Hiking The Appalachian Trail — To Morocco

Hikers have their picture taken at the midway point of the trail i i

At the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, most hikers stop in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to have their photographs taken at the offices of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which administers the trail for the National Park Service. Brad Horn/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brad Horn/NPR
Hikers have their picture taken at the midway point of the trail

At the midway point of the Appalachian Trail, most hikers stop in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to have their photographs taken at the offices of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which administers the trail for the National Park Service.

Brad Horn/NPR
Hikers show their feet i i

Bug-bitten and blistered, hikers display their feet at the office of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at Harpers Ferry. Brad Horn/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brad Horn/NPR
Hikers show their feet

Bug-bitten and blistered, hikers display their feet at the office of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at Harpers Ferry.

Brad Horn/NPR

Around this time of year, hikers on the Appalachian Trail hit the midway point in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The "A.T.," as it's known, stretches from Georgia to Maine, all along the Appalachian Mountains. It's probably the best-known footpath in America, so a recent headline about the trail possibly expanding into Morocco seems a little crazy. Turns out, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Dick Anderson is behind the idea to make the A.T. an international trail. The way he sees it, more than 200 million years ago, the mountain ranges were all connected anyway — back when the Earth had only one giant continent called Pangaea. That land mass broke apart, and "when it opened, some of the Appalachians stuck to each big piece," Anderson says. "The big pieces were Africa, Europe and the United States."

So Anderson is trying to get all the countries that were once connected by that mountain range to designate certain paths as part of the International Appalachian Trail, or "IAT."

People are taking the idea of a supersized hiking path seriously. There's already an 1,800-mile section of the IAT in Canada. It starts at the end of the American leg of the trail in Maine and goes all the way up the coast of Newfoundland. Anderson says a number of people have already hiked the entire path.

  • Mark "Captain America" Bailey hiked much of the Canadian portion of the International Appalachian Trail in 2006. These are some of his pictures from the trip.
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    Mark "Captain America" Bailey hiked much of the Canadian portion of the International Appalachian Trail in 2006. These are some of his pictures from the trip.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey
  • The IAT runs more than 1,800 miles from the base of Mount Katahdin in Maine to Belle Isle, Newfoundland, Canada, and is an extension of the original Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
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    The IAT runs more than 1,800 miles from the base of Mount Katahdin in Maine to Belle Isle, Newfoundland, Canada, and is an extension of the original Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey
  • The IAT follows the historic range of the Appalachian mountain range before the break-up of the continents more than 200 million years ago.
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    The IAT follows the historic range of the Appalachian mountain range before the break-up of the continents more than 200 million years ago.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey
  • "You see the icebergs floating by, the moose, and it's real simple," Bailey says.
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    "You see the icebergs floating by, the moose, and it's real simple," Bailey says.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey
  • "It's 'Where am I gonna eat?' 'Where am I gonna poop?' and 'Where am I gonna sleep?'" he adds.
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    "It's 'Where am I gonna eat?' 'Where am I gonna poop?' and 'Where am I gonna sleep?'" he adds.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey
  • If all goes as planned, the IAT will extend to the east coast of Greenland and pass through Britain and Europe before ending in Morocco.
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    If all goes as planned, the IAT will extend to the east coast of Greenland and pass through Britain and Europe before ending in Morocco.
    Mark "Captain America" Bailey

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Hiker Mark Bailey has traveled much of the IAT in Canada. Stopping at the halfway point in Harpers Ferry, Bailey took a moment to report on his experience.

"You see the icebergs floating by, the moose, and it's real simple. It's, 'Where am I gonna eat?' 'Where am I gonna poop?' — and, 'Where am I gonna sleep?' " Incidentally, that sums up the sentiments of a lot of A.T. hikers.

But Anderson wants to take the IAT all the way to Morocco, hitting Greenland, Norway, Britain, France, Spain and Portugal on the way. On the other side of the Atlantic, that dream is starting to come true. Just recently, the British Geological Survey designated a 96-mile trail as part of the international trail.

This story was reported by NPR's Brad Horn.

