Appalachian Trail: closed until further notice!
Never before have those words been written. While there have been times that portions of the trail have been closed (Tropical Storm Irene comes to mind), never before has the entire trail been shut down. Unprecedented. But we live in unprecedented times.
Of course, it’s impossible to put up a physical barrier and restrict people’s access to the trail. In fact, if you live near the trail and want to get on a portion of that is readily accessible to a road crossing, it’s probably the best form of exercise you can do while maintaining social distancing from others.
However, if you have to travel any distance to get to the trail, or if you want to venture far into the woods, our very strong advice is don’t.
I’ve seen some who are justifying their hikes by saying that they’re avoiding common facilities (shelters, picnic tables, latrines, etc.) so as not to expose themselves to the virus. While your own personal safety is an important goal, it’s not why the trail has to be shut down.
There are three main reasons why the ATC and maintaining clubs have had to do so:
- With stay-at-home orders in place, the volunteers who maintain the trail won’t be able to do so this year. Blowdowns from the past winter, as well as vegetation that will soon begin to grow, will make hiking the trail difficult.