By Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

I Still Have Hope

January 12, 2021

Like many of you, I enter 2021 with hope.

I hope the struggles of the previous year will soon be behind us. I hope the global COVID-19 pandemic will soon be under control, and that the country can move forward united. I still hold on to that hope, even as we all watched the terrible events of last week unfold in Washington D.C. I still hold on to that hope even as we reached staggering new records in COVID-19 infections and deaths. The reality is that we, as a nation, still have many challenges ahead of us. Nevertheless, I still hold on to hope.

If history has taught us anything, it is that these challenges must spur us to think of how we can make a lasting difference during troubling times.

With hope must come action.

Emerging from the aftermath of World War I, the global 1918 flu pandemic, and the death of his wife, Benton MacKaye — the visionary for the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) — was all-too-familiar with much of the same pain that many of us experienced in the past year. I look at how MacKaye reacted during what must have been the most challenging period of his life. Rather than give in to despair, he looked at the needs of the world around him and got to work.

This year, we celebrate 100 years since MacKaye’s vision for the A.T. was published, leading the way for millions in the eastern United States to have closer, easier access to the healing powers of nature.

The A.T. exists as a place not just for hiking and recreation, but a place where we can find the space and the silence we need to reflect on our current moment, decide where we go from here, and begin building the future we want for ourselves.

As we look back at all that has been accomplished since the idea for the A.T. was set in motion in 1921, we celebrate what this Trail has meant for so many, and, importantly, the century of hard work that both built and protected this international icon.

We at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are forever thankful for the support that we have received from the dedicated volunteers, advocates, and supporters that have helped make this Trail a reality. The A.T. is a shining example of what can be achieved when people come together with a singular focus to improve the world around them.

We hope you will join us as we continue our much-needed work, helping us meet the challenges of our current moment and begin to build not only a more protected Appalachian Trail, but a better world.


Sandra “Sandi” Marra
President & CEO
Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Header image courtesy of Horizonline Pictures