The original Appalachian Trail, completed in 1937, extends roughly 2175 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia, to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Many don't know this, but in 1995 and 2002, the AT was extended north into Canada. This extension, known as the International Appalachian Trail, treks 1900 miles from Mt. Katahdin all the way to Belle Isle in northern Newfoundland.
This extension of the trail is completely logical as the Appalachian Mountains extend all the way into that part of Canada.
Now comes word that the Europeans have endorsed a project to extend the AT across the Atlantic.
Last week, trail clubs in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, England, Ireland and Wales formally joined the International Appalachian Trail during a meeting in Aviemore, Scotland.
Greenland and Scotland joined the IAT last year, and the IAT hopes to add Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria next year.
In the not-to-distant future, hikers will be able to continue along the IAT by crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat or plane, and picking up the trail in Greenland and Iceland, IAT officials said.
The rationale for the extension is that the mountains that formed the Appalachian range were created millions of years ago when the continental plates of North America and Europe collided. After the continents split apart again, the mountains of eastern Europe and North Africa became known as the Caledonian and Atlas Mountains.
Thus, as the thinking goes, since the multiple mountain ranges were once part of one super range, it follows that the Appalachian Trail should traverse the entire historical range on all three continents.
Once completed, the IAT will become the largest trail network in the world, with multinational membership on three continents.
I'm not really sure what to make of this. With multiple, non-contiguous segments, can you really call it one trail? What does Appalachia mean, or what kind of connection is there for someone hiking the trail in Morroco or Belgium? Does it in anyway diminish the accomplishments of all the people who have completed the original AT?
Has the pursuit of ultra-long distance trails finally jumped the proverbial shark?
Anyone have any thoughts on this - especially those that have completed the original AT?
At least the trail will be passing through some stunningly beautiful territory. Check out the photos on IAT website.