AdvTrail.comRiding the Trans America Trail


Final route: 4000 miles in 19 days.

The goal: travel from San Francisco to the peaks of the Colorado rocky mountain passes - 13,000 feet up and 1,200 miles away.

Sam Correro's Trans American Trail maps are designed for travel East-to-West. We felt it made more sense to travel West-to-East, starting in Oregon and heading towards Denver. That way the trail builds from the fire roads of Oregon to the technical sections in the Colorado rockies. Beyond Colorado, the landscape flattens out, so we decided to focus on the Western portion of the TAT. We spent several days inverting the original TAT trail maps - using Garmin's Basecamp GPS mapping software to create a new trail. We wrote our own software to convert our GPS waypoints into paper "roll charts", which we printed using a shop receipt printer. We previewed the route in Google Earth, an intoxicating hint of what was to come.
Our mapping technique was far from perfect (a tip: if you want to do this trail, buy the maps and rollcharts from Sam Correro... they are worth it). In Oregon especially we had to do a fair amount of on-the-trail improvisation. Our Garmin devices were a major let-down, the biggest single frustration on the trail. The devices didn't show the route we created on the PC with full fidelity, and kept suggesting alternative routes which would lead us off track. Also, they reset and crashed on a daily basis. We were very relieved we had paper rollcharts and maps with us. We travelled a total of 4000 miles, about 1200 of them off-pavement on dirt roads and trails, averaging around 180 miles per day. On the last day we slabbed 900 miles to get home. That was brutal.

Analyzing Sam Correro's maps. 

Our shrink-wrapped roll charts. 

We were very proud of these. 

but none of this helps when the trail is blocked by a tree or snow or a mudslide!
Two garmins, iPhone, paper maps, roll charts... but none of this helps when the trail is blocked by a tree or snow or a mudslide!

As usual, sticking to the essentials.
Sam's more minimal helm. As usual, sticking to the essentials.