This is the view from the fire tower on the summit of Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont. Would you believe it if I told you that this is arguably the most important view on the entire Appalachian Trail?
Allow me to explain.
In 1909, James P. Taylor stood at this summit and looked out at these peaks. It was here that Taylor envisioned a long distance footpath linking Vermont’s mountains together. By 1910 the Green Mountain Club was established. By 1912 the first link of the Long Trail of Vermont was cut. By 1930 the trail was completed. The Long Trail was the first long distance hiking trail in the United States, it spans 273 miles and it goes from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border.
In 1921, a man named Benton MacKaye found himself on this trail-in-progress at the top of Stratton Mountain. MacKaye too was profoundly inspired by this same spot. It was here that he set his sights beyond the state of Vermont and the concept of the Appalachian Trail was born.
Granted, Stratton is not the most beautiful view on the A.T.–it’s not even the most beautiful view on the L.T. However, now you’re with me that it might be (at least one of) the most significant.
I took that picture during the summer of 2010 when I thru-hiked the Long Trail southbound with my brother. The southern 103 miles of the Long Trail are shared with the Appalachian Trail. I hiked the Long Trail because, as a Vermonter, the Long Trail seemed like a right of passage. While I can’t claim that this view was what made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail, it was the shared L.T./A.T. 103 miles that took my 3-week hiking trip and turned it into a 3-year dream to someday do the entire Appalachian Trail. By the time we got to the Massachusetts border my certainty that I would someday do the A.T. was as strong as when I bought my plane ticket to Georgia 3 days ago.
Upon returning to college in 2010 for my sophomore year, I wrote a piece for the school’s online newspaper’s Summer Stories Series. In it I wrote,
“The hiker lifestyle really has something to it; for three and a half weeks our only responsibility was to put one foot in front of the other over and over again, and that kind of freedom is worth the physical price you pay. We got to see breathtaking views every day, physically exhaust our bodies, and capitalize on an opportunity to mentally relax for an extended period of time, not to mention meet incredibly unique characters all along the way.”
Run-on sentences aside, I’m thrilled to once again take on the hiker lifestyle.
So, with all of that out of the way, hi! My name is Ellie, I’m 23 and from the great state of Vermont. I’ll be starting my northbound A.T. hike in mid-March. I graduated from Claremont McKenna College in Southern California last May, and since then I’ve been in Vermont living at home and working to save up for the trail.
I’ll keep you posted!
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