Like everyone, we’ve been working to adapt and reprioritize lately. With unprecedented global travel restrictions in place and most of our annual fundraisers cancelled, we’ve developed new– but still ambitious– summer plans. In short: the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to run our international summer programs this year, but we’re not going to let that stop us from continuing to build the TCT.
Our aim is to use this quieter time to make progress on key sections of the trail, continue to develop our community of local volunteers, and to add new maps and guides for new trail sections– so that when the world opens back up, we’ll be ready with even more resources to help hikers explore this incredible region.
A quick update
Over the past few weeks, we’ve cancelled our 4 fundraising treks and 5 sessions of international volunteers for the summer. (You can still submit an interest form for the Armenia trek in Vayots Dzor this October; we’ll evaluate towards the end of the summer whether it’s reasonable to run. All others are postponed until 2021.)
We’re gutted to not be able to welcome these enthusiastic groups of trekkers and volunteers to our favorite parts of Georgia and Armenia, but we’re confident that this is the right decision even if international travel restrictions do lift. We’re not willing to risk bringing large groups of travelers to more rural, vulnerable areas of the Caucasus until there is a major change in the global health situation.
Unfortunately, that also means foregoing our primary fundraising source for the year– leaving us with a budget gap of around $50,000. The contributions from the supporters’ treks fund our local volunteer crews, our local leadership development programs, and the scouting and mapping necessary to complete and share a border-to-border route.
But that doesn’t mean that our work this summer is cancelled. We’re used to weathering storms, after all– although granted, they usually involve lightning.
What we’re doing this summer
This summer, in both Georgia and Armenia, we’re aiming to scout, map, and build trails with local volunteers— while following all local social distancing policies, as well as adding our own safety guidelines. (Trail work is actually really well set up for social distancing, and our crews are already masters of using PPE.)
By the end of the summer, our goal is to have made meaningful progress towards the completion of the trail in both countries. Perhaps counterintuitively, right now is a perfect time to invest in trails and ecotourism infrastructure. It’s hard to predict what the future of travel will look like when the world is mobile again, but it seems reasonable to expect even greater demand — among both domestic and international visitors — for the kind of slow, intimate, nature-based experience the TCT facilitates.
So this year, we’re going to complete trail work on key connecting sections. We’re going to develop more routes and trail notes. And when the world opens back up, hikers will have even more resources to help them experience the diverse landscapes and rich traditions of the region– helping the small businesses of the rural Caucasus bounce back in the process.
How you can help
We’re asking for your help to continue. We’re aiming to raise $10,000 by June 15 for our summer work— and thanks to the spectacular generosity and enthusiasm of those who attended our first virtual campfire, we’re already nearly halfway there.
Your support will provide the key funding needed to support the following projects on a bare-bones budget:
Projects in Georgia:
- Making a new 3-day connection between the regions of Svaneti & Racha
- Starting the first section of the TCT in Lagodekhi National Park, which will link with Azerbaijan
- Scouting and mapping key connections, which will result in a complete border-to-border route across Georgia available for beta-testing
Projects in Armenia:
- Developing an entirely new route through Arevik National Park, towards the border of Iran
- Launching local trail clubs to preserve and maintain nearby trails
- Blazing major unmarked sections of the existing TCT
- Developing a new map of the Vayots Dzor region
- Launching a complete border-to-border route for intrepid hikers to test
We are so grateful for every person who has supported our vision over the years, whether by donating, volunteering, or simply cheering us on. And we know it’s a bit of a crazy time to be asking.
But if you can help support our work right now, at any level– or help us spread the word– it will make a big impact.
And if you’re not in a position to donate right now (we see you!), you can also get involved in other ways:
- Join our growing community of virtual mappers working to put villages on the map in rural Georgia (if you missed our mapping event this weekend but are still interested in getting involved, stay tuned; we’ll share the recording soon)
- Attend one of our virtual events (more coming soon)
- Help us spread the word about this campaign!
Thank you so much for your support, and we hope to welcome you back to the trails soon!