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Getting to Know the ADT

2020 Camino Guides

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Via Podiensis 2015
The American Discovery Trail is the first coast-to-coast trail network across the USA, spanning nearly 7,000 miles / 11200km. It is, of course, not anywhere close to being entirely off-road, nor is it waymarked throughout. It was first scouted three decades ago, but only started to be followed about 15 years ago by a small trickle of walkers.

It's demonstrably different in concept from the more famous long-distance routes in the US, like the PCT, CDT, and Appalachian Trail. Those are best characterized as wilderness treks, deliberately avoiding the incursions of civilization. By contrast, the ADT seeks it out, actively pursuing places of historical and cultural significance, in addition to resplendent natural places. (And, of course, when you're linking together a place of this size, there are plenty of ordinary, run-of-the-mill spots and tedious sections as well.)

Much of the information is centralized through the American Discovery Trail Society. There's no formal guidebook to the route, but instead the organization offers GPS tracks and accompanying Data Books with turn-by-turn directions for each state, all available for purchase through their site. That's probably not going to be viable in the long-term--it's hard to control the flow of information these days--but, for now, I think it's a critical source of revenue for the organization to function. They do offer nice overviews of the route through each state on their site, and these are freely available. Here's Maryland's as an example.

I started to familiarize myself with the ADT by reading a bunch of trail journals written by walkers (you can find a full index of those hosted on TrailJournals.com here). Here are some that I've enjoyed:
Beyond that, there are some other assorted resources to consider:
  • There are some good video series, most notably Lion King (as previously mentioned!) and Mike Crowley, who is just about to finish his walk
  • The ADT's Facebook page and Facebook group are reliable resources, with plenty of people sharing accounts from the road (though few at this point in the year)
  • There are a few published books on the ADT. Of greatest interest to me from a historical perspective is Eric Seaborg and Ellen Dudley's American Discoveries, which tells the story of their original scouting trip. Nate Damm's Life on Foot loosely follows the ADT, though he often sticks to more direct highways. That's also true, as I understand it (I haven't read it yet) for Tyler Coulson's How to Walk Across America.
  • I'm also working on a podcast series on the ADT, called Sea to Shining Sea (Soundcloud / iTunes / Google Podcasts)
Hope that helps you get oriented!

Dave
 
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Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I wonder how people afford lodging on that trek?
I looked into the California coastal mission trail and couldn't afford the lodging.
It was nearly as expensive as flying to Spain and walking the CF by the time you finished paying for food and bed.
 

ManyMiles2Go

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
The total miles on the trail are about 6800, but there is a northern route and a southern route, according to their website. The northern route is 4834 miles and the southern route is 5057 miles. And yes it is expensive, according to "Gottawalk", they spent over $17,000 on their 231 day cross-country walk. They said they spent time in motels instead of camping out when the weather was bad. I think my wife and I could do 3 CF's (including air fare to Spain) for that much money. No brainer there :)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I wonder how people afford lodging on that trek?
I looked into the California coastal mission trail and couldn't afford the lodging.
It was nearly as expensive as flying to Spain and walking the CF by the time you finished paying for food and bed.
I know that there is a very extensive cross-country group that offers beds in their homes to cyclists going cross country. Several family members have gone from Pacific to Atlantic relying almost exclusively on the tremendous generosity of this well organized group. I guess there are not (yet?) enough walkers to have the same infrastructure, because my impression was that many of the cyclists who opened up their homes had cycled coast to coast as well.
 

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Via Podiensis 2015
7000 miles is closer to 11260 Km.
I have no idea what I was doing there, wayfarer, but I've updated accordingly to not confound anyone. Thanks for the catch.

And yeah, Annie, it's expensive if you want any comfort along the way. There are "trail angels," but not nearly enough. A lot of walkers end up doing gofundme-style crowdsourcing to help manage the cost. Definitely not an experience for everyone.

The ADT organizers like to emphasize, of course, that they don't envision through-hiking to be the most common employment of the route. They talk a lot about the merits of section-hiking, about maybe doing a state at a time. You get much better weather that way, for sure, since you can be tactical about it. If you did shorter stretches when the weather was good, it would be much more manageable, since camping would be more of a pleasure.

It is very, very hard, though, to financially compete with the cost of pilgrimage in Spain, though.
 

Karl G

Member
Camino(s) past & future
August and September 2019 - Arles
The total miles on the trail are about 6800, but there is a northern route and a southern route, according to their website. The northern route is 4834 miles and the southern route is 5057 miles. And yes it is expensive, according to "Gottawalk", they spent over $17,000 on their 231 day cross-country walk. They said they spent time in motels instead of camping out when the weather was bad. I think my wife and I could do 3 CF's (including air fare to Spain) for that much money. No brainer there :)
The cost per day for “Gottawalk” works out to about $75/day. For someone in the US that could be less than the per day cost of a Camino. And, you can tailor the length to your time and cost budget. It seems worth checking out 👍
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I have always enjoyed driving the backroads of the US when taking my mother back and forth from her annual stay in Florida (maternal transhumance, as one of my academic friends likes to call it) I have read parts of @Dave 's blog and can quite see how doing stretches--- perhaps a week or two-- of the ADT would be a great doorway into getting the feel of specific bits of the US. Perhaps as a local history buff, I might be more into it than others, but the history of life at this level in the US is far more fascinating than is generally thought, and would give a very lively feel of fly-over-land (as some commentators like to call it).

I was interested to see the relation between the ADT and the long-distance cyclists' routes, so at least there is a glimmering of a local awareness of cyclists and walkers.

Those interested in a form of ecclesial pilgrimage could link it into places of worship, as is done on the Chemin de l'Outaouais (https://chemindesoutaouais.ca/) or the Chemin de Sanctuaires in Québec (http://www.chemindessanctuaires.org/)?? But perhaps that's an exercise for those so minded and, given ecclesiastical life in the US, they'd have to be ecumenically inclined.
 

ManyMiles2Go

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
The cost per day for “Gottawalk” works out to about $75/day. For someone in the US that could be less than the per day cost of a Camino. And, you can tailor the length to your time and cost budget. It seems worth checking out 👍
You are absolutely correct, Karl!! My bad for not even doing the math. Maybe this will be something to look into then, providing I can get 8 months off work :) No worries, could always do in stages as some do on the Camino.
 

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Via Podiensis 2015
You are absolutely correct, Karl!! My bad for not even doing the math. Maybe this will be something to look into then, providing I can get 8 months off work :) No worries, could always do in stages as some do on the Camino.
I think it's important to note that a) Ken and Marcia walked in 2006, so prices have gone up a bit, b) they had a large network of trail angels accessible because of their earlier walks on the Triple Crown, and c) they also had an uncanny ability to sweet-talk locals into opening their homes. I suspect an older couple elicits more sympathy and trust than a single, scruffy dude (as was my case).

Almost everything depends on how happy you are camping and how often you need to spring for a hotel room. A willingness to dine out of Dollar General instead of the local bar and grill will also go a long way, but beds in the US cost a fortune.
 

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