Take A Hike! (For National Trails Day)

The American Hiking Society has declared today National Trails Day across the U.S. in an effort to encourage all of us to get outside and visit our favorite trail. This annual celebration of the outdoors serves as a reminder of the fantastic natural resources that we have around us and how important it is for our general health and well being to connect with nature on a regular basis.

With more than 200,000 miles of trails across the country, the U.S. has one of the best trail systems in the entire world. No matter where you live, chances are there is a great trail nearby just waiting to be explored. Many of those trails even offer mixed-use access, so even if you’re not a fan of hiking, you can go mountain biking or horseback riding along the route. There are even plenty of popular paddling trails too, giving kayakers and whitewater rafters a chance to join in on the fun.

In celebration of National Trails Day there are events scheduled to take place in all 50 states. Those activities include guided hikes, trail running events, group rides and much, much more. There are also numerous opportunities to join a volunteer group conducting trail building exercises. Those activities will repair damage to existing trails and conduct work on building new ones.

Whether you take part in one of these organized events or simply stroll a favorite trail through your neighborhood, the important thing to remember is to just get outside today. Turn the cellphone off, leave the iPod behind and spend a little time enjoying nature. It won’t cost you anything and chances are you’ll feel a whole lot richer for the experience.

Group Looks To Create A 6100-Mile-Long Hiking Trail In US

There is a movement afoot to link up two of America’s longest hiking trails in order to create a new route for long distance hikers and backpackers. The proposal would unite the iconic Appalachian Trail with the lesser-known North Country National Scenic Trail, creating a route that would stretch for more than 6100 miles.

The two trails, which stretch 2170 miles and 4600 miles in length respectively, are actually just 40 miles apart at their closest point in Vermont. This has led members of the North Country Trail Association to open a dialog with the National Park Service and local Vermont hiking groups to discuss the idea of linking the two routes. Those discussions have proven fruitful and hikers could soon see that 40-mile gap closed by a new trail.

Almost every hiker is familiar with the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, passing through 14 states in the process. It is considered a true American classic and millions flock to it each year to walk all or a part of the route.

In contrast, the North Country Trail crosses seven states between New York and North Dakota and has remained a work in progress since it was first conceived back in 1980. Sections of the trail are still being developed and unlike its more famous cousin, the NCT is often lacking in campsites and other facilities. To date, just 11 people have managed to hike it end-to-end and it sees far less traffic on an annual basis than the AT.

Even if plans to unite the two trails come to fruition, it is likely to be a few years before they are officially connected. Once they are, however, long distance trekkers will have a new challenge and it’ll only be a matter of time before someone attempts to hike both routes end-to-end.

Trails under attack, organization needs our help, today

Rails to Trails, the nonprofit charged with creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines is reminding us that Thursday, February 2 is the day congress begins work on a bill that is bad news for trails, walking and bicycling efforts.

“We anticipated some of the terrible provisions; others were simply shocking in scope and shortsightedness,” says Rails to Trails (RTC) in a statement urging us to contact our representatives now, using an online form, and ask that they speak to colleagues on the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee.

“We need those T&I members, in turn, to tell Reps. Petri and Johnson of their support for the amendment. It sounds complicated, but there’s no time to waste-we absolutely need all the support we can rally,” says Rails to Trails.

Rails to Trails say the bill would:

  • Eliminate dedicated funding for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program-the nation’s largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling. (Terrible news, but we expected it.)
  • Remove the rail-trail category from TE eligibility.
  • Completely eliminate funding for the Safe Routes to School program.
  • Eliminate funding for bicycle and pedestrian coordinators at state DOTs.

In November, the RTC went to congress as the U.S. Senate began work on the multi-year surface transportation bill. The RTC wanted a focus that provides balanced transportation choices for Americans. Critical to such balance is dedicated investment in active transportation to ensure that walking and bicycling, the most cost-effective, affordable and healthy types of transportation, can continue to grow in communities across the country.

“For a tiny sliver of transportation funds-less than 2 percent– these programs have provided affordable, healthy transportation options, generated jobs and economic development, and preserved historic and environmental assets that provide the quality of life that Americans want and deserve,” said Kevin Mills, vice president of program at RTC.

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 ebis50

National Geographic and AllTrails.com partner on map website

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.

Three trails, three bloggers, three adventures

Since yesterday was National Trails Day I thought we might take a look at some of the best trails in North America. Trails.com tallied over 10 million votes for the top trails and has a list that represents the most popular trails and outdoor destinations in North America. That got us a list. From there we went to Flickr for photos and searched the web for bloggers who had been there and done that. Here are three trails, three blogs and three adventures that were included in Trails.com’s top ten and look like our kind of people.

Breakneck Ridge Trail– Beacon, NY

“Our first hike took us from the Breakneck Ridge Trail (conveniently next to the MTA train station of the same name) past Sunset Point, up to the summit of South Beacon Mountain and into Beacon, NY. Including our not-short walk through Beacon, NY, total time was 8 hours” records TomandZoe.com.

Tom and Zoe are friends/computer nerds who live in New York City. In 2009 Tom donated his kidney to a stranger and Zoe “has a stupid heart that don’t work too good. Both of us are going to make it up to the top of Kilimanjaro this summer!”

Flickr photo by kimba

Glacier Gorge
– Estes Park, CO

“Glacier Gorge, located in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, is one of many beautiful Colorado hiking areas. On the 9.6 mile hike, you will come across alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls and spectacular peak views. Much to the surprise of many, you also get to hike on the actual glacier, a rare event in the continental United States” says Rick Chapo in an article on the My Secret Passions blog.

Rocky Mountain National Park itself is a treasure for hikers and the subject of several blogs. One we check before heading that way, aptly called Rocky Mountain National Park Blog, offers on-the-scene background and weather information as well as trail conditions like in this recent entry “Currently there is 3 to 4 feet of snow above Rainbow Curve and wind with gusts up to 55 mph above Many Parks Curve. There is 2 inches of ice on the road between Many Parks Curve and Rainbow Curve. The snow and wind is supposed to continue through this evening at higher elevations. The sun aids in our efforts to clear Trail Ridge Road and we might not see it again until tomorrow morning sometime!”

Flickr photo by Anneh632

Appalachian Trail: The Pinnacle– Hamburg, PA

In a post about Top Hiking Locations, The Adventure Travels blog tells us “Located in Humberg, Pennsylvania, The Pinnacle trail is also a part of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail gives views of scenic mountains and rivers along the way. Not far from the Pinnacle Trail is the Hamburg Dam for a breathtaking view of mother nature and technology tied into one.

Weather can be mostly rainy and humid, which allows a more advanced hike for those who like the challenge of fighting the elements.”

Mount Whitney– Lone Pine, CA

Are you into hiking, camping, backpacking or other “I gotta have my feet on the ground” outdoor activities, travels and/or passions? Comment with a link to your blog, photos or stories and let the world know about it right here.

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