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Re: AT extentions: my .02c

Sorry guys, I was gonna let this die a natural death, but it doesn't want
to die.   Where's my wooden stake and silver bullets?

OK - let's take a look at this AT extension mess, but I'm gonna limit my
discussion to actual "extension " of the AT - not using these trails as side
trails.  And to a large degree I'm gonna limit it to a thruhikers viewpoint.
And it needs to broken into in three parts.  First, what are the
effects/problems with the northern extension, then the same for the
southern extension and then - what if both of them happen?

For those who aren't interested this is the time to use the Delete key.

So let's start with the northern extension which runs 400 miles thru Maine,
New Brunswick and Quebec (see the article in the latest AT News) - and
connects to the AT SOUTH of Katahdin at Abol Bridge.  Extending the AT
this way would eliminate Katahdin entirely except as a side trail.  Sorry
guys, but elimination of Katahdin is just not acceptable.

The northern terminus would also move to Canada - not a happy prospect.
Why?  Because there isn't anything in that part of Canada that compares to
Katahdin.  The Big K is a marvelous place to end a long hike - Mt Jacques
Cartier, IMHO, is not an equivalent mountain.

As best I can tell, the northern extension runs through 100 miles of empty
space.  That's good in a way, cause it would be an extension of the 100 mile
wilderness.  But resupply is, to say the least, a problem.  Abol Bridge is
NOT a good resupply point - and there's no post office.

As an international trail, it would be administered by an international
I won't chase this one, but I don't think many hikers would be happy with the
results.   It involves a lot higher degree of government control and
(Would they put a border station on the AT? )

For thruhikers, that also leaves you in Quebec at the end of your hike.
Have you ever been to Quebec?  If you speak French, it's not bad - but if
you don't....   I've been there.

Then there's the question of maintenance - who does it?  The MATC is
already overworked.  This would add another 100+ miles of trail with
difficult access for them to maintain.   How many of the people who want
to extend the AT are gonna show up to contribute their sweat and blisters?
How about the Canadian side - who does the maintenance there?

And then there are questions about the shelters, resupply points, post
offices, maps, guide books, etc.

There's also the addition of an extra 4-5 weeks of hiking time for a
This means an earlier start time in Georgia, which means more cold weather
 hiking, shorter days in both north and south and spring will come later during
the hike.  And/or you end up hiking during hunting season.

I haven't even touched on the physical and emotional toll of adding another
400+ miles to the AT.  And it's not insignificant.   Most thruhikers are
worn pretty thin by the time they get past the Whites.  A surprising
number quit in Gorham and even at Monson.  How many more would
quit if another 400 miles were added?

One more point - the Canadians expect this to be a boost to their economy.
I think they'd be more than disappointed because this is an unrealistic
expectation.  Day hikers and section hikers may spend money - thruhikers
are cheap.  Not thrifty - cheap.  If you don't believe me, ask the waitresses
in any restaurant along the AT.

Enuff - let's talk about the southern extension.  For this, we don't even
 have to consider the effects of rampant blatant nationalism.  Here, we're
talking about adding 250 miles into Alabama.  I kind of like the idea,  but
are a more than a few negatives, and I have a LARGE objection to the
idea that it won't "add that much pain and suffering " for a thruhiker.
Come back and tell me that AFTER you've walked the AT.

Adding 250 miles to the southern end of the AT means you're adding 3-4 weeks
to a thruhike.  The 12.5 to 15 mile days is a non-thruhiker assumption.  Myths
aside, most thruhikers average in that range for the entire trail -
including the
20's in the Mid Atlantic states.   15 mile days in the South are BIG mile days
and the expectation that they'll be the norm from day one on the Trail is
unreasonable and unwarranted.

That's a whole lot more strain - physically, emotionally, financially and
timewise.  For what purpose?   And the pride of Alabama is not an
acceptable response.

