Celebrating a Vision

Fred Tutman

I am one of many volunteers who have an active interest in preserving the very simple aim of being able to walk from one side of this country to the next without intruding on somebody’s private turf and, in the process, seeing some of the best landscapes this country has to offer. Parts of it are possibly still very much like what early visitors — Daniel Boone, Johnny Appleseed, or even Harriet Tubman — saw and experienced. To me, that’s such a simple and basic thing that people take for granted as space around us is plundered, gobbled, and built on. This fundamental vision — walking in the footsteps of our landed heritage — is a powerful connection that literally resonates in my soul.

My relationship to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) these days is that of a walking tourist and aficionado of open-space walkabouts. I’m a journeyman and rambling man who likes the intimacy of seeing the world at ground level — one step at a time. I see the Trail as a resource whose protection is vitally important. The A.T. is, in my view, a public-trust resource that needs to be preserved intentionally or else will disappear and people will lose their sense of connectivity to nature in the process. We could readily lose the sense that this country is something that can be experienced with your feet as well as with your heart, mind, and spirit.

I am fascinated by the A.T. and, like the river I protect in my day job as a riverkeeper, every bend in the river or every bend in the Trail offers something precious and unique that is intriguing and never quite the same twice. The Trail gives up its treasures in ways that affect each of us very personally and very individually. I have found that I not only admire and appreciate seeing the world one step at a time, but I also enjoy the people on the Trail whose perspective is generally fixated on the next ridgeline and seeing what’s over the next hill, switchback, or mountain range. It’s an amazing and very personal thing — and it’s “free,” or at least it’s not something that has been turned into a commercial commodity. That is no small thing.

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