This post will make you smile as you realize we belong to a tribe of economic geniuses! Hikers help immensely in these small trail side towns by patronizing the local businesses. We love this fresh angle at the impact of a sport we dearly love. Thank you, Scout!
Thru-hiker Michael Walther looks back at Bent Peak as he nears 13,000 feet in southern Colorado’s San Juan Range.Credit Barney Scout Mann
I just finished hiking 2,700 miles. No, it wasn’t on one of those two trails. Not the Pacific Crest Trail of Witherspoon’s movie Wild, nor Redford’s Appalachian Trail from A Walk in the Woods.
In 1968, those two became the first “National Scenic Trails,” but ten years later Congress designated the third. Splitting the country’s midsection like a corkscrew, tight-roping the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, the Continental Divide Trail is acclaimed as the third jewel in the hiking world’s Triple Crown.
I found the trail always ready to deliver a humbling slap. In my 63 years, I’ve camped outdoors at least 1,000 nights, but I’d never been this alone; days passed without seeing a soul.
I was surprised each time I dropped down to re-supply in a small town. It wasn’t the empty storefronts and “For Sale” signs as if the Great Recession had never lifted. What surprised me was that a wave of a few hundred hikers, wallets open to motels, restaurants, stores, made a difference. I carry 25-feet of emergency cord, but I didn’t realize that I carried a small-town economic lifeline.
Today there are 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails. Our Forest Service lands have 158,000 miles of trails.
Silver City, N.M., is a poster child. In 2014 Silver City became the first CDT “Gateway Community.” Local activist Shelby Hallmark, one of two who signed the City’s application, said, Silver City “has been a cattle and copper town, but outdoor recreation and eco-tourism are really our future.” In 2015, the town’s watering hole, Little Toad Creek Brewery, unveiled a new seasonal brew, the “Gateway Ale.”
Juan Reynon, a Silver City resident, lost his job a few years ago. In 2014, working with the CDT Coalition, he began shuttling hikers to Crazy Cook, the CDT’s southern terminus. It provided two to three months of work. “I bought a Suburban and paid it off. Next year I’ll make more money.”
And this is on the CDT, the lesser-travelled trail. The AT, PCT and their brethren must multiply the effect a hundred-fold.
Barney Scout Mann, third from left, enjoys a break from trail food at El Bruno’s in Cuba, N.M.
Credit Photo courtesy Barney Scout Mann
What’s your part? Get out there. Hike. Join a non-profit trail support organization like the CDT Coalition, the Pacific Crest Trail Association or Appalachian Trail Conservancy. And thank your members of Congress.
Anyone up for a Gateway Ale?
Barney Scout Mann has hiked the entire length of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails.