Blazing Ahead

Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail

Book Description

“High and dry above the stupendous detail of our job we should hold the reason for it all. This is not to cut a path and then say—‘Ain't it beautiful?' Our job is to open a realm.” –Benton MacKaye

The Appalachian Trail is one of America's most revered resources, a project of near-mythic proportions combining rugged natural beauty and human determination. But few know the story behind the creation of the world's longest hiking-only trail. The proposal could have died in the pages of a journal had it not been for the efforts of many people—including two, in particular: Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery. While the two men shared a common goal, their vastly different personalities meant it was only a matter of time before these sometimes allies, sometimes adversaries had a falling out. Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery, and the Rivalry That Built the Appalachian Trail tells this story in active, engaging scenes that weave history together and biography, detailing the external forces the trail builders faced: the stock market crash, World War II, and the prevailing opinions regarding wilderness and recreation. Drawing upon never before published sources from the State of Maine Archives, Blazing Ahead delves deep into the historical realities MacKaye and Avery faced. Through extensive research and vivid storytelling, this book tells the true but little-known story of a shared vision, the rivalry it bred, and the legacy of the men behind one of the nation's greatest treasures.

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About Ryan, Jeffrey H.

Maine based author, speaker, and photographer Jeffrey Ryan has a contagious passion for exploring the outdoors, particularly on foot. Jeff has hiked thousands of miles including his first “trip of a lifetime,” a six-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. In 1985, he began “section hiking” the Appalachian Trail with a childhood friend (a journey that took nearly three decades to complete and inspired his first book, Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-year Hike on America's Trail Down East Books, 2016). His AT experiences inspired him to learn about the dynamic relationship between Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery that culminated in the creation and completion of this legendary trail.