Category Archives: Essays

Alaska Huts

Alaska huts and trails and economic development

“Could the lure of trails salvage Alaska’s economy?”

article by Krista Langlois in High Country News (June 26,2017):

Summary  below with link to full article

 

This article is highly recommended to anyone interested in huts and trails and their potential for economic development.  Following is a brief summary:

The subtitle of this piece summarizes Langlois’ arena of exploration: A trial along the Trans-Alaska pipeline could be the start of a booming recreation economy. Krista interviews people on all sides of this question, but is clearly interested in the potential of Alaska’s greatest asset — its sublime landscape and huge tracts of magnificent wilderness — as a desperately needed driver of economic development.  

The economy of Alaska is on the ropes: timber jobs have decreased by 80%, oils production has dropped by 76% since 1989, the state is doing everything it can to prop up fishing and mining, but is now facing a $4 billion budget deficit.  Governor Bill Walker said in 2016 “We have reached a point in our state’s history that we need to be looking beyond oil.”  

The specific proposal Langlois explores is the development of an 800 mile trail that parallels the Trans-Pacific pipeline.  She outlines the arguments pro and con, provides interesting character sketches some of the advocates and opponents of the trail, and provides valuable context in comparing the state of trail development in Alaska compared with that in the lower 48 states.  The bottom line is that while Alaska has unsurpassed wilderness beauty, it has relatively little infrastructure to attract outdoor enthusiasts.

She hones in on the fact that the rugged wilderness of Alaska is beyond the capabilities of most people, and that the development of hut systems is one way of making these wonders accessible to the vast majority of “people in the middle” who appreciate and long for contact with wild but are simply  not up to the job of backpacking in Alaska.  She interviews Tom Callahan of Alaska Huts Association, and cites relevant economic development studies and initiatives including the New Zealand hut system and Great Walks, the AMC Hut System, and Adventure Cycling, and Fruita Colorado to name a few.  

But don’t settle for my summary: its well worth reading the entire article.

Public Access to Private Land: gratitude for the kindness of strangers

Public access to private land is taken for granted. For several days along the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota prompted a strong sensation of enjoying the kindness of strangers.  Trail signs reminded me to respect the property rights of those permitting the trail corridor to traverse their land, and other signs clearly marked the NO TRESPASSING boundaries. With one exception this permissive access was granted anonymously.  The land owners likely live nearby, but we walkers don’t know who the are.  The one exception was a tribute to landowner Sarah Ellen Jaeger, who not only granted permissive access, but put her land in a trust.

While we in the USA are blessed with lots of public lands for trails, we are also often dependent on the kindness of private land owners who grant rights of way for trails.  Musing on this, Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor came to mind:

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. 

As I reflected on our founding father’s notions about sharing intellectual property, I also realized the limits of the metaphor.  When a few hikers or bikers damage a trail, access to private land is compromised by their offensive footprints.

 

When landowners get fed up with ongoing disrespectful behaviors on the trail (e.g. littering, trespassing, camping, and lighting fires), they sometimes rescind the permissive access to the  trail corridor.

As a result, trails must be re-routed at great effort and expense.  Fortunately rescinding of access happens very infrequently.

In the USA under “permissive access” to private property: all the private land owner has to do to bar others is to post a NO TRESPASSING sign.  In some other nations traditional rights of way across private land are protected and “right to roam” legislation guarantees free trail access for the public.

It is easy to bemoan what we don’t have in terms of access rights to private land, and I agree with these arguments.  But as I walked the SHT I was overcome with gratitude for what we do have: thousands of anonymous land owners who willingly grant public access to their land because they believe in the importance of trails and in sharing their woods, rocks, trees and vistas.

It was a special pleasure to see one special land owner memorialized on the trail.  Thank you Sarah Ellen Jaeger and all the other generous owners of private land who allow us to walk.

 

Shelter from the Storm – Introduction to a Book About History of New Zealand Huts

Below is a reprint of the “Introduction” to the book: 

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

Embedded below is the 14 page, beautifully illustrated “Introduction”, by Shaun Barnett, to the remarkable book Shelter from the Storm. In it he provides an overview of the benefits, history, and architecture of New Zealand huts. His “Introduction” gives the reader a feel for the book as a whole. For more on this book, see my two part book review of Shelter from the Storm click here for: part 1 and part 2. Continue reading

