Trail Journal
Volume 2019:7
Trail Ahead
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Trail Journal, the monthly newsletter from Trail Connections.

Our vision for Trail Connections is a website that is a guide to the connections (crossings and access trails) on the Appalachian Trail, and to the services that are near those connections. We want hikers to consider Trail Connections as vital to them as their backpack and shoes. And our motto, “Explore beyond the trail,” is meant to encourage hikers to get off the trail and discover the communities they’re passing through.

Here’s what we’re not. We’re not to a trail guide. We think that there are several great guides out there and we see no sense reinventing the wheel. And we’re not a thru-hikers guide. Once again, there are several out there that we’d just be trying to replicate.

Instead, we see ourselves as a guide to everything else about the AT. We're a guide to how you get to the trail and what you need to know before you're there. But more importantly, we're a comprehensive guide to the communities that the trail goes through. We want you to know as much about them as you do about the trail that you're on.

We have a big vision for Trail Connections. We envision Trail Connections not only encompassing all of the Appalachian Trail, but also other long-distance trails and regions where there's a network of trails (such as the White Mountains).

However, every hike starts with a single step, and we have chosen to get the great state of Vermont online first. All of the functionality that Trail Connections will employ is now available for Vermont. Even if you don’t plan on hiking there anytime soon, please go through the website and click on different links so that you can get a sense of what we hope Trail Connections will achieve.

Now that we’ve gotten Vermont online, we will have the southern third of New Hampshire ready by the end of July. That’s the section of New Hampshire from Hanover to New Hampshire Rte. 25 in Glencliff, just to the south of Mt. Moosilauke. We should have Mt. Moosilauke online by late summer.
In September and October, we are planning on doing some field work in Maine, so the rate at which we’ll be able to bring on new sections will slow down some. However, later in the fall and during the winter of 2019/2020, we will finish New Hampshire. We hope to have Maine ready for prime time by the time hiking season hits up there in 2020.

Check back periodically to see how we’re progressing, and wish us luck.

Leave No Trace
Principle of the Month Club

After a particularly snowy winter, it’s fitting that our Leave No Trace principle for this month is how hikers should deal with large puddles in the middle of the trail.
Something that many (we dare say, most) of us are guilty of is walking along the edges of a puddle trying to avoid walking through the puddle itself. When hundreds and even thousands of hikers do this over the years, the trail gets wider and wider and the puddle gets bigger and bigger. Vegetation on the edge of the trail gets trampled and killed. Leaving a trace, you are (says Yoda).

Walk single file through the puddle. Yes, your boots will get wet. If it’s possible to step on rocks in the middle of the puddle, that’s probably best for both your boots and for the trail. However, don’t walk along the edges as doing so is widening the trail.

To avoid having water or mud come over the tops of your boots or shoes, wear gaiters. If your footwear leaks, you might want to consider getting a new pair. If walking through a puddle just thoroughly repulses you, then sometimes waiting a few weeks to let the trail dry out may make a huge difference.
Two Tents Corner
While I had originally hoped to discuss other topics in this column, I would be remiss not mentioning here the tragic murder of AT hiker Ronald Sanchez (“Stronghold”) on May 11 th.

Any murder anywhere is the ultimate affront to society. Somebody who should be here isn’t. But for anyone who loves the AT, a murder on the trail feels personal - as if a close friend has been tragically taken away from us. That Stronghold was a veteran using the trail as a means of helping him cope with PTSD just makes this situation that much more tragic, if that were possible.

Over the past couple of months, I have found myself talking about his murder with a number of folks. Many of them know little about the trail and have never walked on it, however they have all heard about this tragedy. Their question to me is whether the trail is safe. And my answer is “no.” In a society where we’re not safe in our schools, our movie theaters, our places of worship, or even our homes, there is no place where we can unequivocally consider ourselves “safe.” The trail is no different.

The companion question (which I’m rarely asked) is whether the trail is dangerous. My response is the same. “No.” Over three million people hike some portion of the AT every year, and the fraction who are harmed in some way by others during that experience is minuscule. I dare say that if you were to compare the crime committed on the trail with that of a similar number within the general population, the incidents on the trail are far fewer. As someone who section hiked the AT over a 21-year period, I was often asked whether I worried about other people or wild animals while I was on the trail. And my response was that the most dangerous thing that I did on my hikes was get into my car and drive to the trailhead. Statistically, the chances of my being seriously hurt or dying in a car accident were far greater than having a similar fate happen to me on the trail.

