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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6f/BentonMacKaye.jpg  Benton MacKaye photo from Wikipedia

"2021 marks a century since regional planner Benton MacKaye  first published his vision for an Appalachian Trail (A.T.)—a recreational route “to establish a base for a more extensive and systematic development of outdoors community life.” What transpired from that point is a testament to human ingenuity, volunteerism, teamwork, and love of the outdoors—values that thrive along the 2,192-mile route between Maine and Georgia today. "

The following link contains "a brief photo history of the A.T., along which the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains more miles of trail than any organization.  Many thanks to the AMC Library and Archives, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College for their assistance compiling this history and these images."

https://www.outdoors.org/resources/amc-outdoors/history/an-idea-turns-100-a-photo-history-of-the-appalachian-trail/?utm_campaign=mkg-oc-072021&utm_medium=email&utm_source=internal-oc-all&utm_content=cta1-btn

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"" In 1936, a year before the Appalachian Trail was completed as one 
continuous, unbroken footpath, six Boy Scouts from the New York City 
area followed the route from Maine to Georgia. It was a 121-day 
odyssey into manhood and its significance as perhaps the first 
thru-hike of the A.T. wasn't realized until recently by one of the participants."" > > > 

Yes, the AT was a popular route way back when: 

https://www.atmuseum.org/1936-boy-scout-thru-hike.html

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