The Appalachian Trail and Its Accommodations

With the overwhelming surge in development that the United States has produced over the last half century, it is becoming extremely difficult to escape into nature. That is why the preservation of hiking trails is becoming increasingly important.

The Appalachian Trail is a breath of fresh air that extends over 2,178 miles and passes through 14 states. Most through-hikers begin the trail in Springer Mountain, Georgia and attempt to finish it in Mount Katahdin, Maine. This is because spring starts earlier in the southern states providing hikers with an earlier start when heading northbound on the hiking trail.

It takes roughly between five and seven months to traverse the entire length of the trail. Every year, over 4 million people start. Only 9,583 people have officially reported finishing since the 1930’s. Currently Andrew Thompson holds the unofficial speed record for finishing the trail with 47 days 13 hours and 31 minutes.

It is a drudgingly long and often tedious walk. Most of the people that give up midway through their hike do so because the reality of the length of trail sets in really quickly. It is easy to look at a map after walking for several hours and become discouraged. Hikers need to keep in mind that the trail is not a race.

Successful hikes are the result of careful preparation. Attempting to haul unnecessary gear is a frequent mistake. The problem is attempting to determine what is and what is not essential. No one wants to throw hundreds of dollars worth of gear away in the middle of the wilderness because they realize too late that their pack is too heavy. Potential hikers should conduct thorough research prior to setting out. Determining what to bring in regards to the appropriate clothing, type of tent, style of pack, as well as the selection of food requires a rigorous selection process. What may seem vitally important in the midst of civilization can rapidly become burdensome in the wilderness.

Accommodations on the trail are sparse. Most people set up their tents and camp wherever they can find available space. However, there are 250 shelters staggered throughout the trail. Most of these are open three walled lean-tos that are maintained by volunteers. On some sections of the trail, people can even find inns with warm beds and running water.

Traveling along the Appalachian Trail is a life changing experience. Few people are able to walk its entirety. Glimpsing even a tiny portion of its breathtaking length is enough to make people want to come back for more.

Reality And Prejudices In The Kentucky Highlands

Much has been written about the poverty of the Appalachian mountaineers that make up the Kentucky Highlands. Visitors like to point out the backwardness of the area, the crime, the hopeless of its citizens and the unhappy plight of the unfortunate. Few discuss the reasons for this cultural disease that has afflicted the entire region. Instead, the region’s problems are accepted as natural and permanent as if a mysterious ailment descended upon the hill people that is both natural and proper.

Fortunately, they are wrong in their shallow damnation.

It is definitely true that the region is one of the poorest in the nation; it is true that crime is both prevalent and severe and it is true that both the educational attainment and the future of most appear weak and hopeless. But it is also true that the people of the Kentucky Highlands are not dammed to endless suffering and hopelessness. As with all peoples, the future is what we make it. In reality the people of Appalachian Kentucky are at the same time equal to the rest of the people of the nation and remarkably different.

Some people have reported correctly that the Highlanders are much less educated than the rest of the nations populous. This is true. However, the inference that intelligence is equal to education is incorrect. On average the people of the Kentucky Highlands are as intelligent as the average across the nation. No one could prove otherwise. Unfortunately, this incorrect inference has become an accepted fact across much of the nation and support for this belief is probably the strongest in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. Over many generations this venom has ingrained itself into the very hearts of the Highlanders. This dangerous belief has done more to damage a very proud and honorable people than any other belief. We have been led to believe that we are inferior and we have accepted in and chose to act inferior. The results have been disastrous.

Why would any one or any group of people voluntarily choose to believe they are not equal? It doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t by choice. But it does and has happened. The history of the Kentucky Highlanders is both remarkable and nearly unique. The only other people that share a similar history are following Appalachians from neighboring states. Nevertheless, many of the stereotypes of the “hillbillies” are best represented in the mountains of Appalachian Kentucky.

