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  1. 2 points
    Long before I’d ever shouldered a backpack for a hike into a wilderness area, I found myself intrigued by Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. As the purported location of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I was first exposed to the Superstitions in books about lost treasures and historical mysteries I checked out from my middle-school library. An episode of “In Search of . . .” with Leonard Nimoy that featured the legend and aired as a re-run on the History Channel further deepened my fascination. Hidden gold and lost maps, murders and disappearances, towering rock formations and an unforgiving desert landscape – all made for captivating TV to a city kid in Kentucky. Tales of lost treasure closer to home, like Swift’s lost silver mine and buried Civil War payrolls were more geographically relevant, but the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and the Superstitions had made an impression. After becoming an avid backpacker, my interest in the Superstition Mountains was rekindled. The Superstition Wilderness is one of the original wilderness areas designated in the Wilderness Act of 1964, is an excellent springtime backpacking destination, and – as far as stunning desert landscapes go – is easily accessible. Despite a few half-hearted attempts to plan a trip over the years, I didn’t get a chance to hike there until recently. Having a close friend and fellow backpacker who lived nearby and was eager to fit in a backpacking trip before the imminent and awesome responsibility of fatherhood was bestowed up him later in the year provided all the motivation I needed. The unlikely yet unique possibility that I might solve a centuries-old mystery while digging a cathole may or may not have factored into my enthusiasm as well. The plane touched down on the warm runway of the Phoenix airport at 10:17 a.m. and I filled up five liters of water from a water fountain while waiting for my checked bag to arrive. Backpacking efficiency at its best. John picked me up and, despite having not seen each other since a trip in 2015 in Montana’s Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, we picked up right where we left off. After an anticipation-building eastbound drive, with the mountains rising ever higher from the Arizona desert and the buildings thinning out the further we traveled, we found ourselves on the trail by noon. Desert landscapes are surreal enough, but to have gone from boarding a plane six hours earlier in gray and snowy Missoula, Montana to being able to reach out and touch a Saguaro cactus (not that you’d want to) took the experience to another level. The mix of muted browns and dull greens made the objectively inhospitable landscape seem almost cozy as we traipsed along the trail toward a campsite located a short jaunt from a reliable water source. Temperatures in the 70s, blue sky, and a light breeze made for comfortable hiking. In the shade of a particularly large Saguaro, I paused to investigate what I thought might be a dire circumstance – a puncture in one of my two-liter bladders. As it turned out, it was merely an inordinate amount of perspiration on my lower back. More amusing and, fortunately, much less concerning. And a good reminder of the importance of consuming water in such an arid environment. We made good time to our campsite, climbing up to a mesa and then descending up to a pass and then down into a canyon, with some stellar views of iconic Weaver’s Needle along the way. Although there were several other backpackers out and about, we made it to the large camping area first and snagged what I believed to be a premium campsite. Secluded and with nice views of the canyon’s slopes, and plenty of elbow room before bumping into prickly, thorny, or otherwise unfriendly forms of vegetation, it was an ideal spot to set up our tents. We relaxed for a bit before making the mile or so roundtrip to get water from the reliable spring further up the canyon, which offered suitable campsites that were predictably crowded. While it doesn’t take much to puzzle me, I was genuinely befuddled by the guys we met who earnestly intended to hammock camp in the area. Indeed, John and I had exchanged sarcastic text messages about hammock camping in the desert in the days prior to the trip, amongst other important topics such as sources of water and brands of whiskey. After stocking up on water and comic relief, we began our return to camp. Although our packs were heavy with water on the way back, the gentle downhill walk back to the campsite as the sun set and the light in the canyon changed were enchanting enough to make me forget I even had on a pack. Back at camp, we stretched out in the twilight and started fixing our dinners. Or at least I started fixing mine while John struggled to open his bear canister, which he regretfully opted to bring to protect his food against rodents. I simply chose to bring my trusty stuff sack to hang from whatever I could find and then hope for the best. Bears are of no real concern in the Superstition Mountains and John paid an unexpected and mildly amusing price for his overkill decision in regard to food storage. John lacked the ideal tool – a nickel – to open the bear canister and had little success improvising with other tools. A man versus bear canister battle unfolded before me as I devoured my pasta and tuna. I could contribute nothing except sympathy and stifled laughter. Frustration increased and, after about fifteen minutes, I am certain that if I had a spare nickel John would have gladly paid twenty dollars for it. As I moved on to dessert, the bear canister