Value, Meaning and Therapeutic Notions of the Appalachian Trail
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Scholarship concerning therapeutic landscapes consider multiple dimensions of a therapeutic experience including physical, emotional, social and spiritual renewal. The Appalachian Trail was proposed by forester Benton MacKaye to provide an opportunity for recreation, recuperation and a place to seek physical and spiritual renewal. People who hike the entire 2,180-mile trail in one continuous hike (i.e. “thru-hikers) describe the trail through emotional, cultural, social and spiritual characteristics of their personal experience. The purpose of my study is to discover the meanings that characterize the trail’s landscape and how the thru-hiking experience reveals therapeutic notions of the Appalachian Trail’s landscape. A qualitative approach was utilized through surveys and semi-structured interviews. Results indicate experiential themes illuminating hikers’ perceptions of place and the therapeutic value of the Appalachian Trail thru-hiking experience.