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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rails to Trails: Transforming railroads to hiking/biking trails



By Bob Difley
The Rail to Trails Conservancy has converted over 15,000 miles of old, abandoned railroad track corridors--more than 1,500 preserved pathways--that form the backbone of a continually growing hiking and biking trail system that spans communities, regions, and states throughout the country. Some of these trails pass through congested urban areas, others skirt by rural towns and historic villages, and some wind their way along otherwise inaccessible rivers, through deep forests, and over unpopulated public lands.

Boondockers know that opportunities for finding public lands to
boondock on are more plentiful in the West than the East or South, however, with a little searching you can find the right spot, or at least an uncrowded forest service or other public land (state forest, wildlife refuge, etc.) campground close to a rail trail. Fortunately for you RVers traveling in these parts of the country, more rail trails exist here than in the West, and many provide miles of pristine scenery, access to historic sites, and wilderness adventure.
Rail trails come with various surfaces, some with crushed limestone, some still on rough ground, but most are paved and provide level trails free from difficult hills or canyons to cross. Think of the type of route the railroads
needed to travel.

The non-profit Conservancy's Web site has made it easy to find a rail trail and a trail head or access point near where you are camped anywhere in the country. And if you get lucky, you may find a trail head parking area large enough for a night or two of boondocking, enabling you to get an early morning hike to enjoy the awakening wildlife and birds, as well as starting your day with some healthy, vigorous exercise. What could be better than that?


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