NATIONAL COAST TRAIL ASSOCIATION

5124 N.E. 34th Avenue - Portland, OR - 97211 / 503-335-3876 / www.coasttrails.org

News Release

For Release: Monday, July 19th

Media Contact: Al LePage, Executive Director, National Coast Trail Association - 503-335-3876

"Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Event Begins 700-Mile

"Hike & Paddle" of "Great Northeast Trail"

A long-distance hiker and kayaker starts a 700-mile journey to be the first to ever complete, in one continuous trip, the envisioned "Great Northeast Trail" from the Atlantic to Lake Ontario!

A special event, the "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Hike and Paddle begins at 9 AM on Friday, July 23rd at the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Maine. Al LePage of Portland, Oregon plans to first hike some 400 miles and then paddle another 300 miles to eventually reach Oswego, New York and Lake Ontario by mid-September. He will be traveling along the "Great Northeast Trail" - a envisioned trail system connecting proposed and existing land and water-based trails across New England stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The event's focus is to promote and publicize this unique trail concept, and work cooperatively with trail organizations, government agencies, and others for public awareness about the many trail connections needed to create it. The event is a personal journey, and although it is not a guided hike or paddle for the general public, LePage will be giving some presentations for the public during his trip. He is the founder and executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, and his wife Kathy Christy will join him on the first day of the event as they hike the urban trail system of Portland, Maine on their 10th wedding anniversary. The event is officially registered as a National Trails Day 2004 event with the American Hiking Society.

"It's a big link," begins Al LePage, director of the National Coast Trail Association, "not only from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, but also around the entire United States as one important section of our envisioned 10,000-mile long National Coast Trail! The only way to ever really know the value and potential of any recreational trail is to literally go out and do it. So, this event is really an opportunity to personally experience and share the vision, highlight all the existing, proposed trails and missing links, and acknowledge those that have and continue to work for the trails that would make this big trail link a reality."

The "Great Northest Trail" ("GNET") is envisioned as a continuous recreational 400-mile hiking and 300-mile paddling trail from the Atlantic to the shores of Lake Ontario through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Significant portions of this trail concept already exist, other major sections are already proposed or being established, and only a few minor linkages needed to be developed to make it complete. The trail would begin in Portland, Maine traveling the existing urban trail system there, and extended along the proposed Mountain Division Trail to Fryeburg, Maine. It would then connect into New Hampshire and continue north on the existing trails of the White Mountain National Forest to connect with the Appalachian Trail around Carter Dome and continue across the state to reach the border at Hanover into Vermont. Where the Appalachian Trail meets the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont, the route proceeds north until reaching the Winooski River, and then follows the proposed path of the Cross-Vermont Trail into Burlington, hiking north along the shore of Lake Champlain to eventually reach the historic homestead of Ethan Allen. The nearby public boat launch begins the paddling segment of the trail, first where the Winooski River enters the lake, next along the Lake Champlain Water Trail south to access the Champlain Canal, then the Erie Canal, and finally the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario.

"I expect to have a great trail experience in the northeast," continues LePage, "for besides the scenic beauty of the coast of Maine, the Presidential Range of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the great Lake Champlain, there's the history and culture of the region, too! The Portland Head Lighthouse, the art museum at Dartmouth College, Woodstock's Billings-Marsh mansion and national park, Fort Ticonderoga, and New York's Erie Canal Village in Rome are just some of the places I hope to visit. These and other great places and sites along the trail is what puts the Great with a capital G into the name "Great" Northeast Trail."

LePage is apparently the first person to ever attempt, in one continuous trip, the envisioned 700-mile Great Northeast Trail. He's also apparently the first person ever to have hiked America's entire 1800-mile West Coast Trail (not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail or Canada's 45-mile West Coast Trail), doing so on three separate occasions. In 1988 he hiked the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail in about 1 month, in 1992 the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section, and in 1996 he tackled the 1,200-mile length of the California Coastal Trail in 3 and a half months. If he completes the Great Northeast Trail as planned, he will have completed a total of about 2,500 miles of the overall 10,000-mile National Coast Trail vision. LePage, age 50, was born about twenty miles east of Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts, and grew up and lived in the area until he headed west as a young man to reside in the Pacific Northwest, his primary residence being Portland, Oregon.

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The National Coast Trail Association, founded in 1994, is a non-profit trail organization whose vision is the National Coast Trail, a 10,000-mile plus interconnected land and water-based trail system around the entire United States. Our mission is "Keeping the Coast for Everyone" through advocacy, education, and action for trails, public access and coastal preservation. Our program includes trail development, education, and conservation. Our focus is the development of the West Coast Trail, comprised of the Washington, Oregon and California Coastal Trails. The "Atlantic to the Great Lakes!" event is a project to promote and publicize the Great Northeast Trail, field research and photograph it, and initiate cooperative relationships with trail organizations, government agencies, and others to develop and maintain relevant trail segments.

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