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    Default reasoning behind trail re-locations

    recently i hiked from damascus to mt roger's headquarters, ie, through an area where there was a major trail relocation and the old trail still exists as the iron mountain trail (as far as i know).

    i had always just sort of assumed the reasoning behind the relocation to be making the AT more scenic or otherwise somehow better, but now that ive hiked it, one stretch in particular puzzles me...

    just trail south of hurricane mountain shelter you come to the last (if youre hiking north) of multiple criss crossing of the old and new AT. from this point north to route 16 the trail routing, IMO, makes little to no sense. it descends to part way down the ride as it passes the shelter, then proceeds to countour around the ridge for what seems like eternity. its borrowing, repetitive trail that im sure was difficult to build, hard to maintain, is eroded badly in spots to the point of perhaps being dangerous in wet and muddy conditions. i havent hiked the iron mountain trail through there, but the map shows it as just sitting on top of the ridgeline and following it out to the road... sounds like a way better trail than the current AT to me, so what gives? why is the AT where it is now instead of where it used to be? its about 5 miles or so of trail that i dont see as a likely improvement over the old routing.

    is it so that the shelter could exist? is it because the idea of the now iron mountain trail being a mountain bike trail goes all the way back to the original idea for a relo, and sharing it for even part of the way was deemed undesirable? or is it, as i tend to suspect, to avoid a roadwalk once you get to 16?

    anyone care to speculate on these or any other ideas, or better yet, know the actual reasoning behind this? again, i am talking about one specific, relatively short stretch, not the entire relocation off of what is now the iron mountain trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdoczi View Post
    recently i hiked from damascus to mt roger's headquarters, ie, through an area where there was a major trail relocation and the old trail still exists as the iron mountain trail (as far as i know).

    i had always just sort of assumed the reasoning behind the relocation to be making the AT more scenic or otherwise somehow better, but now that ive hiked it, one stretch in particular puzzles me...

    just trail south of hurricane mountain shelter you come to the last (if youre hiking north) of multiple criss crossing of the old and new AT. from this point north to route 16 the trail routing, IMO, makes little to no sense. it descends to part way down the ride as it passes the shelter, then proceeds to countour around the ridge for what seems like eternity. its borrowing, repetitive trail that im sure was difficult to build, hard to maintain, is eroded badly in spots to the point of perhaps being dangerous in wet and muddy conditions. i havent hiked the iron mountain trail through there, but the map shows it as just sitting on top of the ridgeline and following it out to the road... sounds like a way better trail than the current AT to me, so what gives? why is the AT where it is now instead of where it used to be? its about 5 miles or so of trail that i dont see as a likely improvement over the old routing.

    is it so that the shelter could exist? is it because the idea of the now iron mountain trail being a mountain bike trail goes all the way back to the original idea for a relo, and sharing it for even part of the way was deemed undesirable? or is it, as i tend to suspect, to avoid a roadwalk once you get to 16?

    anyone care to speculate on these or any other ideas, or better yet, know the actual reasoning behind this? again, i am talking about one specific, relatively short stretch, not the entire relocation off of what is now the iron mountain trail.
    I am certainly not an expert on this and cannot answer your questions. That said, I recently hiked that same exact section and wondered the same things. One person in Damascus told me that the reason for the biggest re-route off the Iron Mtn trail was to route the new AT over Wilburn Ridge and thru the Grayson Highlands. As for the section close to 16 I wondered if they wanted to route the trail past Comer(sp) Falls or something like that?? Only explanation I could come up with.

