Wouldn’t it be great if you could hike a long distance wilderness route, hundreds of miles long, inside the United States without having to travel all the way to Alaska? Now you can and there’s even a guidebook for it called Blue Line to Blue Line: The Official Guide to the Trans Adirondack Route, written by long distance hiker and wilderness adventurer Erik Schlimmer.
Set in New York’s Adirondack Park, the Trans Adirondack Route is 236 miles long, running from the northern boundary of the Adirondack Park near the Canadian border to its southern boundary just outside of Albany. The Blue Line refers to the park’s boundary (shown below in light blue.)
If you’re not familiar with the Adirondack Park here a few facts about it that will dazzle you. First off, it’s the largest state park in the lower 48 with an area of 6.1 million acres, roughly the size of Vermont, and greater in size than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountain National Park combined. There are more than 3,000 lakes in the park with 30,000 miles of streams and rivers, including 2,000 miles of hiking trails comprising the largest park trail system in the United States. The park has 130,000 people who live within its boundaries scattered in small towns and hamlets, about 1 million acres of the park are designated as Wilderness, while another 1.7 million acres are managed as Wild Forest. The remaining 3.4 million acres are privately owned but very sparsely developed.
In other words, the Adirondack Park is really big, really wild, and really remote – the perfect setting for a long distance hiking route that is wilder and less developed than a National Scenic Trail but still well defined enough that it can be followed from the northern end of the park to the southern border.
This point is worth emphasizing because hiking the Trans Adirondack Route is not a unified blazed trail like the Appalachian Trail but an assemblage of roads, snowmobile tracks, hiking trails, abandoned trails, and off-trail sections that run from one side of the park to the other. Hikers following the route will probably have to deviate from it due to changing trail conditions or their own whims, which is the fun part of a cross-country journey like this. And Eric’s guidebook contains plenty of advice about alternate routes and optional detours for hikers who want some added adevnture.
Inside the Guidebook
Schlimmer’s Blue Line to Blue Line Guidebook ( BL-2-BL) provides turn-by-turn instructions that include all the necessary landmarks to follow the Trans Adirondack Route including what the signs along the paths and roads say, where they’re located, and any private property restrictions that exist. This level of detail is necessary because maps or GPS coordinates alone would not provide you with enough information to follow the route, connect the different trails and roads that it follows, and stay on good terms with private landowners.
The BL-2BL Guidebook is also a useful resource for hikers planning to thru-hike or section-hike part of the trail, particularly for non-local hikers who are less familiar with the Adirondack region, its regulations and phyical demands, parking and camping regulations, resupply points, public transportation options, water source purity, and seasonal challenges.
While a paper map set is available for purchase with the BL-2-BL Guidebook, it’s mainly intended to provide an overview of the route but is not quite sufficient for compass or GPS navigation lacking lat/lan coordinates, north-south grid lines, and declination information. If you like carrying maps, you’d be better off transferring the route to free online mapping program like Gmap4, printing your own custom maps on waterproof paper and/or saving the GPX files onto your cell phone or GPS receiver. It’s only a matter of time before someone does this for the Trans Adirondack Route and shares it for free online.
Even then, you’d still want to have printed sections of the guidebook along because it has detailed directions and explains what you should see at each turn, road intersection, or trail junction on the route. An electronic version of the guidebook is not currently available, but would be a very useful addition because the route is bound to change and will be difficult to keep up to date in printed form.
The Birth of a New Trail
Having read the Erik Schlimmer’s Blue Line to Blue Line Guidebook cover-to-cover, it’s interesting to compare it and the Trans Adirondack Route with the develpoment of the Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire which also started as an assemblage of existing hiking trails, snowmobile trails, logging roads, and privately held land. During the early days of the Cohos Trail, hikers were hestitant to hike it, including myself, because an official guidebook hadn’t been written.
Erik Schlimmer has taken a very different approach, one recommended by Pacific Northwest Trail Founder, Ron Strickland, which is to publish a guidebook early on in the birth of a new trail because it encourages much faster adoption by the hiking community. Erik tells me that he’s already getting information requests from thru-hikers who want to hike the trail even though the guidebook was just published last month.
So, if you’re feeling a bit bored with the AT, CDT, and PCT, or you want to hike something that is wilder and more remote, check out the Trans Adirondack Route and Erik Schlimmer’s Blue Line to Blue Line Guidebook, and keep it wild!
Disclosure: Erik Schlimmer provided Philip Werner with a copy of the Blue Line to Blue Line Guidebook and Map Set for this review.
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