- Mar 8, 2014 at 3:41 am #1314165
I noticed that there are many misconceptions here on this forum about the wild camping in Europe and have therefore decided to explain and hopefully clarify the situation. The feedback I have received for my European trip reports made me realize that a lot of North Americans are deterred from hiking in Europe because they fear problems when wild camping.
Being German myself this post mostly refers to the situation in Germany but most of it applies to other Western European countries. When researching this post I have talked to German foresters and forest owners in order to give you more than the hiker view of the situation.
First of all you should realize that Europeans have a very different concept of land and property than North Americans and that has mostly to do with the long European history. So let's go back in time and see how the current situation has developed.
As far fetched as it might sound one important factor is inheritance law. Starting from the middle ages agricultural land and forests were bequeathed from father to son – or from father to all his sons which meant that the land was divided. When a son married he could acquire more land by marrying or buying. This land was then again divided between his sons and so on and so forth. With this happening for centuries the result is one huge patchwork of land. In order to access your land you inevitable had to use tracks and trails that were on another person's land. If you were trying to block these access trails you would get into big trouble with your neighbors. As a result tracks and trails were regarded common property – even if they were on private land. Still today in Germany if there is a trail you can walk it no matter who owns the land.
Another common practice in the middle ages were commons or “Allmende”. This used to be land that belonged to a village and was used jointly by all villagers. These commons were mainly forest that was used for grazing live stock. In modern times these commons become state land.
In the 20th century German legislators realized that in such a densely populated country like Germany forest is important for recreational purposes. To give you a perspective: Germany is about the size of Montana. But whereas less than one million people live in Montana, Germany's population is more 80 million! This fact led to various consequences:
Germany's forest is strongly protected! About 30% of Germany is forested. Half of this forest is privately owned, the other half federal or communal land. Because of the factors mentioned above as a hiker you will not be able to see whose land you are on. But it does not matter because the same laws apply to all forest:
Clear cutting is basically forbidden. Only if you are a private forest owner and you can prove that you are in a financial crisis you will be allowed to clear cut an area of maximum of 100 meters by 100 meters, but no more. But other than in this exceptional circumstance clear cutting is forbidden and only selective logging is allowed.
99% of German forest is commercially exploited by selective logging. For a hiker this means that you will find an extensive network of tracks and trails that can all be used for hiking. The waymarked trail network alone in Germany is around 200.000 km (125,000 miles) long! It also means that this trail network is usually very well maintained. Windfall will almost immediately be cleared away. Usually there is not much undergrowth in the forest. Hunting is also very popular in Germany and hunting rights are leased separately from logging rights. You will see hunting seats (a very German invention) all over German forests.
And now comes what will probably surprise North Americans most: German forest law grants a lot of access rights to the public.
Any forest owner (private or public) has to allow access to their forest for recreational purposes.
The law goes as far as to say that any “Keep out – entrance forbidden” sign in a forest can be ignored unless it explicitly states a valid legal reason. You can even leave the trail and walk cross country through the forest. Your access rights explicitly include the picking of mushrooms, berries and (non-protected) flowers for private purposes even on private land . Only in specific nature reserves these rights are a bit more restricted because you have to stay on trails here.
Let's now talk about stealth camping: First of all wild or stealth camping is hardly ever practiced in Germany – not because it is forbidden, but because for the vast majority of hikers there is no need for it. Most hikers you will meet are living in the area. Because of the legal situation described above you can basically hike anywhere in Germany. There is no need to go for a long drive – there is always some sort of forest nearby. You can access almost every trail head by public transport. Therefore most hikers do not camp, but stay in hotels, B&B and the like that are either directly on the trail or can easily be accessed by public transport. Or they just go home and sleep in their own bed. It is incredibly rare to see someone camping in the forest.
Because it is so rare some state laws even “forgot” to explicitly mention wild camping, but nowadays free camping is officially and explicitly forbidden almost anywhere in German forest. This is at least the theory and of course there are some official legal exceptions: Some German states allow wild camping for paddlers along their shoreline and water ways, some offer specific bivouac sites and in all German states camping is allowed in any case of emergency like inclement weather or medical problems.
