New Zealand to open new trekking route

New Zealand is preparing to open a new trekking routeNew Zealand, a country that is already established as one of the best adventure travel destinations on the planet, is preparing to open a new trekking route that will run the entire length of the country. Dubbed Te Araroa, the trail is the result of a massive volunteer effort that has come together over the past two decades.

Te Araroa, which means The Long Pathway in the language of the Māori, will officially open with a ceremony to be held in Wellington on December 3rd. The city is the approximate middle point for the new trail, which runs for more than 3000km (1865 miles) starting at Cape Reinga in the north and ending in Bluff in New Zealand’s extreme south. The trail essentially runs the entire length of both the North and South Islands, and is made up of about 300 sections that vary in length from a few hours to a few days. The route passes over snow capped peaks, through thick forests, and past lush farmland, showcasing some of the stunning scenery that New Zealand is so well known for. It also wanders through seven different cities, which will likely become popular places to start and stop, as well as resupply along the way.

This new trekking option is the result of many years of hard work and perseverance. Over the past 17 years, Te Araroa has been built by a very dedicated group of volunteers who have linked-up existing trails, and built completely new ones, in an effort to build this one major path. Now that it is finished, and preparing to officially open, long distance hikers are no doubt already preparing to walk its length. It is estimated that it will take roughly 4 months to hike it from end-to-end.

For more information on the Te Araroa visit the trail’s official website.

[Image courtesy of teararoa.org.nz]

Ireland added to the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail now extends all the way to IrelandYou’ve heard us sing the praises of the Appalachian Trail on more than one occasion here on Gadling. It’s the 2181-mile long trekking route that runs from Georgia to Maine that is considered amongst the best in the world. Turns out, the trail just got a whole lot longer, stretching all the way across the ocean to Ireland.

Officially, the AT is an American trail, and more than 2.5 million hikers use at least some segment of it on an annual basis. But there is also an International Appalachian Trail that extends all the way to the most northerly point of Newfoundland, Canada, adding an additional 1900+ miles to the route. That IAT is now jumping across the pond to Ireland, where it will run from Donegal to Antrim. According to Paul Wylezol, Chairman of the International Appalachian Trail, Ireland was added to the IAT because of “its direct physical connection to Newfoundland across geologic time, and its cultural and ethnic connection to eastern Canada and the US in modern times.”

In other words, Ireland once was connected to North America as part of the super-continent known as Pangaea, and because of that, it is getting added to the Appalachian Trail. Organizers hope to also add sections in Scotland, Norway and Greenland, as mountains in those locations are geologically related to the Appalachian Mountains. In fact, there are some indications that they may have once been a single range, before continental drift pushed the Earth’s land masses out to their current locations.

Hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail has long been considered one of the most impressive accomplishments in long distance trekking. For those hoping to achieve that feat in the future, it has suddenly gotten a lot longer and more challenging. I don’t think a pair of water proof boots are going to cut it.

[Photo credit: Paulbalegend via WikiMedia]

Blind hiker intends to conquer the Appalachian Trail

A 44-year old Minnesota man named Mike Hanson will set out tomorrow to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which is of course always a major undertaking for any hiker. But in Hanson’s case, it is an even more formidable challenge considering he has been blind since birth, and will navigate all 2174 miles of the AT through the use of a GPS device.

The Appalachian Trail is considered one of the true classic long distance treks by backpackers the world over. Running from Maine to Georgia, while crossing through New Hampshire, Vermont, and a dozen other states, the Trail offers everything from steep mountain passes to beautiful open meadows and gorgeous alpine valleys, complete with rushing rivers. By all accounts, it is an amazingly scenic hike from end-to-end. Of course, none of that will matter to Mike, who won’t see any of those backcountry vistas while he makes the hike.

Hanson will use a special GPS device that connects to his cellphone, and he hits the trail with it already programmed with all of his waypoints, including sources of water, campsites, shelters, and more. With all of that data in place, he’ll be able to hike confidently knowing where he is in relation to those places at any time. To make things even easier, the device will actually talk to him in a computer generated voice, keeping him updated on his progress. A high capacity 32-hour battery will help keep the GPS powered at all times.Mike says he intends to average about 15 miles per day, which means it should take him approximately seven months to reach Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak, the trail head for the AT in Maine. He will also stop in a town once a week in order to restock his food supply and pick up any gear items that he might possibly need.