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    Maybe this?
    "What is now the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT) was the route for Appalachian Trail until 1972 when a major relocation moved the AT away from all the communication towers over to the Roan Highlands." http://tehcc.org/wiki/Iron_Mountain_Trail_-_South
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don H View Post
    Maybe this?
    "What is now the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT) was the route for Appalachian Trail until 1972 when a major relocation moved the AT away from all the communication towers over to the Roan Highlands." http://tehcc.org/wiki/Iron_Mountain_Trail_-_South

    are there communication towers through the specific stretch of about 5 miles i am talking about? the entire reroute is maybe 40 or 50 miles, easily, im talking a small section of it. i dont think there are communication towers in that section.

    but even if there are... i still dont see it as worth it. the AT passes lots of towers like that, so what? that section of the new trail has no redeeming qualities that make it so much better than walking past a few towers that i can see.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seatbelt View Post
    I am certainly not an expert on this and cannot answer your questions. That said, I recently hiked that same exact section and wondered the same things. One person in Damascus told me that the reason for the biggest re-route off the Iron Mtn trail was to route the new AT over Wilburn Ridge and thru the Grayson Highlands. As for the section close to 16 I wondered if they wanted to route the trail past Comer(sp) Falls or something like that?? Only explanation I could come up with.

    glad im not the only one!

    interesting point about the falls. theres a trail down from the iron mountain trail to the falls. i didnt hike it, but it seems newer. i doubt itll happen but it would seem to me maybe sitting on the iron mountain trail along the the top of the ridge until you get to the trail down to the falls might be the best of all worlds, if one were ok with sharing the AT with mountain bikes for a few miles.

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    When I'm hiking to Damascus I get on the Iron Mt. Trail at TN 91 instead of taking the AT. it's shorter, more remote feeling, and I like the metal mile markers.

    If I'm hiking south out of Damascus I take the AT because it's easier going south.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Don H View Post
    Maybe this?
    "What is now the Iron Mountain Trail (IMT) was the route for Appalachian Trail until 1972 when a major relocation moved the AT away from all the communication towers over to the Roan Highlands." http://tehcc.org/wiki/Iron_Mountain_Trail_-_South
    If I read this right, it is talking about the Iron Mtn trail south of Damascus instead of the Iron Mtn trail north of Damascus.

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    I try not to harshly second guess routing decisions because it's very likely I will never know what entirely went through the minds of those that had come to those decisions in the past.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seatbelt View Post
    If I read this right, it is talking about the Iron Mtn trail south of Damascus instead of the Iron Mtn trail north of Damascus.
    The comm towers the trail went around are south of Damascus.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    The comm towers the trail went around are south of Damascus.
    have you? (or anyone here for that matter) actually hiked the last 4-5 miles of the iron mountain trail right before rt 16 and know if there are any towers or anything else objectionable in that stretch?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdoczi View Post
    have you? (or anyone here for that matter) actually hiked the last 4-5 miles of the iron mountain trail right before rt 16 and know if there are any towers or anything else objectionable in that stretch?
    I've hiked the full length of the IMT both north and south of Damascus and the only comm towers I'm aware of are off Cross Mountain Rd near where the AT crosses TN 91 in Shady Valley. I've heard a few people say that's one of the reasons the AT was rerouted there but that always sounded strange to me - there are many places the AT comes near towers.

    I don't know who's responsible for that section of trail but maybe if you emailed the ATC (or whatever club/group maintains that section) they could tell you who did the relo and you could ask them what their thinking was.

    Related to what you're wondering - I've often wonder what people who are painting blazes are thinking...
    Last edited by 10-K; 09-13-2016 at 13:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    I try not to harshly second guess routing decisions because it's very likely I will never know what entirely went through the minds of those that had come to those decisions in the past.
    what was going through their minds is exactly the question, take that harshly perhaps, but that not necessarily the case. just saying, if there is a good reason i'm not seeing it.

    like i said, my suspicion is it was to avoid a roadwalk. maybe to some thats a good reason. personally i think the unspoken but often evident attitude that trail in the woods is always better than walking on a road, period, is ill conceived at best. doubly so when the trail that is created to avoid it is not only less interesting than the alternative, but clearly hard to build and maintain. just seems like a lot of effort to create a stretch of trail thats less pleasant than what it replaced.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post

    I don't know who's responsible for that section of trail but maybe if you emailed the ATC (or whatever club/group maintains that section) they could tell you who did the relo and you could ask them what their thinking was.
    my guess/fear is that no one who is still there even remembers. its not a recent thing, i dont think.

