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24 March 2008

Official Opening of the Pinhoti Trail Marks Link to Appalachian Trail

The combined trail route when Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail is linked to the Appalachian Trail will be nearly 2,000 miles.

Special to The Times
Published March 15, 2008

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Ceremony to Mark Linking of Trails

A ceremony Sunday afternoon at Cheaha State Park officially will open and dedicate the connection of the Pinhoti Trail with the Appalachian Trail — linking Alabama to Maine. The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m.

The ceremony will take place along the Pinhoti Trail — about a 15-minute walk from Cheaha Trailhead.

“To get to the site,” according to park superintendent David Odom, “participants should travel to Cheaha State Park — where they may stop at the park store to get directions to the trail. However, signs throughout the park will direct visitors to the ceremony site. Shuttles will be available for ceremony leaders and physically challenged persons.”

Odom suggests walkers wear comfortable hiking shoes and clothing.

A plaque near the southernmost point of the Pinhoti tells the history of the dream of hikers and environmentalists. “The Pinhoti Trail: Alabama’s link to the Appalachian Trail. In 1925, the Appalachian Trail Conference adopted Benton MacKaye’s vision of a trail stretching from New England to Georgia, with an extension south into Alabama. In 2008, the Appalachian Trail was finally connected, via the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail, to the southernmost Appalachians, where the flame azalea, the laurel, and the long-leaf pine grace the cliffs and ridges of the High Heart of Alabama.”

Pete Conroy of the Jacksonville State University Environmental Policy Information Center and the Little River Canyon Field School said Friday he had received numerous congratulatory letters from the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce. The residents at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail have an annual festival in Millinocket, Maine. A part of this year’s festival will celebrate the completion of the Trail from Maine to Alabama.

“So many people have been a part of this, including some new friends near Mount Katahdin, where they welcome us to hike up to visit and eat lobster. I may never do that, but it’s nice to know that through this new connection, we could if we wanted to. More national attention will come through this, bringing focus to Alabama’s exceptional natural beauty and potential for ecotourism,” Conroy said.

“This is a great time for folks to buy new hiking boots or walking shoes and get out and experience the famous trail that’s right here in our backyard!”

According to Conroy, the combined trail route is almost 2,000 miles long.

“Connecting Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail to the world-famous Appalachian Trail is great news for the many outdoor enthusiasts who have been waiting for the entire Appalachian range to be joined together. Hikers from all corners of the world will now have the opportunity to experience the majestic Alabama wilderness as they challenge themselves on the Appalachian trail,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said. “I believe that we must protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations to enjoy and I am proud to have played a part in ensuring that the Appalachian trail could connect through our great state.”

See story at The Gadsden Times' website: .

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