Appalachian Trail Histories

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Browse Exhibits (27 total)


The months from June to November is a time span that has the potential to bring well-known destruction along the Gulf Coast, where memories of Katrina still linger. Hurricanes are destructive forces of nature that will damage or destroy everything that comes in their way with their monstrous winds and torrential rainfall. Inland United States is not free from their effects. Although the Gulf Coast is the most hurricane-prone region, the Mid-Atlantic and New England have certainly seen their fair share of storms. While the Applachian Trail may be rather inland, it too is not spared from many of the effects of Hurricanes.

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Benton MacKaye dreamed that people would venture out to the Appalachian Trail as a way to connect with nature and rejuvinate their health.  He did not take into account the existance of microscopic parasites, microbes, and diseases that called the wilderness home. 

This exhibit will explore those illnesses, how people avoided contracting them, and how they handle being sick while on the trail.

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   Invasive species have become enormously dangerous to the Appalachian Trail. They can be either animals or plants. Some general examples of invasive species are: snakehead fish, Chinese Silvergrass, and Parrot-Feather. This exhibit focuses on the invasive flora that one may encounter on the Appalachian Trail. 

   Invasive plants are not to be taken lightly on the Appalachian Trail, or anywhere for that matter. Some, such as the European Stinging Nettle, can injure humans. Others, like Parrot-Feather, can clog drainage systems and deplete the oxygen in water. Still others simply outcompete native species. The thing to remember is that invasive plants pose a major threat to the Appalachian Trail by causing bodily injury, damaging property, and harming the ecosystems there.  

  On this long stretch of wilderness, invasive species are nothing new. For example, while it is not technically a plant, Chestnut Blight has been well-established in the eastern U.S. since the first decade of the Twentieth Century. This disease is caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, and it succeeded in killing off nearly 100% of the American Chestnut population by 1950.

   One example of an invasive plant that was introduced to the Appalachian Trail is the Water Chestnut (Trapa natans). It was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800's for decorating aquariums. Unfortunately, it was most likely introduced into the wild when aquarists dumped their tanks out. The aquatic plant now floats in thick blankets in the waters of the Appalachian Trail, and its fruits have spines that are painful to step on.

    Notice that in a historical context, these two species were introduced to the U.S. around the same time period. One explanation may be the imports of plants during this era: Chestnut Blight was likely introduced by bringing over infected trees, while Water Chestnut was, as mentioned earlier, brought over for use in aquariums. 

 

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The attack of Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight, an innocent lesbian couple spending a weekend hiking on the Appalachian Trail, would lead to Wight's life being cut short, a man behind bars and pave the way for legislation and inclusiveness for members of the LGBTQ community, both on and off the trail.

Homemaking liquor is a longstanding tradtion in Appalachia, even if the process isn't legal. 

Since its introduction, the Appalachian Trail has brought wealth and tourism to cities and towns along its 2190 miles. Today, the outdoor, camping, and hiking industry is a multi-billion dollar one, with hikers spending thousands on their hikes on the AT. Hikers are subject to advertising and marketing that likely influenced their decision to hike the trail, as well as when they are purchasing their gear, and during the hike itself. Companies and Corporations have noticed this trend and are beginning to show their interest in National Parks, with branding and sponsoring Thru-Hikers.

 

Hikers, whether they like it or not, are subject to marketing and logos, and the effects of social media, as well as successful novels and movies while trying to escape it all in Americas wilderness. These effects include rises in attendance leading to overcrowding, the encroachment of corporations and creeping commercialism on the Trail, and questioning the future of the trail in terms of sustainability and preserving the wilderness of the Trail.

 

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"Since life began on Earth, countless creatures have come and gone, rendered extinct by naturally changing physical and biological conditions."

In the Appalachian trail area and in the Appalachian Mountains, the population of many animal species have been declining over the years. Some species are even disappearing before our very own eyes, or have disappeared in the past without our generation not even getting to see or discover them.  What is causing these beautiful creatures to disappear or to be on the brink of extinction? Throughout my exhibit you will learn and discover the reasons why these species are declining or some miraculously coming back to the park.

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Benton MacKaye, the 'father' of the Appalachian Trail, had hoped to create a trail where the workers of the cities could go and be out with nature. Unfortunately, MacKaye in his idealism didn't think there would be a need for groups to look for groups or individuals who may get lost as they hike along his trail. Since the Appalachian Trail is now over 2,000 miles long, there should be, and are now, groups that will help locate those who get lost on it. 

The Appalachian Trail traverses history as well as Geography. In Virginia, the trail runs through Shenandoah National Park, established in 1935, as one of the first National Parks (along with Great Smokey Mountain and Mammoth Caves National Parks) in the Eastern United States and in the South. This presented a challenge to the National Park Service. The National Parks in other parts of the country were full integrated, at least in theory. Now that there were to be National Parks in the Jim Crow south, the Park Service was faced with the unsavory prospect of segregation in the new parks. The National Park Service policy at the time was to comply with local law and that meant the park would be segregated. This decision did not go down easily with everyone. From the Park’s beginning, African Americans and their white allies spoke out against the policy.

Nonetheless, initially at least the plan was for segregated facilities in Shenandoah National Park. Facilities for White visitors were constructed in the new park, while facilities for African Americans lagged behind. Complaints about the lack of facilities for African Americans were brushed off. As luck would have it, the Department of the Interior, of which the National Park Service is a sub-agency, was led by Harold Ickes, a longtime supporter of African American civil rights. Harold Ickes, aided by his advisor on Negro Affairs, William J. Trent, Jr., pushed for the creation of facilities for African Americans in Shenandoah National Park, but at the same time worked for desegregation of the entire park. Eventually a facility for African Americans was constructed, the campground at Lewis Mountain, but Ickes continued to push for desegregation and after World War II, the signs for segregated facilities quietly came down, the park was desegregated.

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The Appalachain Trail is just another place on the map without an understanding of the people that hike the trail. By telling the stories of their journey, whether this be through traditional means such as books, leaving parts of their story in trail registers, online, or in the oral tradition, their stories inspire and inform others of the difficulties and triumphs their experience.

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The American Chestnut tree once grew in abundance throughout the Appalachian Mountain region, from the southern United States to Maine.

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This exhibit focuses on the current issues facing the National Parks Service and Baxter State Park, which hosts the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  While the National Parks service tends to advocate for the increasing awareness and use of its various parks and the multitude of benefits its users will experience, Baxter State Park in Maine has a different set of beliefs.  Baxter State Park is a unique entity founded by former Maine Governor Percival Baxter with the mission to preserve the purity of the region's wilderness with the minimal intrusion of mankind.  The park's mission does not include advocacy for maximizing usage of recreational areas, but rather sets strict limits on numbers of guests allowed at a time.  The prioritization of wilderness over people sets Baxter State Park apart from the National Parks Service and has led to issues when hikers along the Appalachian Trail who are unaware of or simply disregard the unusual restrictions and regulations of the park on their way to the northern terminus at Baxter Peak.  The few miles of the Appalachian Trail that exist in the park are maintained by both the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Baxter State Park employees.  This exhibit will seek to examine the source of the fundamental ideological differences as an explanation for the more recent conflicts between Baxter State Park and Appalachian Trail hikers and the National Parks Service.