“On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor

On Trails: an exploration by Robert Moor, Simon and Schuster, 2016

Book Review by Sam Demas

Robert Moor is intellectually intrepid in his exploration — as a writer and a walker – of the genesis, meaning and wonder of trails.  Trails of all kinds.  He writes in the spirit of intellectual adventure represented by authors like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Robert Macfarlane, Annie Dillard, Jared Diamond, and Bruce Chatwin.  Through fluid writing, artful character sketches, long walks, and deep research, he opens our eyes to the fact that trails are everywhere one goes in the world, and that they all have stories to tell and wisdom to impart.  As Moor says, his book is a trail whose destination is a quest for the wisdom of trails. I’ve read (or listened to) this book several times in the past year and am finally sharing my enthusiasm with the readers of hut2hut.info. Continue reading

Five Long Distance Walks in UK: Trip Report

Preview of Long Distance Walks

By Brian Tyler, AFIChemE, Cheshire, England

{Editors note: This 47 page report of five walks is from a family memoir by Brian Tyler, father of my friend Simon Tyler.  Brian – a truly peripatetic professor and chemist – estimates he has walked some 75,000 miles over his more than 80 years on earth, cycled at least 50,000 miles, and run about 4,600 miles. This chatty and informative chapter from his memoir details five walks taken between 1975 and 1999.  It gives a feel for each walk, provides useful information (though some is doubtless out-of-date)  and reveals his sharp eye for historical detail.  His photographs have a family album feel and add greatly to the text.  When I read this report I was enchanted by how it compellingly tells the story of one man’s long walks over time.  Brian kindly agreed to my request to include it on hut2hut.info as a unique example of how walking fits into a life well lived. – Sam Demas, October 2016}

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Trip Report: Pilgrimage to Iona

By Hut2Hut Pilgrimage Editor Amanda Wagstaff

Iona-Abbey-View

View of the abbey complex on Iona © Amanda Wagstaff 2016

I arrived in Glasgow and immediately realized that I was overdressed. It was only the first of June, but a spell of cloudless summer weather had overtaken the west of Scotland. As I walked across town with my backpack, I could feel sweat dripping down my face and the beginnings of sunburn on my neck. I was a mess by the time I reached Queen Street Station.

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NYT Opinion Piece: Right to Roam in USA?

In the April 23, 2016 New York Times Ken Ilguna makes a case for implementing “Right to Roam” laws in USA similar to those in England, Sweden, and other European nations.  Along the way he provides some useful comparative perspective on how different nations handle right to roam.  In the end he acknowledges that right to roam legislation is unlikely to happen in the USA for several reasons, including:

1. the “takings” clause of the Fifth Amendment declares that private property cannot “be taken for public use, without just compensation.”, and

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News: Great New Yorker article about Via Alpina and the hut-to-hut experience

Poet, writer and walker James Lasdun has published a wonderful exploration of the delights and challenges of the famous Via Alpina, and the experience of walking hut-to-hut.  Published in the April 11, 2016 issue of the New Yorker magazine, this is a delightful and serious essay on the Via Alpina, a trail that wends its way through 8 nations and has more than 300 huts spaced a days walk apart.  He describes parts of the trail, gives glimpses of hut life, and relates his own challenges and observations in walking a portion of the trail in the Triglav National Park in Slovenia.  Its not often that an American general interest magazine devotes space to describing the hut-to-hut experience, and this one — humorous, well-written, and informative — is an especially worthy contribution to America’s growing consciousness of the hut experience of long distance walking.

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Meet our new “Pilgrimage Editor” Amanda Wagstaff

by Amanda Wagstaff, Hut2Hut Pilgrimage Editor

“A pilgrim travels differently. Always in pilgrimage, there is a change of mind and a change of heart.”

– John O’Donohue.

In a roundabout way, John O’Donohue is the reason I am living in Ireland right now. In the summer of 2014, my sister and I travelled to northern Virginia to visit a family friend who was living with cancer. We all knew that it might be our last time together, and indeed, it was the last time that I saw Aunt Ann.

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Outdoor Society argues for more huts in USA

Mathias Eichler, outdoors advocate and editor of the Outdoor Society blog, grew up in the foothills of the Alps.  He can’t understand why there are not more huts in USA, his beloved adopted land.  He is a great fan of our National Parks and advocate for recreational use of public land. {Featured image courtesy Mathias Eichler}

In two posts (click on titles in excerpts below) he discusses his ideas.  In an editorial “Whats next for America’s Public Lands?” he presents a case for more huts on public lands.  A separate piece “Eight Huts we need in the Mountains of the American West” presents brief profiles, accompanied by great pictures, of some huts he admires.

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