This summer, the Appalachian Trail celebrates 75 years. The famous hiking trail runs nearly 2,200 miles up the East Coast, including right through our viewing area. It offers big business for many cities and towns along the way.
One study said through-hikers, those who walk the trail's entire length, spend an average of $2,400 along the way. That's from 1999, and the number of through-hikers has exploded since then. Communities that benefit most from that spending are those like Waynesboro, right in the shadow of the Appalachian Trail.
People have been drawn to the Appalachian Trail since the Great Depression. But even now, work on the path continues.
Some 80 volunteers have finished months of toil, to relocate a section of the trail leading to Little Calf Mountain.
Don White with the Potomac Appalachian Trial Club said, "We still had like a 34 percent grade going up the shoulder, and it was just horrible. It was horrible to hike it, and it was even worse for the land because of the erosion."
That labor of love will certainly earn the appreciation of through-hikers, the die-hards who take on the entire trail from Georgia to Maine. Along the way, most of them will stop and spend at Rockfish Gap Outfitters.
Chuck Walker with Rockfish Gap Outfitters said, "Waynesboro as a town probably gets 98 percent of all those people and probably 95 percent of those people come here."
The store is adorned with photos and thank-you's from the hardcore hikers who came for gear, supplies and fuel.
"You don't want to carry four to six months worth of supplies on your back," Walker said. "So they're stopping every six to 10 days, so that they can carry lighter loads and make more miles."
Walker says Waynesboro is known as one of the Appalachian Trail's most welcoming communities. The city has a camping area for hikers, the YMCA offers showers, and dozens of people serve as "trail angels," shuttling visitors up and down the mountain.
Thousands of like-minded volunteers maintain the trail through 14 states, helping hikers answer the call of the wild.
"I think there's something in us that yearns to be in the backcountry, whether it's open meadows or fields, woods. Why hike? Because it's in your blood," White said.
Those improvements to the trail will be dedicated on Saturday, during a ceremony in Shenandoah National Park. After 75 years, the Appalachian Trail is still the world's longest trail that's just for hikers.
Tuesday, December 10 2013 8:13 PM EST2013-12-11 01:13:23 GMT
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