The Appalachian Trail, stretching from Maine to Georgia and covering over 2,000 miles, invites hikers of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, hundreds of hikers spend the summer hiking the entire length of the AT. Thousands more spend an afternoon, day, or weekend hiking smaller sections of the trail. Despite spanning such a large distance, the AT maintains its own sense of culture and community, and Kathy Bilton has been able to capture this community in her web site devoted to the Appalachian Trail.
“When I realized the AT was homeless” on the web, Kathy writes, “I decided to give it a home.” In early 1995, just as the web was starting to take off, Kathy began compiling information about the AT. She announced the new web site on the rec.backcountry newsgroup, and soon began hearing from people across the country.
According to Kathy, people offered to scan images for the page, as well as provide their own advice based on experiences on the AT. Soon the site began expanding. Today, Kathy’s page has dozens of pages of useful information about the AT, including links to other relevant web sites.
For example, users visiting the AT page can quickly locate information about sections of the AT that cross through their state. A “thru-hiking” FAQ offers advice for hikers seeking to cover the entire trail. (Plan on spending four to six months, and $2,000-$4,500 for books, food, and equipment, the FAQ suggests.) You can also peruse through dozens of articles written by hikers, who offer advice based on their experience with the AT. A “Write a Hiker” section offers a list of hikers who have graciously volunteered to answer questions about the AT through e-mail.
Kathy tells DCSki that most of the feedback she has gotten for the AT page has been very positive.
“Lots [of people] seem to be real thrilled to have found the page,” Kathy says, but adds that “every so often people will suggest things that indicate they really expect EVERYTHING - i.e. full maps and books.”
Although the AT Page can’t offer everything, Kathy does her best to keep the page updated, and always appreciates learning about new resources from visitors.
“I was particularly amazed one day to get e-mail from spole.gov - which, as I guessed, was from the South Pole,” Kathy tells DCSki. The message was from a “former thru-hiker who was spending the winter there at the U.S. station with about 15 other wintertime station tenders,” she says. Someone had e-mailed him various sections of Kathy’s page.
Other visitors to the page have been reunited with old friends, after seeing information submitted by a familiar name to the AT page. For example, several hikers have been able to get in touch with folks they met on the trail in years past.
Whether you plan on hiking a mile of the AT or the full 2,000 miles, Kathy’s AT page will provide useful information. Kathy’s page has been profiled in numerous publications, such as PC Computing Magazine and even CNN. Several hundred people visit the AT page each day, and Lycos awarded the page with the prestigious “Top 5% Web Site” award.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
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