Science & Tech

What's the Appalachian Trail? The iconic footpath featured in today's Google Doodle

What's the Appalachian Trail? The iconic footpath featured in today's Google Doodle

The Doodle's artist Nate Swinehart (right) on McAfee's Knob – one of the most photographed spots on the trail


As many of us face the drudgery of a Monday morning commute and a day holed up at work, it’s almost painful to think of beautiful, far-off lands and breathtaking views.

And yet, this is what Google is inviting us to do with today’s interactive Doodle.

Head to the search engine’s homepage and you’ll find a slideshow in the style of an illustrated scrapbook, teaching readers all about the Appalachian Trail.

The iconic trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, spanning more than 14 US states and 2,190 miles, as it meanders across dense forests, rushing rivers, and soaring mountains.

And if you're wondering why the tech company has decided to pay tribute to the famous landmark today, it's because on 2 October 1968, America’s National Trails System Act established the Appalachian Trail as one of the country’s first National Scenic Trails.

Hiking the full length of the path can take between five and seven months to complete and requires careful planning.

And yet, as Google’s slideshow points out, around 3,000 people attempt this staggering feat each year, with a total of three million people visiting the trail annually.

The interactive Doodle was created by artist Nate Swinehart, who trekked the trail to conduct research for his designGoogle

The route has served walking enthusiasts for nearly 100 years, having been completed in 1937.

It was first proposed by conservationist Benton MacKaye in 1921, with his original plan calling for a stretch of several self-sustaining agricultural camps along the way, Google notes in its blurb for the Doodle.

Then 10 years later, a hiker named Earl Shaffer became the first person to make it from one end to the other.

Since then, more than 14,000 people have joined him in completing the trek.

Perhaps inevitably for such a legendary trail, it has engendered a number of unique traditions.

These include being given a “trail name” by fellow hikers and eating two litres of ice cream at the route’s mid-point.

However, the trail’s oldest and most important tradition is to leave it just as you found it so that everyone can enjoy the same natural beauty.

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