Promoting the South West Coast Path in the USA

The IAT Stand:Walter Anderson (Maine), Larry Luxemburg (AT Museum President), Hugh Barron (Scotland), Dick Anderson (Maine), Don Hudson (Maine), Jim Hibbard (South Carolina), and Mark Owen (England), Paul Wylezol (Newfoundland)Mark Owen, the National Trail Officer has just returned from the Appalachian Trail conference in Winchester, Virginia which he attended as a guest of the Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail. He joined them to showcase the South West Coast Path and the other UK National Trails.

The Appalachian Trail conference is held every two years and brings together over 1,000 Appalachian Trail walkers and volunteers for a series of workshops and walks. The 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail is probably the most well-known of the America’s long distance walking routes, and features in Bill Bryson’s ‘Walk in the Woods’ (which has just been made into a film starring Robert Redford due to be released in the UK on September 18th).

The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) is a network of hiking trails that extend from the northern tip of the Appalachian Trail across the North Atlantic in North America and continues for another 1800 miles up the east coast through Maine, Quebec and Newfoundland. Further sections have been designated in Great Britain and there are proposals to extend it further within Western Europe and North Africa.

The Appalachian Mountains were formed more than 250 million years ago, when North America and Europe were joined together as part of the supercontinent Pangea. Since then as the tectonic plates moved apart to form the Atlantic, remnants of the Appalachians ended up in Greenland, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Brittany, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria.

Once the American part of the Trail was in place, talk turned to extending it further to extend it across the other side of the Atlantic, and link up with Trails in countries that share this geological link. The English National Trails became part of the IAT network last year, and the South West Coast Path hosted the IAT AGM last October in Plymouth, which also has strong links to the USA, with 2020 being the 400th Anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers setting off on the Mayflower.

The IAT is continuing to add new partners and most recently has extended into Morocco and now incorporates around 12,000 miles of Trail – you can find out their amazing variety of routes to explore on their website.

The Appalachian Trail is maintained almost entirely by volunteers coordinated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. During the weekend, Mark met with their Executive Director/CEO Ron Tipton and directors Laura Belleville and Hawk Metheny and discussed with them the possibility of developing links with the South West Coast Path Association based on our shared passion for the outdoors and walking, and this will be explored further over the next few months.

Published on: July 21, 2015