Despite the ongoing ebb and flow of the Coronavirus, many IAT/SIA chapters are reporting fair to large numbers of hikers on their particular section of trail. Since cross-border travel is still discouraged or even prohibited (for example, between the US and Canada), most of these hikers are from the local area, which is actually very encouraging to see! Here are brief summaries of several chapters.
In Quebec, SIAQC Director, Alexis Turcotte Noël reports they’ve had a very busy summer so far, with a nice feeling of “community” on the trail and at the campsites. The SIAQC has also updated their website (SIA-IAT.com) this year, adding a very nice interactive map, and has had a very active Instagram page with some great photos and stories.
Prince Edward Island is still closed to international travelers and to Canadians as well, with the exception of individuals from the four Atlantic provinces. In spite of these restrictions IAT Contact person, Bryson Guptill, reports many local people have continued to walk the IAT. Bryson also reports other trails on the Island have experienced as much as 100% increase in traffic compared to pre-COVID times.
PEI has also been promoting another long-distance walk on the Island – The Island Walk which goes around the entire 700km perimeter of the Island. The Island Walk and the IAT (150 km) both utilize parts of the 450 km Confederation Trail.
In Newfoundland, IAT co-president Paul Wylezol and his always energetic crew have been focusing on trails in the planned Geopark region, from Lewis Hills to Tablelands. This includes developing a beautiful new trail to the top of the Elephant overlooking Trout River Pond and exploring new routes on the Gregory Mountains and Blow Me Down Mountains. You can see some spectacular photos of these trails (and some really nice-looking swimming holes) on the IAT-SIA Facebook page.
The Cabox Geopark project was recently approved for government funding to identify and map geosites, expand their virtual reality program, and develop an Appalachian-Caledian website. Stay tuned for more details later.
On the Ulster-Ireland section of the trail, IAT Ireland Donegal Coordinator Inga Bock reports that, despite a rather cold and wet summer, “the locals are out in force”. Martin Bradley, the Northern Ireland IAT Coordinator, notes that small groups have been out walking the IAT route across Northern Ireland as well.
Martin has also been out with several groups exploring the bog ecology and bronze age archaeology of a few sites on the IAT in County Tyrone. “Tyrone is brimming with archaeological sites and bog habitats for discerning walkers to enjoy and discover!”
In Scotland, IAT Representative, Hugh Barron also reports large numbers of people heading outdoors, including, apparently, Boris Johnson! Perhaps a silver-lining of the pandemic will be a wider recognition that sustainable outdoor recreational “infrastructure” like trails are important to everyone’s well-being, especially in stressful times.
Finally, back in the US, the Maine Chapter of the IAT has not seen a great influx in local hikers this year because… well, we all know why, so let’s just move on. Nevertheless, with a great effort from Chapter Secretary Elaine Hendrickson, the Maine IAT has set up a “Virtual Hike“, where participants can hike wherever they like and log there mileage online. Mileage for individual hikers is updated on the site once a week as well as the cumulative total of all hikers. As of today, the 50 registered hikers have hiked a total of 3,643 km / 2,264 mi. This is the equivalent of a hike from Mount Katahdin in Maine, across all five Canadian Chapters, then to Greenland and Iceland, across Ulster-Ireland and then along the Firth O Clyde Rotary Trail in Scotland from the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse to Glasgow!
The Virtual Hike is open to anyone, so if you want to join in visit to the Virtual Hike page to sign up!