Archive for the ‘Great Eastern Trail (GET)’ Category

WENY, link to original post & video

Eighteen hundred miles, through nine states. That is the distance that Bart Houck and Jo Swanson have traveled as the first hikers to complete the Great Eastern Trail that starts in Alabama and ends at the Finger Lake Trails in Bradford.
“We have encountered lots of weather, physical elements, scenic views, and absolutely the best part of the people that we have met along the way,” said Houck.
The pair started the journey in the snow covered hills of Alabama and during there journey experienced all kinds of severe weather conditions.
Swanson says, “It can be really overwhelming when you wake up and its pouring rain and your tent is wet and everything you have is wet, and then you hike all day in the wet and then you set up a wet tent.”
Houck and Swanson will spend the night in a lean-to that marks the end of the Great Eastern Trail.
“We started out this hike not knowing what it would be, it truly turned out to be something that I was not expecting, and I feel that we have been ambassadors for the trail.” said Houck.
Bartt and Jo want everyone to know how humbled and grateful they are for the support they received.
If you want to see the hikers blog follow the link http://www.gethiking.net/

Read Full Post »

Two hikers on the Great Eastern Trail will finish their thru-hike in NY’s Steuben County on June 17 or 18. The terminus is where the Crystal Hills Trail intersects the main Finger Lakes Trail near South Bradford, NY.

If you want to follow their adventure, check out their blog at www.GEThiking.net

Click here to read an article that appeared in the Lockhaven PA newspaper after their visit in Woolrich PA

Read Full Post »

By Rick Steelhammer, WVGazette, link to original post

Great Eastern Trail through-hikers Bart Houck and Joanna Swanson cross the Tug Fork River and enter West Virginia, the approximate halfway point on their 1,800-mile, nine-state trek. Accompanying them are TuGuNu Hiking Club members Tim McGraw and Paul Kenney.

Great Eastern Trail through-hikers Bart Houck and Joanna Swanson cross the Tug Fork River and enter West Virginia, the approximate halfway point on their 1,800-mile, nine-state trek. Accompanying them are TuGuNu Hiking Club members Tim McGraw and Paul Kenney.

Snow clung to the hilltops lining the Tug Fork Valley surrounding them, but at river level, it was a rare snow-free day on the trail for Joanna Swanson and Bart Houck as they walked across the bridge separating McCarr, Ky., from the Mingo County town of Matewan WV.

Wednesday’s walk into West Virginia marked the fifth state that Swanson and Houck have entered since beginning what they are determined will become the first through-hike of the 1,800-mile Great Eastern Trail.

Extending from the highlands of Alabama to the Finger Lakes region of western New York, the Great Eastern Trail, America’s newest long-distance hiking venue, extends through nine states in all, with West Virginia falling at its midpoint.

“I like to think of Mullens being the true halfway point,” said Houck, a Wyoming County native and a substitute teacher and athletic trainer for Wyoming East High School. “But it’s probably closer to Hinton.”

“After getting to this point, I’m very confident we’ll make it the rest of the way,” said Swanson, a native Minnesotan who served as coordinator of West Virginia’s section of the Great Eastern Trail as a VISTA volunteer based in Wyoming County in 2011.

The first half of their journey has been a frosty one for the long-haul hikers.

“We’ve hiked through snow in every state so far, but it was our idea to start in January,” Swanson said. “We’re ready for spring.”

Swanson said the Great Eastern Trail, and the Appalachian Trail, which she through-hiked in 2009-2010, “are totally different monsters. The Great Eastern Trail goes into places that feel more rural and remote than the Appalachian Trail, but at the same time, the Great Eastern goes through towns, including downtown Chattanooga.”

The concept for the Great Eastern Trail is more than 60 years old. Four years after Earl Shaffer completed the first through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1948, he proposed opening a parallel route to the west, linking a series of existing trails meandering through a patchwork of state and federal land.

As use of the Appalachian Trail steadily increased, with some stretches becoming crowded at times, hikers began to take a fresh look at Shaffer’s proposal. In 2003, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Southeast Foot Trails Coalition began to discuss the creation of a western alternative to the Appalachian Trail. By 2005, the American Hiking Society and the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program joined in the effort, and came up with the name Great Eastern Trail.

While segments of the Great Eastern Trail remain sketchy, including much of the section passing through West Virginia, most of the GET incorporates existing long-distance trails, including parts of the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama and Georgia, the Cumberland Trail in Tennessee, and the Pine Mountain Trail in Kentucky.

In West Virginia, plans call for the trail to pass through R.D. Bailey Lake Wildlife Management Area, Twin Falls State Park, Camp Creek State Park, Pipestem State Park, and follow the New River through Bluestone State Park and Wildlife Management Area to the Virginia border. The trail then veers into a section of Virginia near Glen Lyn and joins a section of the Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, where it follows the top of Peters Mountain on the West Virginia-Virginia border before joining the Allegheny Trail and moving back into West Virginia.

Plans call for the GET to continue along the Allegheny Trail through Monroe and Greenbrier counties to Lake Sherwood in the Monongahela National Forest, cut back into Virginia for a 150-mile link of connected trails before joining the existing Tuscarora Trail, which passes through an additional 33 miles of West Virginia, and extends through parts of Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania.