So much for the theory – now let's talk about what happens in practice. I have camped hundreds of nights in European forests and have not been “caught” a single time. I do not know any European hiker who has been fined for wild camping. As I have mentioned before stealth camping is not wide spread and definitely not regarded as a problem. Therefore there is no one out there trying to catch you. As almost all forest is commercially exploited tree harvesters and tractors are all over the place. Their impact is much bigger than that of a hiker free camping as long as you practice LNT.
I have asked a private forest owner and a forester if they have ever encountered wild campers in their forest and how they would react. Both had to think a very long time to even come up with an encounter. Both said that first of all they would not be angry, but just very surprised.
The forest owner came up with one incident. After talking to the campers who were on a long hiking trip and gave them a free breakfast on his farm….
The forester could not come up with any incident but said he would talk to the campers and find out what they were doing. If they had no camp fire and were not littering he would just let them stay for one night.
But now let's be very pessimistic and see what the worst case scenario for wild camping is. If a forester finds you he can ask you to move on. (You can legally refuse to do so if you can claim a legitimate emergency.) If there is no emergency and you stubbornly refuse to move the forester has to call the police for further action. If the police decides to come out into the forest for a wild camper you can be charged with a misdemeanor. (Wild camping is a misdemeanor and no offense.) In the very worst case you can be fined which will most likely end in a reprimand of 5 – 80 EUR. Higher fines will only be issued if you have lit a fire, littered or destroyed the environment. Free camping in a specifically designated nature reserve can also lead to higher fines. (Especially lighting a fire and the resulting danger of a forest fire can lead to higher fines up to 500 EUR.)
Bottom line: Strictly speaking wild camping is legally forbidden in Germany, but usually tolerated as long as you practice common sense and LNT. In practice you will most likely not encounter any problem and even the very worst case scenario only involves a reprimand and a modest fine. If you decide to free camp NEVER light a fire, do not litter and do not camp in designated nature reserves.
This post focused on the legal situation in Germany, but the situation is very similar in other Western European countries. A noteworthy exception is Britain where hikers had to fight much harder for their access rights, but maybe a British forum member can better elaborate on this. And of course there is Norway, Sweden, Finland and Scotland where the everyman's law applies and wild camping is legal.
Please let me know if you have further questions or comments. I hope I have encouraged some forum members now to come and try hiking in Europe….Mar 8, 2014 at 6:36 am #2080795
ed hyattBPL Member
@edhyattLocale: The North
You can wildcamp legally in Scotland.
In England and Wales you are technically meant to ask the landowners permission – I've never bothered (how would you find them?), nor would I have the inclination. On Dartmoor you can legally wildcamp in some areas.
Perhaps in lowland areas you might encounter someone, but I always camp high in the mountains.
I've also wildcamped extensively in the Alps and Pyrenees without any issues; being stealthy if I've felt it necessary.Mar 8, 2014 at 7:14 am #2080802
Stephen MBPL Member
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
Ed mentioned about Scotland already, I have wild camped 100's of night in upland areas in Ireland, Wales and England and never had any issues.
Most upland/Mountain areas in Ireland and Uk are above treeline so fires are out of the question. Having lived in the US for the last 2 years I can easily say I still much prefer camping above treeline than below.Mar 8, 2014 at 8:13 am #2080820
@anarkhosLocale: Colorado, Wyoming
Very cool thread, thanks so much for sharing and clearing stuff up.Mar 8, 2014 at 8:29 am #2080825
Thanks for the great post. I found the same to be true is Switzerland.
"Bottom line: Strictly speaking wild camping is legally forbidden in Germany, but usually tolerated as long as you practice common sense and LNT"
Yes, and I wish the same were true here in the US.Mar 8, 2014 at 8:46 am #2080827
Thanks for that; walking through parts of Europe certainly appeals to me so I appreciate the data.