    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    Related to what you're wondering - I've often wonder what people who are painting blazes are thinking...
    i especially wonder that when hiking a section that uses the odd (to me) convention of marking turns with two blazes right directly over each other rather than offset in a way that indicates the direction of the turn. theres a spot in PA where you come to a perfect 90 degree T and the blaze indicates that there is a turn (well duh) but not which way to turn. i kind you not. i actually bumped into a trail maintainer a few hundred feet from this spot, coincidentally, and when i asked all he could say was "thats the convention we follow through here by tradition."

    in other words, theres not nearly as much thought put into things as we'd like to think there is, often times.

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    like i said, my suspicion is it was to avoid a roadwalk. maybe to some thats a good reason. personally i think the unspoken but often evident attitude that trail in the woods is always better than walking on a road, period, is ill conceived at best. doubly so when the trail that is created to avoid it is not only less interesting than the alternative, but clearly hard to build and maintain. just seems like a lot of effort to create a stretch of trail thats less pleasant than what it replaced.
    I agree with this. There were sections of the Superior Hiking Trail where I jumped on the road for several miles because the views were better (more expansive) than the trail. In fact, it was by walking the roads instead of the trail that I was able to really get a grasp of the topography. As you say, you could tell they put the trail in the woods for the sole purpose of not being on the road - even though the road is dirt and lightly travelled.

    Anymore I care more about a continuous footpath than I do about daring not get off the trail. I think the PCT and really, the CDT, got me away from being a 'pass every blaze' purist.
    Last edited by 10-K; 09-13-2016 at 14:15.

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    ATC is building a permanently protected trail, for hikers only. That means no roads and no trails that are open to bikes or horses.. I agree that there were places where the old road walk was much better than the trail that was built to replace it. OTOH, I like not having to dodge bikes and ATVs when I hike.

    Sometimes relocations are simply a matter of where they are able to acquire land rights. If a landowner offered a section on the side of the mountain instead of atop the ridge, and they didn't have to fight for it, the trail got relocated, even if it was more difficult to hike. Or they would put the trail along the edge of a property, and border fences don't necessarily follow straight lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spirit Walker View Post
    ATC is building a permanently protected trail, for hikers only. That means no roads and no trails that are open to bikes or horses.. I agree that there were places where the old road walk was much better than the trail that was built to replace it. OTOH, I like not having to dodge bikes and ATVs when I hike.

    Sometimes relocations are simply a matter of where they are able to acquire land rights. If a landowner offered a section on the side of the mountain instead of atop the ridge, and they didn't have to fight for it, the trail got relocated, even if it was more difficult to hike. Or they would put the trail along the edge of a property, and border fences don't necessarily follow straight lines.

    there is still a trail on top of the ridge in that same area. the old AT is still there, still in use, still open to the public, so i feel safe in assuming it isnt a land rights problem. it just isnt the official route of the AT any longer.

    one has to wonder, if the goal is really as you state it (it probably is, it makes a certain sense) if some sort of land rights issue presented a dilemma something along the lines of traversing the northern presis was no longer possible unless when you got to the end you took a 2 mile roadwalk, would they make the decision that the trail is best served by skipping the presis in order to avoid a roadwalk? i doubt theyd take it that far, but the example illustrates the fallacy of "avoid roads no matter what" thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdoczi View Post
    what was going through their minds is exactly the question, take that harshly perhaps, but that not necessarily the case. just saying, if there is a good reason i'm not seeing it.

