Appalachian Trail Counties

On December 28, 2010 · 5 Comments

For a long time I’ve wondered what would happen if a county counter hiked the Appalachian Trail. I know that’s not a normal curiosity but I’m not the type of person to let my mind wander in the same direction as everyone else. I am not interested in walking the Appalachian Trail. I am sure the wonders and hardships a hiker would experience on this truly memorable personal journey of physical endurance would provide a lifetime of memories. I think it’s a great thing, but it’s just not for me. I don’t even want to drive that far. No I simply wanted to see what the map would look like after someone might complete the hike, so I created one.


Appalachian Trail Route

A more useful map, and an interactive one to boot, is provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Appalachian Trail, officially the Appalachian National Scenic Trail but sometimes shortened all the way down to AT, stretches an impressive 2,179 miles (3,507 kilometres) through fourteen states from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Thru-hikers will attempt to cover every mile in a single season. Most of them will fail. Generally, but not always, they will start in Georgia and hike north. They’ll catch the warmth of a southern spring at the beginning their journey and avoid the worst of the summer heat later on. This feat of endurance can last five or six months, or even longer.

If a thru-hiker is a purist (e.g., sticks to the white paint blazes with no shortcuts) — and for this exercise let’s call him oh I don’t know, maybe let’s call him Steve — then Steve would be able to mark 87 counties on his county counting map. If he were a county counter. Which he’s not.

I could focus attention on any of those 87 counties but I think I’ll select only one of them as the closest thing to an AT geo-oddity: Jefferson County, West Virginia.



The Trail Crosses a Road in WV

  • West Virginia hosts the shortest segment of the trail. Only 4 miles (6 km) of the trail crosses completely within West Virginia. An additional 20 miles (32km) runs along a shared border with neighboring Virginia. Even with that, West Virginia has fewer miles than any other Appalachian Trail state.
  • The entirety of the 4 miles can be found in Jefferson County.
  • It passes right through the historic town of Harpers Ferry.
  • It’s the easiest place along the trail where one can reasonably expect to be in three states in a single day.

It’s also the only segment of the Appalachian Trail that I’ve ever hiked.

On December 28, 2010 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Appalachian Trail Counties”

  1. Steve says:

    Tom, I owe you a beer. I still have no thoughts of becoming a county-counter, but thanks for the head start.

    Other AT geo-oddities:

    In N. Central Maine at Caratunk, the trail officially crosses the Kennebec River via ferry (canoe). The canoe has the white blaze on it and a schedule. While the Kennebec is usually pretty easily forded, there’s a dam upstream that releases at off-times and can be dangerous, esp with a 40lb pack held above one’s head.

    In N. Central Georgia, at the Walayi-Si Center (sp?), the trail goes through the building; the only such time it does that in 2000+ miles.

    Until 1980, hikers were charged a 10 cent toll to cross Bear Mountain Bridge in NY.

    As a Federally maintained entity, the AT has to comply with the Disabilities Act. As absurd as that sounds, there is a section in Kent, CT that is completely accessible to wheelchairs and such and I guess that qualifies.

    The Presidential Range in NH’s White Mountains contain a bunch of irritating historical-geo-oddities. No one has seemed to care about these when I mention them up there, but 12MC is a better crowd:

    – Notably, not all the peaks are named for presidents.
    – Also, the 4 highest peaks are not in the proper order. The original names were to be in Presidential order but a surveying error on the 4th and 5th highest makes the order, from highest to 5th highest, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, which is “wrong.”
    – More? Okay, how about Mt. Jackson is not named for Andrew Jackson, but Charles Thomas Jackson, a 19th c. geologist.
    – Mt. Clay is now officially Mt. Reagan according to New Hampshire, but is still Mt. Clay according to the US Government.
    – And I’ve always liked how Mt. Sam Adams is officially Mt. Sam Adams rather than Samuel Adams. Don’t ask me why.

    As for state highpoints, the AT itself – that is, the actual trail and not a side trail, only summits 5 of the 14 states it traverses. They would be TN, VA, MA, NH, and ME. It comes very close in NJ but not quite, so you might as well say NJ too.

    Nice subject, Tom.

  2. Peter says:

    If I may be indulged in commenting on an almost three-year-old thread, there is another location on the east coast, right on the Atlantic for that matter, in which a sunset is visible over water. A short time ago I was in Westhampton Beach, New York, on the South Shore of Long Island, when for some reason I thought about this thread and went to the (snowcovered) beach to conduct a small experiment. Though it was about an hour before sunset it was obvious that the Sun would indeed set over water. As the likely sunset location was only about ten degrees south of the visible coastline, and it’s within a week of the winter solstice, this is clearly a seasonal phenomenon.

    I would imagine that the sunset-over-water phenomenon occurs in many other points along the South Shore. In fact it may occur at points along the North Shore of Long Island, in the Mattituck to Southold area, with the sunset over Long Island Sound.

  3. Bill Harris says:

    Totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but I just found out about a book I think we geo-oddities types might find interesting: Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will.

    I think I found something on which to spend of my Christmas money!

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/50-Islands

  4. Adam Villani says:

    I haven’t hiked the Appalachian Trail myself, but a buddy of mine has, and while he doesn’t maintain a County-Counting map of his own, I actually maintain one for his travels, as well as one for my own. Using the mob-rule color functions, I highlighted the counties he hit along the Triple Crown of American long-distance hiking: the Appalachian Trail (which he did in 2002), the Pacific Crest Trail (2003), and the Continental Divide Trail (2004). He’s listed under “namelessmike.” I was the supply guy (i.e., I shipped him his supplies) for his PCT hike.
    http://www.mob-rule.com/counties/user-gifs/namelessmike.gif

    • Very cool. A total tangent: how did he manage to hit Washington, DC, Montgomery & Prince George’s Co.’s, MD; Fairfax & Arlington Co.,’s VA, but somehow miss the county-equivalent independent City of Alexandria? 🙂

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