To occasionally augment or break up not-so-stealth stealth camping, what other overnight options are there for a long distance trip? Is there perhaps a smartphone app or two that would make it easy to find a local gasthaus or pension or the like? Is it typical on more well-walked routes to find advertisements/signs along the way for nearby places to stay? Other options, such as perhaps hostels or paid camping (presumably using the European idea of what "camping" is)? I'm not talking about special areas such as staying in the Alpen Huetten, but more generally in Germany (which is what you're clearly talking about).
My wife and I walked the Camino in Spain in September; hiking part of the Jakobsweg might be fun, and just generally seeing Germany by foot has some real appeal.Mar 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm #2080880
pilgrimage trails are usually the worst hiking trails in Europe. They have been created focusing on easy logistics and cultural aspects. Therefore they usually involve a lot of road walking. Long-distance hiking trails on the other side focus more on landscape and nature. Germany has recently created several new "premium" hiking trails called Top Trails of Germany. In order to become a "premium" trail a hiking trail must fulfill certain quality standards that are audited each year. That means that these trails are so well marked that you have to be blind to get lost. Also there is accommodation and restaurants at regular intervals. Go to the website, choose a trail and you will be referred to the trail's specific website that usually includes an app for accommodation. You can also order free trail brochures that usually include an accommodation list. You will find plenty of hotels and B&B along the trail although they are not as blatantly advertised as on the Camino in Spain.
I have hiked across Germany East-West twice and can highly recommend the route I have taken in 2011 which basically links together several of these premium trails. The route is 1,200 km long and took me 1,5 months. I still have all the gpx tracks and logistic information if you are interested.
There is no dedicated hiker accommodation in Germany. You will have to stay in hotels (usually expensive), Gasthaus (restaurant cum accommodation and usually cheaper than hotels) or B&B (usually cheapest). Sometimes you will find youth hostels but they are rare along trails.
In France on the other hand there are gite d'etape along all the popular long-distance trails. These are dedicated hiker accommodation with dormitories, shower and bathroom facilities and with a group kitchen or meal service. Usually they are very affordable. You can search for them on this excellent websiteMar 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm #2080884
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> what other overnight options are there for a long distance trip?
I'll treat this in a very general way.
First of all, you need a total change of mindset. Walking in Europe is not a fringe activity; it is a significant part of the culture. Quite apart from the gites d'etape and mountain huts, a major part of the trade for small hotels in towns is catering to walkers. You will often find that 3/4 of the perople staying in a small hotel are walkers. Walkers are their bread and butter. OK, 4-star luxury hotels in cities on the plains are for affluent car tourists – skip them.
Next, you need to rethink what is meant by the phrase 'mountain hut'. How about a 3-story 2-star hotel able to accomodate 60 people overnight? Mind you, you should see the size of the lunch crowd! They are day walkers, and you might see >100 of them turn up for lunch. The Guardian might have 10 staff in the kitchen.
Now, how do you find these places – and the tracks? You buy a Guide Book. Cicerone (UK) publish a horde of them in English. If you speak French or German you will find another horde of them published in Europe. Next, most any town will have a TIC – Tourist Information Centre, and these are a fantastic resource. When we come into a town we head straight for the TIC, and ask them to find us accomodation. They all have computer systems for doing this, and will even ring up the slected hotel or B&B and book for you. NO charge. Also, the TIC always sells topo maps and usually gives away local walking maps.
Walking in Europe, you need a day pack, a jacket, a towel and toothbrush, a water bottle and a credit card. And what is often called a 'youth hostel sleeping bag liner' if you are going to stay in any of the huts. The liner is because the huts in the mountains don't have washing machines.
It's addictive …
CheersMar 9, 2014 at 5:05 am #2081047
Stuart RBPL Member
In Scotland you are legally allowed to walk almost anywhere. I say 'almost' because you have to respect the use to which the land is put. So,
You have no right to walk through someones back yard,
You have no right to walk through cultivated fields,
You have no right to walk through military land,
You have no right to walk through a hunting estate during the shooting season.
