New 650km trail set to open in South Africa

A major conservation effort is underway in South Africa, where a new trail is set to open in 2010 that will become the first truly epic, long distance, hike on the continent, stretching from the West Coat of the country to the Outeniqua Mountains, covering 650km in the process.

Known as the Rim of Africa, this new trail follows a natural route through the mountains of South Africa, and has been designed to integrate with the natural surroundings, while protecting the local plant and animal life. The hike will pass through several nature preserves that are currently seldom visited, and will wander across privately held property, giving backpackers access to areas that have seldom been seen by outsiders in years.

Based off such long distance hikes as The Appalachian Trail and the The Continental Divide Trail, the Rim of Africa will eventually take roughly 48 days to complete. The plan is to offer four distinct stages, with each stage requiring approximately 10 to 12 days. But when it opens in October of next year, it will take a more modest 11 days to hike the first section. The first three treks will run from October 4th to October 15th, October 11th to the 22nd, and finally October 18 to the 29th of 2010. These will be used as fundraising hikes to help complete construction of the trail, and you can sign up to take part in one of those inaugural treks on the trail’s official website.

It looks like adventure travelers and backpackers will soon have a new item to add to their life list. This looks like it has potential to be an amazing hike, but you have to wonder though, will there be lions and other African predators around? That would make it even more challenging!

[via Best Hike]

Gadling Take Five: Oct. 17–Oct. 23

Each time I read through posts for Gadling Take Five, I look for those that may have been missed by readers. I also look for posts that may fit together in some sort of cosmic theme. It’s often hard to choose five. While browsing the offerings this week, it seems this was a week of great ideas. This week I found a gold mine.

Here are ten great ideas:

  • When Alison was at Litquake in San Francisco she discovered The Bookmobile, a former actual Bookmobile that has been turned into an experiential gathering place for readers, if you will. If you see the Bookmobile somewhere along the Lincoln Highway this year, step inside. You might encounter a famous author driving it. The material being gathered during the Bookmobile’s journey will be turned into a documentary.
  • A good idea worth considering is reducing the number of traffic signs. Although Aaron is a swell driver, he’s given some thought to how he might be better at it if there were fewer signs to distract him. There is research to prove him right. Fewer signs have been shown to decrease accidents.
  • As world travelers, we’re often introduced to problems we wouldn’t have been otherwise. In Tibet, blindness is a problem. In Sean’s post on the Planeterra Foundation, you can read more about the organization’s wonderful idea to tackle blindness and how you might get involved.
  • Kraig, who knows a thing or two about adventure travel, highlights the reasons why hiking the Continental Divide Trail is a good idea. In the case of hiking this trail, Kraig suggests a good idea is to plan for extremes. For example, on one section there’s a lack of water. On another, you’ll be on the look out for grizzles.
  • Here are two airlines with great ideas. KLM is giving away personalized luggage tags. Scott tells you how to get them. Virgin America is considering testing out this good idea. Those without carry-ons can board first. Alison did think about how this good idea might not be so good after all.
  • If you’re on a long flight, Tom has come up with great ideas for how to be more productive. Since one of my favorite things to do on a plane is zone out, Tom’s tips are extra handy.
  • For anyone looking for where to have a destination wedding. Look no further than St. Maarten. Katie has the scoop on why having a wedding on this island is a great idea. It’s free.
  • You probably came across Annie’s post on 10 things not to forget to pack when you go on a trip. Pajamas is one of them, something I consistently forget.
  • Here’s a good idea that might be a bit weird. I found out about GoGirl, a device that helps women pee like men.
  • And here’s a shout out to Heather’s grand idea even though it’s already found great press. It’s such a great idea, I had to include it. Heather has turned Laviator into a household word. I still have yet to become a Laviator. It’s probably because of my tendency to zone out on a plane. One of these days, though–one of these days.

Classic Treks: The Continental Divide Trail

When it comes to long distance treks, the U.S. is blessed with not one great hike, but three. Most people already know about the Appalachian Trail in the eastern part of the country and the Pacific Crest Trail in the west, but the third jewel of the trekking Triple Crown is the Continental Divide Trail, which just might be the most scenic and challenging of all.

The CDT stretches for more than 3100 miles from the border of Canada at the northern end to the Mexican border in the south. In between, it runs through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, as it winds its way through some of the most rugged and remote mountain regions in the United States, including the San Juans, the Sawatch Range, and the Tetons, amongst others.

