The Appalachian Trail stretch 2,140 miles along the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States, from Maine to Georgia. The idea of one long continuous trail was originally dreamed up by Benton MacKaye in the early 1900s to provide accessible wilderness experiences to an increasingly urban population.
As told by Robert Moor in his wonderful book On Trails, MacKaye was asked years after the trail was built about the ultimate purpose of the great trail, to we which he replied (in fine #walkhaiku form):
- to walk;
- to see; and
- to see what you see!
We think of hikers as walking trails with purpose, but we often overlook the purpose of the trail itself. Historically, trails formed from get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. But as Moor explains, “hiking” itself is a modern invention necessitated by a need to connect with nature. Hiking trails aren’t designed for efficiency, but for connection. The journey, not the destination, is the goal of a good hike.
Along a similar vein, consider Craig Mod’s reflection after several “thru-hikes” of historic trails in Japan:
“If you want to know the story of a place, walk it. For to walk is to apply the rigor of process to place.”
Better yet, go for a walk, to see what you see.