Hiking and wild camping in Europe: Legal aspects
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Mar 10, 2014 at 10:57 am #2081459Ryan SmithBPL Member
@violentgreenLocale: East TN
The Jimmy Swaggart Trail. LOL. I love it. Couple that with a Benny Hinn Ho-down and you've got something special on your hands.
RyanMar 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm #2081503Steofan MBPL Member
@simauliusLocale: Bohemian Alps
Epic Wyoming Road Trip:
Rising From The PlainsMar 10, 2014 at 2:11 pm #2081537Rex SandersBPL Member
USA does have religious pilgrimage trails, and many other pilgrimage-type trails that are more historical than religious:
Start with the US National Trails System for a list of well-known, and lesser-known trails. Some of the lesser-known trails include:
And many others with less formal designation:
Some of these routes are well-traveled and supported, some are little more than skimpy descriptions of paths along major highways.
But we have a lot more than people routinely think about.
— RexMar 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm #2081539d kBPL Member
I happened upon a small portion of this trail in my own backyard (well, almost) recently, where it crossed a trail I occasionally hike on nearby water district land:
From Wikipedia: "The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail is a 1,210-mile (1,950 km) National Park Service unit in the United States National Historic Trail and National Millennium Trail programs. The trail route extends from Nogales on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, through the California desert and coastal areas in Southern California and the Central Coast region to San Francisco."
Looks like a large part of it is driving, however.Mar 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm #2081559
thanks a lot for your enlightening post. I knew of the National Scenic Trails you mention but they are mostly meant for driving – although they have some historical background.
But the last three "inofficial" trails are very interesting. Especially the trails around Chimayo definitely qualify as pilgrimage trails. I wonder how El Camino del Norte to Chimayo will develop. It seems to be brand new and I wonder how many people it will attract in the future.
Thanks for the information!Mar 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm #2081580
"Pessimistic much, Dale?"
That was the light version :)
Don't get me wrong, we have lots of good trails in the US, but with the secular base for government since Day 1, the idea of religion-based trails is rather odd. It just isn't part of the culture. It may be possible in Central or South America. For that matter, I doubt if the Europeans could cook one up from scratch, although they might be able to tap an ancient one.Mar 11, 2014 at 1:41 am #2081720
let me correct another misconception: The majority of the piligrimage trails in Europe is not funded, maintained or supported by any church but by the communities or the government. For example the hostels or albergues along the Spanish caminos are usually either run by the local communities or the relevant state government. There are a lot of private hostels, too but religious accommodation options like monasteries are very few.
European governments are secular like the US but pilgrimage trails are regarded as some sort of "theme" trail and like in Spain they have become a huge factor in the tourism business.
I am not a big fan of pilgrimage trails myself for various reasons but I must admit that they have drawn a much wider crowd than any wilderness trail would have been able to attract.
Spelt! has summed it up very well:
"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."
I think that is a big difference between the European and the North American hiking tradition: Hiking in North America is seen as a wilderness experience and there are not many alternatives. But unfortunately this will deter many people because they think they are lacking the skills and/or the equipment. Because Americans do not have the liberal access rights to land like Europeans going for a hike will involve a long drive for most people. The inhibition threshold to go hiking is very high. Hiking will therefore always be restricted to a relatively small number of people.
The situation in Europe is different – there is no real wilderness left like in the US. Hiking is easy and you do not need a lot of skills. Due to the legal reasons mentioned in the original post you can hike basically anywhere. Everyone can start hiking almost in their own backyard. The inhibition threshold to go hiking is therefore very low. Hiking has became more and more popular in the last decades and is now a big business factor for the outdoor industry and for the local communities. Hiking is regarded as sustainable tourism and is therefore promotod by the government and the communities. Pilgrimage trails are just one popular part of this movement.Mar 11, 2014 at 2:06 am #2081721Alpo KuusistoBPL Member
Seems I was writing same time with above, with similar mindset, but I'll keep this unedited:
Stuart pointed out that many 'pilgrims' are out there for easy path rather than religious aspects, and having sold gear to dozens if not hundreds of Camino Santiago walkers I agree. mr Caffin and Brian attested to attractiveness of hut-to-hut hiking. Is there such a trail in USA? Or do people have to jump from daypack-sandwiches-picnics straight to tentliving-portablestovecooking-bearbagging? That's one big leap involving a pile of new gear and skills. Situation is the same up here in Finland and folks seek an easier step at Spain.
