2,190 miles of trail spanning across the densely forested eastern United States. 2 national parks. 14 states. On top of all this achievement- a name, one known By all 2 million estimated yearly visitors to the trail. Benton MacKaye.

(BEHN-ton muhk-EYE)

For my grade nine year with TALONS, I have selected Benton MacKaye for my Eminent Person  project. I first encountered the Appalachian trail during one of my backpacking trips this summer. My friend and I were descending from the 2,093 meter summit of Mt. Albert Edward this summer when we started talking about other trails we wanted to tackle. We started with small, local trails, then moved onto larger, more ambitious ones. She mentioned her desire to complete the Pacific Crest Trail, though she did have some interest in others, such as the Appalachian trail. She suggested a few books I might like on various trail experiences. I started with ‘A Walk in The Woods’ by Bill Bryson. It retells Bryson’s encounter with the Appalachian trail. I was hooked. Bryson speaks in intervals of trail history and his storyline. In one place, he writes about the trail founders. I didn’t think much of it then, but as eminent came around I could not stop wondering about the legacy that the founders left behind.


I have been involved in outdoor adventuring form a very young age. I found ways to entertain myself with only the things in nature around me. This including many, many forts, hidden caves/dens, wild flora kitchens, and a plethora of whittled staffs and wands for various fantasized adventures. I started backpacking at ten, and from there I have progressed to doing multiple adventures on my own or in small groups. Perhaps I don’t know how to file my taxes, but I can light a fire using only moss and vaseline.


In my presentation, I hope to portray Benton MacKaye as a dreamer, with an idea and no clue as to where it will end up. He is overwhelmed with concern for the very direction that our society is going in. I feel that aside from the values and appreciation for trails that we share, those are my main connection with MacKaye. It’s just the beginning and this project has already made me think about crazy ideas I have made up that I never took seriously. MacKaye took a risk, shared his idea, and watched it become a reality.


My presentation will be spoken from the view of Myron Avery, another main figure in the development of the Appalachian Trail. Avery came into the process after MacKaye pitched his idea, doing much of the manual labor to complete the trail. He also chaired the Appalachian trail committee for many consecutive sittings. Although Avery was a large part of the trail coming to life, he is rarely credited anywhere near the same level as MacKaye for the success of the Appalachian Trail. Many people who know of the matter believe that the trail truly belongs to Avery, and he should be credited as such. I would like to present Avery as one Who shares this opinion too.

Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery. Courtesy of Blue Ridge Outdoors

Although my project will mainly focus on the trail itself and the achievement of both these men, i think that MacKaye’s past is something worth looking into. This is also a place where I can compare and contrast myself to him.


Benton Mackaye Aislyn Adams
-Man -Woman
-Caucasian -Caucasian
-Grew up in North America (USA) -Grew up in North America (CAN)
-Moved house many times in youth -Moved house twice in youth
-Grew up very financially unstable – Privileged and financially stable
-Had a severe loss as an adult -Had a severe loss as a youth
-Took refuge in the wilderness as a youth -Took refuge in the wilderness as a youth
-Studied geology and forestry -Considering studying forestry and permaculture
-High school dropout -Definitely not a high school dropout
-Concerned for humanity (WW1 and health) -Concerned for humanity (Trump and discrimination)


I am ready, willing and excited to pursue an in-depth study of Benton MacKaye in hopes of opening my mind to taking risks, and learning more about myself and my capabilities. Let’s see where this trail leads me.