As part of the legislation, you have the right to camp overnight as part of your walk, so the restrictions above also appply to wild camping. Also, you do not have the right to camp beside your car at the side of a road altho' this is usually tolerated.
In the Pyrenees you are not allowed to camp in the National Parks areas. However, the French (and Spanish) make a distinction between 'camping' (tent in one place for more than one night) and a 'bivouac' – tent up from dusk to dawn only. Bivouacing is allowed in National Parks with some restrictions – eg. more than 1 hours walk from a road, Ordessa NP does not permit a bivouac below 2100m.
Having said all that, I have never been asked to move on in either Scotland or the Pyrenees.Mar 9, 2014 at 10:00 am #2081088
Great stuff, Christine — thanks! I was all set to try to talk my wife into hiking some decent chunk of Germany until I noticed your comment about ticks (meningitis + lyme). She joined me on a hundred mile stretch when I hiked the AT, and despite that we weren't into any significant lyme risk part of that trail yet, she was already a little paranoid about it. So I'm not sure I could talk her into it. Und sie spricht weniger Deutsch, deshalb … perhaps a trip to do on my own some time.
Meanwhile, there are so many trails in the U.S. I still haven't been on — the world truly offers a backpacking smorgasbord.Mar 9, 2014 at 11:04 am #2081098
What a wonderful post! I've only traveled in Germany during the winter and was still impressed with the number of public trails I saw, and that was many years ago.
There's an increasing conversion of abandoned rail lines to trails in the US. It would be great to see campgrounds and hostels developed to support them for long distance travel. Campgrounds could be a good side enterprise for local farmers. As it is, the trails pass though all the small towns that were serviced by the railroads, so there are motels, restaurants, grocers and other services available.
The trick is to get the trails linked and get a culture of travel developed— "if you build it they will come." Bike travel is very popular already.Mar 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm #2081107
you are raising an interesting aspect: Hiking traditionally has had a much higher value in European societies than in North America. There is the century old tradition of pilgrimages, of craftsmen taking the road (you still see young craftsmen in their traditional outfits walking the roads in Europe) and the tradition of hiking for recreational purposes which started in the 19th century.
Nowadays hiking is big business in Europe. Hiking trails are developed, funded and maintained by local communities. Volunteers and hiking clubs help sometimes, but the money comes mostly from the communities. Even the EU funds hiking trails in order to support economically underdeveloped regions. Tourism planners have realized that hiking is a big factor in sustainable tourism. Hikers have a low ecological impact and the communities profit directly. Hikers sleep in small hotels and B&B along the trails, eat in local restaurants and buy in the little mom and pop shops. Europeans go hiking because they want to experience the local flavor: They want to eat regional dishes, sleep in traditional houses. As Roger has already pointed out some hotel owners basically live off the hikers. They have even specialized in hikers by offering drying rooms, lunch packages and sometimes even shuttle services for hikers and/or their luggage. The same applies to bike tourism which is also very big in Europe.
Pilgrimage trails are the latest trend. More and more traditional pilgrimage trails are revived and waymarked. Interestingly most modern pilgrims do not have a religious motivation. To give you some data: In 2013 alone 213,000 people have completed a pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela and requested a certificate. And this is just a portion of the pilgrims because there are various other pilgrimage trails all over Europe and not everyone finishes in Santiago. Looking at the statistics of the pilgrim's office in Santiago the numbers of pilgrims are continuously rising every year!
The pilgrimage business is so big and still booming in Europe that I have wondered for years why Americans have not jumped on the band wagon and created a pilgrimage trail in the US.Mar 10, 2014 at 2:15 am #2081326
Alpo KuusistoBPL Member
Great post that would deserve to be a BPL article! Maybe one collaborated by hikers from different parts of the world to build a nice reference for folks planning a hiking trip abroad. Or is there such a wiki or thread already somwhere?
Traditionally, land outside fields and villages was free for everyone to use, although communities had their own traditional hunting and fishing areas. This forms a base to everyman's rights. It's not a set of laws but a set of things not explicitly forbidden. Polite use of the rights is necessary to ensure they can be enjoyed also by following generations. In general things that cause no harm to landowners property, and respect peoples privacy are allowed.
