Not all Americans have been welcomed to enjoy the great outdoors. A discussion on the racist past of America’s national parks, plus the overlooked history of the Appalachian Trail.
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Conquering the Trail
Rodney Bragdon (Shenandoah University)
From start to finish, the Appalachian Trail covers a whopping 2,181 miles. Rodney Bragdon dishes on the toughest challenges he experienced while through-hiking the entire trail.
Jim Crow in the Great Outdoors
Erin Devlin (University of Mary Washington)
Camping, hiking, and enjoying the great outdoors are American pastimes. But for African Americans, gathering in public spaces has long been fraught. Erin Devlin discusses the racism that was built into our America’s national parks.
The Importance of Leaving No Trace
Jeff Marion (Virginia Tech)
Jeff Marion studies visitor impact on the Appalachian Trail and worries we might be loving it to death.
The Many Histories of the Appalachian Trail
Mills Kelley (George Mason University)
From its Native American roots to hiking fashion trends, Mills Kelly traces the often overlooked history of the Appalachian Trail.
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Interesting segment. One correction: Bill Bryson and his partner did not hike the entire Appalachian Trail as was stated in the story and neither the book nor the movie make that claim. In fact they didn’t even complete half of it. Most of what they did hike was some of the easiest portion of the trail. He is a terrific writer, though. Not such a good hiker.
What Jeff Marion said about creating sloping campsites is the exact opposite of what is happening up north in Maine and New Hampshire and other New England states. There they actively remove small, remote campsites and try to coalesce all camping into large group sites that often fill to capacity. I was surprised that Marion did not discuss efforts to lessen trail impacts by encouraging thru hikers to consider alternative plans such as beginning in the middle and hiking north then returning to the middle and hiking south. Any changes that eliminate the big crush of hikers heading north from Georgia in early spring will ease degradation of the trail.
Finally, references were made to the “pristine” landscape of the A.T. Almost none of the A.T. is truly pristine. Agriculture and logging have left their marks on virtually the entire length of the trail. Moving forward it is will be a noble goal to allow the land to return to a more natural wilderness, but as far as preserving a pristine state; that cat is out of the bag.
-Fred “Slumgum” Jones, AT ’19, LT ’18
Great catch! Thanks so much for your feedback. You are correct about Bill Bryson not hiking the entire AT. We will make the appropriate corrections to the script.
Thanks for listening!
-Matt (With Good Reason Producer)
Your question addresses two critical issues, both relating to the core management goal of reducing the aggregate area of camping impact. The first issue is to minimize the total number of campsites by flattening the large annual thru-hiker bubble to redistribute hikers in time and space. This is accomplished by spreading out hiker start dates in the spring, or by encouraging hikers to do flip-flop hikes that start near the middle, head north, and then return to complete the southern half. With fewer campers in any single location you require fewer campsites and reduce the aggregate area of camping impact. The second issue is to move camping from large flat areas where campsite expansion and proliferation problems have been chronic, to sloping terrain, which innately constrains campsite expansion (w/out education or regulation). Closing unnecessary campsites and camping in flat areas concentrates camping in the most sustainable locations that are left open, though sites in those locations should be separated to ensure high quality social/experiential conditions (i.e., prevent crowding and conflict and promote solitude and natural quiet).
Pristine site camping is the pure and effective form of “dispersed camping” whereby campers select a durable location with no evidence of prior camping and that is away from the trail, water, and campsites/shelters. You camping just one night, remove all traces of your visit, and leave a spot that will not be found and reused by others for at least a year. This style of camping avoids ALL lasting camping impact but if not done as indicated can worsen campsite proliferation problems. Many managers don’t like this option for that reason but it’s quite easy to do well for experienced solo campers, particularly for those with hammocks.
I lived near the AT in Front Royal and did some test overnight camping with a solo backpacker tent and with a hammock with small tarp over it. The hammock was much easier to find a place as it did not require flat, ground. My first hammock night was on a slope with much ground cover. When I left there was zero evidence I was there.
Considering far less than 20% of thru-hikers complete the trek, as a prospective hiker, I’m totally over this bubble crap. I hike/bike around the world and have friends from too many countries to count. Being part of a tramily, while not a goal, does not discourage me either. If anyone can do the trail solo, it’s this guy. I could regale you w/ tales of living rough all over Europe and can do it again in my country on the AT. However, I love and appreciate this awesome landscape God created and whether I’m pitching my tent solo (apologies to Beavis) or lucky enough to be able to bed down in a shelter, I’ll leave no trace.