was finally opened in a triumphant display of determination and creative use of sharp objects. John was then able to consume a hard-won but ultimately underwhelming freeze-dried meal. After an hour or two of trading stories and sips of a whiskey while stars began to slowly punctuate the desert sky, we retired to our respective tents for a peaceful night’s slumber. Although John had intended to hike the approximately 10-mile day hike loop from camp with me the following morning, a late-breaking and unexpected family emergency forced him to curtail his trip and hike out early. Since he would still be able to pick me up from the trailhead the next day, we parted ways that morning and I finished the rest of the planned trip solo. I would be remiss if I didn’t note my surprisingly deep disappointment at the fact that I would be companion-less for the rest of the hike. I’ve done over a hundred nights solo in my decade of backpacking and am incredibly fond of solo backpacking, but I cherish to the very center of my soul the trips I share with close friends. Missing out on the opportunity for another day of wilderness bonding with John emotionally altered my trip, but I understood the gravity of his family situation, adjusted my expectations, and proceeded onward and forward with the rest of my stroll through the Superstitions. To say that the hiking was blissful would be an understatement. Overcast skies saturated the colors and added depth to the landscape that allowed it to shine in a different way than it had the previous day. The lack of a sun beaming down made the hiking remarkably pleasant and the scenery unfolded with a grandeur and intensity that was jaw dropping. Cacti, distant cliffs, pools of water in the creekbeds, rock formations, all occurred with a perfect mix of frequency and variety. The Superstitions are certainly not an uncrowded area and I had the good fortune to share some of the hike with three other hikers. They were kind enough to invite me on a short scramble up to an overlook for lunch, which had a great view of Weaver’s Needle. We continued on the loop together, but different pacing eventually led to us drifting apart and I returned to my walking reverie through the desert. I re-filled on water at the same spring as the previous day and returned to camp to settle into my usual solo routine of stretching, reading, writing short letters to friends on the backside of maps or a scrap paper to drop in the mail, and replenishing lost calories and fluids. A light rain fell consistently throughout the evening and overnight, but never to the point of inconvenience. Given how rare rain is in the desert, I looked upon it as a rare treat and appreciated every drop. The beauty of a rain drop on the needle of a cactus is absolutely divine. The cool morning temperatures and light rain which defined my hike out the next morning made for a mystical landscape, as fog rolled across distant mesas and swirled around rugged formations and mountains both near and far. I made it back to the trailhead a half-hour or so before the pick-up time that John and I had agreed upon, which allowed me to stretch, make some tea, and generally lounge around the trailhead and enjoy the desert ambience. Upon reuniting with John for the concluding chapter of our trip, which was an overnight stay at the delightfully funky El Dorado Hot Springs to ease our exaggeratedly aching bones, we picked up right where we left off. And that is perhaps as best a note to end on as any – when it comes to friends, backpacking, hiking, and life in general – there is a simple pleasure in picking up where you left off, regardless of distance or time passed, that leaves one with nothing more to desire. Information: The Superstitions are an ideal destination for the majority of most seasons other than summer. Water and heat are the primary limiters for trips here and should be given the utmost respect and consideration when planning your trip. The trailheads can be popular and crowded on weekends “in season” and camps directly adjacent to water sources can suffer from overuse. If you can commit to dry camping and plan your water sources appropriately, you greatly increase your chances for solitude. Several popular trailheads, such as Peralta and First Water, are located only an hour’s drive from Phoenix. Call the Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, for the most up-to-date information. Books: Hiking Arizona’s Superstition and Mazatzal Country by Bruce Grubbs Superstition Wilderness Trails West: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart Superstition Wilderness Trails East: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart Map: National Geographic's Trails Illustrated Map #851, Superstition and Four Peaks Wilderness Areas (Tonto National Forest)
  2. 1 point
    Hey all! Excited to find an active hiking forum and the magazine is a plus. I moved up to NH almost 2 years ago from FL with my girlfriend and our dog and I can't get enough of the mountains up here. I'm currently working my way through the NH 48 4000 footers. I'm only 13 in but plan on bagging at least 25 this year. It's a 3 hour drive to most of the 48 trailheads from where I'm at so it does take some scheduling, but I make it work. I'm also working my way through a couple other lists: Belknap 12, All NH Fire Towers (still standing and past locations). I hope to hike the Long Trail before I move away from the NE as well. I've got some big plans! I take my dog along on as many hikes as I can when I go hiking and while my girlfriend works on Saturdays, we all get outside together on Sundays. That's just a little about me. Happy to be here! Happy Trails. Dane H.
