An Inside Look at the American Perimeter Trail (APT)

Do you care about the Earth?

 

Of course, we all do, we live here. But many of us do not consider the larger perspective or may take for granted the resources we have. Maybe you enjoy nature in small bits and pieces, such as walks through the park, or you seek out more serious hikes and exploration. Getting out to stretch your legs in nature is an excellent form of exercise, and hiking is a favorite outdoor pastime for Americans. If you have traveled much in America, you can attest to the different communities’ micro-cultures that can be found and appreciated. The experience can be even more profound on foot, but the main thing about finding common ground seems to be the connection of people.

 

14,000-Mile Hiking Trail Around the US Lays Groundwork for Circular Economic Mindset

This exclusive interview with world-renowned triple-crowned hiker Rue McKenrick allows you to get a glimpse of how a powerful conservation movement is unfolding for America. Rue is the leader of a new movement for long-distance backpackers, day hikers, and all who care about family recreation and nature conservation in the US. McKenrick is currently scouting and promoting the brand-new American Perimeter Trail (APT) which is a 14,000-mile series of interconnected trailways, byways, and previously uncharted paths that literally circle the perimeter of the entire country. Alongside the path projection is the APT Conference, gathering like-minded, Earth-loving “builders” to forge the future of outdoor survival and wilderness therapy.

 

Jenny: What gave you the idea to create such a long trail all the way around the United States?

 

Rue: I was already a triple crowner – meaning I already thru-hiked the AT (Appalachian Trail), PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), and CDT (Continental Divide Trail). I wasn’t looking for the next biggest thing. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to explore more of the United States, places that I haven’t been yet, do it on foot because I’m a backpacker, that’s my talent.’ Then, it had to be for something bigger than myself, because I knew that I would be bored after 1k-2k miles. So, the whole vision came together at once: there’s a trail that goes through the country, there are trails that go north and so, there’s a lot of trails. There wasn’t a trail that goes around the whole country until I created the American Perimeter Trail (APT).

 

Connecting of Communities and People

Rue: So, I thought, this would be metaphorically interesting, to create a loop, something that is infinite and has no beginning and no end. At a time of such divisiveness that we’ve seen in our country, it seemed like such an amazing way to try to connect together communities and people. As I said, there is no beginning or end. It’s just an infinite circle and connection. So, the vision came at the same time as creating the conference (which is the non-profit organization I created) that is actually building this 14K mile trail around the US. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do one without the other.

 

Recreation & Memory-Making for All

Jenny: Tell me more about the spirit and the goal behind this project?

 

Rue: It’s not just for backpackers. This wasn’t to create the world’s next craziest, biggest thru-hike. A thru-hike is when you hike one trail from one end to the other. Rather, there will be millions of people throughout this country that will be using these new areas that are coming into the public sector – these recreational areas.

 

I’m more into the families, the picnics, the bike rides, and the day hikes. And even just getting excited because you are on a highway, and you cross a sign that says The American Perimeter Trail and you’ve got to jump out with the kids and get your picture taken beside the sign.

 

Pioneers, Public Lands, and Privileges

Rue: This is a part of our American heritage; pioneering and exploring, and we have some of the largest public open lands in the world. That’s not something you just get; that’s something that we get to have. That’s something that we’re privileged with. I feel privileged to be in the position I have been during this time. That privilege is not lost on me. That privilege, to me, brings an amount of responsibility.

 

Circularity and Common Ground in America

Jenny: That’s truly incredible. I think what strikes me most is the sort of symbolism of the circle trail and the possibilities of a circular economy. Working in areas of circular and regenerative economics and environmental solutions myself, this interests me. Explain further.

 

Rue: As far as saying the loop is truly infinite, without having a beginning and an end, you’re a fellow traveler so you found out as well as I did that the United States is not the United States. It’s like separate micro-regions and micro-cultures. As far as the circularity, this trail is giving the opportunity for America to have something in common that is positive, that we can all get on board with, that is not a war. It’s not a fight. It’s not about greed. It’s about people coming from different regions and talking.

 

Environmentalist vs. Conservationist

Rue: In terms of the circular economy, I don’t exactly consider myself an environmentalist. I relate more to the conservation side than the environmental piece because the environmental piece is more of a purist perspective, like don’t touch anything. Conservation is more about how we conserve our natural resources and use them; how does this affect the people in the communities in which they live? Also, it’s considering how these things work in accordance with each other and not against each other.

 

Jenny: Great point. We need all our allies to come together at this time and I love your APT story to do that. Share more about what you have achieved with the APT and its conference?

 

Rue: We have builders (our name for members) in over 30 states and several countries. The thing that’s impressive to me about having builders in other countries is that they’re not Americans but believe fully in the project. Similarly in America, we have builders from states that the APT is not going to go through and they know that, yet they are excited about the project anyway. Like you, doing the EarthWALK, I was trying to create something while putting my body through personal sacrifices, sacrifices in my relationships, and my creature comforts.

 

A Work in Progress 

Jenny: You’ve overcome incredible challenges including health, legal, safety, and navigation, and there’s so much more we could cover. Can you give me a taste of some route details?

 

Rue: The APT is originating out of my hometown Bend, Oregon. Right now, the trail is not finalized, and what you see in the images represents the ‘COVID’ route. ‘Death Valley’ for example, is called that for a reason so I’ll need to go back and re-route that. I’ve also created a new parallel to the traditional AT track since it’s getting so crowded these days. The New England sections are also being re-routed. It’s a constant work in progress. Building the conference has been the biggest honor of my life but also the greatest education of my life.

 

Talents to Forward Your Life and Forward the World

Jenny: You mention education. As a society, we collectively understand how important it is to pursue education, but I’m not convinced that the current system is really serving our whole-person development. What’s that special something about education that’s missing in your opinion?

 

Rue: I always felt like it was important in life, that if you have a talent, use it. People use their talents for horrible things. We have a war going on right now, so it’s clear that people can either use their talents for horrible things or amazing, beautiful things. I’ve always felt like there’s an amount of suffering that comes with not using your talents. So why not use them to either forward your life or forward the world.

 

My talent is backpacking, but my work is as a conservationist. Education helped me hone my talent to be great at my work. I’m using backpacking to promote conservation. I’m finding out more and more, that conservation is not a policy. Conservation is a journey and I’m just hoping as many people are going to come along on this one with me.

 

 

Learn more about Rue McKenrick, the APT, how to become a builder, or to donate at: www.americanperimetertrail.org

About Jenny Carrington

Jenny Carrington is a dancer, writer, philosopher, and yogi. After successfully walking across the United States from Delaware to California (over 3,000 miles), she now focuses on social activism.

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