"If these people were on the skyline, and kept their eyes open, they would see the things that the giant could see."
- Benton MacKaye, 1921

Benefits MacKaye proposed the Trail would provide...


James Neill, 2003

MacKaye went on to outline the possibilities of his proposal: 

"Let's put up now to the wise and trained observer the particular question before us. What are the possibilities in the new approach to the problem of living? Would the development of the outdoor community life - as an offset and relief from the various shackles of commercial civilization - be practicable and worth while? From the experience of observations and thoughts along the sky-line here is a possible answer:


There are several possible gains from such an approach.


First there would be the "oxygen" that makes for a sensible optimism. Two weeks spent in the real open - right now, this year and next - would be a little real living for thousands of people which they would be sure of getting before they died. They would get a little fun as they went along regardless of problems being "solved." This would not damage the problems and it would help the folks.


Next there would be perspective. Life for two weeks on the mountain top would show up many things about life during the other fifty weeks down below. The latter could be viewed as a whole - away from its heat, and sweat, and irritations. There would be a chance to catch a breath, to study the dynamic forces of nature and the possibilities of shifting to them the burdens now carried on the backs of men. The reposeful study of these forces should provide a broad gauged enlightened approach to the problems of industry. Industry would come to be seen in its true perspective - as a means in life and not as an end in itself. The actual partaking of the recreative and non-industrial life - systematically by the people and not spasmodically by a few - should emphasize the distinction between it and the industrial life. It should stimulate the quest for enlarging the one and reducing the other. It should put new zest in the labor movement. Life and study of this kind should emphasize the need of going to the roots of industrial questions and of avoiding superficial thinking and rash action. The problems of the farmer, the coal miner, and the lumberjack could be studied intimately and with minimum partiality. Such an approach should bring the poise that goes with understanding.


Finally these would be new clues to constructive solutions. The organization of the cooperative camping life would tend to draw people out of the cities. Coming as visitors they would be loath to return. They would become desirous of settling down in the country - to work in the open as well as play. The various camps would require food. Why not raise food, as well as consume it, on the cooperative plan? Food and farm camps should come about as a natural sequence. Timber also is required. Permanent small scale operations should be encouraged in the various Appalachian National Forests. The government now claims this as a part of its forest policy. The camping life would stimulate forestry as well as a better agriculture. Employment in both would tend to become enlarged.


Finally, MacKaye outlines four component features for his proposal.  In this article, MacKaye is careful not to suggest any particular political or organizational mechanisms by which to get the work underway, but there is sufficient detail in here to suggest that MacKaye certainly did have ideas about how to proceed.  Nevertheless, it is his poetic energy which seeks to engage the reader in his compelling vision about what might be possible that seems most striking.  King (2000) described it as "class early 20th century American utopianism - half-pragmatic and half-philosophical, fully in keeping with the intellectual climate of the urban East after World War IA close reading reveals an ambitious social and political agenda for an America on the post-war American move, not just a trail" (King, 2000, p.3)