Origins of the Appalachian Trail
Two decades before Shaffer’s journey, the concept of a ridge-top trail running the length of the Appalachian Mountains was proposed by Benton MacKaye (1879–1975). A conservationist, planner, forester, and visionary, MacKaye developed the plan in 1921.
Map of the proposed Appalachian Trail, hand-drawn by Benton MacKaye for the first meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March, 1925. MacKaye Family Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College.
MacKaye’s larger plan also included camps and communities along the Trail, set up to enable Americans of all social classes to escape “the pursuit of profit.” But these amenities were never built. Just creating the Trail itself took 15 years and thousands of volunteers.