Historical backgrounds, churches and castles of European trails take a shape of backdrops, shrines and cathedrals of nature in America. Think White Sands, Mammoth Cave, Zion and Grand Canyon. Think of Yosemite to Tuolumne with big hostel grade huts at both ends, Little Yosemite Valley, Sunrise, Merced Lake and Vogelsang. Would there be any walkers? Sure it would rape the virginity of the nature and father Muir would turn in his grave, but you do have dozens of less holy places.
Would this increase the number of people who appreciate the nature and result in more environmental thinking in general? Or would it push more and more natural trails to 'well developed' trails? Is Central Europe too densely populated to make a good reference? In Sweden hut culture and true wilderness live side by side. Elsewhere?
(Now I should maybe start here first. Market European trails to Americans and try to develop local hut-to-hut culture before proposing others what to do…)Mar 11, 2014 at 2:35 am #2081724Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> The situation in Europe is different – there is no real wilderness left like in the US.
Well, maybe not below 2,000 m. But try up in any alpine region in a storm … :-)
We did the Vogel ridge (Slovenia) in a storm. A bit stupid really: we should have stayed at the Refuge for the day. Can't say we saw any real views, but we got an awful lot of very fresh air …
CheersMar 11, 2014 at 10:57 am #2081815
Understood on the funding and organization of the pilgrimage trails in Europe. It is the theme that we lack in the US. There are no historical precedents as there are in Europe and I do find the prospect funny.
There are a number of "nature trails" in my area that are designed for casual walkers to see examples of the local flora. Most are short, more park like, and easy to walk. They are automobile oriented, with direct road access and parking lots.
The development of the rail trails is definitely pointed at getting people outside. There are a lot of Volksmarching organizations in the US too, very much in the German tradition.
A note on rail trails: the US Supreme Court recently made a ruling on land ownership where the railroads were established on easements across private lands. It appears that the easements are void when the railroad goes out of business and the land reverts to the original owner. That has huge implications for the rails-to-trails movement.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's ruling in an obscure Wyoming land dispute Monday could result in the loss of thousands of miles of bicycle trails or cost the government millions of dollars in compensation.
The justices ruled 8-1 that government easements used for railroad beds over public and private land in the West expired once the railroads went out of business, and the land must revert to its owners.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the case was decided based on an 1875 act of Congress and a 1942 Supreme Court decision involving Great Northern Railway.
That ruling confirmed that the government merely had received easements without any long-term land rights, he said. The establishment in 1983 of the federal "rails to trails" program didn't change the court's interpretation for easements that expired earlier.
"We're going to stick with that today," Roberts said from the bench.
The decision could jeopardize the "rails to trails" program, responsible for creating more than 1,400 bike and nature trails, many of them built along railroad rights-of-way.
The ruling prompted a lone dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
"The court undermines the legality of thousands of miles of former rights of way that the public now enjoys as means of transportation and recreation," Sotomayor said. "Lawsuits challenging the conversion of former rails to recreational trails alone may well cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars."
The ruling came in a case brought by Wyoming landowner Marvin Brandt, whose 83-acre property is crossed by an old railroad line. Brandt's victory has implications for about 80 other cases involving about 8,000 claimants.
"Thousands of claims pertaining to 1875 Act rights-of-way have been filed," the Justice Department said in its brief to the court. "The United States will be obligated to pay just compensation on many claims in which ownership of the right-of-way is often a determining factor."
The Rails to Trails Conservancy had warned that a loss would block completion of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail that cuts through Brandt's property and would "threaten existing rail trails across America that utilize federally granted rights-of-way." Included are the George S. Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, the Foothills Trail and John Wayne Pioneer trails in Washington, the Weiser River Trail in Idaho and the Rio Grande Trail in Colorado.
The federal government or its state and local counterparts could exercise eminent domain proceedings to keep trails in operation and pay adjacent landowners, said Kevin Mills, senior vice president of policy and trail development for the conservancy. In other cases, trails could be shut down if landowners go to court.
"There probably will be an increase in litigation," Mills said. "At a minimum, it creates uncertainty and/or expense."
During oral arguments in the case in January, justices had a hard time getting information on the overall acreage or miles of trails involved. It "strikes me as pretty unusual that the government doesn't know what it owns," Roberts said at the time. Justice Antonin Scalia, who cast his lot with the landowners early on, called that "incredible."
Justice Stephen Breyer, who has had three bicycling accidents since 1993 — the last of which in April resulted in a shoulder replacement — envisioned a future in which landowners could be besieged by bikers.
