TS History

4:55 p.m. on April 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Can we post and maybe pin an article briefly describing TS history and some state about it such as membership/participation/etc?

If this has been done before can someone direct me to the thread.


9:39 a.m. on April 11, 2013 (EDT)
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3,897 forum posts

Hi Jeff,

Good question. There is a little bit of our history at the bottom of the About page. (Update: We actually have 16,000 members now.)

But, we can certainly think about updating and expanding that.

There is a little in our 10th Birthday Blog too.

Before we expand the About, what kind of things would you and your fellow members want to know about Trailspace now and over its history?

10:20 a.m. on April 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for answering Alicia,

I'd like some facts and figures about who the members are, how many reviews and Trip reports we have done, how membership has grown, where the idea for TS came about, and anything else cool that might help the community understand what makes TS so cool.

I asked you in linkedin for a connection today btw.  (Jeff E.)

10:50 a.m. on April 11, 2013 (EDT)
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3,897 forum posts

Thanks, Jeff.

Anyone else got burning questions?

1:23 p.m. on April 11, 2013 (EDT)
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6,006 forum posts

Some pre-Trailspace history -

Almost 3 decades ago in the dark ages of the infant Internet and WorldWideWeb, there were a number of user groups on specific topics, often geographically limited. This era could be characterized as the "Wild Wild West" in its rambunctiousness and often unsavory nature. Many of the user groups consolidated in something called UseNet (in 1980). The groups had labels grouping them according to similar interests, such as sci.something (science oriented), rec.something (recreation oriented), etc. Two outdoor groups that were important to the lineage of Trailspace were rec.backcountry and rec.climbing. Others included rec.skiing, rec.backcountry.skiing, rec.telemark, and so on.

rec.backcountry and rec.climbing had useful information plus a huge amount of flame wars, off-color and obscene material, and other "non-family-friendly" content (this was the wild west days, remember). Although some sites were moderated, many were not.

A couple of grad students in New England decided to take the "high road" and started a family of non-UseNet moderated forums called Views From The Top (VFTT). Most of VFTT was strongly New England oriented. Two of their forums were called rec.climbing.useful (RCU) and rec.backcountry.useful (RBU).  Over the next few years, RCU and RBU became a world-wide center for "safe and sane" discussions of all things backcountry and climbing, with members literally from around the world. Many of us who were members traveled and met, climbed, and backpacked with each other, becoming good friends, even when we had not met in person. The VFTT owners were a bit uncomfortable with the increasingly worldwide nature of RCU and RBU, preferring to concentrate on the Northeastern US, but tolerated the large amount of useful and authoritative information and participation of well-known climbers.

Then one day, a tragedy happened - two members were climbing in the Sierra, when one slipped on an icy slope and was seriously injured. The other, known as Zippo, managed to flag down 2 other climbers, then hiked rapidly to Glacier Lodge to summon a rescue. The injured climber spent several months recovering. This incident cemented more strongly the RCU and RBU community, somewhat to the consternation of the VFTT owners.

About a year later, a call went out on RCU on April 12 - "Zippo is missing on Shasta!" Members from all over the US converged on Mt. Shasta in northern California to aid in the search. This also produced a bit of friction with the local SAR authorities, although several of the RCU folks were in SAR in their home localities. The search was stalled by a heavy snow storm, dangerous avalanche conditions, and the refusal of the local Native American tribe to allow avalanche control involving explosives. The body of Zippo's companion was found early in the search, fairly far from the last reported location. A helicopter used in the search crashed high on Shasta, though with only minor injuries. After two weeks, the search was called off, some 6 feet of snow having fallen.

On Memorial Weekend, several members of RCU, including one from New England, returned to Shasta to search, and found Zippo's remains. All this turmoil and the huge traffic on RCU and RBU that resulted pushed the owners of VFTT to announce that RCU and RBU were shutting down. The owners of VFTT were finishing grad school and wanted to change the nature of VFTT to allow them more time for their commercial enterprise. In the resulting outcry, a couple groups tried to persuade VFTT to give the archives and site names to keep the sites alive, to no avail. At this point, Dave and Alicia stepped forward and offered to buy the sites and names. The offer was accepted, and Trailspace was born, with the two original forums being the Backcountry and Climbing Forums. To this day, they are still sub-titled rec.backcountry.useful and rec.climbing.useful. The MacLeays' goal was, and remains, to maintain a family-friendly site, devoted to discussions and information-sharing concerning human-powered outdoor activities.

When Trailspace went live, I became one of the first members (Dave and Alicia were of course, members 1 and 2, or was it 2 and 1). I may have been the first non-MacLeay, or at least in the first 5 or 10. And I remain the oldest.

The rest is history. VFTT still exists, although the original principals have long since left. UseNet still exists, and there are some backcountry and climbing sites that are as rambunctious as ever.

    --- OGBO

May 21, 2018
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