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BMT Grand Opening

"...leaving a footpath for generations to follow."

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A Trail Is Born

The Benton MacKaye Trail is officially open! Well over 100 people came out to Mud Gap on July 16, 2005 to celebrate the Grand Opening of the newest long-distance trail in the country.

After the vine (ribbon) cutting, attendees hiked in two groups, one north to Beech Gap and the other south to Whigg Meadow. Southbound hikers had one of those rare experiences where everyone gets caught up in the moment. (Read George Owen's account of it below.) Our friends from the Korean Alpine Club of Georgia sang the Korean National Anthem, a passage of which extols the beautiful mountains, and really set a jubilant tone for the rest of the afternoon.

After the hikes, many went on to Rattler Ford Group Campground to continue the festivities which included another hike, this one to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, followed by a chili supper, poetry reading, lively harmonica tunes played around the campfire by Joe Cirvello of the Carolina Mountain Club, and lots of warm fellowship.

Speakers for the ceremony included, in podium order, BMTA officers Dick Evans (M.C., standing; then in order from right); Darcy Douglas; Ken Jones; BMTA President, Steve Cartwright is farthest away, seated; (continuing:) Morgan Sommerville, Regional Representative from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (formerly the Appalachian Trail Conference); George Minnigh, Backcountry Specialist with the National Park Service in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and Tom Speaks, Forest Supervisor of the Cherokee National Forest. Also present were . Thanks to Dick Evans who planned and coordinated this once-in-a-lifetime event; to his wife, Margaret, for her assistance and hard work; and to all who came out to celebrate this joyous and historic event.

At right, preparing to cut the 'ribbon' are Construction Director Ken Jones and charter member George Owen. Helping in the cutting from left are Tom Fearington of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Tom Speaks, George Owen, Ken Jones, George Minnigh, _ representing the Nantahala National Forest, and Dick Evans.

In the upper-right picture, members of the Korean Alpine Club of Georgia serenade the 30 or so Whigg Meadow hikers. Following is a description of the event by George Owen in the form of a response to the question, "Do you have any stories from the Grand Opening Celebration? (We heard about the singing of the national anthem on the Whigg!)":

"It was the singing of both the Korean and U.S. national anthemS (in the plural) with a crowd of people standing in the cloud on Whigg Meadow. I requested the Koreans sing theirs, for someone back at the ceremony had mentioned they might be willing to sing it. They agreed IF we would all first sing the Star Spangled Banner, so we did. They then sang [the Korean national anthem] - a lovely song sung in the Korean language but which they told us contained a line or two about beautiful mountains, which is why they were reminded of it. Then someone suggested 'America the Beautiful,' and we sang its first verse with the appropriate phrase of "for purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plains." Then it was proposed we sing Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land,' which we did. By that time I confess I was getting a little misty-eyed by it all. It was just a wonderful spontaneous moment that made a magnificent hike even greater. Unforgettable!"

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Photos on this page courtesy of Jeffrey Hunter