Case Study: Burren Way, Ireland
By Sam Demas, April 2016
Purpose, methodology, and notes
These case studies are building blocks towards a broader “Country Study” examining long distance walking in Ireland. The intent of the case studies is to paint a picture of the most salient features of each walk and to delve somewhat into operational details. The idea is that from these case studies a broader national picture will emerge.
Burren Way Trip Report
By Sam Demas
As part of my research for a “Country Study” of long distance walking in Ireland, I walked much of this 132km classic Irish National Long Distance Waymarked Way through the sublime Burren landscape. While this walk is 73% on little-used roads due to access rights limitations, it passes through a magical cultural and natural landscape abounding in historical, archaeological, botanical, geological, and habitat features. The Burren is part of the UNESCO recognised Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark. In addition to walking on the Way, its well worthwhile to depart from the Waymarked Way to take in some of the excellent National Looped Walks and nearby features. This is a brief sketch of the route I took and some wonders encountered.
Profile of a Traditional Farmer and Host of the Lough Avalla Trail
By Sam Demas
As I approached the Lough Avalla trailhead on Green Farm Road, Harry stopped his truck and greeted me with a friendly smile. We chatted a bit, and I explained that I hoped to talk with him after walking the trail. I was interested in his approach to farming, and about how hosting a National Looped Trail and being part of Ireland’s Walks Scheme fit into his vision of farming. We hit it off immediately and quickly arranged to meet the next day when he had a little spare time. Before driving on, he told me to be sure to check out the Fairy Ring, and pointed out the direction.
Jamal Ait Lachegar, Berber Travel Adventures
A recent five-day walk in Morocco opened my eyes to a vital modern incarnation of ancient mountain hospitality: local families providing shelter to strangers. This is the story of Jamal Ait Lachegar, who is quietly realizing the dream of home-stays for walkers as a form of cultural exchange and preservation. And the story of a man whose work is building towards a larger dream: perhaps a future “Berber Trail”, possibly operated as part of the nascent International Appalachian Trail.
Understanding Local Perceptions of Management and Values of Long Distance Trails:
Summary of Masters Project, Duke University, 2015
By Julie Judkins,
Director of Education and Outreach, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Trails are built for connecting people to nature: an important first step of building conservation advocates. Long distance trails offer recreational opportunities, economic stimulus for neighboring communities, education and research opportunities, and lifelong activity. They provide connectivity for human passage and can offer an experience of a lifetime, a pilgrimage of reflection or spiritual awakening. Most importantly, the lands that national trails traverse are protective corridors providing ecosystem services, valuable migration pathways, significant natural resources, and help sustain biological diversity. The Appalachian Trail, for example, runs primarily along the ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountain range and Trail lands protect headwater streams for many of the east coast’s watersheds.
Submitted by Laurel Bradley, December 2015; Photo above is of our guide Jamal and the author.
Taking advantage of cheap international flights from my 2015-16 homebase of Dublin, Ireland, my husband and I travelled to Morocco for the 2015 Christmas season. Avid hikers, we sought access to mountains near Marrakech, our debarkation point. We found the perfect opportunity to walk 4-6 hours daily through agricultural valleys and rocky or forested mountains, and to experience the particular pleasures of Berber culture with a five day, four night journey organized by Berber Travel Adventures, a small company based in Amazmiz (55 km from Marrakech). Jamal, the sole proprietor and trained mountain guide, led the way. We were also accompanied by Mohammad, an able and cheerful muleteer, and by Maria, the patient beast of burden. They put together a great trip for us!
How the Methow Valley become a world-class lodging and trails hub
By Sam Demas
With fabulous ski terrain and a great climate, Winthrop, WA on the east slope of the North Cascades, became a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts in the 1970’s. Attracted by the consistent snow cover, great climate, and stunning natural beauty, young people began to move into the area. So did people representing big alpine ski resorts, with ambitions to create a destination alpine ski resort and to profit from an attendant real estate boom. One could view the modern history of the Methow Valley as a tale of big alpine ski interests vs. environmentalists, with x-country ski enthusiasts, or “soft path” recreationists, as the “middle-path” saviors. While that’s part of it, it oversimplifies the story by painting a black and white picture of conflict and reaction. Instead, it seems that the values and visions of Methow Valley residents — old and new — gradually cohered and prevailed through a parallel effort to create a recreation hub and economic driver without turning Methow Valley into another Aspen.
The E4 Team is collaborating with Google Trekker to produce a three dimensional map of the Greek portion of the European Long Distance E4 Trail. The project is centered around hiking in Greece, and is supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Greek National Tourism Organization, UNESCO, the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering & Climbing, and the European Ramblers Associations. There are some huts along the E4 in Greece. For more information: http://www.ekathimerini.com/202056/article/ekathimerini/community/mapping-greeces-trails-with-google-technology
Oregon Bike Trail and Hut System in Planning Stages
Travel Oregon is in the conceptual stage of planning a hut-to-hut single track biking system that they hope will eventually go from the Oregon/California border to the Oregon/Washington border. The initial planning involves coordination with the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the International Mountain Biking Association, as well as a number of Oregon organizations and businesses. The proposed trail will not go through federally designated wilderness or tribal lands. I’ll report further on this project over time as the concept develops.
– Sam Demas
Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, by Robert and Martha Manning, Oregon State University Press, 2013
The message of this beautiful, intelligent, and highly readable book is: long distance walking is within the walking distance of ordinary folks. Walking Distance makes the unique and primeval pleasures of long distance walking seem accessible to the average healthy person. Which it is!