GPS HIKES & MAPS: Trip Search Products Using GPS

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Want to Make Hiking History?

Mere months after the February issue (and Jon's announcement of the project) first hit mailboxes and newsstands, the reader response is breaking records: we're up to 2,386 applicants and counting, more than any other BACKPACKER contest to date. For those of you that may have missed out on the editor's note in question, read on. For those of you that haven't yet applied, get to it!

There's a lot to love about the Continental Divide Trail. It's the most challenging and remote of America's big three long-distance paths, tracing the crest of one wild range after another: the Bitterroots, Wind Rivers, and San Juans, to name just a few. Many hikers swear it trumps the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails for raw beauty. No surprise there--this 3,100-mile roller coaster links no fewer than a dozen iconic destinations, including Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and the Weminuche and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas.

Yet the CDT lacks one basic ingredient of a world-class hiking path: an official map. Bruce Ward, executive director of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA), says that more than 1,000 miles remain unsigned, undetermined, or simply unmapped. In some places, multiple trails run from point A to B, leaving hikers puzzled about which option to follow. The CDTA has been working with private landowners and federal agencies to define a single pathway, Ward told me, but obstacles remain in completing a designated, non-motorized route.

That's where BACKPACKER--and perhaps you--can make a difference. We want to put readers on the CDT this summer and get as much of the trail mapped as possible. Maybe we'll cover 2,000 miles, maybe all 3,100. The goal is a Forest Service-approved map that eliminates route confusion and gives hikers a definitive document for trip planning. It's a unique opportunity to make hiking history.

Over the next few months, we'll pick about 200 applicants to join BACKPACKER editors and CDTA volunteers for a week of hiking and mapping. We'll split you into teams, provide GPS units and training, load you up with free gear, and assign your team a specific section of trail. You'll record waypoints, shoot photos, and submit trip reports. We'll publish the results next winter and post a downloadable version of the map (with your pictures and notes) on our website.

Don't miss this chance to join me for a week of phenomenally scenic--and worthwhile--backpacking. To apply as a map volunteer, go to The contest deadline is March 30; we'll notify winners by May 1.

Jonathan Dorn


Leon Nelson said...

Hi, Jon...With the primary goal of BACKPACKER's CDT map project being the creation of a USDA Forest Service approved - and first ever! - map of the CDT, I suggest that you have a contest to see which of the participant's pictures will grace the cover of the map! I do know the thrill of this, as my photos are on the covers of the Forest Service maps for the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Marble Mountain & Russian Wilderness areas of Northern California. Hope you like this idea, Jon. Leon Nelson, Redding, CA.

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