– Non motorized travel is allowed on and off track, except for fields, backyards, military areas and specific nature reserves.
– Camping is allowed where travel is. Also camping by road in a car, camper etc. is allowed. There are restrictions to camping in many national parks and forest areas close to cities, although there's hardly any consequences if you practice Leave No Trace.
– You can pick berries, mushrooms and fish with hook and worm. Permits are required for other types of fishing. (dead cheap except for salmon rivers)
– Making fire is only allowed with landowners permission when forest fire risk is low. In the summer that could be about 50% of the time. In practice you only know the landowner when walking in state forests and national parks and there you mostly have designated fireplaces.
– Rules make no difference between private and commercial use, so BPL wilderness school could hike without permissions although good relations to landowners are obviously the way to go.
– water areas (and ice areas in winter) have even less restrictions.
– roughly 70% of Finland is forested. 10% goes for lakes and 10% for open marshland and above treeline areas. Leaving about 10% for fields and cities, and outside everyman's rights.
– hiking off trail is more common than in Central Europe, as terrain is often easy and flat.
– Wilderness hut culture deserves a special mention. There are no manned rifugios and very few guesthouses compared to central Europe, but around 400 open wilderness huts, mostly in northern Finland. Majority is equipped with a fireplace or a stove and some even with a sauna. Everyone can stay and is expected to clean up and prepare firestarters for next hikers. If the hut is full, tradition is that first comers (who have had some rest) leave and give way to the last ones, but this is not always practiced.
In Sweden and Norway rules are roughly the same. There are differences in wilderness hut culture and fire making rules. Perhaps some member from there will continue.Mar 10, 2014 at 6:15 am #2081345
German Tourist wrote, "The pilgrimage business is so big and still booming in Europe that I have wondered for years why Americans have not jumped on the band wagon and created a pilgrimage trail in the US."
There's no historical context for it. Road trip pilgrimages to Yellowstone, Disneyland, or Washington DC come to mind. I did see 40 people lined up outside the original Starbucks yesterday.
We're still in frontier mindset, although it is long gone in reality. The distances are huge too. We have the continental trails: PCT, CTD, AT, and so on.
A good part of the American outdoor experience is motorized, with ATV's, snowmobiles, outboard boats, motor homes and the like. I'm afraid what you read here is the exception rather than the rule.Mar 10, 2014 at 6:42 am #2081362
I know all the arguments because I have discussed this topic with several American friends. But look at Australia which has the same background: no historical tradition and long distances. And still they have created a pilgrimage trail, the Camino Salvado:
In Japan there is a Buddhist pilgrimage trail called the 88-temple-pilgrimage which becomes more and more popular every year even with non-Japanese.
I think that the rising popularity of pilgrimage trails is a phenomenom of our modern society – and is not depending on a specific religion. It is just a sign that people are on a spiritual quest.
And by the way: The creation of Santiago de Compostela was nothing but a middle age marketing stunt as well. Back then the big religious centres were Rome and Jerusalem. Before the relics of St. James were "discovered" no one went to this Westernmost point in Europe.
I just find it very surprising that North Americans – who often seem to be more church oriented than modern Europeans – have not created their own pilgrimages, be it for religious or economical reasons. Looking at how many Americans come to hike the Spanish pilgrimage trails there would certainly be some demand for it.Mar 10, 2014 at 8:52 am #2081400
Without getting into a totally Chaff oriented discussion, I think that the conservative religious sub-cultures in the US wouldn't be walking. Those seeking spiritual quests are probably not followers of mainstream religions and look to the through-hiking trails.
Land access in the US is quite different than Europe, which makes your original post very interesting. The old railway right of ways and a few canal trails are about the only opportunity for walking cross country without being on the shoulder of a road somewhere and those opportunities are few and piecemeal at best. Road walking isn't particularly safe or aesthetically pleasing. Many of our suburban areas have terrible pedestrian access.
