Why we’re looking good at 90

ATC staff celebrate the organization’s 90th//Harpers Ferry, West Virginia//Photo by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy//Text by Anne Baker, marketing assistant

Today, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) turned 90. That means we’ve been around since the first issue of the New Yorker was published, the first film was shown on an airplane, and when the record temperature low was recorded in Maine (-48 degrees in Van Buren). We’ve seen a lot during our 90 years, including millions of other firsts.

But we like to think that we’re unique, and that our birthday is worth remembering. We’ve come a long way since that day in 1925 when Benton MacKaye and his team sat down to determine how to get the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) on the ground from Georgia to Maine. Yet throughout the years, the heart of the organization has remained the same: to protect and maintain an approximate 2,180-mile long footpath that is, to so many, a place of dreams, hopes and life-changing discovery.

If we had a guest list for a birthday party, it would be thousands of names long. The ATC isn’t made up of just staff, after all—it’s a volunteer-based organization that you choose to be a part of. Last year, for example, close to 6,000 volunteers helped keep the A.T. in top shape. That’s an extraordinary number, and that doesn’t even include our members, community supporters, agencies and corporate partners who have provided the funds necessary to support our work. We accomplish what we do thanks to you.

Because we’re an organization that relies so heavily on community support, we want the public to help us celebrate this year. We want everyone to get excited about who we are and what we do so we can not only relive our experiences along the A.T. together, but look ahead to what’s in store for the future.

And that whole “future” thing is key, especially because this year we began implementing a new Strategic Plan that will guide our organization through 2019. The plan will build on our successes, driving us to embrace initiatives that include managing and protecting the A.T. and surrounding landscapes; involving more young and diverse people with the Trail and volunteer work; and strengthening and expanding the ATC’s network of partners as well as our organizational capacity so that we have the resources to achieve all of our goals.

It’s a bold plan, but we believe that by the time someone turns 90, they’ve earned their right to take a few risks here and there.

Happy birthday, ATC.

Now do you want to help us celebrate? Learn more about what you can do by visiting www.appalachiantrail.org/90th.

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Have you seen my solar charger?

The White Mountains//New Hampshire//Photo by Micah “ManCub” Goldberg//Text by Anne Baker, marketing assistant

There’s a debate out there that might generate more heat than the age-old question of “App-uh-ley-chun” versus “App-uh-lach-uhn,” and that’s the issue of technology and the Appalachian Trail. As hikers, how do we use things like mobile devices without diminishing the A.T. experience for ourselves and others?

Benton MacKaye, the A.T.’s visionary, originally proposed that the Trail would be a series of work, study and farming camps along the Appalachian Mountains. He wanted those camps to be a refuge from city life, which he felt was quickly encroaching on society. His dream didn’t quite work out that way, but the idea is still present: get away from it all, and learn something.

We can be apprehensive of combining technology and outdoor experiences, and with good reason. Maybe we are afraid it will make us lazy. Less prepared. More reliant on a glowing screen than our intuition. Able to occupy a comment box on Facebook but not a seat around a campfire. And, perhaps we’re also afraid it will make us care more about the photo we post to Instagram than what it means to look at the view itself (“What did the sky look like that day? Let me consult #ISummitedKatahdinAndItWasAwesome because I was too caught up in sharing my experience instead of observing it.”)

There’s not an app out there that will prepare us for everything we will encounter while we’re out on the A.T. But technology is here, and it’s silly to pretend it doesn’t exist. The dilemma, then, lies in its use: how can technology enhance the A.T. experience and not detract from it?

Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.