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AT Museum names inaugural Hall of Fame class

The Appalachian Trail Museum celebrated its first anniversary over the weekend with hikes and the induction of the first half-dozen members of the AT Hall of Fame.

The six men were nominated by the public and represent the Maine-to-Georgia trail's earliest movers and shakers. Honestly, there were no surprises.

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The inaugural class and subsequent classes will be part of the permanent display at the museum, located at about the halfway point of the 2,181-mile trail in Pennsylvania's Pine Grove Furnace State Park. During its first year, the museum attracted more than 8,000 visitors from 47 states and 18 countries.

The honorees and their citations are:

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Benton MacKaye (1879-1975) - He proposed the idea of the AT in his 1921 article, "An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning." MacKaye convened and organized the first Appalachian Trail "conference" in Washington in 1925. That gathering of hikers, foresters and public officials embraced the goal of building the trail. They established the Appalachian Trail Conference (now Conservancy), and appointed MacKaye as its "field organizer." Without his vision and inspiration, the Appalachian Trail would probably never have been built.

Arthur Perkins (1864-1932) - Perkins, an avid outdoorsman, spearheaded the effort to make MacKaye's dream a reality. After MacKaye's initial inspiration, work on building the trail had largely stalled by the middle of the decade. Perkins, a Connecticut judge, took up the cause of the AT and pushed it forward relentlessly in the mid- and late-1920s. Just as importantly, he inspired others to get involved. Perkins was the second chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference, serving from 1927 to 1930.

Myron Avery (1899-1952) – If MacKaye envisioned the trail, Avery built it. He knitted the trail clubs together into a cohesive group, communicating by letter to volunteers up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. He was the first person to walk the entire trail, pushing his ever-present measuring wheel in front of him. His vision of the physical trail included the 2-by-6 inch white blaze markings that steered hikers in the right direction and guidebooks. He envisioned the AT as a "people's trail" that would be accessible to the "average tramper."

Earl Shaffer (1918-2002) - Shaffer  pioneered thru-hiking. His notion of a 2,000-mile continuous wilderness hike was unheard of until his initial "Walk With Spring" in 1948. Before he did it, many thought it was physically impossible to hike the entire trail in one year. He hiked the entire trail again in 1965 and finally once more at age 79 in 1998.

Gene Espy – In 1951 at the age of 24, Espy became the second person to thru-hike the AT. His book, "The Trail of My Life," inspired many people to test their physical and mental abilities by long-distance hiking. Now 84, he was one of the speakers during the museum's anniversary weekend.

Ed Garvey (1915-1999) - He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1970, when it was still a fairly rare thing to do. The popularity of his 1971 book, "Appalachian Hiker," arguably did more to raise the awareness of thru-hiking than any other single event. In his book, he carefully explained his preparations and gathered useful information along the way that would be of benefit to those who would follow in his footsteps. Garvey also was instrumental in getting federal funds in the late 1970s to protect the trail, and he volunteered countless hours helping to build the trail while working in Washington. The Ed Garvey Memorial Shelter was constructed along the Maryland section of the AT on Weverton Cliffs, about four miles from Harpers Ferry.

Photo of Earl Shaffer by Andre F. Chung / 2008

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