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Re: my .02c

Very nice posting, Ginny.  I am of a mixed mind myself about these plans
on extending the AT.  I think it should be noted that the AT has been a Trail
that has undergone numerous changes since it's completion in the '30's.  The  
original terminus in Georgia was Mt. Oglethorpe, about 20 miles south of
Springer until 1958.  It was moved to Springer due to the large amount of
development that was occuring on Oglethorpe.  In addition, the AT through
the '40's used to run down the Blue Ridge south of Black Horse Gap (Roanoke
VA area) and tied back in (I believe) to its current course somewhere south 
of Damascus.  Jim Denton (of Jim and Molly Denton shelter) who was in
the Roanoke ATC at the time helped scout out the westward route that the
AT now follows through southwest Virginia.  In addition, Earl Schaffer
mentions that one of the finest views he had was when he climbed the Peaks
of Dan in his book "Walking with Spring", an area that was part of the
original Blue Ridge route.  Why was the AT rerouted?  Construction of the
Blue Ridge Parkway destroyed much of the orignal route, and development in
the area was also pressing in on the Trail corridor at that time.   As others
have noted, the orignal terminus in the north was going to be Mt. Washington,
but folks in Maine were able to make a convincing case for Katahdin.

I think Jim touches upon some significant issues, particularly in regards
to maintenance.  Idea's can be wonderful, but it takes hard work and lots
of sweat to turn an idea into reality.  I believe the AT itself is probably
one of the finest examples of an individual's idea becoming a tangible reality.
But what has made the AT the trail it is today has been the continuing love and 
devotion of people willing to put the time and energy into keeping the Trail 
clear and clearing the thicket of obstacles of having a Trail run through 
populated areas.  Do you know that 40 miles of the AT are still on private 
land?  That may either be surprising or seem like a very small number out of 
2,159.2 miles, but it is 40 miles that exists through the graciousness of 
private land owners.  A great deal more of the Trail used to be on private 
land, but this amount has been slowly whittled down to the 40 miles of today.
As this land was rerouted onto the public land of the AT trail corridor, it
was work and sweat of volunteers who laid out the new route, cleared the trees,
moved the rocks, and dug the treadway.   It's this labor of love that forges
the deep feelings that so many have regarding the AT.  Those who have hiked
any large distance on the AT begin to realize after a while that there's 
something about this thing called the AT that just gets into your blood.
You can curse it, swear at it, smell it, sweat on it, and marvel at it---it 
is, after all, "just" a narrow path along ridgetops and woods---but it has 
been one of the most profound things to have affected me in my time here on 
this Earth.  There is not a day (literally) that goes by that I do not 
remember some day or experience I had while hiking the AT.  

Things change, and life goes on.  But there will always be those special
memories of that warm afternoon in March gazing out from the plaque at
Springer into the smokey blue haze in the distance, and marvelling at how
many hills and mountains one could see.  Even now, I can picture the last
ridge walk before coming up to the GA/NC line, the grunting through the
Stecoah's, the joy of crossing into my home state of Virginia, and the despair
of the terrible heat of Pennsylvania.  The AT as it's currently
routed brings up strong memories, a sense of perfection.  Maybe these
proposed extensions, if they come to fruition, will one day bring similar
strong feelings to those who hike them.  I respect those who know how 
difficult and hard it will be bring these extensions to reality.  I have
not seen the terrain of Alabama or the mountains of Quebec or Nova Scotia--
I'm sure it's really beautiful in its on subtle or dramatic way. Each of us
has our own hike to hike and trail to trod.  And maybe one day there will
be a hiker standing at the end of trail somewhere in Quebec or Nova Scotia.
But I know that for me in my heart of hearts, the AT will always be the 
Trail that runs along the ridgetops and valleys from Georgia to Maine.