Saving the A.T. at the 2016 Southern Appalachian Trail Hot Spot

Dawsonville, GA: Birds are singing, leaves are budding, and the falls are flowing. The changing of seasons here at Amicalola Falls State Park is the signal for some to start a huge endeavor, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. The 80 miles of Appalachian Trail in Georgia make up the 2016 Leave No Trace Southern Appalachian Trail Hot Spot.

The Appalachian Trail is 2,189.1 miles in length, stretching from Springer Mountain, Georgia to the craggy peak of Katahdin, Maine. A record breaking number of thru-hikers will be attempting the entire trail this year. Over 1,080 thru-hikers have started the journey this year with more to come this spring. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that the trail has over 3 million visitors each year including thru-hikers, section-hikers, and day-trippers.

A rush of thru-hikers is in reflection to the continuing popularity of the Appalachian Trail. This popularity has grown through highlights of individuals’ stories in the media, movies, and books. These inspirational stories are the catalyst for many to start their hike to Maine.

This increase of visitors means more people coming to the trail, and more often than not, with little backpacking experience. This 2016 Southern Appalachian Trail Hot Spot is an effort to educate hikers starting off on their amazing journey north. Through outreach, education, and stewardship the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics encourages hikers to utilize minimum impact skills and techniques while out on the trail.

So how did we do? Well, Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers, Steph and Andy teamed up with the Georgia Leave No Trace State Advocate, Jay Dement to promote responsible outdoor recreation. Below are some of the accomplishments of this 7-day event.

  • 550 people reached with Leave No Trace information
  • 169 people trained in Leave No Trace skills and ethics
  • 120 kids introduced to Leave No Trace
  • 2.5 miles of trail maintained
  • 13 water bars cleaned out and rebuilt
  • 5 berms leveled
  • 2 undesignated campsites naturalized
  • 2 undesignated campfire rings disbursed
  • All while removing bags of trash from the trail

Without the local knowledge of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Conservancy (GATC), the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) Ridge Runners, Trail Ambassadors, and the volunteers dedicated to protecting the trail; this Southern Appalachian Trail Hot Spot would not be possible. A big, “thank you” is extended to all of the people who are committed to making the Appalachian Trail a wonderful and wild place for the hikers of today, and for future generations to come.

Get out there and explore, and always remember to Leave No Trace!

Steph and Andy – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team East

Leave No Trace’s Steph Whatton and Andy Mossey are part of the 2016 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, ENO, Deuter, and SmartWool.