That said, there are certain precautions that hikers should practice when possible. Hike in a group if you can. Even though Stronghold was with a group, in general there is greater safety in
numbers. Try to recognize bad situations and avoid them. I know from personal experience that shelters near road crossings would sometimes invite folks who were not just there to sleep. I avoided spending a night there if I could.

This is a far more solemn column than I had originally intended, but the events of this spring have changed the discussion about the Appalachian Trail in a way that needs to be addressed. Hopefully future issues of the Trail Journal won’t have to deal with such a morbid topic. In the meantime, I’ll add another catch phrase to my usual “Happy Trails!” “Be careful out there.”

Wanna Help?
We knew that when we started Trail Connections, it was going to be a big undertaking. What we didn’t realize was just how big. We already have developed almost 6,000 web pages, and those are only for Vermont and the southern third of New Hampshire. If you do a quick extrapolation, you realize that it will take tens of thousands of pages to encompass the entire AT. And like any trail, building the page is only the first step. The pages also have to be maintained.

Our vision for Trail Connections is magnitudes greater than our current resources will allow. Here’s where you can help:
  • If you see something on the site that you either find confusing or just plain wrong, please shoot us an email to tell us. We’ve tried really hard to be as accurate as possible, but things change over time and sometimes we just mess it up.
  • If you appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish, please consider posting a message. It’ll only cost you $9.95, and it will run for a month. You can just wish us “Good luck!” if you want, or you can use it to talk about your own experiences hiking the trail.
  • If you are one of the businesses listed on the site, please consider running an advertisement. While we don't charge businesses for a standard listing, we do charge to feature their ad over others on the same page. Ads run for a year and start at $24.95.
  • Another alternative for businesses is to have a "Visit Our Website" link show up on their standard listings. The cost of doing that is $9.95 per year and covers all of the listings that a business has on our site.
  • If you have a product or service that you think hikers may be interested in, please consider listing it with our Trail Connections store.
  • Finally, if you want to get involved helping us develop Trail Connections, please get in touch with us. Unfortunately, we’re not currently hiring in the traditional sense (although hopefully that will change with time). However, depending on your skill set and willingness to get involved, we are willing to think outside the box about how we can compensate you for your services. We especially need help with marketing and technical development.

The best way to reach us is by email at or by phone (978) 530-6883.

Trail Connections has tremendous potential. Please help us move past our early stages, and make this vision into a reality.
Wicked Cool Events
  • May 27 – Sept. 2: Green Mountain Adventure Challenge, Dover VT
  • June 15 – Sept. 15: Dorset Theatre Festival, Dorset VT
  • June 29 – July 27: Killington Music Festival, Killington VT
  • July 2 – August 11: Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show, Dorset VT
  • July 11 – Aug. 10: Manchester Music Festival, Manchester VT
  • July 18-21: Bradford Fair, Bradford VT
  • July 19-21: Killington Wine Festival, Killington VT
  • July 19-21: Notown Music Festival, Stockbridge VT
  • July 20: Southern Vermont Storm football, Bennington VT
  • July 20 & 27: Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford VT
  • July 21, Solarfest, Manchester, VT
  • July 21: National Ice Cream Day, Woodstock VT
  • July 23 & 30: Time Travel Tuesdays, Woodstock VT
  • July 24 & 31: Wagon Ride Wednesdays, Woodstock VT
  • July 25: Hemmings Cruise-ins, Bennington VT
  • July 25-27: Danby Olde Country & Bluegrass Festival, Danby VT
  • July 26 – August 4: Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival, Dover VT
  • July 27: Pownal Valley Fair, Pownal VT
  • July 27: Farm to Ballet, Woodstock VT
  • July 31-August 10: Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival, Jamaica VT
  • August 2-4: Southern Vermont Art & Crafts Festival, Bennington VT
  • August 2-4: Hops in the Hills Beer & Wine Festival, Ludlow VT
  • August 3: Long Trail Day, Entire length of the Long Trail
  • August 8-11: Manchester Sidewalk Sale, Manchester VT
  • August 8-11: Deerfield Valley Farmer's Day Fair, Wilmington, VT
  • August 10 & October 12: Super Bingo, Manchester VT
  • August 10-11: Art in the Park, Rutland VT
  • August 13-17: Vermont State Fair, Rutland VT
  • August 15-19: Vermont Challenge, various towns
  • August 16: Bennington Battle Day, Bennington VT
  • August 17: Fletcher Farm School Arts & Crafts Festival, Ludlow VT
  • August 23-25: Bondville Fair, Bondville (Winhall) VT
Trail Connections
Phone: (978) 530-6883.
P.O. Box 181, Ipswich, MA 01938