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    Default First Thru-Hike of the TransPanama Trail

    Every long hiking trail begins with one personís dream, followed by the ceaseless labor of a small group of volunteers.
    The vision and the labor of building a long trail are well underway in the small Central American country of Panama. A small team of volunteers is dreaming of building a trail from Columbia in the east, lengthwise to Costa Rica in the west Ė the TransPanama Trail.

    The western half opened to hikers in June 2009. It spans mountainous regions with gorgeous scenery. Maps and photos can be found at
    www.transpanama.org.

    Now, to begin mapping the eastern half, Rick Morales has set out on the first ever TransPanama Trail thru-hike, beginning at the Columbia border. Others will join him for sections. Rick left from the Colombian border on June 26 and plans to take 3 months to hike the 800 KM to Costa Rica. His journey is being documented on the blog: http://teamtranspanama.blogspot.com. A digitized SPOT track of the journey is at http://www.transpanama.org/en/envivo.

    A branch of the TransPanama Trail will leave Panama City in the center of the country and veer toward the Caribbean Sea, following the Camino Real, a route developed in the 1400s by the Spanish to carry their pillaged gold and silver across to their galley ships. But, thatís an endeavor for the future. Right now, Rick and the other volunteers are focusing on the lengthwise route.

    Of course, as with any trail building endeavor, the Panamanians have to deal with land rights issues. Itís never an easy or quick process. In Panama there are regions that are populated by indigenous tribes such as the Kuna and Embera. Part of the lure of hiking the TransPanama Trail will be the cultural experience of hiking through indigenous communities. In return, low impact tourism will help these communities remain self-sustaining.

    Other allures will be the varied scenery, including views to the Pacific Ocean, plentiful crystal clear streams and waterfalls, and hiking
    through the tropics with its unique vegetation and animals.

    As the first thru-hiker, Rick Morales is a true pioneer in the spirit of people such as Earl Shaffer (AT) and Eric Ryback (PCT). He is building a legacy that those of us who enjoy long-distance hiking will benefit from in years to come.

    Footnote:
    After the hike, Rick Morales can be contacted via email at [email protected] (he speaks English fluently).
    Also available for interviews is Mike Esquivel, Executive Director at [email protected].
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