The trail derives its name because it runs directly along the Continental Divide, which marks the barrier between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean drainage basins. To one side, all the rivers run west to the Pacific, while on the other, they turn east toward the Atlantic. The Rocky Mountains, running from northern Canada, down through the U.S. create this effect, and serve as a dramatic backdrop to this long distance hike.Unlike the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest, the CDT is not quite complete yet. Right now it is constructed of a number of smaller trails and roads that are interconnected, and while hiking those paths, the difficult can range from a moderate to strenuous hike, with altitude playing a role in the challenge. There are some areas however where the trails do not meet, forcing trekkers to bushwhack their way through rugged backcountry. The CDT also happens to be longer than those other two trails, stretching nearly a thousand miles further in length than the Appalachian, and more than 450 miles longer than the Pacific Crest. Add more elevation gain to the mix, and you’ll begin understand why this trail is held in such high regard.

Due to the very rugged, and remote nature of the CDT, there are fewer thru-hikers then there are on the other long distance trails in the U.S. It takes roughly six months to cover the entire distance, and various segments provide different, and very unique challenges. For example, in the south, along the leg that runs through New Mexico, there is little water to be found, forcing hikers to bring plenty of their own, although local hiking groups do supply water caches at strategic points along the way. In contrast, at the northern end, in Montana and Idaho, trekkers may find plenty to drink, but will instead be dodging grizzly bears and gray wolves.

While the Continental Divide Trail may be the forgotten leg of hiking’s Triple Crown, it is spectacular none the less. The trail is less crowded than its companions, offers more challenges, and is more rugged and remote too. For those that have already completed the AT and the PCT, the lure of the CDT is too much to pass up, and they find that it is worth the hike, and quite possibly surpasses those other two trails in nearly every way.

Yo-Yo travel to day hike ventures on the Continental Divide

For National Trails Day this past weekend, I hoofed it around Manhattan making my own trail between 2nd Avenue and the Hudson River and back, criss-crossing streets that had trees that depended upon which park I happened to pass. People watching was more my past-time than communing with nature.

For a few days late nod to National Trails Day, I’ve become engrossed in the hiking trails to be found along the Continental Divide. It all started when I found a video of Francis Tapon’s 6,000 mile trip along the Continental Divide. Tapon, a walking type traveler that must sport some great boots, took this journey two years ago.

This travel feat, the first yo-yo trip of the Divide where a person begins and ends in the same place, was one where Tapon passed through scenery quite opposite to my journey around Manhattan. Tapon’s scenery fit song lyrics to elementary music class favorites like “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” –as cornball as that sounds.

The snapshots also pay tribute to the notion that spring weather in the United States is not the same. Although some people are throwing backyard barbecues and tossing back beers to cool off by Memorial Day, other places are still covered with snow. As Tapon passed along the trail, the snow lessened.

A person doesn’t have to be a hiking animal like Tapon to partake in the enjoyment. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail offers several options. There are day hikes and longer that have been mapped out by folks who have made trail development and maintenance their passion. Here’s are links on the Continental Divide Trail Alliance website to hikes in Montana and Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. One detail I appreciate about this website is how the trails have been organized according to which ones are family-friendly to difficult. Family-friendly designates those that are easier to traverse. The trail descriptions also provide information about how to get to particular trail heads and variations on hiking in each location.

From browsing the list, here is one hike from each area that I can personally vouch for based on experience. I’ve seen these spots myself. There’s a big difference in the scenery among these choices which adds to the notion that if you’ve seen one, you definitely have not seen them all:

  • Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness–Montana. I pass through here each summer on the way to Philipsburg. Anaconda, the town with the same name is touted as “Where Main Street Meets the Mountains.” A brother of a friend of mine camped at Lost Creek State Park campground near here and said it was the most gorgeous place he’s ever been.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park–Colorado. When I hiked here, the wildflowers were gorgeous. I was by myself and did not see another person for the few hours I set out to enjoy the scenery.
  • San Pedro Parks Wilderness, Santa Fe National Forest–New Mexico. If you head to this trail in the winter, cross-country skiing is in order. Cross-country skiing in New Mexico is sublime.
  • Shosone Lake Loop, Yellowstone National Park. When I was in Yellowstone, I hiked in back of the Roosevelt Lodge. The Shosone Lake Loop is closest to Old Faithful. You can’t go wrong in Yellowstone wherever you roam. Old Faithful is worth hanging around for as long as you’re in the area.