The new full length (50 minutes) documentary entitled America’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail , on National Geographic network TV, premiered last night at 8 PM. I had to invite myself over to my friend Mike’s house to be able to see it, as I don’t subscribe to the station on this newfangled TV setup.
I have enjoyed many of the AT documentaries and this one really had my hopes up. I have viewed other videos, and have sometimes been moved to tears watching them.
At least National Geographic had most of the requisite number of facts straight ( ” The AT is less than a 1 day drive from one-half the population of the USA”.). I’m grading it a “C” , which was a real disappointment considering the resources that this organization has to draw on. When I heard the pilgrimage talk, against a sunset shot, with the deep strings in the background , I thought , too bad, you don’t need to do this, let the hikers themselves talk and walk.
The first section profile is through the eyes of Chad, a section hiker who does a 28 mile piece from the start at Springer Mountain to Blood Mountain. It was humbling to be reminded of the challenges of the formidable Georgia mountains. The fact that that 500 people a year thru hike isn’t correct. The numbers have varied between 300 and 400 a year for the past decade. In the 1970’s some years saw less than 10 people a year walking the whole AT.
The best part of this video is what is impossible to appreciate as a hiker, the documentary’s aerial shots, which were truly amazing.
There was a wavering focus to this story. The acid rain segment about the Smokies was informative, but there were three other “environmental messages” that seemed forced in. Why did the video take up several valuable minutes showing a remote camera being set up to verify that there are many different animals present out in the woods? Yep, there are bears, deer, and racoons out there. Could that time been used to interview the fabled Bob Peoples, whose Kincora hiker hostel and whose decades long devotion to trail building demands coverage ?
It was also strange that you were whooshed from Harper’s Ferry four hundred miles up to Bear Mountain Bridge in New York. There was no mention at all of those middle Atlantic states. I guess the message is those places don’t merit a word or a video footage? At the Maine section there was this bizarre rapid motion segment of being whooshed down some greenery amidst quiet reflections of fall. It was jarring, and sure didn’t fit.
This film didn’t touch my heart. I won’t be adding this one to my AT documentary collection. If you really want to get a taste of what hiking the AT is all about I’d suggest you check out Michal Daniel’s ( AKA Lion King) Walking With Freedom : A Hike Along the Appalachian Trail instead. But, check this one out for yourself. The next EST National Geographic Channel airing is scheduled for Nov. 17 at 4 PM. I’d appreciate comments from other viewers.
For extensive commentary on this topic, get over to the Whiteblaze forum concerning this show.