When the Nation was still young, these mountains were the Promised Land. The land was rich with game and the hollers fertile. The land was so valuable to the Indians that the great Cherokee and Shawnee Nations fought continuous wars to prevent the other from settling the area. Both nations refused to relinquish the bounty this area provided. Buffalo, deer, elk, bear and fowl filled the valleys and mountains in such quantities that hunting parties constantly followed the ridge lines. The Cherokee to the south and the Shawnee to the north relied heavily on their bounty. Dr. Thomas Walker, Daniel Boone and many other explorers eventually made their way to this “Eden.” Then the settlers came and made their way into each and every valley. These were strong and independent men and women. Regardless of what is commonly assumed, only the strongest and wisest could tame a wilderness that both offered plenty and danger at every turn. With the abundance of food and all the materials necessary for a good life came the challenges of freezing winters, floods in the spring, hot summers and dry autumns. The opportunities were equalized only by the challenges. The pioneers with the grit to make a life here had other qualities that are both noble and helped lay the foundations for the decline of the mountains. They were ferociously independent, they were self reliant and they were clannish. These qualities were absolutely necessary in the rugged isolation of the hills. No one could have survived in those mountains without those qualities.

Because of these very qualities, these mountain people had little need for the outside world and because of the difficulty in reaching these people; the outside world had little contact with them. The result was a unique society that developed its own customs and these customs did not follow the development of the rest of the nation. Communication was slow and not really relevant to the Highlanders lifestyle anyway. Most were content to create their own path and live as they pleased.

Two things happened over time that destroyed the equilibrium. First, as the population grew, the resources became less abundant and with each new child added to the mountains the amount of food available to all decreased. The clannish nature of the people that had helped them tame the wilderness now began to sow the seeds of poverty. Not enough mountaineers left the Highlands and the mountains could not provide for all.

Then second, the great wealth of the area was discovered. Timber and, worst of all, huge quantities of high grade coal were discovered. With this, the exploitation of the hills began. Huge outside concerns moved into the area and bought the right to mine this coal for fractions of its true value. Then these capitalists set up coal camps and turned many of these proud men into virtual slaves. Most did indeed owe their soul to the company store. These corporations kept them poor, uneducated and dependent upon them. The cycle of exploitation of the Highlanders gradually created the feelings of inferiority still held in the region. Because the profits from the coal left the region the people of the mountains never received the benefits of their gift. Coal became their curse instead of their salvation. It was in the interest of the coal concerns to keep the people poor, uneducated and meek. Making these descendents of fiercely strong and independent pioneers both dependent and weak was the great crime perpetrated upon the Kentucky Highlander. This crime was much greater and longer lasting than the mere robbing them of their mineral rights. It has lead to untold misery by countless children of the hills.

The clannishness or more politically correct, the strong family ties and the exploitation of outsiders has led to the situation of today. Until we come to terms with this, we as a people will never improve our lot. No amount of money or advice from Washington will help us. We have to come to terms with the fact that we were taken advantage of. We have to stand up and say it will never happen again. We must tell ourselves that we are equal. We must encourage our children to enter the world and make their fortune. We must understand that some will leave and never come back to stay and others will return to make our communities better places. We must accept this as a part of life. But most important we must tell our children and ourselves that we have a proud history, that we are as good as anyone else, that we will not let anyone take advantage of us again, and, finally we all must strive to make the Kentucky Highlands a better place for our future generations.

Adventure Travel – Maine

Adventures, Maine

If your idea of adventure is lush fir trees, beautiful mountains and winding roads you should have Moosehead Lake as your planned destination. Staying by the lake you will be able to view the loons with their crazy activity that inhabit the lake.

You can float on the lake with a tube or small raft relax, take in the sun and enjoy the lazy days of summer. Fishing along the shore you will catch salmon and trout. Greenville has a steamship cruise you can take all around the lake that is an affordable way to take in the scenic views of this very large lake.

The Appalachian Trail can be accessed here from Moose Point you can wander through the firs and take in the beautiful mountains up close. You can walk 100 miles of the trail or take just a short hike.
Travel just a short two and a half hours by car to Bar Harbor the best whale and seal watching area on the Atlantic Ocean. You can take one of the local tour boats out into the ocean and watch the whales in action.

The very first National Park Acadia is in this area. The Park is made up of granite cliffs and ocean. The park service offers tours by boat of the islands that are included within the park. The wild life is abundant you will see harbor seals, gray seals, many species of birds and even mountain goats. Low tide will give you to see a large collection of sea animals.

Acadia is a hikers dream with over 120 miles of trails ranging from gentle walks along the ocean to forest covered hills with granite cliffs ascent.

Acadia is rich and history with many interesting historic landmarks light houses, grave yards. There is something about staying near the ocean the sound of the surf, the cry of the loon that will bring you back over and over again.

Traveling through Maine you will see the strength of the early pioneers in the people who still live there. Eat some delicious sea food, recharge your batteries have a memory that will bring you back next year.