If you’re from North Georgia, there’s a good chance you’ve been on sections of the Appalachian Trail.

Have you experienced the climb up Blood Mountain? Viewed Amicalola Falls from it’s summit? Enjoyed a day hike up to Preacher’s Rock? If you answered yes to any of those, then congratulations! You’ve hiked a small section of the Appalachian Trail.

Each year, thousands of hikers take to the 2,190 miles of trail. Whether it be for a quick day trip, a week, or even a 5-7 month long thru-hike, the AT is filled with memories and stories.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy works to protect and preserve the trail that we love.

The ATC is a non-profit organization that is based in Harper’s Ferry, WV. They manage the Appalachian Trail and work to maintain it so that is is accessible for years to come. As part of their environmental stewardship, they have headed up hundreds on conservation and advocacy efforts.

An Appalachian Trail marker in Penn-Mar park, Cascade, Washington County, Maryland, USA.

Currently, some of their major efforts include the opposition of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas line that will extend through Virginia and West Virginia. The pipeline will disturb ecosystems and distort the scenic and natural views along the trail. The “utility corridor” around the pipeline would require the elimination of thousands of acres of forest, which ultimately poses short and long-term health and safety risks. These risks are associated with erosion, landslides, pipeline failure and contamination of groundwater.

Indirectly, the removal of forest also threatens climate change along the trail. This is another cause the ATC closely studies and advocates for, since it increases the likelyhood of droughts, forest fires, severe storms, invasive species, and more. All of these things directly affect a hiker along any part of the Appalachian Trail.

What does this mean for you?

Whether you hike once a year or hundreds of times a year, helping to preserve the AT is a cause you should care about. It ensures the longevity of the trail, allowing experiences to become new stories and memories for years ahead.

Here are some ways to help the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:

1. Volunteer. There are many ways to volunteer through the ATC. You might join a Trail Crew and work with a team maintaining the trail through physical work, or work in outreach and greet or assist hikers along the trail.

2. Join a local trail club. Every state along the AT has at least one (if not multiple) trail clubs. Our local club is the Georgia AT Club, or GATC. Many clubs lead smaller-scale efforts that may be region specific.

3. Practice conservation on your own. One of the most important efforts you can make when hiking is to pack in what you pack out. This is supported by the mission of Leave No Trace, a partner organization to the ATC. They advocate for enjoying the outdoors responsibly, and their work directly supports the mission of the ATC.

ATC products at Outside World Outfitters

4. Donate directly to the ATC. For the more occasional hiker that does not have time to devote to weekends performing outreach, tax-deductible donations directly to ATC may be an option. These donations may be made in honor of someone, or to become a member of conservation societies.

5. Support the ATC thru your shopping. Last month, Taco Mac made headlines when they partnered with Devil’s Backbone to offer stainless steel pint glasses with proceeds towards the ATC. There are many environmentally friendly brands that also offer a portion of proceeds towards the ATC. At Outside World Outfitters, we are proud to carry ATC-partnered shirts, water bottles, bandanas and ENO hammocks.

Next time you’re preparing to head out on the trail, keep the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in mind!

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