    like i said, my suspicion is it was to avoid a roadwalk. maybe to some thats a good reason. personally i think the unspoken but often evident attitude that trail in the woods is always better than walking on a road, period, is ill conceived at best. doubly so when the trail that is created to avoid it is not only less interesting than the alternative, but clearly hard to build and maintain. just seems like a lot of effort to create a stretch of trail thats less pleasant than what it replaced.
    Far from it, trails are not built in their entirety always prioritizing or, as far as route, executed in a way what you or I deem the most interesting or how you or I suppose they should be routed. This is something the ATC, NPS, specific NP's, Wilderness Areas, Trail Clubs, etc deals with to such a degree it's difficult to impossible to understand as an outsider who rarely to never knows all the info these agencies are making their decisions. How many examples on the AT alone do you want me to offer? PCT? CDT? SHT?, Ouachita Tr, Colorado Tr, Long Tr, BMT, Pinhoti, JMT, Cali Coastal Tr, Ozark Highlands, AZT, etc. Are you aware how much work has been done and is ongoing by Brett "Blisterfree" alone with his Grand Enchantment Tr to keep it intact and continuous? WE have to understand trails evolve and change and ARE NOT SET IN STONE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Far from it, trails are not built in their entirety always prioritizing or, as far as route, executed in a way what you or I deem the most interesting or how you or I suppose they should be routed. This is something the ATC, NPS, specific NP's, Wilderness Areas, Trail Clubs, etc deals with to such a degree it's difficult to impossible to understand as an outsider who rarely to never knows all the info these agencies are making their decisions. How many examples on the AT alone do you want me to offer? PCT? CDT? SHT?, Ouachita Tr, Colorado Tr, Long Tr, BMT, Pinhoti, JMT, Cali Coastal Tr, Ozark Highlands, AZT, etc. Are you aware how much work has been done and is ongoing by Brett "Blisterfree" alone with his Grand Enchantment Tr to keep it intact and continuous? WE have to understand trails evolve and change and ARE NOT SET IN STONE.
    IN PA, our trails ARE set in stone.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdoczi View Post
    there is still a trail on top of the ridge in that same area. the old AT is still there, still in use, still open to the public, so i feel safe in assuming it isnt a land rights problem. it just isnt the official route of the AT any longer.

    one has to wonder, if the goal is really as you state it (it probably is, it makes a certain sense) if some sort of land rights issue presented a dilemma something along the lines of traversing the northern presis was no longer possible unless when you got to the end you took a 2 mile roadwalk, would they make the decision that the trail is best served by skipping the presis in order to avoid a roadwalk? i doubt theyd take it that far, but the example illustrates the fallacy of "avoid roads no matter what" thinking.
    I used to get pissed at road walks too that I thought unnecessary. We don't know the "why's", or if we did, if the "why's" pass our own litmus test as "good" reasons. Road walks CAN BE part of the legitimately valid hiking experience i.e.; through Hot Springs or Hanover or Damascus for example. Across Bridge of the Gods for example. If I think them unnecessarily dangerous I may skip them. If they are used as temporary relos I may skip them also as I did on a PCT thru due to "official" PCT trail closures from forest fires. Came back and hiked the PCT which took more than 5 times before I bagged those PCT miles.

    Then there is the flip side - a trail routed off a road sometimes not posing a great hazard and having better scenery, maybe easier logistics, better water availability, of shorter distance, etc in favor of the single track sometimes not more than 100 ft off the road.

    It's all good though as options are there. The ENORMOUS WORK done and resources contributed by so many that continues as trails evolve should NEVER be ignored.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    F WE have to understand trails evolve and change and ARE NOT SET IN STONE.
    trails dont evolve, they are consciously changed by people making decisions. why you think those decisions are above questioning or speculation as to if they are wise or not i am not entirely sure...

    specifically, in this instance, again, for the 7th time, the old trail is still there. it is still accessible and is still used as a hiking trail. so the question is- why abandon a perfectly good trail for a new one that has no clear advantage and has several clear disadvantages, the biggest being practical ones concerning construction and regular maintenance and safety?

    i dont think thats in anyway an unfair question to ask, again, not sure why you do.

    not sure why you want to just paint this as me whining about not liking the trail while simultaneously failing to properly see, acknowledge and respect the wisdom of some sort of higher beings who should not be questioned.

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