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  1. 2 points
    I started trail running, hiking, and camping in 2019 and got a little derailed during 2020. My running trail got filled with people suddenly getting outside when the shutdown happened, and the state parks got closed down for a bit. I'm getting back on track and planning my first overnight backpack trip in October. The magazine is great, and I look forward to learning more about this new hobby of mine.
  2. 2 points
    From beaches to rainforests to glaciers, Olympic National Park provides hikers with access to a stunning variety of landscapes. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to do in the park’s 922,650 acres, I have had the privilege of soaking in its hot springs, swimming in its alpine lakes, and walking among the giant trees in its rainforest. The extensive trail network of Olympic National Park allows for memorable backpacking trips of all lengths, from overnight outings to weeklong journeys. The mix of topography, elevation, and cultural history allow for an incredible diversity of experiences. With certain national parks, you can get an adequate sampling of the landscape from a single backpacking trip, but Olympic National Park is a piece of public land requiring multiple visits just to get oriented to its grandeur. And once you’re oriented, you’ll certainly find yourself wanting to come back for more. For backpackers looking to plan an enjoyable multi-day trip that samples some of the best of the park’s interior mountain scenery – while avoiding crowds and often some of the more rainy and unpredictable weather closer to the Pacific – the northeastern corner of the park is hard to beat. Beginning a trip at Deer Park Campground, which has some delightful views to the high country and a handful of quaint shelters that you can camp in if you don’t mind the high likelihood of rodent companions, is a great choice with longer loop options leaving from this campground that cross over high mountain passes, visit beautiful mountain lakes and tarns, and travel through verdant forest along the Gray Wolf River. Leaving from the Obstruction Point Trailhead is also an excellent option for trips into the northeastern section of Olympic National Park. Backcountry regulations are, for the most part, not as complicated or restrictive as they are in more high-demand parts of the park; indeed in 2017 I was able to simply show up at the park’s Wilderness Information Center with no advance reservation and get issued permits for an outstanding four-night trip, starting on a Saturday, without any obstacles. However, the backcountry campsite reservation system changed in 2019 and new rules regarding the reservation of campsites and the number set aside for first-come, first-served use have been put into place. Thus, despite there not being as much competition for campsites as in other parts of the park, it would be wise to make reservations in advance. Highlights in the Northeast Olympics are a blend of valleys and peaks. Complimented by beautiful lakes, the lovely meadows and stunning mountains make the park a paradise for the eyes. Competition for campsites can be stiff, especially if you’re planning a trip from the popular Obstruction Point Trailhead. Fortunately, there are several different lakes to camp at within a few miles of each other so if your first or second choice isn’t available there is still a reasonable chance that you will still be able to camp in this magnificent landscape. Having some flexibility with your itinerary in regard to when you stay at the campsites can also help your chances of being able to put together a trip that works for you and doesn’t require you to rush through this part of the park or hike a long day to get there, leaving you little time to enjoy your stay. For those looking for a bit more solitude and who don’t mind some cross-country travel, there is ample opportunity to plan a trip to several meadows in this corner of the park that are a true feast for the eyes. There is a designated campsite at one meadow, but zone camping has also been allowed in certain areas in the past – just check with the rangers when getting your permit and see what the current regulations are. Numerous passes in this area and non-technical peaks also provide scenic highlights, several of which I had the pleasure of experiencing during my trip through the area in 2017. Near the headwaters of the Dosewallips River, you can find opportunities for scrambling to the top of peaks and you can then easily relax in meadows below on your way back to camp. Several trails lead to the area. Those comfortable with cross-country travel will find many worthwhile detours in the area and in this corner of the park if you have energy to spare and a good map. Spending