The Forests & the Trees: A Brief History of Our National Forests

The story of the creation of America’s system of national forests is fascinating from a number of perspectives. At various times, cultural, geographic, economic, and political winds either blew strongly against the idea or put just the slightest breeze behind the effort to place some forest land under federal protection. Yet, even after some forest […]

New Podcast Explores History of the Appalachian Trail

Professor Mills Kelly of George Mason University and his team have put together a wonderful podcast series about the history of the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve ever wondered how the trail came into being or what went on behind the scenes to get it built, this is a great place to start. I look forward […]

The 100-year trail — AT Celebrates 100th birthday

Photo of Appalachian Trail near Duncannon, Pennsylvania. ©2017, www.JeffRyanAuthor.com

This year the Appalachian Trail marks its first century in existence. Holly Kays wrote a wonderful piece contrasting the story of the iconic trail’s origin and life on the trail today in the Smoky Mountain News.

How do we set out to do what’s never been done before?

“We’re putting a human on top of a missile and shooting him into space and it’s never been done before. I need a mathematician that can look beyond the numbers, at math that doesn’t exist.” — Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) from the movie Hidden Figures How do we set out to do what’s […]

The Appalachian Trail just turned 80 years old!

Photo of Bigelow Range, Maine ©2017, www.JeffRyanAuthor.com

“On August 14, 1937, a CCC crew completed the final 2 miles of trail in Maine: a section on the north slope of Spaulding Mountain. What they likely didn’t know at the time was they had just closed the last remaining gap in the Appalachian Trail, which was now a continuous path from Mount Oglethorpe, in Georgia, to Katahdin, […]

The Appalachian Trail was a Start-up

Photo of Benton MacKaye's original map of the Appalachian Trail. Used by permission. Source: The American Institute of Architects Archives, Washington, D.C.

The Dreamer The year was 1921. A 42-year-old forester and land use planner named Benton MacKaye came up with a remarkable, progressive idea — to build a super trail that would travel across a dozen states, from Mount Mitchell in Tennessee to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He pitched the idea to a friend, who […]