Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The next adventure . . .

For a year, Bart and I have been talking about the next adventure. We didn't always know what that next adventure would be, but somewhere along the way we got the idea of hiking the western leg of the GET.  See how the GET splits in Maryland and Pennsylvania? Lured by the Standing Stone Trail President, we took the eastern route last year.  What better than to now hike the western route and then the Allegheny Trail south for a beautiful 500-mile summer?

(I think it's pretty cool that not only did we not push each other off a cliff, we're willing to hike together again . . . or maybe Bart just wants a second chance at the cliff thing?)

I have all the maps.  Bart and I have the chunk of time carved out in our schedules.  I have a modest but comfortable amount saved up for the inevitable pizza stops.  I even have a train ticket.  Yet the hike has been in jeopardy because of me . . . and I probably want to hike this even more than Bart does.

Getting food poisoning last year made me feel like this.
This seems quaint after all the stuff I've had this year.
I've gotta say that 2014 has been the most challenging year of my life due to being constantly sick.  I've been out sick from work for the past two weeks with ten different medications trying to find a balance in my system, and I just feel like a ghost of a human being.

So, the long process of healing has begun.  After 16 days of being confined to bed, I joined the world of the living.  I have just a couple of weeks to regain my strength.  Today, my humble goal was to actually go to work.  I did it, took a five hour nap, and then went for a walk.

It's a start.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cumberland Trail Conference Petition

Please sign this petition to help shed light on the recent dissolution of the Cumberland Trail Conference.

Signing will only take a minute and doing so will help ensure a vibrant future for the Cumberland Trail, which hosts the Great Eastern Trail in Tennessee.  This trail deserves answers.  Please sign!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Roadwalking on the Great Eastern Trail

"But aren't there . . . roadwalks?"
I get that a lot when talking about the Great Eastern Trail.  It's a fair question because yes, there are roadwalks.  There are roadwalks in the south, and there are roadwalks in the middle, and there are even roadwalks in the north, although they are rarer up there.

Hikers have a hard time with the R-Word.  I understand, because I used to have a bad attitude towards roadwalking, too.

Having hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, the thought of hiking a trail with roadwalking was very intimidating.  Except, oh wait, the AT has roadwalking too.  And not all of it is pleasant, in-town roadwalking.  Hiking out of New Hampshire into Vermont was not particularly scenic or enjoyable.
But what do the AT (and, for that matter, GET) roadwalks do for the trail?

  • They allow for the best possible sections to happen.  
  • They make resupply easy.
  • The give hikers a break from constantly looking down at the ground
  • They let hikers move at least 1MPH faster than they usually do.  
  • They help the hiker out with useful bridges.
  • They allow for hot meals and cultural tourism.  
The AT is always going to have some roadwalks and hikers like it that way.  No one really bothers to talk about AT roadwalks because they are no big deal.

But people do talk about GET roadwalks because we've got a 1,600 mile trail and about 25% of that is roadwalk.  Is this significant?  Well, let's put it into perspective.  First of all, this % is going down every year.  Since Bart and I hiked last year, I know of at least twenty miles that have been routed onto trail and off road, and there have probably been more. That's fast progress, but even so: this is a young trail.

Earl: Badass and inventor of the thru-hike

Back when Earl Shaffer hiked the young Appalachian Trail in 1948, the AT was nearly half on roads.  Half!
The Appalachian Trail Conference was founded in 1925, so the movement was around 23 years old when Earl hiked.

Compare to the Great Eastern Trail Association, which incorporated in 2007 and is about 7 years old.  The GET movement is much older than that but still, the active plans to link the GET host trails together are relatively new.  Yet it is about 75% finished already.  Pretty impressive, huh?

So yes, there are roadwalks on the GET and there will be for a long time.  Some will be there forever. The AT is still rerouting onto an optimal route; every trail is a work in progress. The Ice Age Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail are still 50% on roads; the Continental Divide Trail is 76% completed yet these all boast thru-hikers and positive hiking experiences despite roadwalks.  That's because roadwalks aren't inherently bad.

 Here are three examples of GET roadwalking.

Guess how many cars we saw on those roads?  The answers: 1, 0, and maybe 2.   Bonus: we got to see the POWERLINES sign.  It makes sense in real life, but I won't spoil the reason why.

Here are some things we saw along roadwalks:

Too bad there's no beauty along roadwalks.

This is without a doubt my favorite tree along the GET.
Nope, no roadwalk views to be found! :)

Roadwalks on the GET supplied all the perks of roadwalks on the AT, only moreso because as the roadwalks are larger, so too are the benefits.

  •  Resupply was, on average, easier than the AT despite the GET's lack of hitch-hiker culture. 
  •  Our packs were often very light, as some sections only required a day or two of food before resupply.  
  • Faster miles were another perk that we could bank on - not only thanks to a lighter pack but also because roads offer fewer obstacles to trip on.  
  • But most importantly, the biggest redeeming quality of roadwalks was the people.

We met people on roadwalk sections that we otherwise wouldn't have run into.  Like Ramar and Angie, whose kindness towards us inspires us even today.  So many people made time to talk to us, to help us. . . it was overwhelming.

Don't let the GET's roadwalks scare you away.  Many of the roadwalks are incredibly beautiful, unique, and refreshing -- just like the people you'll encounter.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cumberland Trail Conference

We are sad to announce the abrupt and uncalled-for dissolution of the Cumberland Trail Conference.

The CTC was founded in 1997 by the Tennessee Trails Association (TTA).  The CTC has built and maintained the incredible Cumberland Trail and was on track to complete it in upcoming years. They have connected people, both local volunteers and BreakAway volunteers from across the country to the trail. CTC ensured that the trail was on-track not only for mere completion, but for becoming the definition of a high-quality, challenging, well-loved trail.

On our hike, CTC volunteers helped us in so many ways.  They:

  • organized several interviews across the state for us
  • hosted events to welcome us and spread the word about the Great Eastern Trail
  • hiked and offered to hike new sections of trail with us
  • spent lots of time going over trail conditions with us
  • organized shuttles into towns for us
  • allowed us to use CTC computers and printers to access some maps and guides that we'd neglected to find prior to our trip (oops)
  • hosted us for the night in several towns
  • welcomed us into their homes and fed us delicious food
  • oh, and they were responsible for the trail being there in the first place!
Organizations are only as strong as the hearts and souls behind them, and the Cumberland Trail Conference was filled with passionate, intelligent, dedicated individuals who enriched not only our hike, but our lives

Unfortunately, the Cumberland Trail Conference was recently dissolved by Tennessee Trails Association. The TTA leadership responsible for this did not give advance notice to board members or the membership base prior to the meeting.  This hostile takeover of the organization and its assets is a shameful slap in the face to those who have given so much for the dream of completing the Cumberland Trail.

This is a heartbreaking and embarrassing chapter in the story of the Cumberland Trail and our thoughts are with the CTC, its volunteers, and with the trail itself.  Thank you for everything.