The Appalachian Trail connects people with the land in a way that is rare and important. Long distance walking can show us the uniqueness and splendor of different places in the land, and gives us a sense of how these fit together to make up the broad expanse that is the Appalachian mountain range. We become able to see ourselves as real creatures on the land and of the land and are pulled away from the abstracted and disconnected mental space where much of our culture resides. The culture and community of the AT nurtures and supports each of us in doing this. The problem is that many of us then have to go back to the same old situation we were in before finding the trail.
Benton Mackaye’s 1921 paper calling for the creation of an Appalachian Trail envisioned a project that went further – where people could stay connected to the land and make a whole new life:
“The organization of the cooperative camping life would tend to draw people out of the cities. Coming as visitors they would be loath to return. They would become desirous of settling down in the country – to work in the open as well as play. The various camps would require food. Why not raise food, as well as consume it, on the cooperative plan? Food and farm camps should come about as a natural sequence.”
We want to help realize Benton MacKay’s vision for a new kind of life, a new kind of economy and a new kind of culture. One that better connects us with the land and with each other, and that is centered around an Appalachian Trail.