As the spread of COVID-19 increased throughout the country, CDTC’s 6th Annual Continental Divide Trail Days, originally scheduled for April 24th - 26th in Silver City, New Mexico, was transformed into Virtual Trail Days. Virtual Trail Days have been taking place on Facebook Live for the past month of April, bringing together the original guest speakers online to share their powerful stories on their experience with the Continental Divide Trail. Some of these speakers have included Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker and Will “Akuna” Robinson, the first two African-Americans to complete the Triple Crown of Hiking - the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.
The celebration also includes weekly sweepstakes for participants, sponsored by companies like Merrell and Osprey. Along with guest speakers, Trail Days celebrates with musical performances, which they’ve found a way to include virtually, as well.
Despite the quick change of plans, CDTC has been able to adapt their programming in a way that is still engaging, while maintaining the safety of the communities they serve. In fact, by hosting these conversations virtually, CDTC has been able to expand the reach of Trail Days by bringing these stories straight to peoples’ homes. Traditionally, the majority of Trail Days attendees have been visiting Silver City as part of their through-hike journey, so switching to a virtual platform presented a unique opportunity to celebrate the trail more widely and build a community of trail stewards. Virtual Trail Days has been able to reach a wider audience, bringing together new, diverse perspectives from folks who may not be able to travel to the traditional Trail Days in Silver City.
While the quick transition and new technology presented challenges, overall Virtual Trail Days has seen definite success in engaging new voices from across the country. Moreover, hosting Trail Days virtually has been a light of positivity for communities tuning in and gives viewers a moment of joy during a time of uncertainty and fear. “It has been refreshing to contribute something of value during these times and feel the gratitude from our community.” said Andrea Kurth, CDTC’s Marketing, Communications and Community Outreach Specialist.
While the Virtual Trail Days are coming to a close, there is still opportunity to tune in! The last presentation in the series will take place this Wednesday, April 29 on CDTC’s Facebook page. In case you missed out and want to catch up, every presentation has been recorded and saved on facebook.com/continentaldividetrailcoalition/live.
By Andrea Kurth, Continental Divide Trail Coalition