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09 May 2007

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The A.T. Experience Defined

The Board of Managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference, seeing the need to define Trail-use priorities for maintainers and the hiking public in the 21st century, issued the following official definition of the A.T. hiking experience in 1997, saying that:

"The Appalachian Trail experience represents the sum of opportunities that are available for those walking the Appalachian Trail to interact with the wild, scenic, pastoral, cultural, and natural elements of the environment of the Appalachian Trail, unfettered and unimpeded by competing sights or sounds and in as direct and intimate a manner as possible."

This summary definition carries within it seven main ideas that the Board considered integral to the A.T. hiking experience:

1) Opportunities for observation, contemplation, enjoyment, and exploration of the natural world.

2) A sense of remoteness and detachment from civilization.

3) Opportunities to experience solitude, freedom, personal accomplishment, self-reliance, and self-discovery.

4) A sense of being on the height of the land.

5) Opportunities to experience the cultural, historical, and pastoral elements of surrounding countryside.

6) A feeling of being part of the natural environment.

7) Opportunities for travel on foot, including opportunities for long-distance hiking.

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