This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. Today, we tell about one of the most popular walking
paths in the United States, the Appalachian Trail.
One of the most popular activities enjoyed by Americans is
spending time in forests and walking along paths throughout
the country. This activity, called hiking, has led to the creation
of paths throughout the United States. Some of these paths,
or trails, are short. Some are only a few kilometers. Others
are many hundreds of kilometers.
One of the longest is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The trail is the first completed part of the National Trails
System. The trails system was established by Congress and the
President in Nineteen-Sixty-Eight.
The Appalachian Trail is more than three-thousand-four-hundred
kilometers long. It starts in the northeastern state of Maine
and ends in the southeastern state of Georgia. The trail goes
through fourteen states.
They are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia,
Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.
The path takes walkers through the Appalachian Mountains. They
extend from the Canadian Province of Quebec to the southern
American state of Alabama.
The Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. They
first began forming about one-thousand-million years ago. During
the millions of years since then, the mountains were changed
and reformed by the forces of water and wind. Ice also changed
the mountains, making many of them smaller and digging valleys
and lakes among them. Many different kinds of trees grow along
the trail. And many different kinds of animals live in the forests
along the trail.
Land along the trail is protected by the federal government
and by state governments. Some parts are not protected by the
government directly. Instead, they are protected by legal agreements
with private owners willing to permit people to walk across
Walkers on the Appalachian Trail pass through some of the great
valley systems of the mountains. They can took down into these
beautiful valleys and see farms and forests stretching across
the land for many kilometers. Farm land in the valleys is rich
and productive. And some of the great events in American history
took place in the valleys. For example, one of the great battles
of the American Civil War was fought in the Shenandoah Valley
The Appalachian Trail was the idea of Benton MacKaye. Mister
MacKaye first proposed creating the trail in Nineteen-Twenty-One.
Although there were many separate trails in different parts
of the eastern United States, most of them were not connected.
In Nineteen-Twenty-Five, representatives of several private
organizations met in Washington, D-C and formed the Appalachian
Their idea was to create a trail connecting the two highest
mountains in the eastern United States -- Mount Washington in
New Hampshire, and Mount Mitchell in Georgia. It was another
five years before development of the trail began, under the
direction of Myron Avery. Seven years after Mister Avery took
control of the project, the Appalachian Trail was completed.
This happened on August fourteenth, Nineteen-Thirty-Seven.
Creating the trail was a difficult job that involved the work
of many thousands of people. But there were no public celebrations
or events to observe its opening. Public knowledge of the trail
grew slowly. Today, it is one of the most famous trails in the
world. However, it is not the longest hiking trail. Two others
in the western United States are longer. They are the Pacific
Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Still, the Appalachian
Trail is the most famous.
People from around the world come to see the natural beauty
of the mountains, lakes, rivers, and valleys near the Appalachian
Trail. The trail makes it possible to see much of this beauty
without having to see cities, towns, and other parts of the
modern world. Instead, people can see many places along the
trail that look very much the way they did before humans arrived
many thousands of years ago.
This is one of the main reasons why the Appalachian Trail is
so popular among Americans, especially those living in the eastern
United States. The trail is not far from most of the major cities
along the eastern coast, such as New York, Philadelphia, and
Washington, DC. It provides a place where people from these
cities can leave behind the worries of modern life to enjoy
the peace and beauty of nature.
Most people who use the Appalachian Trail go mainly for short
walks that last for less than a day. Many of them want to look
at the different kinds of plants and animals that live along
For many other people, the Appalachian Trail provides a chance
to spend several days camping and hiking. They walk along the
trail carrying all the things they will need to survive for
several days. These hikers carry food, cooking equipment, water,
sleeping bags and temporary shelters called tents.
In New Hampshire's White Mountains, there are special camps
along the Appalachian Trail where people can stay. The Appalachian
Mountain Club operates these camps. The club is one of the thirty-two
groups that belong to the Appalachian Trail Conference. Volunteers
in these groups supervise and operate the Appalachian Trail
through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service.
The Appalachian Mountain Club has more than ninety-four-thousand
members. It is the oldest conservation organization in the United
The Appalachian Mountain Club operates several camps along
ninety kilometers of the trail. Each camp provides hikers with
shelter, beds and food. Each camp is located about a day's walk
from the next one.
These camps are so popular that it is necessary to request
to stay at one a year ahead. It is especially difficult to find
a place in such camps during summer weekends.
Many people hike along the trail to such camps with their families.
Writer Eileen Ogintz is one of those people who stayed at an
Appalachian Mountain Club camp with her family. She found it
very different from what her family does every day at home.
She and her family had to hike up a mountain path in the rain
to get to their camp. There are no radios or televisions. So
families spend time talking with each other. After two days
in the wilderness, her family enjoyed the experience.
The Ogintz family¡¯s two days on the Appalachian
Trail is similar to the experience of many people. The first
part is difficult. But the rewards of experiencing nature are
very satisfying. This may be enough for most people. But there
are some people who want more than just a day or weekend on
the trail. These people try to walk from the beginning of the
trail to the end.
They usually start at Springer Mountain in Georgia in the early
spring. Generally, they hike the more than three-thousand-four-hundred
kilometers to Mount Katahdin in Maine in five to six months.
One person who tried to walk the Appalachian Trail is writer
Bill Bryson. Mister Bryson tells the story of his long walking
trip in his humorous book A Walk in the Woods. However, he and
his friend did not complete the trip as planned.
At the end of their long trip, Mister Bryson and his friend
asked each other how they felt about the experience and if they
were sad to leave the trail. After thinking about it for a while,
the two agreed that they were both happy and sad about ending
Mister Bryson said he was tired of the trail, but still very
interested in it. He became tired of the endless forests, but
felt great wonder at their endlessness. He enjoyed the escape
from civilization, but wanted its comforts.
At the end of A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson suggests that
his experiences on the Appalachian Trail changed the way he
looks at life and the world.
This Special English program was written by Oliver Chanler.
It was produced by George Grow. This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com