Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Circum-Atlantic Trail; Circum-Planetary Trail?

The BBC has an interesting article about apparently active efforts to extend the Appalachian Trail into Canada, and around the entire North Atlantic Ocean.
The forces that threw up the Appalachian chain 350 million years ago also formed mountains across North Africa, back when there was no Atlantic Ocean, when the continents were all one - the Pangaea supercontinent - and they were linked together.

So why not link them up again, by extending the walking trail and persuade people with strong thighs and a very great deal of time on their hands to stroll all the way from Georgia to the Atlas Mountains, north of the Sahara?
OK, I see some logistical problems with this. As the article points out, there's the small matter of, well, an OCEAN in the way. But I can also see plenty of ways to deal with them. Overall, the idea of a trail to geologically reconnect two landmasses that began to separate in the late Triassic is profoundly appealing to me. I don't expect to be hale enough to ever walk a significant portion of it, nor even live to see it completed, but I find the vision compelling.

So compelling, in fact, that my imagination immediately leaped to the idea of another trail extending across the Gulf states, the Ouachitas and Colorado Plateau, to connect the south end of the Appalachian Trail with the southern end of the Pacific Crest Trail. Then extend the PCT north into Canada and Alaska... and you can see where I'm going with this.

Very few people would have the wherewithal and time to complete a circum-planetary trail, but many would have the opportunity to walk a portion of that. The opportunity to highlight and educate people about our globe's geology and history would be unparalleled. And the symbolism...

I moved to Corvallis from a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio named Mentor. The house that I had been living in there, my grandparents', was about a half a mile from Federal Route 20. When I moved here, I discovered that I was about a half a mile from Federal Route 20. It was as if I had just moved a bit down the road, though the climate, landscape, culture, biome and everything was thoroughly new to me.

Imagine standing in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and seeing a sign pointing north, labeled "Maine, Georgia and California." And a sign pointing east labeled "Persia, Himalaya, and Mongolia." How would that make you feel?

I can't speak for you, but it would make me feel more connected to the entire world, not just my little parochial corner of it. I may be a curmudgeon and a cynic, but I can still dream.

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