But unlike the railway the trailway must preserve (and develop) a certain environment. Otherwise its whole point is lost. The railway “opens up” a country as a site for civilization; the trailway should “open up” a country as an escape from civilization…The path of the trailway should be as “pathless” as possible; it should be the minimum consistent with practical accessibility.
Benton MacKaye, founding meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March 2-3, 1925
In few regions of the world, certainly nowhere else in the United States, are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California. The Pacific Crest Trailway is the cord that binds this necklace.
Discover a bit more about these men below.
The notion of a “super trail” had been a parlor topic in New England hiking-organization and even academic circles for some time, but the October 1921 publication of “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning” in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects is almost universally seen as the moment of birth for the Appalachian Trail. Benton MacKaye—former forester and government analyst and newspaper editor, now intermittently employed as a regional planner—proposed, as a refuge from work life in industrialized metropolis, a series of work, study, and farming camps along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, with a trail connecting them, from the highest point in the North (Mt. Washington in New Hampshire) to the highest in the South (Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina). Hiking was an incidental focus.
MacKaye immediately set about promoting his idea within his network of friends and colleagues in Washington, New York, and Boston, but it was again hikers who took up the cause—newspaper columnist Raymond Torrey in New York especially, who led a small crew building the first A.T.-specific miles in Harriman–Bear Mountain State Park under the aegis of Maj. William A. Welch, who soon shifted the goal to “Maine to Georgia” and designed the iconic diamond Trail marker.
By March 3, 1925, MacKaye and the Regional Planning Association had enough support to convene the first “Appalachian Trail conference…for the purpose of organizing a body of workers (representative of outdoor living and of the regions adjacent to the Appalachian range) to complete the building of the Appalachian Trail.” An organization of that name was formed, and Welch was named its first chair. But, building new trail and connecting to existing trails in New England did not follow to a significant degree for about three years, when a retired Connecticut judge, Arthur Perkins, and a young federal admiralty lawyer in Washington, Myron H. Avery, took charge of the efforts as a hiking-focused cause and MacKaye faded from an active role. (Source)
Emile Benton MacKaye was born on March 6, 1879, the fifth of six children, to a family deeply burdened with financial troubles. It was months before they named their newborn son, who was referred to in the interim as “Little Mr. Nemo.” When he was finally given a name, it was derived from his paternal grandmother’s name, Emily Benton Steele. His father, Steele MacKaye, was a struggling playwright in New York, and his mother, Mary, stayed at home in Stamford, although she was also occasionally involved in theatre (Anderson, 2002).
MacKaye’s childhood was plagued with a succession of moves, as his father continued to squander whatever earnings he made in the theatre. Finally, his brother William, the second oldest, obtained a modest family estate in the small village of Shirley Center, Massachusetts. In July of 1888, the eight-year-old MacKaye moved with his family into “The Cottage,” as they came to call it. He was immediately enamored with the beauty and freedom of the country and proclaimed he enjoyed it far more than urban existence. Tragically, William died the following winter of a respiratory disease, but the family cherished his legacy. The Shirley Cottage would become MacKaye’s true home for the remainder of his long life (Anderson, 2002).
Although he had a passion for learning, MacKaye was an indifferent student. He once wrote that school “might be defined as a place that boys like to run away from” (Anderson, 2002, p.18). In 1890, his family took a trip to Washington, DC, and he spent many days at the Smithsonian Institution gaining a more valuable education, in his estimation, than the one offered in the schoolhouse. Encouraged by his brothers, MacKaye spent his days drawing and taking notes on the different specimens of birds and other wildlife (Anderson). (Source)
It may be impossible to pinpoint the first person to propose the Pacific Crest Trail but published accounts tend to acknowledge the following people: Catherine Montgomeryat the State Normal School in Bellingham, Wash.; a former Supervisor of Recreation for the U.S. Forest Service, Fred W. Cleator; and Clinton C. Clarke of Pasadena, Calif. According to author and mountaineer Joseph T. Hazard, Catherine Montgomery suggested the idea of a border-to-border trail to him in 1926. Fred. W. Cleator, who oversaw the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service, outlined Oregon’s Skyline Trail (a seminal link of the PCT) in 1920 and extended that trail to Oregon’s north and south borders. Cleator also initiated plans for a similar trail in Washington. Clinton C. Clarke, founder of the Pasadena Playhouse and chairman of the Mountain League of Los Angeles, however, is often called the “father” of the PCT because he organized the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference in 1932 to promote the concept of a border-to-border trail.
Under Clarke’s inspiration, the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference (a federation of hiking clubs and youth groups) devoted itself to developing an interconnected system of existing trails and new trails that would extend all the way from Canada to Mexico on or close to the crest of the mountainous western states. This was not a new idea, but unifying the many hiking groups for this cause was. Members of the conference included the Boy Scouts, YMCA, Sierra Club, Los Angeles County Department of Recreation, California Alpine Club, Mazamas of Portland, Mountaineers of Seattle, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Associations. Clark served as president of the conference for 25 years. Renowned nature photographer Ansel Adams was a member of the executive committee. At the time, six segments of the system were already complete (the Cascade Crest Trail in Washington; Oregon Skyline Trail in Oregon; Lava Crest Trail in northern California; Tahoe-Yosemite Trail in California; John Muir Trail in California; and the Desert Crest Trail in southern California) and Clarke recruited Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members to help plan and build remaining trail links, bridges, and structures.
Clarke also organized the YMCA PCT Relays, held during the summers of 1935 through 1938. During these relays, 40 teams of young hikers (ages 14-18) under the direction of a young YMCA outdoorsman named Warren Rogers (Rogers had driven to Pasadena to meet Clarke after reading a newspaper article about his PCT proposal) scouted a route for the trail. The hikers carried a log book north from Campo on the Mexican border, recording their adventures and route. On August 5, 1938, the final relay team reached milepost 78 on the Canadian border. The PCT Relays demonstrated that hikers could traverse the mountainous spine of three states using the available combination of trails, roads, and open country. Today, portions of the PCT follow the exact route walked by the YMCA relays. Rogers became the Conference executive secretary and began a life-long mission to organize support for a border-to-border trail along the Pacific Crest. He is credited with keeping the dream of the PCT alive until the 1960s when hiking and trails began to receive more national attention and garner enthusiasm. (Source)
The Pacific Crest Trailway was one of the first books ever published about the Pacific Crest Trail. This book was compiled by Clinton C. Clarke and published in 1945. As Mr. Clarke notes that this material “was obtained through 13 years of research and exploration by officials of the National Park Service and the National Forest Service, scientific and nature organizations, and capable explorers who covered all the regions of the Pacific Crest Trailway.” (Source)