“This trail showcases 190 miles of West Virginia, and will be great for the state,” said Houck. Several towns along the trail’s route through Southern West Virginia, including Matewan, Mullens, Pineville and Hinton, have already signed on to be Great Eastern Trail host communities and have agreed to blaze the trail through their streets and encourage trail activities.

In Southern West Virginia, GET hikers can be expected to use the same amenities that have sprung up to serve motorized trail users on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. “Both ATV riders and hikers like pizza and cheap places to stay,” said Swanson.

While other through-hikers are sure to eventually follow the trail blazed by Houck and Swanson, most trail users are expected to be day-hikers exploring sections of the GET that pass near their homes.

“In West Virginia, there will be plenty of bite-sized day hikes,” Swanson said.
For the time being, sections of the GET that don’t follow existing trails through public land are routed along less-traveled public roads and highways.

Houck and Swanson said their average day on the trail covers 12 to 15 miles, although they have hiked as far as 22 miles in a day.

“We’re on the trail at least eight hours a day,” said Houck, who generally carries a pack weighing about 40 pounds, “most of it food.” Swanson said her pack load averages a little less than 30 pounds.

To avoid the monotony of cooking and preparing trail meals, “whenever we see a place along the trail where food is available, we veer toward it,” Swanson said.

The only form of potentially dangerous wildlife encountered along the trail so far has been a snowy interlude with a wild boar in Tennessee. But all in all, “yard dogs have been our biggest threat,” according to Houck.

Along many sections of the trail, local hikers and officers of area trail clubs have accompanied Houck and Swanson on their northward journey. The two have also reported numerous unexpected, but gratefully accepted, offers of food, lodging and refreshment.

“The kindness of the people we’ve met along the way has really blown us away,” said Swanson.

During their trek through their last stretch of Kentucky into Matewan on Wednesday, Houck and Swanson were accompanied by Tim McGraw and Paul Kenney, president and vice president of the TuGuNu hiking club, based in Wyoming County.

“The Great Eastern Trail is a work in progress,” said McGraw. “It’s going to take some time to get a route established through Southern West Virginia. It would be a big help if the Legislature could establish a Great Eastern Trails Authority to help us work out cooperative agreements with private land owners, and get the trail route established.”

“We have a pretty good idea of where we want to go, but it’s not exact, yet,” said Doug Wood of the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association, which is helping to chart the trail’s course through West Virginia.

“The complaint for many years has been that parts of the Appalachian Trail are overused,” Wood said. “I think a lot of people would like to have a trail system that was more amenable to [Appalachian Trail founder] Benton MacKaye’s vision of a braided web of hiking trails that would semi-parallel the Appalachian Trail.”

Houck said that when Swanson first suggested the idea of through-hiking the Great Eastern Trail, which had unsuccessfully been attempted in 2007, his initial reply was “Hell, no!”

But he’s glad he eventually changed his mind.

“It’s a great trail, and I want people to get excited by it,” said Houck. “But you don’t have to be a through-hiker to enjoy it. You can go from Mullens to Pineville and have a great time.”

To follow the journey of Houck and Swanson, who also go by the trail names of “Hillbilly Bart” and “Someday Jo,” go to www.gethiking.net. To learn more about the Great Eastern Trail, visit www.greateasterntrail.net.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169

Read Full Post »

Woolrich, the Original Outdoor Clothing Company®, is working with the Great Eastern Trail Association (GET), its trail affiliates, and industry partners to maintain and complete the braided walking trail that connects some of the most challenging and beautiful hiking trails stretching from Alabama to New York.

The 1,800 mile long GET is currently about seventy-five percent complete.  The trail has several gaps where new trails need to be blazed to link the existing trails.  Woolrich maintains a portion of the GET that runs through the middle of its hometown via the Mid State Trail.

“As hikers, too often we take for granted the trails we travel and don’t think about what it takes to maintain or build them,” said Brent Hollowell, Woolrich VP of Marketing.  “Trails don’t blaze themselves, and we hope that we can help local clubs mobilize volunteers and make the Great Eastern Trail a reality.”

Late last fall Woolrich brought together leadership from the Great Eastern Trail Association, the Keystone Trail Association (KTA), Backpacker Magazine, and other GET associated clubs for a summit in Woolrich, PA.  The attendees devised a strategic plan to help with trail maintenance and promote awareness of the trail.

“Woolrich has stepped up as a leader in helping us realize the completion of the trail,” said Tom Johnson, President of Great Eastern Trail Association.  “We appreciate the additional visibility their efforts have brought to the GET and we are sure the positive attention will lead to more volunteers assisting with the actual maintenance work and development of the trail system.”

Along with providing volunteer gift bags, including a trail work t-shirt, Woolrich hiking socks, and more, Woolrich is supporting its local trail organization, the Keystone Trail Association as the official sponsor of its Trail Care Days.

To further increase awareness of the trail Woolrich is collaborating with its long time partner Backpacker Magazine.  Woolrich has developed a series of advertorials focusing on the GET that began appearing in the publication in February.