Next, I know better than to believe that the temperature in the mountains
will be in the 70's and 80's for thruhiker season.   Thatmay be a
reasonable temperature range for Birmingham, but I've been in the
southern mountains in early spring.  A lot of thruhikers get a large
economy size shock at the fact that Spring doesn't show up at the higher
altitudes until they're several hundred miles north of Springer.
I don't believe Alabama temperatures are all that different.

What about transportation to the trailhead?  I'm not sure Birmingham or
the surrounding area are set up to handle the influx of thruhikers.

Same kind of question about the shelters - are there any?  And who
will do the maintenance on the Trail in Alabama?

Actually, it might be better if there were no shelters - then everyone
would "have to" carry a tent or tarp.  I know - they should be doing that
anyway - but they don't.

As long as I'm headed in this direction - the extra distance might also
discourage some people from starting.  That's not all bad - the AT has
developed an overuse problem.  Less thruhikers might be better for the
trail.  It would also contribute to a higher dropout rate of those who do
start because Walasi-Yi (Neels Gap) and Jeff Hansen would be 300+
miles into the trip - and a lot of people wouldn't make it that far on the
Trail without his (or someone's) help.

The biggest reservation, though, is the Trailhead itself.  Springer isn't
exactly Katahdin, but it seems like a lot more appropriate way to
start - or end - the AT than a trailhead at a highway crossing.

One more thing -  as far as I know, the southern extension hasn't even been
brought to the attention of the ATC.  Seems like if you're gonna hook into
someone's trail you should have the courtesy to let them know about it.

OK - let's take a look at the overall picture.  First - the AT is established
by law - not by custom or the trail clubs or the ATC or even geography as
some seem to think.  If you want to change it, you'll have to go see your
Congressman.   Given the present situation in Washington (and the
fact that you're talking more money for land acquisition), this kind of
change is not a high probability.  As I understand it, the present ATC
plan is to treat the "International AT" as a side trail to the AT.

Second - adding 650 miles to the AT would add about 2 months to a thruhike.
There are some people who start now in January and February, but most of
us don't have a whole lot of interest in a 2000 mile winter hike.  And the
starting time would have to move back to Jan or Feb in order to be able to
finsh in Canada before the heavy snows start.   It would also put thruhikers
(both north and south bound) on the Trail during hunting season.  What was
that comment about not adding much pain and suffering for a thruhiker?
I'm gonna repeat this - That's a whole lot more strain - physically,
emotionally, financially and timewise.  For what purpose?

Now I have to deal with this one -

>Since the AT follows a physiographic feature, I believe the trail should
> run the entire length from Gaspee' to Northern Alabama.

The geographers I know can't even agree on where the Appalachians begin
and end.  There are at least 3 different definitions and the Gaspe is not one
of the most favored.  I'm not sure about Alabama - I haven't asked.

You should also realize that some of the questions I asked about the
northern extension also apply to the southern extension - and vice versa.

Finally, I agree that thruhiking is not the only reason for the AT.  And
thruhiking is a very small part of the total usage.  But thruhiking is a
MAJOR consideration if you're going to make a major change in the length
of the Trail.  Dayhikers and weekenders - and even section hikers - hike
specific sections of the AT, but the total length of the Trail is not of direct
and immediate interest.  Only thruhikers are directly and immediately
affected by an increase in the total Trail length because of time, weather
and money constraints.  To say nothing of the physical and emotional toll.

OK, one more comment -

>The goal is not to hike the entire trail but to hike what you set out as
>your goal. If that's Ga----->Maine (Great!), if it's Canada to Alabama
>(Great!). I once tried to ride a bicycle across the US. Made it from NC
>to Colorado....called it quits. You know, that was good enough for me....I
>could live with it.

I totally disagree - that may be your attitude, but it's not mine.  A lot of
people will accept nothing less than the entire trail - even if it means
hiking through snow, cold - and hunting season.

There's a lot more I could say about this - I have a lot more questions
and objections, but let's see if this stirs up the mud in the at-l pond.

Walk softly,
Jim Owen
Bald Eagle, AT-92