This little adventure is coming to an end today: we are wrapping up the stories of our journey through the Vayots Dzor trail network around Gomk, Martiros and Artavan, and also the promotional campaign for the new map we made for that area. If you think you wanted a map, let me remind you that today is the last day of the discount.

Overlooking Artavan – © Tom Allen

In any case, what I want to do now is just genuinely thank you all for this past two weeks.

Thanks to everyone who bought the new map, especially to those of you who live far away, because you probably won’t be able to use it for some time, and that means that either you are planning to come over to Armenia – good choice! – or you just wanted to support our work, and we are grateful for your support and trust.

Thanks also to the people in Armenia who got themselves a map, as you are the lucky ones who can actually go and hike these nice trails! If I were you, I’d wait until later in the season when the weather will cool down a bit, also because if you choose to go in the autumn, I am pretty sure the Artavan forest will be a real treat.

And thanks to my travel companions, Tom, Tsovinar and Roffi, who simply made the trip great for me personally, and hopefully also fun for you to follow along. It has been truly enjoyable time on the trails, everything was smooth, friction-less, with lots of laughter, and it’s not something that I take for granted, so thanks for making it so!

Happy and ready, the night before departure – © Tom Allen

A special thanks to all the organisations that with their dedication and work on the ground have made this adventure possible for us in the first place, in particular:

Transcaucasian Trail (TCT): The hiking highlight of the region, the beacon attracting adventurers to Armenia from the four corners of the world. We can’t deny its epic appeal, and its future landmark status for all things hiking in Armenia, Georgia, and beyond. As much as I can’t forget their continuous support towards Cartisan’s work over the years, including that of their great audience of course. Thank you people!

Trails For Change (TFC): The actual trail blazers, hands in the dirt, creating and renovating the paths we can all enjoy. Hard working bunch, a grassroots organisation led by selfless professionals who deeply care for Armenia. You are, and will be, an asset for the whole trail loving community in the region. One day I’ll get to know you all!

HIKEArmenia (HA): The trail promoters, both in terms of visibility as well as initiators and funders of development projects like the one we just enjoyed in the Vayots Dzor trail network. And they sponsored our new map too, of course. Thanks for curating and sharing resources about hiking in Armenia so that people can just land in Yerevan, hit your “Information center” downtown, and get all the info and tips they need to go on spontaneous, or guided, hikes all over the country. From people who’s actually been out there too!

© Tsovianar Hakobyan

As for remembering our last day of hiking, let’s keep it simple: it was long, it was tough, and it was awesome.

The views on the “Stairway to Heaven” trail, connecting Artavan to Kapuyt, were unbelievable. All I want to say about it is this: get ready for your feet to hurt, and for your heart to be full. Just go do it. And don’t forget to take a look around every once in a while, as you negotiate the ancient steps carved into mountain stone itself, climbing this “impossible” staircase. A friendly note: you won’t believe there is a way through the mountain as you approach it, but it’s there, just follow the blazes!

© Alessandro Mambelli
“Why have I come over here, again?” © Tsovinar Hakobyan
© Tsovinar Hakobyan

Finally, the last day on the trail, for me, was really all about the importance of maintaining and improving the cooperation among the hiking organisations. I say this based on our experience on the “Mountain Goat Trail” in the morning of our last day, which turned out to be a little …problematic. Hint: unless you love bushwhacking on steep mountain-side forests, I’d avoid this particular trail for the time being… clarifications on this route should come to you sometime soon.

© Tsovinar Hakobyan

Anyway, as I mentioned already many times before, infrastructure building is a team sport; there are plenty of opportunities to develop trails and hiking hot spots everywhere, and I feel that to do it right we should work together, as we have done before, pulling together our strengths into a coordinated effort.

I think it was a wonderful idea for Cartisan, TCT and TFC to share the office space in Yerevan, finally bringing the various components of our work under one roof. I believe this should make it easier to understand each other’s perspective.

From our contribution, we are more than happy to take the suggestion to organise mapping events for this happy gang of trail builders, as I believe that a better, deeper understanding of mapping work, outcomes, and expectations, can certainly improve the overall quality of the final trails, providing consistency and more reliable outputs to be shared across various organisations at different steps of the trail making process, and ultimately to the hikers.

So let’s get some pizzas rolling sometime soon, and do some mapping together, shall we? It’s not as cool as going out hiking, or carving trails, but …who said we couldn’t just do all of them anyway?

Thanks again everyone for following along this greater adventure that is co-creating a hiking network in Armenia.

© Tsovinar Hakobyan
Categories: LaunchVDG


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