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  1. #1
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    Default Chattanooga to Host America’s Newest Long-Distance Trail

    Chattanooga to Host America’s Newest Long-Distance Trail

    March 1, 2017—by Sunny Montgomery, Times Free Press (Chattanooga, TN)


    On a recent Saturday morning, I filled my backpack with fruit and protein bars and headed out to Cloudland Connector Trail, a 14-mile footpath from Cloudland Canyon State Park to Lookout Mountain.

    The Cloudland Connector Trail is also one section of the Great Eastern Trail, America’s newest long-distance hiking path which will stretch 1,800 miles from Alabama to New York when finished. Tom Johnson, president of the Great Eastern Trail Association, estimates the GET is 70 percent complete, though it has already been thru-hiked by a few ambitious hikers who didn’t mind road-walking its unfinished sections.

    I wanted to walk a mile—or 14—in those thru-hikers’ shoes. So, dressed in layers and equipped with snacks, I embarked on my longest day-hike to date.

    The GET is being touted as a wilder, quieter alternative to the Appalachian Trail, and on my section, I found this to be true. The forest was silent save for the creak of winter trees and the crunch of my boots on frozen ground. When a pileated woodpecker squawked overhead, I gasped in surprise.

    I was nervous.

    Each mile, I realized, moved me farther away from the preoccupations I’d come to depend on: text messages; traffic; to-do-lists. On the trail, I had one purpose: to keep walking.

    As the sun climbed higher into the blue sky, my anxiety began to subside—along with my need for distractions.

    Between the sweetgums and rhododendron, I let my mind wander. I thought of nothing and everything. By mile 10, I was singing with the birds. I felt like I was born to put one foot in front of the other, and, I suppose, I was. That urge to walk great distances is prehistoric.

    As a concept, the GET is that simple. But as a project—one that involves nine states, 20 trail organizations and countless committees—it is more complex.

    Sixty-five years ago, the GET was proposed by Earl Shaffer, who, in 1948, was the first person to thru-hike the AT.

    Shaffer’s idea was to link the existing trails that ran parallel to the AT. Over the next couple of decades, his proposed path became known as the Western Appalachian Alternative, or the WAA. Trail organizations such as Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, headquartered in Virginia, and the Southeast Foot Trails Coalition, headquartered in North Carolina, began to work together to plan the WAA, and somewhere along the way, it was renamed the Great Eastern Trail, or the GET.

    In 2007, the Great Eastern Trail Association was created to plan, build and manage the GET. The GETA is comprised of representatives from 11 regional trail groups ranging from the Alabama Trails Association to New York’s Finger Lakes Trail Conference. Each regional partner is responsible for managing the section of the trail that runs through its state. For instance, the Cumberland Trails Conference manages the Tennessee segment with help from the American Hiking Society and Southeastern Foot Trails Coalition, two organizations that help support the GET but do not belong to the GETA.

    President of the GETA, Tom Johnson, describes the GET as “very decentralized in terms of management.” In contrast, the AT is cooperatively managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

    The difference in the way these two trail systems are managed might best be illustrated by their blazes, the colored markers found on trees, posts or rocks to indicate the route. The AT is marked entirely with white blazes. But the GET is marked with different colors, depending on each established trail’s own preference. The Cloudland Connector Trail, for example, features green blazes. The Cumberland Trail features brown blazes.

    Members of the GETA meet only once per year.

    “When we get together, it’s just to update each other on what’s going on with our own segments,” Johnson says.

    The Chattanooga segment will span 26 miles, from the Georgia-Tennessee state line on Lookout Mountain, through downtown, to Soddy-Daisy. The focus for this local stretch is to complete the few missing links to connect Cloudland Connector Trail to the Cumberland Trailhead in Soddy-Daisy.


    The Chattanooga Segment

    Traveling north from Georgia, the Clouldland Connector Trail currently ends along Nick-a-jack Road. From there, it is 1.5-mile road walk to Lula Lake Land Trust, where, in December, crews began construction on a 2.9-mile connector trail that will link Lula Lake’s trails to Convenant College’s trails – which take hikers into Tennessee.

    Then, the GET picks up on Lookout Mountain’s National Park Service trail at Point Park, continues on the Guild-Hardy trail, then travels down into St. Elmo on the southside of Chattanooga.

    The first missing link in the Chattanooga segment is a path to connect St. Elmo to the southern end of the Tennessee Riverwalk, which begins on Middle Street in the South Broad District. The city has already assured work to connect these two points, says Linda Hixon, chairperson of GET: Chattanooga, the committee of the Cumberland Trails Conference tasked with planning and building the local stretch of the GET.

    The GET then follows the Tennessee Riverwalk all the way to the C.B. Robinson Bridge, which carries Dupont Parkway. The second missing link is the crossing of that bridge. The challenge, says Hixon, is to make that bridge more pedestrian-friendly – an issue being examined by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

    Once across the bridge, the GET travels along the northside of the river to the Chickamauga Dam, then to the North Chickamauga Greenway. The largest missing link in the Chattanooga segment is the stretch between the North Chickamauga Greenway and the Cumberland Trail.
    A sub-committee of GET: Chattanooga responsible for that specific segment has identified a preliminary path, Hixon says. But she adds, “We still have to have conversations with property owners and find out their level of interest.”