  • I question my sanity - hiking with these nuts. I am the good looking one standing on left. I have all the luck - bitten by a dog in Big Meadows. Loon the pink toed one got caught by two farmers hiking naked - funny watching his flabby but running into the bush. Vernon "Eastwind" King, Hawaii
    Hide caption
    I question my sanity - hiking with these nuts. I am the good looking one standing on left. I have all the luck - bitten by a dog in Big Meadows. Loon the pink toed one got caught by two farmers hiking naked - funny watching his flabby but running into the bush. Vernon "Eastwind" King, Hawaii
  • Nude hikers day brought out the best in Loon; who tried to cross a road and along came 2 farmers in a pickup. Loon had to do some quick steps, retreating back across the road. Farmers still scratching their heads and talking about those white 70 yr. old butt cheeks dancing across the road! Seeing the world at 2.5 mph! Old geezers tour 2010. Eastwind - Seldom Seen - Mike "Loon" Freed, Minneso...
    Hide caption
    Nude hikers day brought out the best in Loon; who tried to cross a road and along came 2 farmers in a pickup. Loon had to do some quick steps, retreating back across the road. Farmers still scratching their heads and talking about those white 70 yr. old butt cheeks dancing across the road! Seeing the world at 2.5 mph! Old geezers tour 2010. Eastwind - Seldom Seen - Mike "Loon" Freed, Minnesota
  • Lighting fights the moonless sun lit night. Hail hangs heavy in pregnant skies, heavy, but holding. Thunder rumbles through the low hung black body of an ornery hornet, torn from wind whipped courses to collide with my sticky sweat slick skin. A pack strap slaps. We fear sharp stinging and screamed curses to the ancient gods of the Appalachian mountain chain. Arpine "Funky" Jones, New Jersey...
    Hide caption
    Lighting fights the moonless sun lit night. Hail hangs heavy in pregnant skies, heavy, but holding. Thunder rumbles through the low hung black body of an ornery hornet, torn from wind whipped courses to collide with my sticky sweat slick skin. A pack strap slaps. We fear sharp stinging and screamed curses to the ancient gods of the Appalachian mountain chain. Arpine "Funky" Jones, New Jersey
  • The story behind this pose: On Bears Den Rocks, a gray haired preacher says to my hiking partner, "Logos" - "You seem like you're in great shape but I don't think that girl back there is going to make it." Oh really?!?! I'm working on my 990-something mile and you're on day 1 of your 2-day hike and you think I'm not going to make it. This pose is for all the sexist men on and off the tra...
    Hide caption
    The story behind this pose: On Bears Den Rocks, a gray haired preacher says to my hiking partner, "Logos" - "You seem like you're in great shape but I don't think that girl back there is going to make it." Oh really?!?! I'm working on my 990-something mile and you're on day 1 of your 2-day hike and you think I'm not going to make it. This pose is for all the sexist men on and off the trail. Funny that a preacher said this. Was Jesus a sexist? Jaime "Earthling" Platts, Pennsylvania
  • I was bit by a brown recluse in the Smokies and ended up with a staff infection. It took a week before I could get into Hot Springs, NC to see a doctor. The infection looked like a bullet hole in my back. The end result was the bite being lanced and stuffed with gauze and a week off the trail. Clay "Motorboat" Hodges, Kentucky
    Hide caption
    I was bit by a brown recluse in the Smokies and ended up with a staff infection. It took a week before I could get into Hot Springs, NC to see a doctor. The infection looked like a bullet hole in my back. The end result was the bite being lanced and stuffed with gauze and a week off the trail. Clay "Motorboat" Hodges, Kentucky
  • The day that I started it was 40 degrees and raining. Then a thunderstorm came. I fell asleep woke up to 4 inches of snow and hiked in the snow for 2 days. I figured that the Gods were testing me. I made it through then it was a breeze. Eric "Chef" Donovan, Georgia
    Hide caption
    The day that I started it was 40 degrees and raining. Then a thunderstorm came. I fell asleep woke up to 4 inches of snow and hiked in the snow for 2 days. I figured that the Gods were testing me. I made it through then it was a breeze. Eric "Chef" Donovan, Georgia
  • The craziest thing that has happened to me on the trail so far...I was sleeping in the shelter one night, which I do not usually do, and had my flip flops on the ground below my head. In the middle of the night, we heard a ruckus and everyone woke up and started investigating. A raccoon had come into our camp and stolen one of my flip flops! He returned and stole one flip flop from anoth...
    Hide caption
    The craziest thing that has happened to me on the trail so far...I was sleeping in the shelter one night, which I do not usually do, and had my flip flops on the ground below my head. In the middle of the night, we heard a ruckus and everyone woke up and started investigating. A raccoon had come into our camp and stolen one of my flip flops! He returned and stole one flip flop from another hiker and then stole someone's cookwear! We were able to chase it off and recovered my flip flop, which was north on the trail, the other flip-flop, which was south and the cookwear, which was still near the shelter. Never knew raccoons wore flip-flops or cooked! The AT is very educational. :) Jessica "Ghetto Sheep" LaFortune, Maryland

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