"I certainly think bicycle paths are a good idea," he said, but "for all I know, there is some right-of-way that goes through people's houses, you know, and all of a sudden they are going to be living in their house, and suddenly a bicycle will run through it."Mar 12, 2014 at 3:14 am #2082021
What a shame! I am surprised that this ruling has not caused more commotion here BPL as it is a significant setback for public access to land.
Regarding theme trails: You don't need a historical context for a theme. For example there are various beer trails in Germany. Potential themes for a US trail could be the "Wild West", all sorts of Indian themes like sacred sites, or geological features. I think the biggest problem in the US are distances between logistical stops. You need accommodation and food at regular intervals for a succesful popular trail. Offering paid accommodation and food frees people from carrying a big backpack and investing into a lot of equipment – and that could potentially lead a completely new target group into hiking.
Alpo hast put it very well:
"Or do people have to jump from daypack-sandwiches-picnics straight to tentliving-portablestovecooking-bearbagging? That's one big leap involving a pile of new gear and skills."Mar 12, 2014 at 9:06 am #2082100
Alpo asked, "Or do people have to jump from daypack-sandwiches-picnics straight to tentliving-portablestovecooking-bearbagging? That's one big leap involving a pile of new gear and skills. Situation is the same up here in Finland and folks seek an easier step at Spain."
In the US there isn't any middle ground between day hiking and backpacking.
One thing to remember is the difference in population density between Europe and the US, especially in the western states. Germany has 650 people per square mile and US as a whole is 84 per square mile. Montana, about the same size as Germany has a density of about 7 per square mile.
That doesn't mean the less populated areas are wilderness or forested. There are many miles of two-lane asphalt roads crossing farmland and grazing lands. I would think that hut style support would be needed every 15 miles, or perhaps 20 for dedicated walkers. I don't see that happening out west. New England could pull it off nicely.
The service industries in the rural US are vehicle oriented and anything past a village in the West is usually a collection of strip malls— not an aesthetically pleasing walk.Mar 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm #2082262HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
All isn't lost. The Dallas to Denton Texas rail to trail was reclaimed by the railroad to install a light rail but they just moved the bike/hike trail over …. and if could happen in Texas…
The only major us city-burb complex in the west who hasn't adapted this seems to be Houston but that's just based on a map (who knows?). The big problem are some rural areas between cities. Read ray jardines blog about one state very difficult to bikepack in. Thing is there are less gasoline stations in rural America so they need to get some plan for tourism (Indian casino pilgrimage?)Mar 12, 2014 at 9:57 pm #2082338Rex SandersBPL Member
Some American trails get pilgrimage-like action during "reenactments", where groups of people travel the trail together in pioneer fashion.
For example, the Mormon Pioneer Trail sees frequent handcart reenactments by members of the LDS church.
And every year, a group re-rides the Pony Express Trail.
Typically, these reenactments are set up with temporary support, like camping areas, food and water stops, and corrals, rather than permanent pilgrim accommodations as we see in Europe.
— RexMar 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm #2086062Kate MagillBPL Member
"I think the biggest problem in the US are distances between logistical stops. You need accommodation and food at regular intervals for a succesful popular trail. Offering paid accommodation and food frees people from carrying a big backpack and investing into a lot of equipment – and that could potentially lead a completely new target group into hiking."
Call me crazy, but I think we're already seeing this happen with the AT. The east coast is densely populated relative to the rest of the US, and there are portions of the AT now where one could stay at a hostel/motel every night and resupply daily. On the pricier end, there's the AMC hut system in the Whites which has more of a European flavor. The volume of services available on the AT, from hostels to shuttles to gear shops to barbeques, keeps increasing, symbiotically with the number of aspiring thru-hikers.
And, to be sure, many who set out to hike the AT do indeed see it as a sort of pilgrimage. Katahdin might as well be Mecca for some hikers. I doubt we'll ever see as many hikers completing the AT in a year as complete the Camino de Santiago. But that's the nature of a 2000-mile beast on a coast with some seriously variable and inclement weather (look at the ice storms this past month!). When you factor in section hikers and dayhikers, the AT turns into a veritable highway. And who knows, in another few decades, maybe the PCT will start to look that way too. These are very very young trails compared to popular European routes; even if the revival of those pilgrimage routes is recent the infrastructure is much older.Mar 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm #2086080Willem JongmanMember
Someone earlier on asked for a digital resource with European campsites. This one has nearly all of them, to be used on your Garmin gps: http://www.archiescampings.eu/eng1/ Some of them will be awful and full of RV's, but many of them will be green fields with other tents (depending on local/national traditions).
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