more African, and South Asian, and East Asian, and Latin American, and Levantine faces join the overwhelming majority of Northern European faces that I see out there. I do see this changing - it's a surprise that the early agents of change are busloads of Korean-Americans, or "hoods in the woods", or Puertorriqueño community college students discovering their institutions' outing clubs, or strange Meetup groups of city 'badasses'. But a broader base of public support can only work for the better, since it erodes the perception that the Trail is a luxury for well-off white men. (I'm one of the well-off white men, but I surely don't think it would be any advantage to have the Trail as our private preserve!)

    I would love to see the Trail connect to equally grand regional trail networks, and I'm seeing those networks gradually coming to be. I also love to see trails that are works in progress. They don't fit the not-so-traditional thru-hiking idea that's dominated the consciousness since Garvey's Appalachian Hiker, doubled with the Appalachian Adventure column that was syndicated in the Eastern newspapers in the 1970s, and redoubled with the publication of Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. But that idea is a small piece of the picture, and I would love to see a world where everyone can walk out of their town with a backpack, and get somewhere. That's why, in retirement, I'd like to try just such a thing: walk out of Manhattan, at first staying in motels and riding city buses to trailheads in urban greenbelts, but eventually progressing to the wildest parts of New York State. In some of those parts, I envision a route, rather than a trail, and that's another part of hiking, where pressures don't demand concentration of use. And I see this being enabled. Every few years, another ten miles of the Long Path gets taken off the road, and more protected acreage gets added up North. I'd not have been able to do this in the 1980's without a lot of research, a ton of roadwalking, and a likely arrest for vagrancy. By the time I retire, it won't be easy, but it'll be possible - and the people along the way will, for the most part, have some idea what I'm about.

    If people are still having this conversation a century after I'm gone, I'll be in Heaven. Those on Earth will still be busying themselves with making sure that their world doesn't go to Hell. That's a very good thing.

    Progress is not an illusion. It doesn't move smoothly. It takes the long road, much as the Trail does. But its wanderings eventually get there.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  15. #15
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    Wow, that came out waaaay too long.

    I'll leave it, anyway, just in case Just Bill or someone wants to use it as fuel for still more deranged ramblings.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  16. #16

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    In my soon to be 66 years I have known only a handful of people with any interest in even car camping much less putting on a backpack of any weight or description and getting rained on in the woods.Once all the baby boomers and their offspring are gone successive generations will likely be so attached to their electronic devices,video games,and air conditioned living spaces that they may not be enthused about the AT or any other trail the way our generation has known it.In other words,we may likely be a nation of couch potatoes more than we already are.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    In my soon to be 66 years I have known only a handful of people with any interest in even car camping much less putting on a backpack of any weight or description and getting rained on in the woods.Once all the baby boomers and their offspring are gone successive generations will likely be so attached to their electronic devices,video games,and air conditioned living spaces that they may not be enthused about the AT or any other trail the way our generation has known it.In other words,we may likely be a nation of couch potatoes more than we already are.
    That dog don’t hunt. The explosion of hikers in recent years aren’t baby boomers, but younger generations..

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
    Would have been readable if he omitted the political attacks.
    Agreed. In spite of so many earth-worshippers hiking the trail, I still enjoy hiking it. Luckily, I don’t have to talk to such folks if I don’t want to.

    It’s a freaking path in the woods. So much frustration over something that would simply disappear in a matter of just a few months without hikers smashing the new foliage attempting to grow.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Overhead jet traffic noise will be much worse---heck it's terrible now.
    I think its going to be much better. Its way better than it was even in the 90's. You almost never hear loud jets like you did constantly back then. At least on the TN/NC/SWVA portions.

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    drone resupply delivery..anything you ever want, gear or food, within an hour....if you're an amazon prime member. Order it from Alexa with your thought prompted satellite based watch navigator communicator

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