Few know the story of how the Appalachian Trail was envisioned and built. The most famous footpath in the world could easily have been an unfulfilled vision lost to the ages in an architectural journal if not for a number of fortunate events. The idea proposed by Benton MacKaye in 1921 had lost steam by 1928. It took the irrepressible drive of a young man from Maine named Myron Avery to see the project to completion. The story is a fascinating study of personalities set against the financial challenges posed by The Great Depression, the unprecedented rise of automobile ownership and the need to build a network of trail advocates through 14 states and beyond. Yet the completion of the trail also caused an irreparable rift between MacKaye (the dreamer) and Avery (the doer).
The KHS presenter, Jeffrey Ryan, is a Maine based author, speaker and photographer, and has a contagious passion for exploring the outdoors, particularly on foot. Jeff has hiked thousands of miles including his first “trip of a lifetime”, a 6-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. In 1985, he began “section hiking” the Appalachian Trail with a childhood friend (a journey that would take years to complete and inspired his first book, Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-year hike on America’s trail). His AT experiences inspired him to learn about the dynamic relationship between Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery that culminated in the creation and completion of the legendary trail. His second book, Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery and the Rivalry that Built the Appalachian Trail (published by Appalachian Mountain Club Books) was released in 2018.
The Kennebec Historical Society’s August Presentation is co-sponsored by the Maine State Library and free to the public (donations gladly accepted). The presentation will take place on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maine State Library located at 230 State Street in Augusta.