  3. 1 point
    After something like three years of talking about it and months spent making plans, my good friend and hiking companion, Wayne Garland, has finally set out on his attempted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In October, at the age of 70, Wayne retired from a long and distinguished career as a Paramedic, providing emergency medical services here in Oconee County, South Carolina. One of Wayne's stated goals for his retirement, was to do a lot of traveling. I think that it's safe to say that he's accomplished that goal already. In the months since his retirement, he's already traveled to the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and Guam. In January, he also traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, that trip had represented the first time that he had been back to either country since the end of the war more than 40 years ago. Wherever his travels have taken him, Wayne has made it a point to hike some of the local trails. While in Europe, one of the notable hikes that he did was to the top of the Feldberg in Germany's Black Forest region. At 4,898 feet, the Feldberg is the highest mountain in both the Black Forest and in all of Germany outside of the Alps. According to Wayne, though, the hardest hiking that he’s ever done anywhere was along the grassy trails of Guam's southern mountains, to the summit of Mt Schroeder. In addition to the terrain, which was very steep and rugged, the hiking was made more difficult by an abundance of razor-sharp Sword grass. The Sword grass is so sharp that wearing long pants, long sleeves, and gloves is a must. In places, it was more than eight feet tall and so dense that he couldn't see the trail or even the other people that he was hiking with. Another of Wayne's goals for retirement is to thru-hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, from it’s southern terminus in Georgia, to it's northern end atop of Mount Katahdin in Maine, nearly 2,200 miles away. To Prepare, Wayne has been hiking or backpacking with every available moment. In 2016, although he was still working 72 hours per week, he hiked more than 1,400 miles for the year and averaged nearly 120 miles per month. Unfortunately, an Achilles injury and tendinitis sidelined Wayne for the first half of last year. Now that he's fully recovered and with the end of winter approaching, Wayne is ready to set out on his next adventure. Two of Wayne's close friends and fellow hikers are Pam Hembree, and Jan Haney. On Tuesday, March 6th, Pam, Jan, and I, drove with Wayne from our homes in Upstate South Carolina, towards Dawsonville, Georgia and Amicalola Falls State Park. Our intentions were to accompany him as he hiked the Approach Trail that runs between the State Park and the official start of the A.T. at the summit of Springer Mountain. First however, we had to drive along Forest Service Road 42 to a gravel parking area about a mile north of the summit and leave our vehicle, then wait for the shuttle that would take us the rest of the way to Amicalola. Our shuttle driver's name was Ron. Ron is a super nice guy and is very knowledgeable, having previously served as a Park Ranger for more than eight years. Through no fault of his own, Ron was running a couple of hours behind schedule. By the time that he had picked us up, it was already about a quarter after four. We needed to be at the Park Office before 5 pm so that Wayne could register and receive his 2018 A.T. Leave No Trace hang tag. It was close, but Ron got us there with a couple of minutes to spare. Wayne was the last one to register on this particular day and is number 719 to register overall. Next, we stopped at the famous stone archway behind the park office and had Wayne pose while we all took pictures. The oft-photographed landmark marks the beginning of the approximately 8.8 mile long Approach Trail. For today, though, we would only hike the one mile from the arch up to the Lodge at Amicalola, where we had planned to spend the night. Along the way, we climbed 604 steps, gained about 800 feet in elevation, and got up close and personal with the park’s namesake waterfall. Amicalola Falls plunge a total of 729 feet from the top down to it's base and are the tallest in the southeast. At the lodge, we watched a beautiful sunset from the balcony, ate dinner at the Maple Restaurant, then went to our rooms. There, we took care of some last minute details before trying to get in a few hours of sleep. The moon was still high in the sky early Wednesday morning when we woke. After showering, then eating a quick breakfast, we set out on the Approach Trail. The morning air was cold, with the temperature ranging somewhere between 26 and 30 degrees. The wind blew hard on us the whole day, gusting to close to twenty miles per hour. Although it was a blustery day, within minutes of beginning to hike, we had warmed up considerably. Except for our hands and faces, it wasn't bad at all. While not terribly difficult, the Approach Trail is certainly no pushover either. I've been told that if you can do the Approach Trail, then you can do the whole trail. I'm not so sure about that. I think that may be at least a bit of an overstatement. It will, however, definitely make you think twice about lugging a heavy backpack up and down mountain after mountain, mile after mile, day after day, for five or six months. Heck, it gave me second thoughts, and I’m not even the one doing the thru-hike. Early in our