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July is National Recreation and Parks Month: Hiking the scenic Appalachian Trail

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Want to take a hike on a trail enjoyed by about four million people a year? Want to explore a footpath that stretches through 14 eastern states from Georgia to Maine? Then consider walking the great A.T., the Appalachian Trail.

It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is easily accessible at many points (more than 500 public roads cross the A.T.) and it may be used for a short walk, a day trip, or a long distance hike.

Some hikers attempt to do the entire Trail, a 2,175-mile trek, in what is referred to as a through-hike. They can through-hike in one continuous journey (usually taking five to seven months) or make their through-hike in segments.

The Trail is marked so it’s fairly easy to follow. The markers are six-inch paint “blazes” on trees, posts, and rocks. Above the treeline or where the blazes may be hard to see, paint marks, posts, and rock piles called cairns mark the path.

Generally, the A.T. is open all year around but the northern end at Katahdin in Baxter State Park may be closed at times in winter depending on the weather.

Not able to make it to the Trail but still interested in its fascinating stories and colorful characters? Don’t worry. Many hikers have detailed their adventures both on the web and in books so you can be an armchair Appalachian Trail adventurer.

Two examples of books on the Appalachian Trail are There are Mountains to Climb: An Inspirational Journey (Silverwood) by Jean Deeds and Bill Bryson’s funny and informational A Walk in the Woods (Broadway).

For more information, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at www.appalachiantrail.org.

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