Publisher's Note: Happy trails
By Dan Szczesny
A couple years ago, my fiancée and I found ourselves in South Dakota, at the end of a 20-mile day, facing down a row of trees where there was supposed to be a trail.
We were midway through a week-long hike of the South Dakota Centennial Trail, a wonderful path that leads through plains and mountains as well as Mount Rushmore.
The trouble we found ourselves faced with was that somebody failed to tell the map builders that this part of the trail had been replanted — just, poof, dug up and resettled with rows of thick pine trees.
I found myself thinking about this peculiar dilemma in terms of this week’s cover story, and how lucky we in the East are to have something like the Appalachian Trail in our backyard.
Think of the logistics! The Centennial Trail is only about 100 miles long, not the length of the A.T. in New Hampshire, and it obviously has some issues with land ownership and maintenance.
Not so with the A.T., a National Park Service Scenic Trail that is (mostly) well blazed and well cared for. And it’s free.
Yup, we here in New Hampshire can walk, care-free, from Hanover to Georgia if we like, staying in the finest lean-tos and huts along the way. And if we’re lucky, and the trail magic is holding, we might even get a free meal or two, not to mention an occasional shower. Life is good.
New Hampshire is also in the unique position of being at the center for both south- and north-bounders. Like migrating birds, thru-hikers from Georgia and from Maine converge on the Whites around July. It would be too easy to say something flip like you can smell ’em coming from miles away! But the truth is, it’s a bold project thru-hiking the A.T., and it takes the kind of dedication and intensity of purpose that few of us have.
Our 160 miles of this trail allow us to participate in some of the grandest scenic footways our country has to offer, and to learn from the thousands passing through about their experiences. Our spot on this trail makes us a kind of melting pot for those who explore and appreciate nature.
In South Dakota, we thumbed a ride to Rapid City and spent the rest of our trip sightseeing. Here, there’s no need. Why leave that beautiful trail? Find out for yourself — just be sure you have about six months on your hands.