I am just beginning to investigate some interactive maps of the Appalachian Trail online, but let me share with you my first two wonderful finds. The first is a map of the entire trail. It has been developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and can be found at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/find-a-hike/interactive-map. This cool map allows you to zoom in on any part of the trail along the 14 states. There is a tool bar at the bottom of the map that will display the locations of the trail shelters (some pictures of the shelters included), parking areas, primary vistas (small thumbnails of some of the incredible views along the way) with links to websites that highlight that vista, and trail towns. It’s a great map that I plan to engage often before I leave.
Hungry for more of the same interactivity, I decided to hunt by state. My virtual research began in Georgia and I found a wonderful map at https://maps.google.com/maps?q=http://stewartholt.csoft.net/AT-Georgia-gm.kmz. The map provides lots of icons that highlight shelters, privies, roads, sights, campsites, water sources, etc including photos of many of the markers. The photos of some of the shelters and privies give a good look at the luxury of the trail.
My first night might be at Gooch Mountain Shelter (15.8 miles north of Springer Mountain) It has a shelter, a luxury privy, a good source of water (about 100 yards behind the shelter) and a spot to pitch a tent if the shelter is filled with smelly thru-hikers or hungry bears or aggressive skunks. I thought I would share a picture of the shelter and the privy just to give an idea of why I can’t wait to experience the trail and why I plan to sleep most nights in my tent. According to my guidebook the shelter is suppose to sleep 14 people (maybe that’s standing up).
Privy Photo: http://www.meetup.com/cavehikeclimb/events/48953402/
Shelter Photo: http://www.sophiaknows.com/summerhike/photopage.html