The Appalachian Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail. The names of the trails that lead hikers through major sections of America have a certain allure. That you can walk from one state to the next on trails is a wonderful thing, a reminder that even in a modern world there is still room for slow travel.
While the AT and PCT are fairly well-known references, even to non-hikers, the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail has a much smaller following of devotees, but the 6,800-mile trail might soon get the credit it deserves, thanks to a long-discussed bill recently introduced in the Senate to amend the National Trails System Act in order to include the ADT.
If the bill passes and the ADT is officially designated part of the National Trails System, it would be the longest trail designated within the system. Starting at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and ending at Point Reyes, California, the trail crosses 15 states and passes through 14 national parks. Bringing the ADT under the NTS umbrella would give it federal support, expanding access for users of the trail, and boosting local economies along the way. The two Senators behind the bill are Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
“I’m a strong believer in the value of trails and what they represent,” Coons said in a press release. “Recreation for families, friends, and individuals; tourism and economic development for local parks and towns; and the opportunity to connect communities with the outdoors.”
Beyond simply getting the ADT official trail status, the ‘National Discovery Trails Act of 2014′ would actually create a new category within the National Trails System for long-distance trails that connect urban areas with outdoor resources, public lands, rural areas and other communities.
Who wouldn’t want a coast-to-coast trail? Well, according to the American Discovery Trail Society, a few years ago Congress required the National Park Service to conduct a study to see if the trail was worthy of being in the National Trails System. It was, and while the NPS backed legislation that was passed in the Senate unanimously three times, each time it stalled in House committees.
Which is why the American Discovery Trail Society recommends taking action if you’re excited about the potential of this trail, with sample letters and talking points on the society’s website that can be used to contact your member of Congress to ensure that this bill passes.
But for those interested in exploring the ADT, you don’t have to wait until it gets official trail status.
The first official through-hike of the ADT was in 2003, when a 50-plus year old couple, Joyce and Peter Cottrell, trekked from the Atlantic to the Pacific. After finishing the hike, Joyce Cottrell called it “the adventure of a lifetime.”
“I would recommend this trail to anyone,” she said. “Even if you can only go for a day or a week or a month.”
The Cottrells are in a passionate group of ADT hikers, some of whom do extended sections, and others who just get on the trail for the weekend. There’s even an ADT marathon, whose proceeds benefit non-profits that work on trail stewardship.
Now, go start planning your coast-to-coast hike.
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