Trail hikers pose no threat to neighbors

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:24

    Many outdoor enthusiasts take the ultimate challenge to “thru-hike” the entire Appalachian Trail in one season, that is, to hike from Georgia to Maine. These “transients” Joseph Davis described them in his letter to the editor printed April 16, have no vehicle, and therefore will not be parking anywhere. They are also little threat to our public safety, unless you count the distinct aroma of an unbathed thru-hiker shopping at the A&P. I can speak with experience, having clocked over 4,000 miles on the AT’s sister trail, the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. I can assure you, most of these “transients” are good citizens of the world, and most are college-educated folks who are taking some sort of sabbatical. I, myself, am a Registered Nurse with a bachelor’s degree, and my husband and I are both members of the National Ski Patrol. What threat do we pose? When I was a “transient” I met other RNs, MDs, engineers, new college grads, physical therapists, geologists, social workers, environmental engineers and even a veterinarian, just to name a few. Since we have to carry everything we need for six months on our backs, we travel lightly and move quickly. We just want to enjoy the view, reflect on our lives and get to the next mile marker. Now that I have settled down in Vernon, I frequent the “boardwalk” section of the trail with my family, especially when I was pregnant, since it so easy and flat. Am I really a threat to your public safety? It seems the other people sharing the trail with us are also locals. And on nice days, quite a few of us are out there, enjoying nature. Isn’t that why we live here? We have no sidewalks, only trails to exercise on. We love the outdoors and want to teach our son to appreciate nature and to be a good steward of the land so graciously loaned to us by God to look after. It seems like a parking lot would most likely be used by the same locals who enjoy the trail now, only we would not be forced to park alongside a busy road, trying to get a young family out of the car without anyone being hurt. And wouldn’t a parking lot allow more visitors, perhaps from the surrounding counties? These day-trippers and their families, out for a nature walk in our little piece of Heaven on Earth, may also eat, shop and refuel before heading home. Just think of the boon to our local economy. Vernon wants to become a four-season destination. Why would we want to prevent people from enjoying what we have to offer? Shouldn’t we be promoting our trail system? The Vernon Chamber of Commerce Web site boasts about this piece of “serenity” and I quote: “10 percent of the 1.5-mile boardwalk use is by AT thru-hikers and section-hikers. The other 90 percent of the traffic consists of locals — joggers, dog-walkers and school kids doing nature studies. There is nothing on the AT that is as much like a community park as this is.” Don’t these people need a place to park? Jennette Zmach Glenwood