I have a friend whose parents one day decided to sell their house, put all their belongings in storage, and hike the Appalachian Trail from the beginning in Georgia to the end in Maine. My friend’s parents didn’t give him much warning so he was equally as shocked as we were to learn of this when he shared it with us shortly after finding out. My friend wanted to join them but he wasn’t able to leave so quickly. He waited a few months and took a bus to Virginia to meet with them and finish the journey the rest of the way to Maine. He ended up hiking about half of the trail and was gone for about 4 months. Even though it’s been over five years since returning, every time I hang out with him we talk about hiking and mountains and his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Recently I learned something new about the Appalachian Trail. More than 200 million years ago, the mountain range that spans the East Coast (the Appalachian Mountains) used to be part of a larger mountain range that now lies in Canada, Europe, and Northwestern Africa. Hundreds of millions of years ago these different mountain ranges were connected as one back in the Pangaea Era when there was only one large land mass. The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) project was initially started by the Governor of Maine to create an international partnership with Canada by extending the Appalachian Train from where it ends in Maine further into parts of Canada that are part of the same mountain range. Slowly, the project grew to include other countries and the idea is now to “connect all of those mountains that were created when the ancient continent Pangaea was formed 300 million years ago.”
As part of the international agreement between Maine and Canada in relation to the International Appalachian Trail, in September 2008 Resolution 32-6 was formed which “commits the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador ‘to continue to work closely with the various organizations that are developing and maintaining these trails, in order to maximize their positive impact on our tourism industry and further promote the feeling of connectiveness that exist between our respective jurisdictions.'”
The mission of the International Appalachian Trail is to establish a long-distance walking trail that extends to all geographic regions once connected by the “Appalachian Mountain” range, formed more than 250 million years ago on the super-continent Pangea.
In addition to connecting people and places, the goal is to promote natural and cultural heritage, health and fitness, environmental stewardship, fellowship and understanding, cross-border cooperation, and rural economic development through eco and adventure tourism.
National Geographic included the International Appalachian Trail as one of the World’s Best Hikes in their recent article. The series by National Geographic includes 20 amazing hikes from around the world. The “World’s Best Hikes: Epic Trails” article was written by Doug Schnitzspahn who has worked for the National Park Services in Montana and Idaho. He is currently the editor-in-chief for Elevation Outdoors magazine.
A truly great trail winds into the essence of a place, so when assembling this list of the world’s great hikes we kept an eye on more than the footpath. We looked for walks that travel deeper into a location’s history and culture. Sure, there’s outdoor adventure on each of these 20 hikes, but the trails also tell a rich story. So here they are, the holy grails of trails across the world. —Doug Schnitzspahn
Flagler Films recently released a 6-minute video on YouTube about the IAT in Ireland. They are in discussions with PBS to produce a 3-hr segment about the International Appalachian Trail so I will keep my eye out to see what developments come in the future.
Flagler Films, IAT News: http://iat-sia.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=61&cntnt01returnid=15
IAT Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Appalachian_Trail