From the Trail to the Bridge: How My Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail Ignited My Passion for Bridge Construction

In 1998, fresh out of college with a biology degree in hand, I found myself in that common post-graduation predicament: having a degree but not a clear idea of what I wanted to do with it.

During my time in college in western North Carolina, I stumbled upon the Appalachian Trail, a world-renowned hiking trail that happened to be just a few miles away from the country club where I worked summers and part-time during the school year. Intrigued by this newfound gem, I embarked on a research journey in the pre-Google era, delving into books at the library to uncover the secrets of this mysterious trail. To say that I was amazed by what I discovered would be an understatement. The Appalachian Trail, stretching over 2,000 miles through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States, was not only a testament to the wonders of nature but also a gateway to unexpected treasures in our built environment.

Months later, after working tirelessly at two full-time jobs to save up enough money, I set off from Springer Mountain on my first long-distance thru-hike along the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. The journey was nothing short of transformative, with each step offering new insights and experiences that shaped my perspective on our relationship with nature and the natural elements.  What I didn’t expect was to discover a passion for bridge design and construction. During an early morning in July, I trekked through the beautiful forest of Bear Mountain, NY Following a high ridge on the southern approach, I caught sight of a magnificent steel suspension bridge. A slight translucent fog settled just over the Hudson River.  It was gorgeous.  By far the most beautiful bridge that I had ever seen. It seemed to hold a significant history within its structure. It was the Bear Mountain Bridge, a stunning architectural marvel that stood as a testament to human ingenuity and engineering prowess. Intrigued by this unexpected encounter, I couldn’t resist the urge to learn more about the Bear Mountain Bridge and the stories it held. Researching its history and significance, I discovered that this bridge, spanning the Hudson River in New York, had a rich and storied past. It was not only a vital transportation link but also a symbol of progress and connectivity in the region. As I continued my hike along the Appalachian Trail, the presence of the Bear Mountain Bridge lingered in my thoughts so I dug in and did some research. Here is what I discovered.

Bear Mountain Bridge

  • When it was constructed, the Bear Mountain Bridge held the title of the longest suspension bridge globally and was the first of its kind with a concrete deck.
  • Spanning 2,255 feet, the Bear Mountain Bridge is a parallel wire cable suspension bridge
  • The initial cost of the bridge was $2,900,000.
  • Construction of the bridge commenced right after the contract was signed on March 24, 1922.
  • In just 20 months and four days, the world’s longest suspension bridge was completed, and remarkably, no lives were lost during the process.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, the bridge was officially opened for traffic in a ceremony attended by Mary Harriman, mother of Mr. E. Roland Harriman, President of the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company.
  • The construction of the Bear Mountain Bridge marked the onset of a golden era of constructing long-span bridges along the Hudson River and in the wider New York metropolitan area.
  • The Bear Mountain Bridge is set to commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2024.

As I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, the memories of the breathtaking landscapes and unexpected encounters stayed with me. The trail not only allowed me to reconnect with nature but also led me to discover the hidden gems within our built environment, such as the remarkable Bear Mountain Bridge. It taught me that there is beauty to be found in every step we take, whether it be on a trail through the wilderness or on a bridge that spans a mighty river.

Little did I know that it would also be influential in my founding the civil construction recruitment agency, Heavy Civil Resource Consultants, where I get to help construction executives build amazing teams and advise them on strategies to help them grow their business. I can’t express how gratifying it is to help construction professionals such as; Project Managers, Superintendents, Estimators, Schedulers, Controllers, Safety Professionals, CFOs, COOs, CEOs and everyone in between reach their career goals.

Read more about The Bear Mountain Bridge at 100 here:

Taylor Maurer

Taylor Maurer

Taylor is a seasoned professional with a strong background in heavy civil construction and recruiting. He began their career in 2004 at Kimmel & Associates and rose through the ranks to Vice President. Taylor achieved numerous accolades, including a record-breaking retainer agreement, C-level placements, and consistent high billing performance. In 2017, he founded HCRC Inc., offering a range of consulting services beyond recruitment. Taylor is also an avid adventurer and family person, with a passion for long-distance backpacking, motorcycle riding, and outdoor activities.