The Mountains

Hundreds of millions of years ago, before the formation of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Central Pangean Mountains dominated their supercontinent, forming a range probably around the height of the Alps, and longer than that of our modern-day Himalayas. The dynamics of their initial formation were the likely cause of an ice age that wiped out nearly two-thirds of the species on earth at the time.

Now, since the formation of the Atlantic, vastly eroded remnants of these old mountains remain around the ocean basin, ranging from the Appalachians of North America, through parts of the Arctic circle, across the Caledonides of northwestern Europe, and down through the Iberian Peninsula to the Anti-Atlas Mountains of north Africa.

Circum-Atlantic Appalachian Map

image from the IAT/SIA

The Hike

The International Appalachian Trail (IAT/SIA) is an international network of long distance hiking trails that run through these old mountain terranes. The trail was first proposed in 1994 by Richard Anderson, of Maine, to join together the highest points of Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec. The current plan is to walk (slowly) thousands of miles, from Flagg Mountain in Alabama, up through eastern Canada, traverse across islands in the Arctic Circle, and hike down through western Europe to where the trail network ends in Morocco, covering all the Appalachian/Caledonian regions and sailing or flying as necessary to get across oceans. In areas where the IAT does not exist, or has not yet been established, other walking options will be used.

In the millions of years since the initial orogeny, each region has developed its own unique geological and ecological aspects. The trail runs through areas with a diverse array of languages, music, and histories, from the people who have made their homes in the mountains since then, whether they are descendants of recent immigrants or communities who have been living in their mountains since before our written history began.

The journey began in June 2017, at Flagg Mountain, Alabama. At approximately 3000 miles in, this blog is the only present documentation, apart from personal journals and photographs.


The Appalachians in the fall, from Deasey Mountain, Maine.

The Hiker

Sail worked through her senior year of university as an EMT-B. After graduating, she interned as a backcountry ranger in Yosemite National Park, got introduced to trad climbing, gained a season’s worth of experience in SAR, and lost any shreds of respectability. Since then, she has worked on ships and farms, done some social work, and taught high school physics, engineering, and botany near the Black Hills of South Dakota.

After almost two years walking through the Appalachian/Caledonian mountains and the communities that call them home, Sail pays for shoes and groceries along the trail with donations from this blog, occasional odd jobs like pouring beer or dishwashing at cafes, and savings from her winter work running samples as a research assistant in the Raymond lab at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.


photo courtesy of Georgie Adams

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