    From Soddy Daisy, the GET travels along the Cumberland Trail for 245 miles.

    Robert Weber, chairperson of the Cumberland Trails Conference, says the CT is about 90 percent complete, taking hikers from Signal Mountain to the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. But, naturally, it, too, has already been thru-hiked by a few ambitious hikers.


    Balancing Recreation and Conservation

    Eventually, the CT will stretch over 300 miles along the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau. Currently, about 200 of those miles are open for hiking—though that may depend on how one defines “hiking.”

    According to Chris Pickering, who thru-hiked the CT with Ethan Alexander in 2016, many of those miles were more akin to bushwhacking. That’s because parts of the trail do not see enough traffic to require upkeep, says Pickering, an art student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a veteran of long-distance trails.

    In addition to the CT, Pickering has thru-hiked the 2,200-mile AT and 1,600 miles of the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail which traces the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains.

    The AT and PCT are two of the most popular distance trails in the world. Between the two, the estimated number of annual visitors ranges from 100,000 to over a million.

    “The AT and the PCT are nice social experiences,” Pickering says.

    But inevitably, all that traffic leaves an imprint on the landscape. According to a 2003 report published by the Appalachian Trails Conference, three of the biggest problems along the AT are litter, human waste and erosion, problems compounded by hikers who do not follow the rules.
    For instance, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy promotes leave-no-trace ethics, meaning what is packed in should be packed out. Human waste should be buried in an 8-by-6-inch “cat-hole” located at least 80 steps away from campsites, water sources or shelters. Tents should be pitched on the already-impacted areas of campsites, and hikers should never shortcut switchbacks, which causes the loss of ground cover, damage to tree roots and erosion.

    Some of these issues have become so serious along the AT’s northernmost 15 miles that Baxter State Park officials are threatening to reroute the trail off Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the grand finale for northbound thru-hikers.

    “It was frustrating seeing people [on the AT] who have barely hiked before. They bring like 70 pounds worth of stuff and have no idea how to be responsible in the woods,” Pickering says. But, he adds, long-distance hikes are a great way to teach a person about sustainable living.

    In the 1940s, the decade when Earl Shaffer, grandfather of the GET, first thru-hiked the AT, a total of three people made that trek. Since 2010, 4,019 people have thru-hiked the AT.

    What makes the AT and the PCT special, Pickering says, is that they are community-driven. But what will make the GET special, he says, is its feeling of undisturbed wildness.

    That chilly morning, as I trudged along my 14-mile section of the GET, I found a stillness so profound it was broken only by the squawk of that woodpecker; a wild, prehistoric sound that shook the treetops. But with each step I took, the sound faded until becoming just an echo, and the forest returned to silence.


    Read the rest of the article at: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/g...stance/414244/

  2. #2
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    "The GET is being touted as a wilder, quieter alternative to the Appalachian Trail, and on my section, I found this to be true. The forest was silent save for the creak of winter trees and the crunch of my boots on frozen ground. When a pileated woodpecker squawked overhead, I gasped in surprise."

    Dang. I never realized the AT was so busy in the middle of winter.....

    BTW, it isn't...you would have heard the same creak of winter trees, the same crunch off your boots on frozen ground....

  3. #3
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    Might I suggest, ScareBear, that you forward your editorial criticism to the journalist who wrote the article. I'm sure she'd be eager to hear your helpful comments and might even publish a correction. Here is her contact information: Sunny Montgomery, Times Free Press, smontgomery@timesfreepress.com

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by kf1wv View Post
    Might I suggest, ScareBear, that you forward your editorial criticism to the journalist who wrote the article.
    Did you just plagiarize an entire post? Or, was your original post your own original work?
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    Did you just plagiarize an entire post? Or, was your original post your own original work?
    At the top of the post it says:

    "Chattanooga to Host America’s Newest Long-Distance Trail

    March 1, 2017—by Sunny Montgomery, Times Free Press (Chattanooga, TN)"

    I read the post as a reprint of an article, with the original title and author listed. How is that plagiarism?

  6. #6
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    Rain Man - IANAL, you are, but it would seem to me that the concern would be less one of plagiarism than copyright. With "fair use", I usually see much shorter excerpts.

    FWIW, the full article is available in a free monthly printed magazine called Get Out Chattanooga.

    I had some of my own editorial thoughts about it - most notably that the trail name of Jo Swanson is "Someday", not "Somebody".
    http://www.gethiking.net/p/about-us.html

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    I was just trying to spread the good news of the GET. Not to worry; it won't happen again.


    73,
    KF1WV

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by kf1wv View Post
    I was just trying to spread the good news of the GET. Not to worry; it won't happen again.


    73,
    KF1WV
    That's unfortunate. The two (appreciating the good news, yet making editorial comment) are not mutually exclusive.

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