You may soon be able to follow the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail to San Francisco.
Both the B & A and South Shore trails have been included along a transcontinental hiker-biker route that trailblazers hope one day will be as well-known and well-traveled as the AppalachianTrail.
Called the American Discovery Trail, it is the brainchild of the American Hiking Society and Backpacker magazine. The route begins at the Pacific Ocean just north of San Francisco Bay, then crosses the Sierras, the Rockies, the Great Plains and the Appalachian mountain range before swinging through the county on its way to Delaware's Cape Henlopen State Park.
"Finishing the trail itself may be a 100-yearproject," explained Eric Seaborg, a member of the American DiscoveryTrail Scouting Expedition that has already walked and mapped the route from the Pacific through Missouri.
"The important thing is to plot it so people who want to use it will not be violating any laws. We're using the Appalachian Trail as a model," he said.
"Remember, it was declared 'done' in 1936, and there are stretches they still haven't finished. It was just rerouted last year, in fact," Seaborg said.
Seaborg and two other hikers, who started their scouting expedition last June, will reach Maryland in late May. He is taking a hiatus from the trip to coordinate the route.
The three plan to publisha guidebook next year describing the trail and their trip.
Local organizers decided that Anne Arundel's two major hiking trails along the old beds of the Baltimore and Annapolis and the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis railroads would make for the most interesting route through the area, giving out-of-state hikers a flavor of both Annapolis and Baltimore.
Local organizers had their first meeting Thursday in College Park. The major issue addressed was how to get out of Washington and across the Chesapeake Bay into Delaware.
Morris Warren, founder and president of the Prince George's W B & A Trail Club, convinced the 25 hiking, biking and greenways representatives to plan a detour to Annapolis before heading north through Baltimore, Harfordand Cecil counties where it
will join up with a Delaware group near Wilmington.
Warren, whose doctor ordered him to take up hiking after a 1985 heart attack, has walked the entire 46-mile defunct WB &A; rail bed. He said it has only one or two small sections where septic systems make it impassable.
A small shortcut to the south of Odenton will give hikers a scenic route without trespassing, he said.
"The real difficulty with this route is getting from Glen Burnie into Baltimore. We'll have to follow Ritchie Highway across the HanoverStreet Bridge. It's going to be murder, but that's the only way to do it," said Warren, who was named chairman in charge of planning the Maryland section.
The Maryland section of the trail will begin in Cumberland, following the C & O Canal trail into Washington.
The path to be followed north of Baltimore to the U.S. 40 Bridge over the Susquehanna River hasn't been determined.
Reese Lukei, the American Hiking Society representative at the meeting, said project's goal is to link the East and West coasts and be the "spine" for the nation's network of parks.
But he emphasized that responsibility for trail maintainance and getting local park officials and legislators involved rests with the local hiking clubs.
The county Department of Recreation and Parks, which patrols the B & A Trail park and plans to improve the Anne Arundel section of the WB & A (known as the South Shore Trail) over the next few years, has not been included in the planning yet, spokeswoman Christine Coffin said.
Wherever possible, the American Discovery Trail follows existing paths like the Pony Express trail, the C & O Canal, or the B & A. But along many stretches, such as in Kansas or Glen Burnie where the landscape is dominated by private property, the trail is forced along roads and highways.
After the scouting expedition and publication of the guidebook, trail organizers hope to receive the National Scenic Trail designation from Congress. Only the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails have attained that status so far.
After that, plans are for fund raising to build a trust that would go toward hiring a full-time professional maintenance staff and pay for the purchase of easementsand private lands allowing sections near highways to move away from the roads.