The Appalachian Trail is a continuous marked footpath that goes from Springer Mountain
in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine, a distance of approximately 2160 miles.
The trail from FS 42 to the top of Springer Mountain is the shortest approach to
starting point of the trail.
The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail lies almost exactly in the middle
of a line drawn from Ellijay to Dahlonega. Springer is one of the few places in Georgia
never forested, mostly because the ground is so rocky that trees don't grow well
in the soil. This made it less than worthwhile for companies to attempt to harvest
what little lumber there is on top of the mountain.
History of the Appalachian Trail
The conservation movement in America was launched from Teddy Roosevelt's "Bully Pulpit"
shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In the northeast numerous proposals had
been made prior to 1921 to create a "super" trail.
"An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning" by Benton MacKaye was published
in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in October of 1921. The original
proposal was for a footpath to run from the highest point in the northern Appalachians
(Mt. Washington, New Hampshire) to the highest point in the southern Appalachians
(Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina). Within a year work began on "America's Footpath."
First completed was the section that ran from Pennsylvania to Connecticut across
the new Bear Mountain Bridge.
By 1925 the dream began to move towards reality with the creation of the Appalachian
Trail Conference. The proposed route was extended to run from Maine to Georgia, originally
to "Cohutta" Mountain. Since little was known by the developers about the North Georgia
mountains they planned the trail from maps. Roy Ozmer, woodsman and friend of Georgia
Ranger Arthur Woody was put in charge of exploring the area from Virginia to Georgia.
These men felt that Mount Oglethorpe, east of Jasper, was a better choice for the
end of the Appalachian Trail.
Once the route in Georgia from Bly Gap to Mount Oglethorpe was established, Woody
assisted personally and assigned Forest Service employees to assist in the construction
which was completed in 1931. In 1937 the trail was completed with the clearing of
the last 2 miles between Spaulding and Sugarloaf Mountains in Maine. At the time
the trail stretched from Mount Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park to Mount Oglethorpe
in Georgia. The trail, as envisioned, was a "sky-line" trail, going from high-point
to high-point, along the highest route available.
During the next few years the trail fell into disrepair because of hurricanes, war
and neglect. In 1938 a hurricane that swept up the coast did heavy damage to America's
"First Trail." The connection of the Skyline Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the
1940's displaced a section of the trail 120 miles long. Slowly, portions of the trail
were being reclaimed by nature.
In the early 1950's interest renewed in the trail. The designation of the Appalachian
Trail as a National Scenic Trail was a long political battle lasting 15 years, ending
with President Lyndon Johnson signing the National Trails System Act in 1968. This
act, originally intended to protect the land near the Appalachian Trail was rewritten
to include any footpath designated as a National Scenic Trail. Today "America's Trail"
and others in the National Scenic Trail System, with few exceptions, are on land
that is federally protected.