From the ECT to the ALT via the AWR (Part 2)

It was just a few months ago that I stood in the rain at Cappahayden – melancholy at the end – waiting for a lift home to St. John’s (see Part 1 of this story). However, it wasn’t from that vantage point that the vision for a longer hike became clear.

20161121_153559_richtonehdr2Within a few days of completing my end-to-end hike, I was looking for more. I’d enjoyed the ECT, but had always known that, at least for me, it was too short of an “end-to-end” trek to be satisfying and considered a proper thru hike.

While working on GPS Waypointing – in what I considered to be a totally separate area through the Avalon Wilderness Reserve (AWR) – the idea of a loop trail connecting both ends of the ECT was taking shape. There was a few more weeks of consideration – thinking about how much road walking would be required – before these thoughts of another long hiking route were unshakable.

Today, the result of that idea is online… check it out. The route for the Avalon Loop Trail is a no-frills affair – it’s defined in GPS data (Cape Race to Portugal Cove) and existing maps (the East Coast Trail from Portugal Cove to Cappahayden). The currently available data covers about 92% of the route, with the remainder to come ASAP.  It is perhaps a rather presumptuous name – for a route that has apparently never been hiked in it’s entirety – but that is arguably the easiest way to get “boots” on the ground and the whole thing established.

A couple of additional things to note on this route:

The ALT Page currently has…: GPS data for the route, info on AWR permits, the perfunctory “requirement” warnings, and most importantly, a live map… so hikers can actually see the thing.

It’s nothing more than this: a suggested route. There are many other options – some for making it shorter, and perhaps even one for making it longer. There is no support system in place or even someone the hiker can contact for more information. If that idea makes the viewer uncomfortable…. they’re perhaps looking at the wrong challenge.

Total estimated length is at 526 km / 327 miles. The variable bit here being the AWR. The total length will be firmed up over the next year.

It’s still a work in progress. GPS tracks have yet to be recorded for Cappahayden to Cape Race – about 40 km. That’s on the to-do list.

GPS, Map and Compass are a good idea for Section 4.2 – the AWR. I’m not a mommy-type – I’m not going to tell any hiker what to bring – but in my estimation people heading into this area without such equipment (and the experience to use it) are asking for trouble.

The ALT is not just more of the ECT. The East Coast Trail is a beautifull, developed, hardened coastal trail that is mapped and supported with maintenance, structures and signage. The ALT has none of that. Part of the ALT is wilderness bushwhacking and route finding – fording large rivers and summiting wind swept hills. Another part has the hiker walking on pedestrian-ready-uber-developed-railbed-paths – weaving by power plants and pizza shops, bakeries and barking dogs. While the ECT is primarily beautiful, the most that can be said for the ALT is that it’s truly a mish-mash of hiking experiences.


From the ECT to the ALT via the AWR (Part 1) circa Jan 2015. circa Jan 2015.

This past season I thru hiked the ECT. I’d been hiking the trail for years, but for the last several had been collecting detail that would allow an efficient end-to-end-all-in-one-go trek. Admittedly, the result of that preparation got a little out of hand, but as it turned out the data was not available online. The information was quickly put to use by other hikers.

With previous background in organizing data and web development, I found this an intuitive progression toward collection and distribution. And having grown up using the Internet before it became widely popular, the seed for the idea of freely sharing as much as possible had long ago been planted.

After my thru hike, as I looked closely at other trails in the region, it became clear that there was an amazing disconnect between some great hiking and the terrible representation of those trails online. Text descriptions of a route may have been fine in 1998, but it just doesn’t cut it today. A picture – or in this case a map – is worth a thousand words.

Another feeling that was overwhelmingly present after that hike was that my trail of choice was simply too short. After only a week of walking – just when I started hitting my stride and knocking out some good distances – I reached the end. 300 km had seemed like it was going to be a good haul, but it just wasn’t enough. Of course, in the end it worked out – I had to return to a day job anyway.

To be continued in Part 2….