hike, the trail had climbed steeply, then leveled as it passed through an area where there were lots of Hollies growing. Some of the Hollies were just beginning to bloom. Later, we passed through Nimblewill Gap and by a memorial there to the people that had died in a small plane crash near that site in 1968. With about a mile-and-a-half to go, we reached Black Gap Shelter, where we stopped to eat our lunches. At the shelter, we met a fellow who's trail name is Silver Bullet. At least that had been his name. That is, until a former army medic told him that “Silver Bullet” was military slang for a shiny rectal thermometer. Now his trail name is Silver, just Silver! From the shelter, the trail climbs another 600 feet by the time that it finally reaches the top of Springer. At the summit, there is a register and two plaques. One plaque was provided by the US Forest Service and is fastened to a boulder. The other plaque was placed there by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in 1934 and is attached directly to the rock-face. Also at the summit is the first official white blaze. It's been estimated that there are 165,000 white blazes along the Appalachian Trail. If that's true, then Wayne only has another 164,999 more to go. After spending a few minutes taking pictures, we hiked a mile from Springer, down to where we had left our vehicle the day before. There we said our goodbyes to Wayne, prayed for his safekeeping, and watched as he headed up the trail alone. We wondered what he must be thinking and how he was feeling. Wayne is mentally tough and has a lot of good old fashioned grit, so unless something unforeseen or beyond his control happens, I'm confident that he'll do well. Happy trails, my friend! Update: at the time of writing (03/21/18), Wayne has been on the trail for fifteen days and has hiked 173 miles, including the Approach Trail. He's at Fontana Dam and about to enter the Smokies. He's been given the trail name Defib, a reference to his background as a paramedic. He's had to contend with a broken tent pole, a lost down vest, strong winds, snow, and temperatures that have dipped down into the teens. Even so, he's still plugging away.
  4. 1 point
    Hey toejam, I use the app as a premium subscriber for all the additional maps and the offline and layering ability, but just tested on another device and I'm actually able to import kml tracks onto the free / trial version of Gaia successfully...wasn't able to find anything on the Gaia site so figured I'd give it a go. Definitely suggest one of their membership options to get the most out of the app though, and keep in mind that a free year of their premium offering is all included with a TrailGroove Premium Membership as well!
  5. 1 point
    Hey jerost, I’ve had good luck with the Gaia GPS app on a couple different iPhone models - no lack of responsiveness whatsoever for me. Here’s a quick post on using the app for planning out trips and use on the trail that might give you an idea of what it’s all about as well: https://www.trailgroove.com/blogs/entry/122-how-to-use-the-gaia-gps-app-and-trip-planning-guide/ Hope this helps!
  6. 1 point
    Wow! I wish him well. That would be some accomplishment. In February of 2016, Wayne, Pam, and Ron (another of our hiking companions) did the approach trail as a day hike. They met Jeff (Legend) Garmire just as he was setting out on his attempt to do all three long trails in the same calender year. 252 days and 7,636 miles later, he successfully finished. Wish I could have been there for that one.
  7. 1 point
    Aaron, I would echo your thought--if you are serious about lightening your load in the backcountry, a good/accurate scales is a great step toward that. I found when I purchased one (I think it cost me $17-$18 nine years ago), that it really focuses one to consider the weights of all the gear you choose to bring with you, and use that knowledge the next time you have to consider replacing an item.
  8. 1 point
  9. 1 point
    I love this story, I will keep following, please keep posting
  10. 1 point
    Familiar with that. Grew up in PA and also lived in Nashville,TN for a few years before moving here. I think we exhausted most of the hiking around nashville within the first year or two. Started doing overnight canoe trips instead.
  11. 1 point
    I almost always hike with dogs so am always targeting areas where they’re allowed. And unfortunately I often have to skip many areas like most National Parks where they're not. I’m a big fan of leashes as well and only unleash a dog when it’s under strict voice command and within reach - and where it’s allowed of course - immediately leashing if anyone else comes along even when the dog is under voice command by my side. I’ve passed people on the trail who are terrified of all dogs, even when on a leash, and on the trail we will pass the full gamut of other hikers from those who can't wait to meet your dog, to those who want nothing to do with any dog. And frankly a big “pet peeve" of mine are unleashed dogs on the trail whether I have my dog along or not - and my leashed dog only serves to attract the unleashed ones. I like dogs, but not necessarily strange dogs, whose intentions I know not. Have had to break up a few disagreements between unleashed dogs and my leashed companion in the past as well. No matter how well behaved and in my mind, a dog on a leash goes a long way in the courtesy department and keeps everyone happy.