The blind hiker won’t be alone on this trek however, as he’ll be accompanied by filmmaker Gary Steffens, who will document the entire hike. Steffens says that he won’t do any of the navigating along the way, and that he’ll simply follow Hanson up the trail, capturing every moment of the hike.

Mike says that he is making this journey to prove that the visually impaired are still able to lead full, independent lives and are far more capable than many people believe. If successful, he will become the first blind man to make the trek by navigating it himself. You can find out more about Mike on his website and follow his progress on his Facebook page.


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Beating the recession on the Appalachian Trail

Yesterday we introduced you to one of the world’s classic treks in the from of The Appalachian Trail. Turns out you might not have needed in introduction at all, as according to NPR, many Americans are heading to the AT to beat the recession.

According to the story, a number of hikers who have lost their jobs, have decided to take advantage of their time off, and spend some extended time on the AT. The more adventurous are even electing to thru-hike the entire 2175 mile length, which generally takes anywhere from five to seven months to complete.

Some of the hikers that NPR spoke to saw the loss of their jobs as an opportunity to do something that they might not have the chance to do later on in life. Most are young, still in their 20’s, and don’t quite have the responsibilities that will come as they get older, such as families, a mortgage, or well established careers. They’re focusing on the long distance hike with the hope that when they are finished, and they return to civilization, the economy will be showing signs of recovery.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy website estimates that it will cost somewhere between $3000-$5000 to hike the entire length of the trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, crossing a total of 14 states in the process. Most of that is spent when hikers leave the trail behind and return to town, where they tend to splurge on hotels and restaurants. While that is a large chunk of change to spend on a single trip in the middle of an economic downturn, overall that’s a fairly inexpensive trip considering the length.

So, if you’ve found that you have a little extra time on your hands, and some severance pay burning a hole in your pocket, maybe you should consider taking on the AT or some other extended adventure. After all, the economy is going to turn around at some point, and when it does, we’re going to be expected to go back to work!

Classic Treks: The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail has been mentioned in the news quite a bit in the past week or so, thanks to a certain governor who managed to hike it all the way to Argentina. While “Hiking the AT” may yet become a sexual euphemism due to this recent scandal, for years the trail has been one of the best long distance treks in North America, if not the entire world.

The Appalachian Trail was first conceived back in 1921, with construction being completed in 1937. In 1968 it was designated as the United States’ first national scenic trail, cementing its status as the top trail in the country. Stretching more than 2,175 miles in length, the trail crosses 14 states, running from Maine to Georgia, and while it does pass through six national parks, it doesn’t wander anywhere close to Argentina.

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, more than 10,000 people have taken the estimated 5 million footsteps it takes to hike the entire length of the trail. Many of them have done it over the course of a number of years, breaking it into sections, and tackling various lengths as their time allows. A few have thru-hiked the entire trail however, going non-stop across its vast length, stopping in towns along the way to resupply before heading out to the backcountry once again. Typically it takes about six months to finish the entire length of the AT, with some starting in the spring in Georgia and heading north, and others getting underway in the summer in Maine, and moving south.

The Appalchian Trail falls within a days ride of 2/3rds of the American population, and 4 million of us head out on the “foot path” every year. The AT offers everything from great day hikes to months long adventures, serving up spectacular views and stunning vistas across its length. Hikers will also encounter plenty of wildlife as well, with moose, dear, elk, and even black bear making regular appearances through out its length.

With its rich diversity, ease of access, and amazing length, the Appalachian Trail has something to offer just about everyone. Whether you are a bird watcher looking to kill a few hours in the woods or a hardcore backpacker with the desire to add your name to the list of those who have conqured all 2000+ miles, this classic trek has something for you. Even armchair adventurers can can get in on the fun by picking up Bill Bryson’s classic book A Walk in the Woods. America’s first scenic trail, remains its greatest, even if it has gained a bit of noteriety.