an afternoon hiking to an offtrail meadow was one of my favorite parts of the fieldwork for the revised third edition of Backpacking Washington. Walking almost felt like being on a treadmill; for every few hundred yards of progress I made it seemed like the mountains that hemmed the meadow in stood in the same spot. The stillness was beautiful and profound in the meadow and I found myself often pausing just to take it all in. A black bear making its way through the meadow mesmerized me for a half-hour as it ambled along and splashed in and out of a small stream. If you’re looking to catch trout and don’t mind steep, faint paths that sometimes disappear altogether, high lakes in the area can become must-visit destinations. In late August, so many trout were rising to feed at one particular lake that I almost thought it had begun to rain. Although not as impressive as the Hoh Rainforest or the Queets Rainforest, the forest along the Gray Wolf River Trail is absolutely enchanting. Several campsites allow you to extend your stay in this delightful ecosystem and enjoy the beauty it has to offer before continuing on to other destinations. For those looking for real “top of the world” scenery, the upper Cameron Creek area is one area to explore, while the Obstruction Point and Deer Park Campground / Trailheads offer start or end points for ridgetop hiking options that should not be missed. Views from quintessential alpine scenery with meadows, streams, rugged peaks, and above treeline terrain to views into the park’s interior as well as out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and distant Vancouver Island can all be found. If you plan a multi-day backpacking trip it might necessitate bringing an extra memory card, as the views are pretty much non-stop. Regardless of where you end up in the northeastern Olympics, you’ll almost certainly wish you had more time. While it is easy to put together a multi-day backpacking loop that hits some of the most majestic scenery, having twice the time would always be better. There’s simply no such thing as swimming in too many refreshing mountain lakes or enjoying the view from too many mountain passes. Information: Permits are required and can be obtained through Best Time to Go: Late July to Late August for wildflowers, although early season hikes might need an ice axe and traction devices to negotiate the passes. That said, there really isn’t a bad time to hike this part of the park – the stunning mountains, lakes, and lush forests are gorgeous any time you can reach them (which is usually July to October each year for non-mountaineering pursuits). If you can only do a trip later or earlier in the year, then sticking to the rainforests or beaches of the park’s lowest elevation would be more appropriate. Getting There: From Hwy. 101 east of Port Angeles, WA turn onto Deer Park Road and continue for 16 miles to the road’s end and the Deer Park Campground. Maps and Books: The National Geographic Trails Illustrated map for Olympic National Park is adequate for completing most backpacking and dayhiking trips on trails, although persons interested in doing more cross-country travel might want to print detailed topographic maps for certain sections. A detailed description of a loop in the northeastern Olympics, along with several other trips in the Olympic Mountains, is in Backpacking Washington, 3rd Edition by Douglas Lorain and your author of this article, Mark Wetherington, published by Wilderness Press.
  3. 1 point
    Welcome and glad you’re liking the magazine. Let us know how the overnight goes!
  4. 1 point
    I finally purchased the Synmat UL MW as it finally went on sale here. Material seems rather thin, compared to my older NeoAir All Season. I hope it can stand up to a bit of abuse. Looking forward to testing it out properly soon.
  5. 1 point
    My name is Charlie, I have not hiked for several years for personal reasons I'm hoping to change that soon. I had a heart attack a few years ago so I guess thru hiking the AT is out... I've hiked lots of miles in Australia when I lived there, through the middle of Tasmania, the Victorian alps and other places closer to my old home in Melbourne. This looks like a great spot! Lots of friendly people. Thanks for reading. Regards, Charlie.
  6. 1 point
    Well, I am new to this forum as i stumbled across it while searching for gear reviews and somehow got caught up reading posts for days and decided to create an account. I'm from the Phoenix, AZ area and although I like to consider myself a fairly experienced backpacker as I have been doing it regularly for 10 years, I'm excited to learn from everyone else here! Oh, and this is probably my first time using a forum since the late 90's or early 2000's so this will be an adventure in itself.
