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“How the Pandemic Splintered the Appalachian Trail”

“The coronavirus scuttled plans and forced officials to ask people to get out of the woods. Of the thousands who hoped to hike the trail this year, only a few hundred remain.”

“When Kelsey Foster started hiking the Appalachian Trail in early March, she had left her whole life behind — her job, her apartment, her family.

The mood was still lighthearted as news about the coronavirus trickled out to hikers in those first few days. “There started being kind of jokes about it, like, ‘You left society at the right time,’” Ms. Foster said. “‘There’s no way to social distance better than being a backpacker.’”

But by the end of the month, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the organization that leads management of the trail, which crosses 14 states along its 2,190-mile route from Georgia to Maine, was urging hikers to stay away. It set off an exodus from the trail and a bitter debate about those who stayed behind.”

Alan Yuhas reports for the New York Times May 21, 2020.