I can't think of any destinations that would be religiously oriented and certainly not a string of them. There's never been a state supported religion and there are so many different sects that there never was a cohesive whole like the Roman Catholic church in Europe. There are a fair number of religious summer camps and retreats, but nothing remotely organized on a national level.
Obviously, I just don't see it. If anything, I think the effort would be with secular groups to set aside more wild areas and rail trails.Mar 10, 2014 at 9:18 am #2081408
Paul MagnantiBPL Member
@paulmagsLocale: Colorado Plateau
We do have American pilgrimage trails in America, but not on foot.
In America, we have a romance of the veehicle, the open road and traveling on such.
"Get your kicks on Route 66!"
A very popular book, written nearly forty years ago, had a pilgrimage via the backroads:
"Easy Rider" and the iconic song by Steppenwolf.
And who can forget "Travels with Charley" by Steinbeck? The opening lines are, more or less, a call to the open road and taking a pilgrimage on said open road.
"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself….A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
We do not have formal pilgrimages in the US as such, but that is what they are. Our holy places aren't necessarily the churches (those obviously can be ones)but these other places are equally revered, a place to see, experience and talk about: The Statue of Liberty, the Mall in DC with its Roman-esque monuments of triumph and tragedy, Graceland (seriously), Mt Rushmore, the four corners monument in the southwest, just the mere act of seeing the Colorado Rockies, the California redwoods and many other places both natural and man made.
And the way to ideal way to see it all in America? A road trip.
There is still something in our cultural DNA as Americans that draws us to the open road. Our movies, books, television shows, songs and now online resources ( http://bit.ly/1irDV51 ) celebrate, revere and romanticize traveling through out the US by vehicle. Even if most people do not travel to the sites this way, the Great American Road trip IS the American pilgrimage route. Something born in the 20th century and less than a century after widespread auto travel, already part of the American mythology.
But this is getting off-topic. :) Safe to say, American pilgrimages, for better or worse, are not walking based.
(Interesting read on this subject is American Gods by Neil Gaiman)Mar 10, 2014 at 9:49 am #2081424
Still, it seems like the right marketing oriented group could get something going in the Bible belt (with some associated more worldly attractions like whiskey distilleries and lots of barbecue), and the economic impact of success could be significant.
For my part, I'm flying to Atlanta tomorrow to hike for about a month on the AT, and looking forward to sampling again some of that southern charm (and generally low prices).
I agree with Christine that, once established, something like this could certainly be popular and self-sustaining here. Maybe throw some cultural stops in as well. I can imagine someone walking on their knees for the last quarter mile to Graceland.
In some ways a walking route might fit better in western "outdoor culture" areas. But stuff is more spread out here. If you're going to have more ~ordinary people considering it, you have to have relatively close stops along the way. On the Camino in September we typically passed through a couple of towns each day, in between the ones we slept at, giving lots of flexibility in how far you go on a give day (and we didn't do high mileage days).
Solution: don't expect Americans to walk. Set it up as a Segway pilgrimage. :-)Mar 10, 2014 at 9:57 am #2081426
Paul, that was a beautiful post.
Pinko liberal tree-hugger I may be, but I am the quintessential American when it comes to my love affair with the automobile. I agree 100% the road trip is the American pilgrammage.Mar 10, 2014 at 10:00 am #2081429
Stuart RBPL Member
Why do so many people (in Europe) walk pilgrims trails, if not for religeous reasons?
Perhaps there is some nostalgia for walking along an ancient path, but I believe the main reason is that many people want an easy waymarked path where they do not have to worry about navigation or plan more than a day ahead. Perhaps the treking companies, out for an easy buck, encourage this mentality.
I think many visitors to Scotland are surprised by the lack of waymarked trails (until recently there was only one, the WHW). Where shall we walk? they ask. "Anywhere you like" offers too many possibilities, plus the requirement to think. There are many paths along which you can walk, but they are not waymarked. They are used by walkers, but most were not created for walkers. They may no longer serve their original purpose and may peter out through disuse. Walkers need and are expected to be able to navigate. Historically, many walkers were working class men who walked to escape from cities at the weekend. They had little money but walked and climbed none the less. This is all part of local walking culture and only the tourist bodies are funding waymarking of trails to promote tourism and the businesses that profit from them.
