Blood Mountain shelter

Submitted by Sammy Smith (

blood_mountain_shelterThe Appalachian Trail is a famous footpath that extends over 2100 miles from Georgia north all the way into Maine, the northeastern-most state in the United States of America.

Although prehistoric peoples walked across the landscape, they probably wouldn’t have followed much of the route of the Appalachian Trail. Why? The earliest Euro-American traders and explorers also would have traveled along different routes, too. Why?

The Appalachian Trail is designed to stay on higher ground, in mountains and along high ridges. Mostly, it traverses lands owned by Federal or State governments, including the US Forest Service. These lands often were not settled and bought up because they were too rugged for agriculture, and the early Euroamerican settlers needed to live near their fields, and thus their food source.

What about the Native Americans, though? Depending on whether they grew much of their food, or instead sought it out across the landscape, their travel routes, whether along footpaths or via canoes, would have been between settlements and other preferred areas. Although they might sometimes have ventured into the mountains and to the mountain-tops, probably they spent the most time at lower elevations. Why would they have found it uncomfortable to live on top of Blood Mountain?

Many famous modern roads in Georgia follow historic footpaths. Indeed, historic footpaths often followed Native American footpaths. What did the Native Americans follow? Did they cut paths through the wilderness? Some scientists think at least some prehistoric footpaths followed animal trails, perhaps including paths made by mammoths.

Back to the shelter in the picture above. It is on Blood Mountain, which is the highest point in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. Hikers take refuge their in inclement weather, and sleep there overnight. This is a beautiful place to camp, with great views, but there is no water close by. I was standing on a rock outcrop above the shelter when I took the picture, that’s why the perspective is so strange.

Where to find it