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A Path Made of Words: The Journalistic Construction of the Appalachian Trail
Unformatted Document Text:  11 | P a g e several hours of a morning in almost virgin country and still be back in time to lunch down town.” 35 Launched in the summer of 1920, the Friday “Outings” page featured a column of outdoor news items called “The Long Brown Path,” after a line in Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road.” The column listed organized hikes in the New York area. Frequently the page’s centerpiece was a long feature in which Torrey described a walk he had taken. His reports touched on botany, the history of people and places, and the politics of trail development. On a trek in New Jersey, he encountered a giant boulder famed as a rendezvous point for Indian tribes: “This was once a sort of Forty-Second Street and Broadway for the Indians, a meeting place of canoe routes and trails.” Torrey noted that this historic parcel was now part of the private Cooper-Hewitt estate, which had welcomed trail-builders because hiking paths could be used in fighting forest fires. 36 Torrey believed the hiking community had to be both well-behaved and politically adept to gain access to wild lands. He railed against litter and the picking of wildflowers. He recognized, too, that trail-builders must expand their ambitions to serve booming urban populations. In January of 1921, he noted with approval the growing talk of building trails that might stretch a thousand miles or more. 37 Nine months later, Benton MacKaye would propose the Appalachian Trail. MacKaye recognized that the AT would be a project in forging mass imagination through the written word. Journalists would be among his most important contacts. Each message would be tailored to its audience. Daily newspapers could recruit trail workers and boost public awareness of the project. General-interest magazines would advertise the trail’s recreational allure, while “outing” publications could identify specific amenities for hikers and campers. “Technical”

Authors: Kates, James.
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background image
11 | 
P a g e
several hours of a morning in almost virgin country and still be back in time to lunch down 
     Launched in the summer of 1920, the Friday “Outings” page featured a column of outdoor 
news items called “The Long Brown Path,” after a line in Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the 
Open Road.” The column listed organized hikes in the New York area. Frequently the page’s 
centerpiece was a long feature in which Torrey described a walk he had taken. His reports 
touched on botany, the history of people and places, and the politics of trail development. On a 
trek in New Jersey, he encountered a giant boulder famed as a rendezvous point for Indian tribes: 
“This was once a sort of Forty-Second Street and Broadway for the Indians, a meeting place of 
canoe routes and trails.” Torrey noted that this historic parcel was now part of the private 
Cooper-Hewitt estate, which had welcomed trail-builders because hiking paths could be used in 
fighting forest fires.
 Torrey believed the hiking community had to be both well-behaved and 
politically adept to gain access to wild lands. He railed against litter and the picking of 
wildflowers. He recognized, too, that trail-builders must expand their ambitions to serve 
booming urban populations. In January of 1921, he noted with approval the growing talk of 
building trails that might stretch a thousand miles or more.
 Nine months later, Benton MacKaye 
would propose the Appalachian Trail. 
     MacKaye recognized that the AT would be a project in forging mass imagination through the 
written word. Journalists would be among his most important contacts. Each message would be 
tailored to its audience. Daily newspapers could recruit trail workers and boost public awareness 
of the project. General-interest magazines would advertise the trail’s recreational allure, while 
“outing” publications could identify specific amenities for hikers and campers. “Technical” 


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