New Long Distance Hiking Trail To Open In Africa

Murchison Falls on a new hiking trai in Africa
Julian Monroe Fisher

If you’ve already crossed the Appalachian Trail off your bucket list, hiked the length of New Zealand along the Te Araroa and walked through the Alps on the Haute Route, then I may have found your next big adventure: a new long-distance hiking trail set to open in Africa early next year that will give adventurous travelers an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a famous 19th-century explorer.

The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail will stretch for approximately 360 miles from Gondokoro – near Juba, the capital of South Sudan – to Baker’s View, which is located near the shores of Lake Albert in western Uganda. The route follows roughly the same path that Samuel Baker used on his expeditions to explore central Africa, which took place throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Baker’s wife accompanied him on those adventures, which is why the trail has been named to honor her as well. In 1864, Baker made the greatest discovery of his career when he became the first European to set eyes on the massive body of water that he would name in honor of Prince Albert, the late consort of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Baker’s View marks the location where the explorer first caught a glimpse of Lake Albert itself and those hiking the trail will get to relive that moment a century and a half later.

The new trail is the pet project of explorer and anthropologist Julian Monroe Fisher, who recently walked most of the route as part of his Great African Expedition. Fisher is working closely with the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities; the Uganda Wildlife Authority; and the Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation & Tourism for South Sudan to make this project a reality. The trail has the full support of the descendants of Samuel Baker as well and Fisher credits both RailRiders Adventure Clothing and Costa Del Mar Sunglasses for helping to push this project along.In June, Fisher will return to Uganda where he will begin placing historical markers along the trail to mark important locations from the Baker expeditions. Backpackers will then be able to follow the route and actually stop at those places, possibly even making camp in the same spot that the explorer and his wife did. All of this work is preparation for the official launch of the trail in January 2014, which will come just in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the explorer’s discovery of the lake.

While many of the great long-distance hiking trails across the globe are designated for trekking only, one of the more interesting things about this trail is that it will allow for mixed use. That means mountain bikers can ride the route and even 4×4 vehicles will be granted access. The route is reportedly very scenic, remote and largely untouched by modern conveniences, which should be a major part of its allure.

In addition to being a great attraction for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers, the trail is expected to be an economic boon for the communities that surround it. South Sudan in particular is struggling with having enough funds to help its development process as the country emerges from years of conflict as the newest nation on Earth. The influx of tourist dollars that could come along with the trail will be especially beneficial for that country.

I’m sure news of this trail will be most welcome amongst trekkers and mountain bikers alike. It sounds like it will be a beautiful and challenging hike that should prove popular with those who are truly looking to get away from it all.

National Geographic and AllTrails.com partner on map website

National Geographic and AllTrails.com join forces for online maps!National Geographic Maps and AllTrails.com have announced that they are joining forces to create a new online resource for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The new venture will provide a wealth of information on hiking trails from across the United States, while mixing in elements of social networking and member generated content.

AllTrails.com already sports an impressive database of more than 40,000 trails and a membership that tops more than 200,000 users. Those members rate the trails on a scale of one to five stars, while also sharing their personal experiences and tips from their favorite routes as well. The site includes detailed information on the hikes, such as overall length of the trail, change in elevation, allowed activities (hiking, mountain biking, etc.) and a measure of how potentially crowded it could be. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for anyone looking for new hikes in their area or for suggestions for other places to trek throughout the country.

Visitors to AllTrails.com are encouraged to create a member profile, or simply sign-in using their Facebook account, and contribute to the growing community of hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts there. The site automatically recommends trails close to home, and allows users to save routes to your “favorites” lists, while also making it incredibly easy to share those same hikes with others. The site also includes a reputation system that allows members to follow other users whose interests match theirs, while also building a following of their own.

In the weeks ahead, AllTrails will expand their site and introduce a new premium service that will offer exclusive online access to National Geographic‘s iconic line of maps, including their Trails Illustrated and Topo! Series. These maps are incredibly detailed and are a fantastic resource for hikers and backpackers everywhere. Perhaps best of all however, is the fact that this deal extends to the AllTrails mobile app, granting access to those Nat Geo maps while on the go as well.

There is no word yet on how much the new premium service will cost, or when it will officially launch, but it is likely to be a popular one with outdoor enthusiasts. Nat Geo’s topographic data is second to none, and having access to it in a digital format will certainly be a major feather in the cap for the AllTrails website.

Rail Trails reconnecting America old school style

Rail Trails reconncting AmericaAt one time, railroad lines ran on a network of tracks 270,000 miles long. Through countryside and residential areas they ran to connect America. But then highways came along and many railroad lines were abandoned, disconnecting neighborhoods and people. Now, those abandoned lines are being used to reconnect in an engaging way not all that different than how today’s electronic social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are connecting people, families and business.

