Appalachian Trail turns 75, holds special events
By Jenny Che, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, August 10, 2012
This month, campus is likely to see more than its usual share of through-hikers as the Appalachian Trail celebrates its 75th anniversary. The trail, which runs over 2,000 miles and spans 14 states, welcomes around 3 million hikers a year, according to the trail’s website, including a significant number of freshmen during their Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips.
The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye and took over 15 years to build before its opening in the summer of 1937. This weekend, students and community members will have the chance to celebrate the anniversary with numerous hikes and a lecture by MacKaye’s biographer.
In Hanover, the trail passes over the Ledyard Bridge and up the hill onto South Main Street and then continues on toward Etna.
Several local groups — including the DOC housed in Robinson Hall — open their doors and roofs to through-hikers, also providing much-appreciated showers.
Dartmouth is the only college on the trail, and restaurants, including Ramunto’s and Bagel Basement, regularly cater to the hikers.
“They’re very friendly and appreciative,” Andrew Powell, who works at Bagel Basement, said. “We’re at the beginning of the hardest part of the trail here, but they always seem to have a pretty good spirit, telling funny stories.”
The DOC is one of many volunteer groups that help manage the trail, maintaining a 53-mile portion that runs from Hanover to Mount Moosilauke.
Catalina Mejia ’14 said that hikers are usually “pretty cool.”
“They can be a bit awkward sometimes because being alone in the woods for a long time can make you a little weird, but they always have great stories,” Mejia said. “You can really tell that some of them have been changed by this experience. I feel like they’re just glad to get to interact with another human being for a little while.”
Constant traffic through Robinson Hall, though, often means that the building has a lingering odor.
“The only downside is the smell,” Mejia said. “Hiking day in and day out without showering or washing your clothes definitely makes you smell a little bad. I’m sure it’s not as bad when they’re out in the woods and the fresh air, but when they all congregate in the Robo basement, it adds up.”
On Saturday, the College and the town of Hanover will celebrate the anniversary with day hikes led by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Hanover Town Trails Committee, the DOC and the Green Mountain Club.
Students and community members can trek to Smarts Mountain, the Gile Mountain fire tower, Dan and Whit’s in Norwich, Vt., or the Velvet Rocks, according to the Appalachian Trail website. Hikers can also choose to hike to the edge of the White Mountain National Forest.
Later in the afternoon, the trail conservancy will host an event on the lawn in front of Robinson Hall. Larry Anderson, the author of MacKaye’s biography, will be the guest speaker, and there will be a small exhibition of historic documents from the DOC and the Appalachian Trail.
The Ledyard Canoe Club will also have a table at the event, according to Paige Wilson ’14, the summer co-chair of Cabin and Trail.