Hiking The Appalachian Trail -- To Morocco

At the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, most hikers stop in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to have their photographs taken at the offices of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which administers the trail for the National Park Service.
At the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, most hikers stop in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to have their photographs taken at the offices of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which administers the trail for the National Park Service. Brad Horn/NPR

Around this time of year, hikers on the Appalachian Trail hit the midway point in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The "A.T.," as it's known, stretches from Georgia to Maine, all along the Appalachian Mountains. It's probably the best-known footpath in America, so a recent headline about the trail possibly expanding into Morocco seems a little crazy. Turns out, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Dick Anderson is behind the idea to make the A.T. an international trail. The way he sees it, more than 200 million years ago, the mountain ranges were all connected anyway -- back when the Earth had only one giant continent called Pangaea. That land mass broke apart, and "when it opened, some of the Appalachians stuck to each big piece," Anderson says. "The big pieces were Africa, Europe and the United States."

So Anderson is trying to get all the countries that were once connected by that mountain range to designate certain paths as part of the International Appalachian Trail, or "IAT."

People are taking the idea of a supersized hiking path seriously. There's already an 1,800-mile section of the IAT in Canada. It starts at the end of the American leg of the trail in Maine and goes all the way up the coast of Newfoundland. Anderson says a number of people have already hiked the entire path.

Hiker Mark Bailey has traveled much of the IAT in Canada. Stopping at the halfway point in Harpers Ferry, Bailey took a moment to report on his experience.

"You see the icebergs floating by, the moose, and it's real simple. It's, 'Where am I gonna eat?' 'Where am I gonna poop?' -- and, 'Where am I gonna sleep?' " Incidentally, that sums up the sentiments of a lot of A.T. hikers.

But Anderson wants to take the IAT all the way to Morocco, hitting Greenland, Norway, Britain, France, Spain and Portugal on the way. On the other side of the Atlantic, that dream is starting to come true. Just recently, the British Geological Survey designated a 96-mile trail as part of the international trail. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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