  7. 1 point
    It’s almost as if the Pacific Ocean is a magnet, pulling me west each time I venture out to explore. While I take full advantage of the natural wonders offered by my home region in the central U.S., if I am traveling very far to hike, it is usually somewhere west of Oklahoma. As a result, I have hiked very little in the eastern United States, though I’ve managed to walk short sections of the Appalachian Trail on trips to Vermont and Maryland. Not much to brag about. Recently, I was in Virginia on business with my husband, Bill, and found myself with a free day, presenting an opportunity to experience a slice of the hiking in the East. We were stationed only a 30-minute drive from the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park (SNP), so it was a natural choice. The 200,000-acre park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia, stretching 105 miles from north to south. One main road, Skyline Drive, runs the distance of the long, narrow park and most hiking trailheads are accessed right off that main road. With more than 500 miles of hiking trails at SNP, there’s plenty to choose from. But how to choose? Since I was coming from the south and wanted to maximize my time hiking rather than driving, I picked a trail in the Loft Mountain area, about 20 miles north of the park entrance. And who doesn’t like waterfalls? SNP is full of waterfalls and I selected a couple of trails that appeared to have nice cascades, connecting them in a loop with a section of the Appalachian Trail, which runs all the way through Shenandoah. My total walking distance would be about eight miles, a nice length for a leisurely day hike. Arriving in Shenandoah early in the morning on a cloudy October day, I pulled into a nearly empty Jones Run Trailhead, pleased to be getting ahead of the weekend crowds. There was only one other vehicle there and I let its owner get on the trail ahead of me. I was alone, since Bill was working, and I preferred some solitude on the trail. The leaf-strewn path lined with ferns took me down, down, down into the hollow toward Jones Run Falls, a 42-foot cascade. I knew what the long descent meant – what goes down must come up. But for the moment I enjoyed the easy walking. Raindrops began to pepper the forest canopy and I thought how silly I was to have forgotten a rain jacket. In spite of what the calendar said about the season, there was little color change in the oaks and hickories, and what little existed was muted by the overcast skies. The temperature was pleasant, though, and the rain had stopped. I was enjoying myself thoroughly, nearly scampering along on the rocky trail. “I got my picture of a bear,” said a hiker, approaching from the opposite direction. The gray-ponytailed man in a ball cap stopped to explain he had just seen a bear on the trail and was able to capture a photo of it. He said he’d had to wait a while before proceeding, watching the bear cross the creek and eventually clamber up the hillside. I thanked him and continued, a little more watchful in case I too might get such a photo op. Soon I came to Jones Run Falls, but it was only a trickle, as the area had been experiencing drought. The 42-foot cascade was a 42-foot dribble, but I imagined it would have been quite spectacular with water. Continuing, I crossed the creek and began to ascend, now on the path toward Doyles River Falls. There are two falls along the Doyles River Trail, the upper and lower. Like Jones Run, there was only a trickle of water flowing across them. As I approached the lower falls, my solitude ended. Crowds of hikers, young and old, human and canine, were coming down the hillside as I climbed up, up, and up. If they were looking for spectacular waterfalls, however, they were out of luck. Soon I came to a spring surrounded by a wall of mossy stones. A sign there pointed to Doyles River Cabin. Curious, I followed the spur trail to find a woman and two young girls sitting on the front porch of a rustic house. “I didn’t mean to intrude,” I said. “I saw the sign and wondered what was up here.” “No worries,” said the woman. “You’re not the first hiker we’ve seen today.” “I accidentally locked us out,” said one of the girls. “My daddy’s gone to get the ranger so we can get back in.” Probably more information than the mother would have liked her daughter to share with a total stranger, but then I also probably looked (and am) pretty harmless. I wished them luck and turned back, continuing my climb. It was a relief when I reached the top after the long ascent, and there I found the trail marker for the Appalachian Trail (AT), indicating a 3.4-mile walk back to Jones Run, my starting point. The AT was narrower than the trail I’d just been on, appearing less trafficked at this point. Right away, I saw bear spoor on the trail, and only seconds later another such deposit, renewing my alertness. I started walking more quickly and making a bit of noise, becoming nervous about a bear encounter. Soon I began to meet other hikers on the trail and relaxed a bit. Then, lo and behold, I came across the first hiker I’d met, the guy who took the bear picture. I told him I hadn’t seen the bear and he asked about my camera, a lightweight mirrorless I was carrying around my neck. He was carrying his big DSLR with its huge lens in a waist pack. Good for pictures, heavy for hiking. Bidding him adieu, I soon reached my car, well satisfied with the hike but hungry. I drove a little farther into the park to the Loft Mountain Wayside and grabbed a late lunch, then began my return trip. As I drove south, the sun broke through the clouds, lighting up the red leaves of the maples along the roadside, so much so that I was compelled to stop at a turn-out and admire the view. The wind freshened, and as I left, autumn leaves skittered across the road and onto my windshield. Fall, it seemed, had just decided to arrive. Information: Shenandoah National Park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. Almost 40% of the land is designated as wilderness and protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet. Best Time to Go: As with most of the southeastern deciduous forest, spring and fall are generally the best times to go, avoiding humid summers and often snowy winters in the mountains. Getting There: Shenandoah National Park is located about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C. The park has four entrance stations along its 105-mile length. The Jones Run Falls trailhead is located at mile 84.1 in the south district of the park. Maps and Books: A map for the Jones Run Falls/Doyles River Falls loop is located here. Note, however, I connected the two trails with the Appalachian Trail rather than with Browns Gap Road. National Geographic also offers their Trails Illustrated Shenandoah National Park Map. Several guidebooks are available on Amazon, including a Falcon Guide to Hiking Shenandoah National Park.