February 9, 2021
I am attempting to solo paddle a kayak along a water trail that parallels the Appalachian Trail (AT). It will formerly start at the southern end of the AT hiking trail on the summit of SPRINGER Mountain, Georgia. And yes, I will also need to summit the northern terminus of the AT at MOUNT KATAHDIN, Maine. I call it the Appalachian Blue Trail but it’s just the “Blue Trail” to me. Hopefully someday it will be just the Blue Trail or the BT to you too when you paddle sections of my dream adventure in the future. Amazingly, at 2,201 miles, it is only 9 miles longer than the AT hiking trail. I have spent the last 10 years creating this exploratory expedition of possibility by researching more than 1,000 web pages and by spending endless hours pouring over terrain and rivers online on Google Earth, Google Maps, paper maps and boots on the ground from Montreal to North Carolina.
I have created extremely detailed online navigation and planning maps in Google Earth. As a result of my expertise and projects in Google Earth, I have been invited to help be a developer for Google Earth Studio. I have stopped and peered off bridges and looked at streams online and in person throughout the Appalachian mountains. Over the years I have fine-tuned my trail by eliminating dead ends, impossible upstream routes, dry river beds that only flow during certain times of the year, necessary portages around dams and waterfalls, and discovered the not so obvious required portage routes between watersheds.
Some just require getting over the high ground. Others require finding the easiest path through the mountains. Over 76% of the trail is downstream or on lakes and reservoirs. Just 12.3% requires upstream travel on slow moving streams. The portages make up the remaining 11.5% of the trail (about the same percentage of portaging as on the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT)). Eight 20 mile portages will make up most of the 250 miles of carries (and rolls on wheels). The expedition crux will be one of those portages between two unnamed watersheds.
All told, I’ve cobbled together 11 watersheds between the Tennessee River and the Penobscot River that I’ll be kayaking starting in March, 2021. Together, they have become one single long “blue trail’ in my mind. Paddling, camping and portaging this trail will be my way of proving that it is possible for someone to link them all together unassisted . That means no one helps me carry anything along the way; and my kayak gets no help as well. It will need to be either carried, dragged, or pulled on wheels down the road or through field or forest. However, I reserve the right to break my portaging rule if it becomes an absolute necessity for unforeseen reasons.
If successful, then I plan to devote much of my time in the future to having it recognized as a national trail with the hope of having the watershed areas that the trail traverses protected for future generations – just as the Appalachian Trail is protected today by the U.S. National Park Service. The AT was designated as the first National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act of 1968. That trail is currently protected along more than 99 percent of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by rights-of-way. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Appalachian Trail and works directly with the National Park Service. My mission is to have the Blue Trail recognized and included as a sister trail protected by the ATC as well as have it included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Systems.
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