Why do people deface local trail signs and scratch in the “AT” instead?
The Appalachian Trail would not exist if were not for the tireless efforts of volunteer trail maintainers and local clubs that maintain the trail from Georgia to Maine. Whenever I meet trail crews, volunteer trail maintainers, shelter caretakers, ridge runners, and trash picker uppers, I say hello, and thank them for the work they do. They all love the trail and the community of like-minded souls that it has brought together for a common cause.
What I don’t understand is why some people feel the need to piss on the locals who help maintain the trail system by scratching out the names of the trails that the AT runs along. This doesn’t build up the trail or celebrate the efforts of the local people who maintain it. It’s a crude insult that threatens to unravel the fabric that holds the AT together.
Every time someone defaces a trail sign along the trail, it demeans the people who maintain it. I’ve been a volunteer trail maintainer and if someone scratched out the name of my trail I’d be very sad, resentful, and angry.
Take the sign pictured above. It’s on a segment of trail that runs through of busy section of New Hampshire’s White Mountains and is seen by many more day hikers than thru-hikers. What impression do they take away about people who hike the Appalachian Trail, when they see that the trail signs in their beloved National Forest have been defaced?
This isn’t an isolated issue. AT trail sign defacements are rife in New England.
I’m not saying that thru-hikers or section hikers are responsible for defacing trail signs. But if they were, I’m sure it would be a very small handful of angry people who think this is a fun joke. Regardless of who’s responsible, I do think it’s important for anyone who hikes the AT to remember that many locals make the global totality of the Appalachian Trail a reality. If you see someone defacing a trail sign, ask them to stop and explain why it’s important that we respect the local volunteers who make the Appalachian Trail possible.
We’re all guests when we hike the Appalachian Trail. Please respect the people who host us.
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