In early April 2016, the Alaska Dispatch News reported a curious story about a proposed Trans-Alaska Trail. The plan, as described by its chief proponent Alaska State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), is for an epic adventure tourism trail that will span an incredible 800 miles. It will cut across the state, starting from the town of Valdez located on the Pacific coast and end in Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Sea.
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What’s In Store for Brave Adventurers?
It would be a grand adventure, worthy of every audacious hiker as the 800-mile route will test even the hardiest of souls. The path of the trail will go across the immense Chugach, Alaska, and Brooks Ranges. And along the way are picturesque views that can bolster the spirits of every daring explorer: sweeping still taiga, colossal glaciers, and harsh tundra that nevertheless teem with all kinds of wildlife.
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It’s a journey of 800 miles. The sense of achievement and the feeling of exultation upon completing such a journey can quench any thirst for adventure in any swashbuckling hiker. It’s like finding a reason to climb Everest: because it’s there. And it will be there, eventually, when the planners are done talking and start working.
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How Did the Idea Come About?
Before the idea of this ambitious trail, Alaska has always been noted for its natural outdoor beauty. The state is notorious for not having any sort of official trail paths at all. Even if you visit the state parks such as Wrangell-St. Elias and Denali, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any sort of track you can follow. So it’s a new way of thinking for Alaskans to contemplate any sort of official track. Never again would Alaskans be able to say that they’re so tough they don’t need trails.
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But in today’s circumstances, Alaska does. It’s not that the Alaska natives want to make hiking easier for themselves. The state’s economy is hurting, and the trail can bring in massive tourism dollars to Alaska’s coffers. And it’s good publicity for the state.
Alaska’s financial woes are well-documented. It suffers from budget deficits, their economic future is decidedly uncertain, and the oil and gas industry upon which the state depends is in decline.
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Part of the reason why Alaska planners came up with such a massive undertaking for their first official track is that the trail already exists. That’s the beauty of the idea. There’s already a four by four gravel track (called a “service pad”) that follows the entire route of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS). The track is used by Alyeska, the Pipeline operator company to service the structure. Alyeska even already allows for recreational use of the path, although their permission depends on a case-by-case basis and the permission may take months to secure.
To make this trail even possible, it will require the full cooperation of the entities involved. These include the various types of landowners, such as native and private owners as well as federal and state guardians. And Alyeska, who leases the land from these owners, will have to agree as well.
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Alyeska is already on record that they’re currently not in favor of the plan. According to the statement released by their corporate communications director, they understand why many people want to experience walking this momentous stretch of land. But at the same time, they’re very worried about security. They’re concerned for the welfare of the hikers as well as for the safety of their own employees.
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And of course, they’re extremely anxious about the state and condition of their precious pipeline. These worries aren’t unfounded at all. Back in 2001, a few morons shot at the pipeline and it resulted in the loss of thousands of gallons of oil. Opening the trail to more people can result in an inevitable damage to the structure. It’s why the company is so careful giving its permission for recreational use of the service pad.
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