This may come as a bit of a shock to some visitors, but once you adjust your mindset, it offers tremendous freedom. You can walk (almost) anywhere! There are no impassable mountain ranges (or true wilderness). See something interesting? – go walk over to it! Weather better/worse than expected? – change you route 'on the fly' to suit! Discover a beautiful spot? – stay a while! Hard/easy going? – change you route as you please!Mar 10, 2014 at 10:06 am #2081433
Ben CBPL Member
I have to agree that wilderness walking and organized southern religion are not traditionally compatible. I assume the heat and humidity are at least part of the reason but maybe not all of it. The south has a strong religious tradition but really not a strong fitness tradition. Southerners don't have anything against the outdoors though. Hunting and ATV riding are very popular. Maybe we can start a southern biathlon.
We do have a Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. Its mostly a driving tour but can be done as a biking tour that also goes through a lot of our more scenic horse country. Its not religious or hiking, but its the closest thing we have.Mar 10, 2014 at 10:11 am #2081436
I definitely think there is room for developing walking tours in the U.S., just not of a spiritual/super meaningful bent. Walkability has become a big deal in urban planning, and so have green spaces. Trails developed along green belts in culturally rich areas would be a place to start. Expanding the rails to trails systems to make multi-day bike tours accessible to folks who aren't hard core cyclists. Improving bike and trail accomodation along iconic highways. The Great River Road, Route 66, Highway 1.
I see these sorts of efforts as related to wilderness trails in a broad sense of getting people outdoors and into some sort of nature, but very very different in experience and the type of people they might draw, which is frankly a good thing. Even if a person never climbs the Sierras, they can still experience nature in some fashion more authentic than vicariously through Duck Dynasty.Mar 10, 2014 at 10:32 am #2081445
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
The only pilgrimages I've seen in the US are local ones (a few miles max) on the southwestern borders with the Hispanic Catholic presence. One of my old workers with Spanish heritage took his Mexican wife to Spain to do a proper pilgrimage (where he kept showing her where all the conquistador gold was stored). There were few settlements in the southwest due to water and the ferocity of the Natives, and the Protestant Anglo pilgrims were busy setting up farms or shops, … so not as much history here. Road trips are encouraged (route 66 comes to mind), tho the best we can hope for is safer bike routes (and more hiking trails). Been noticing more bike tour rigs on the roads (a company measures existing road width to see if bike lanes can be added).Mar 10, 2014 at 10:40 am #2081452
I can just see this trail from one flat-roofed Southern Baptist church to another. If you've seen one old church with bad siding, yellow glass windows and smelly carpets, you've seen them all. That and we have more charlatans than saints, and you can watch them on TV. A Tammy Faye Baker trail? The Jimmy Swaggart Path? The mind boggles. They would use an old yellow school bus anyway. I could see loads of sweaty fat folk with fans wobbling down the steps of the bus and into the church parking lot to find meaning in life.
The culturally "rich" areas are bubbles. New England has good potential, but the rest are small areas of cities: Savanna, New Orleans, Washington DC, San Fransisco. Thinking of Los Angeles this way is funny. You could do an urban survival tour of NYC. There is nothing in Seattle much more than 100 years old.
Other great highway epic books:
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
On the Road
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
"See the USA in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA
America's the greatest land of all
On a highway, or a road along the levy
Performance is sweeter, nothing can beat her
Life is completer in a Chevy
So make a date today to see the USA
And see it in your Chevrolet
Traveling East, Travelling West
Wherever you go Chevy service is best
Southward or North, near place or far
There's a Chevrolet dealer for your Chevrolet car
So make a date today to see the USA
And see it in your Chevrolet."Mar 10, 2014 at 10:47 am #2081454
Pessimistic much, Dale?
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