(Excerpt from Saving the Places We Love)
Can you imagine exploring a mountainous region without a good trail system? it would take far longer to find your way through the mountains or to find the tallest peak. You might even wander around lost for weeks trying to find your way in and out. Fortunately, today there is a great system of trails throughout the country and, in many cases, good apps for finding your way.
For the most part, these trails are well marked and maintained largely by volunteers. For example, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail is maintained by 6,000 volunteers in small clubs all along the way from Georgia to Maine (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/). This is true for many of the trails that crisscross our country. Thanks to all of you who help maintain these trails.
A great resource for getting a sense of the vast trail network of America is the National Trail System Map and Guide. In 1968, Congress passed the National Trail System Act, which established the Appalachian and Pacific Crest national scenic trails and supported the development of many more trails. This map and guide showing the national scenic trails and the national historic trails is available from the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/nts).
The map not only shows these two trails but also the Iditarod trail in Alaska, the Continental Divide trail through the Rocky Mountains, the Pony Express trail from Missouri to California, the Lewis and Clark trail, the Trail of Tears from the Smoky Mountains to the Ozarks, the North Country trail from Vermont to North Dakota, and others. A lifetime of opportunities is all laid out and waiting for you. Go for the exercise, go for the beauty, go for the history. Take a friend, but leave no trace behind.