Growing up in Virginia is any outdoorsman’s dream. The abundant rivers, streams, and shoreline provide endless activities. The mountains to the west hold endless possibilities. Shenandoah National Park sits right among Virginia’s mountains. It is the perfect site for campers, hikers, and those who just want to enjoy the scenic “Skyline Drive” that runs throughout it. However, even deeper into the Shenandoah Mountains lies a treasure of America’s hiking history — The Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world, and 2 million people are said to do at least one-day hiking on the trail each year. This trail is a treasure of the Virginia mountains.
A Hidden Treasure
This trail is a treasure of the Virginia mountains. I was lucky enough to grow up nearby the Shenandoah Mountains. My family would often visit for weekends of camping and hiking. My favorite parts of those trips were the times we got to hike on the Appalachian Trail. I had always admired those who hiked from Georgia to Maine, and it still a goal of mine to complete at least some larger portions of the trail.
The trail is long and often difficult, but the beauty of the surrounding landscape is worth it. Today, some of the best and most extensive broad-leaved deciduous forests still flourish along this trail. Lush forests floors, filled with ferns and wildflowers also define the trail. They are home to a number of wildlife populations as well. Scattered through different areas of the trail you can find black bears, wild boars, raccoons, foxes, beavers, and numerous white-tailed deer. I have encountered many of these animals on multiple occasions. During the spring and early summer, white-tailed deer fawns can be seen hiding in the undergrowth. Families of Black Bears are an exciting sight as well, as long as its from the safety of your car.
Scouting Skills on the Trail
During those times I hiked with my family, I was using many Scouting Skills, although I didn’t even realize it. Our dad, who had also been a Scout Leader, taught us how to be safe on the trail. We often had to practice basic first aid for the occasional scrapes and bruises. We also learned a lot about staying hydrated, especially during the warm and humid Virginia Summer days. My little brothers especially loved the times when we would set up camp, because that meant a fire needed to be built. Just like Scouts earning a Totin’ Chip Merit Badge, my two younger brothers were taught how to handle their tools carefully and protect the safety of us all. And we always practiced “leave-no-trace” in our camping and hiking.
Growing up so close to this trail was an important part in building who I am today. I have gained a love for the lush green Virginia mountains. Hiking the A.T. instilled in me a love for hiking and the outdoors.
So, when it comes time to complete those hiking Merit Badges, give the Appalachian Trail a thought.