The Spirit of the Appalachian Trail
Community, Environment, and Belief
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The University of Tennessee Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Preface: Hill Walking, Heart and Soul
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I grew up between two cultural traditions, both of which considered walking as a healthful avocation. One influence was the Protestant middle class of the eastern U.S. seaboard—sponsors of children’s YMCA and church camps. Scrambling through patches of oak forest, bordered by bramble-filled old fields, we took short hikes, studied nature...
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This volume is dedicated to all the individuals who have worked to establish, maintain, and interpret Appalachian natural areas and hiking trails, including those who have passed on. I fondly remember Carlos Campbell, Anne Broome, Don Defoe, Al Radford, Robert Whittaker...
Chapter 1. The Appalachian Trail as Spiritual Experience
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Although landscape architects, designers, and planners have appreciated the built or developed environment as an expression of human integration with the greater geologic and biotic milieu, some very important human constructions are, more often than not, left out of the dialogue about spirit and nature. One of the most obvious forms of human...
Chapter 2. The Trail as Physical and Social Environment
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For the reader unfamiliar with the geography and construction of the Appalachian Trail, the AT is a footpath maintained at the width for one hiker, or about twelve to twenty-four inches of bare soil or treadway (about thirty to sixty cm), and a branch-free zone, just slightly greater, to about three feet (one meter). Many sections are wider owing to use of old roadbeds or the concentrated impacts of hikers and weekenders who trample...
Chapter 3. Today’s Hikers: Gender, Age, and Religious Affiliation
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Prior to introducing the volunteer support network and the question of hiker experience, it is important to know who the hikers are. Is the iconic AT hiker— the young, muscular, white male, wearing loose rustic clothes and setting out happily by himself—still the typical Appalachian Trail thru-hiker? My AT questionnaire requested standard demographic...
Chapter 4. Angels and Volunteers: The Heart of the Trail
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Much as the trail was originally the product of volunteers, one of the major expressions of the spirit of the Appalachian Trail has always been the people along the way who offer assistance to hikers without asking for compensation or, if running a business, who provide something extra for hikers at no cost. Today, hikers call those who just appear...
Chapter 5. Religious Organizations and Support for Hikers
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A unique feature of the Appalachian Trail is the involvement, along its length, of churches, retreat centers, and religious nonprofits in hiker care. The National Park Service has allowed a Christian nonprofit to recruit unsalaried, volunteer ministers, many of whom are seminary students. They organize worship services for national park campgrounds, at least...
Chapter 6. Hiker Ethics: Interactions with the Support Network and Volunteers
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This project tapped five sources of information on the ethics of Appalachian Trail hikers, the hikers themselves, the support community, environmental and trail professionals, journals published by 2,000-milers, and personal observation. The comments of hostel managers and owners of trailside businesses reflected the perceptions of hiker...
Chapter 7. Environmental Values and Learning on the Trail
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The second major source of information on hiker ethics was the self-reported perspectives of the AT hikers themselves. My hiker survey incorporated sixteen questions concerning ethical values, with an emphasis on environmental ethics and care for other people; and thirteen questions concerning how the AT trip had influenced the hikers’ ethics. In...
Chapter 8. Building Friendships, Discovering Self, Enjoying Terrains
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The AT survey quantified hiker perceptions of the impact of their journey on personal outcomes such as forming friendships, improving physical fitness, and experiencing inner harmony. The questions were an amalgam, primarily derived from the original applications of the Spiritual Health in Four Domains Index (SH4DI)1 and other surveys intended...
Chapter 9. Spirit in Nature: Religious Meaning andthe Transcendent
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The fourth element in the SH4DI was the transcendent domain: the relationship to God or “the relationship of self with something or someone beyond the human level a Transcendent Other.”1 The final section of the survey concerned explicitly religious or spiritual responses to the Appalachian Trail. To remain open to a variety of religious traditions, the questions...
Conclusion : Gains in Four Spiritual Domains
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Other studies have confirmed that wilderness recreation has positive correlations to self-actualization, self-esteem, emotional or psychological healing, building teamwork, and reducing antisocial behaviors.1 The AT surveys verified that the trail filled a remarkable range of individual needs for change and life reorientation and provided benefits in all...
Appendix I. Tables of Ethical Values
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Appendix II. Tables of Personal Values
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Appendix III. Tables of Spiritual and Personal Values
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Appendix IV. Written Comments by Religious Background
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012