Rail-trails are former railroad lines used to create a multi-use path, typically for walking, hiking or cycling. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making that happen.

“Railroads had such a pivotal role in the development of the country, especially in the opening of the West. Many communities’ identity sprang up around the railroads, so [preserving rail trails] preserves an important piece of American history” said Laura Cohen, the Western regional director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reports the LA Times. “We look at rail trails as a way to reconnect neighborhoods and reconnect people.”

There are 19,000 miles of rail trails reconnecting America, up from a mere 100 miles when Rails-to-Trails was founded in 1986 but 9,000 miles of potential rail-trails are waiting to be built.
“We have supported the tremendous growth and development of rail-trails since opening our doors February 1, 1986. Then, there were fewer than 200 known rail-trails. Today, there are more than 1,600 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system that spans communities, regions, states and, indeed, the entire country.” says Rails-to-Trails on their web site.

Is there a rail trail in your area? TrailLink.com can tell you. A free service of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, TrailLink.com offers more than 30,000 miles of bike trails, walking trails, equestrian trails, and hiking and running trails including interactive trail maps, trail descriptions, photos, reviews and more.

A non-profit organization, based in Washington D.C., Rails-To-Trails invites us to get involved in a number of ways.

  • A donation will help build, protect and enhance the rail-trail movement.
  • Register to be a member and get periodic e-mail updates and alerts on important legislative issues and RTC-related news. This is an ideal opportunity to become directly involved in RTC’s mission of providing communities with the multi-faceted benefits rail-trails provide.
  • They also put out a monthly newsletter we can sign up for and offer cycling gear, athletic apparel, gifts and more on their website.

Rails-to-Trails knows the value of today’s networking too and invites us to follow them on Twitter (@railstotrails) and Facebook.

Flickr photo by Napalm filled tires

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Saturday is National Trails Day

National Trails Day is Saturday, June 4th!This Saturday, June 4th, outdoor enthusiasts from across the U.S. will be hiking, running, biking, and paddling their favorite trails in celebration of the 19th annual National Trails Day, an event which is sponsored each year by the American Hiking Society. The day serves to not only remind us of the importance of our wild, green spaces, but also to encourage healthy living and an active outdoor lifestyle.

The U.S. has more than 200,00 miles of trails nationwide, many of which wander through some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. With more than 40 million Americans hiking or backpacking on an annual basis, it has become clear that these trails are an important resource that need to be nurtured and preserved. That is why the AHS not only encourages us to go out and play on the trails this weekend, but to also volunteer some time to a local trail maintenance projects as well. Those efforts will help ensure that our favorite trails will be around for a long time to come, and that future generations can enjoy them too.

The 2011 edition of National Trails Day already has more than 2000 registered events taking place across the country. To find an event close to you, simply click here and use the interactive map at the bottom of the page to discover what is happening in your area. It is an opportunity to give back to your local outdoor community or at the very least to perhaps find a great new trail you didn’t even know existed.

Travelocity video contest awards winners $5,000 voluntourism vacation grants

Travelocity knows you work hard. That’s why the online travel company would like to give you a $5,000 grant to go on vacation.

Calm down now. You have to work to win your just reward. And by work, I mean you or a team need to submit a winning video. Then you have to use your five thousand smackers to take a Signature Trip volunteer vacation offered by Travelocity’s voluntourism partners. Examples include doing trail work in Alaska with the American Hiking Society, developing community projects in Tanzania with Cross-Cultural Solutions, working side-by-side with scientists on an Amazonian riverboat with Earthwatch Institute, or living in a children’s home in Peru with Globe Aware. Oh, and there’s one more catch. The top 25 finalists will be determined based on the number of online votes they receive from social networking sites.

Since 2006, Travelocity’s Travel for Good® program has been annually awarding eight, $5,000 volunteer vacation grants to American applicants. Travel for Good’s main objectives are green hotels and voluntourism. As Gadling has previously reported, voluntourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry.

If hands-on, experiential travel is up your alley, go to VolunteerJournals.com. The site will walk you through the easy process to upload your video. You can then promote your video on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and send it to friends and family for voting.
Each video should explain why you deserve to win, and which Signature Trip from Travelocity’s voluntourism partners inspires you. Volunteers and grant winners also have use of the site’s free blogging platform to share their experiences.

The top 25 finalists will be determined by 50 percent audience support and 50 percent quality of their videos. There are two contest cycles per year, and Travelocity employees will select four winners from the top 25 finalists from each cycle. There are two deadlines for entries: March 31 (voting is April 1-May 31), and July 1-September 31 (voting October 1-November 30). Get filming!