Backpacker is integrating content related to the Great Eastern Trail into the presentations of its popular national mobile tour, the Get Out More Tour, which stops at retail stores, events and festivals to educate consumers about the skills and equipment needed to enjoy the outdoors while inspiring healthy, active lifestyles.

The Great Eastern Trail was inspired by Benton MacKaye’s original vision for the Appalachian Trail as a network of braided trails running the length of the Appalachian Mountains.  In 2000, Lloyd MacAskill of Potomac Appalachian Trail Club published an article in the Appalachian Trailway News calling attention to the existing trails to the west of the AT and saying, “Don’t look now, but parts are already in place.”

To learn more about the trail, participating trail clubs, donate or volunteer for a trail maintenance day visit www.greateasterntrail.net.

About Woolrich
Woolrich Inc., the Original Outdoor Clothing Company, is an authentic American brand that embraces an outdoor lifestyle. Trusted since 1830 by generations of loyal customers, Woolrich continues its tradition of providing quality products for today’s outdoor enthusiast. A brand recognized worldwide, Woolrich product offerings include functional, comfortable and durable men’s and women’s sportswear and outerwear using innovative fabrications for the ultimate in performance capabilities, well-designed home and outdoor living products, and licensed accessory products. In 2010, Woolrich celebrated its 180th Anniversary. It is the original and longest continuously-operating outdoor apparel manufacturer and woolen mill in the United States. Find out more at www.woolrich.com.

About Great Eastern Trail
The Great Eastern Trail (GET) provides a premier hiking experience on a series of existing trails that are being linked to each other into a long-distance footpath in the Appalachian Mountains stretching from Alabama to the Finger Lakes Trail in New York.  The trail system is a project of the Great Eastern Trail Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which works with the American Hiking Society, sponsors and local trail partners, to create America’s newest long distance trail for hikers.  Learn more or donate to the Great Eastern Trail Association at www.greateasterntrail.net.

Read Full Post »

The 1,800-mile-long Great Eastern Trail is 80% Complete

Read Full Post »

By Sue Freeman

Are you familiar with the Finger Lakes Trail? Are you sure? It continues to grow. There are now more than 950 miles of trail, including many side trails and loops. If you haven’t explored the Finger Lakes Trail for either a day hike or a backpacking trip, then you’re missing out on the best hiking that our region has to offer.

The main Finger Lakes Trail reaches from Allegany State Park to the Catskill Mountains, passing south of the major Finger Lakes. It continues west to North Dakota as the North Country Trail. In the east it meets the Long Path which connects to the Appalachian Trail. Closer to home, branch trails head north and south off the main trail. The Conservation Trail heads north to Canada. The Letchworth Trail heads east of Letchworth gorge providing a glimpse of some waterfalls. The Bristol Hills Trail (the one closest to Rochester) heads north to Ontario County Park north of Naples. The Crystal Hills Trail is being built to head south from Bath, connecting to the Great Eastern Trail. The Interloken Trail heads north into the Finger Lakes National Forest. The Onondaga Trail and Link Trail form a loop south of Syracuse. Each of these has smaller loop and spur trails attached.

The whole system amounts to an awful lot of trail mileage. How do you know where to go, where to park, what terrain you’ll encounter, when is a good time to go? The answer to these questions just got easier. The Finger Lakes Trail Conference recently unveiled their on-line, interactive trail map at www.fingerlakestrail.org.

You can zoom in and pan around on the map to focus on any specific trail area. Zooming in twice shows waypoints for trailhead parking, shelters, campsites (including primitive campsites), and hunting closures (red flag waypoints).  Clicking on a waypoint brings up more information about it such as dates for hunting closures, notices, and important infrastructure such as lean-tos are also shown. Clicking on the track of a trail, whether the main trail or any side trails, brings up an elevation profile for that area that can be enlarged.

The track colors represent the blaze colors for that segment of trail. The main trail is depicted in black for better visibility on various map backgrounds, but it is white blazed. (A blaze is a rectangle of paint on trees and structures used to denote the route of a trail.)

This interactive map can be very useful in quickly finding relevant information about a specific segment of trail. For instance, if I’m thinking of taking a hike from Ontario County Park into Naples on the Bristol Hills Trail, I can quickly see that I better go now or postpone my trip because a segment of the trail is closed for hunting from November 15 through December 22. Maybe I’ll plan a Christmas Day hike. I see my hiking partner can leave a car at the DEC lot on Route 245 and shuttle us to the start at Ontario County Park and we can hike the distance one way. And, I can see from the topo and terrain versions of the map that we’ll be in for some rugged terrain. Maybe we’ll need snowshoes if the snow is deep.

Once you decide on where to hike using the interactive map, it’s best to buy a Finger Lakes Trail Conference map for that area to use on your hike because of the detailed mile-by-mile information on the back of each map and so that you’ll have a quality printed map with you on the hike. Having a good map with you is one of the most important safety precautions you can take while hiking. Happy Trails.

Read Full Post »

The North Country Trail will soon be connected to the Great Eastern Trail (GET)

Read Full Post »