When my Mom, my sister Laurie and I travelled through Pennsylvania last summer on our way to Washington D.C., we were struck by the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains which cover three quarters of the state. I decided to find out more about this magnificent mountain range.
The Appalachians, which come from the Apalachee Indians, are the oldest mountains in the United States. They stretch from Newfoundland in the north to Alabama in the south, with 14 states in between. While they now look more like hills than mountains, 480 million years ago they were the height of the Himalayas.
In the Appalachians grow hickories, maples and oaks which serve as a habitat for flying squirrels, the American cougar, moose, black bear, and timber rattlesnake, among others.
Until 1787, the Appalachian mountains was the western border of the United States. The British declared that the Americans could not expand westward of the Appalachians as that area would be reserved for Indians who were allies of the British. However, the Americans ignored the proclamation. This dispute was a big factor in the American Revolution.
Battle of Fort Sackville (west of Appalachians) courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.
The first ascent of the Appalachian mountains was accomplished by Elisha MItchell in 1835. Many have followed his lead, trekking along the Appalachian Trail which stretches over 2175 miles. A highlight is Mount Davis, the mountain range's highest point. Another highlight is Pine Creek Gorge, the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania".
The Appalachians contain one of the most fertile soils in the United States. They are also a source of coal and gemstones.
Twenty-five million people live in Appalachia which used to have a reputation for moonshining, clan feuding and poverty. The American government stepped in and provided the region with financial aid in 1965. Since then, many coal mines have closed. Today, some Appalachian towns are re-inventing themselves, focussing on the arts or tourism.
While the people may have changed, while the economy might have shifted, the Appalachians' beauty has remained the same.