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Showing content with the highest reputation since 03/09/2020 in all areas

  1. 2 points
    Hello all, I'm 62 years old in the Dallas, TX area. Many years ago, 25+, I used to do a lot of long backcountry hiking but had to give it up because of knee injuries as well as family obligations. But I have missed spending time alone in the wilderness. Now physically I feel great and am happily divorced. I will be retiring soon and want to get back into what I consider my church, the natural outdoors. I am not going to try to get back into the long backcountry trips right away but want to do some overnights or may 2 - 3 day trips. The first of these trips will be mid May in the Canyonlands area of Utah. I have been making some "practice" hikes lately and can do 10 - 12 miles with no discomfort. These "practice" hikes however have been with only a water bottle so it is time to get some gear and see if I can handle it fully loaded. I have a RIE near me and am going to go check out some equipment but of course in the store is nothing compared to the trail. Since I don't plan on doing any long trips I don't need the biggest of packs but my other interest, photography, is not lightweight so small day packs won't work either. Anyway, I have been browsing this forum and thought I should introduce myself and say hi. Any tips, comments or guidance is always welcome. I just hope you don't tell me to "stay home old timer". Thanks
  2. 2 points
    While any thru-hike will involve an uncountable number of steps, the biggest step of them all is the proverbial first step – making the decision to go hike the trail yourself. After you’ve watched the videos and read the articles, the inspiration is at its highest, and you finally decide to hike a long distance trail, the second major step into the world of long distance hiking is preparing to walk – up to 25 miles every day for up to 6 months straight. What I found after hiking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail was that thru-hiking isn’t so much a physical feat – and while you certainly have to be in good shape to hike a long trail – the mental challenge of a long hike is worth just as much, if not more consideration than the physical aspect of a long distance hike. And then there’s the question: is it possible to only hike one long trail? Now don’t get me wrong, getting in shape before a thru-hike can save you from injury and make your hike more comfortable, and getting your footwear dialed in can save you from misery. But that being said, the worry of training for walking 4-6 months can be overwhelming. There’s no reason to stress however: and it’s always best to start with some hiking around the local woods near home or even around the neighborhood. This will prepare not only your body, but more importantly your mind for the endeavor ahead. Another great thing to start doing is trail running. A few miles a day to even 10 a week with slow gains from there to get your muscles in tune. You do not need to be in shape to start hiking a long distance trail, but some pre-hike exercise never hurt anything. At least, that’s what I wished I had done. Training for my 180-day trek from Mexico to Canada through all of California, Oregon and Washington began on the trail itself however – and I wasn’t alone in this shared endeavor. Looking back, if I had trained physically for my hike, I would have sky rocketed in front of some of the fellow hikers I shared this misery with and would not be able to still talk with them to this day about it – while the scenery of course held its own, the friendships formed on the trail were the most memorable experiences for me on the PCT. Somehow and whether you choose to train extensively prior to your hike or not at all, whether you choose to resupply with carefully planned mail drops or strap a pizza box to your pack on the way out of town instead, things seem to find a way of working themselves out on a thru-hike once you get yourself to the trailhead. From blisters to aches and pains to ankles and knees, all thru-hikers are likely to experience some form of physical discomfort on their hike, but pushing through these setbacks is best accomplished by keeping your reasons for hiking the trail in the first place in the forefront of your mind. The most common reason I saw people drop off trail wasn’t injury, it was worry related to a job or the missing of a loved one at home. The hikers that finished the trail seemed to have an almost inner voice driving them to the border. Possessed with passion to reach that monument, not sacrificing anything, with perseverance to setup the tent yet again after a marathon day in the pouring rain, wind slapped desert, or mountain pass snow storm. Reasons for starting a long trail vary as much as those for leaving one early. In my case, I began my hike to get away from a relationship. For others, thru-hiking served as an escape from job related responsibilities and struggles, financial burdens, or any of the number of things we face in everyday life that we can to some extent, escape on the trail. But I don’t think any of us hiking for these reasons could escape these thoughts completely. For many of us, every day we kept walking was like putting on the boxing gloves and meeting these emotions in the ring. There were of course good days and bad, but those that continued on and finished the trail were the ones that won the fight. Even finishing the hike comes with its own set of problems however: post trail life. Many of us joked about having PTTD, or Post Traumatic Trail Disorder. When accomplishing a goal like a thru-hike and spending that many days in the grasps of nature, then returning to the life of old off the trail, post trail depression is a real struggle for many thru-hikers. When the only worries of the day on-trail were where to get water for the day or where to camp, when you return home to relationships, bills, a mortgage, or rent, it can at times seem that we end up right back where we started. Those that managed these emotions the best were the ones that kept hiking the following season or jumped to the other hemisphere chasing the forever changing trail season and kept escaping…or perhaps more accurately began to rewrite their narrative such that the line between on-trail and off-trail life began to blur. Through thru-hiking I found joy in writing, have been blessed with countless photos and memories, and have been fortunate enough to share stories of the hike across many platforms. Lasting friendships were formed. Physically the hike helped me obtain a level of fitness that had previously been unobtainable. I witnessed beauty beyond my wildest dreams and fell deeply in love with nature. Things that, after the hike are all tough to come by. Every time I sit down to write about topics like this I’m reminded of what it’s like to be out there, and perhaps there’s only one solution to fill the void. One day it seems unavoidable that I’ll find myself at the terminus of another long trail, the fog will lift, and the blissful experience of putting one foot in front of the other for thousands of miles will start the cycle yet again. For more on Sean’s thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, check out our two part series that starts here in Issue 40.
  3. 1 point
    With time rapidly running out to hike one of the big three trails this year or having run out already, it may be time to consider a shorter long trail once the present situation with COVID-19 becomes settled, hopefully sooner rather than later. Trails like the Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail (see Thru-Hiking: the Junior Version) will certainly get plenty of attention after social distancing regulations are relaxed and when current closures come to an end, but there are lesser known hikes, such as the Sheltowee Trace, worth considering once things return closer to normal. The Sheltowee Trace, known as Kentucky’s Long Trail, begins north of Morehead in the northern part of the state. From there it meanders south and west 333 miles all the way into Tennessee. Most of the mileage is within Daniel Boone National Forest with additional distance in multiple state parks and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; the southern terminus. Most of the route is dedicated hiking trail. However, as a newer route, there are some portions on Forest Service roads and a few significant road walks. The Sheltowee Trace Association (STA) manages the trail and is continuing to work to put additional miles on dirt. Geologically, the path travels through the Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Escarpment. This formation is known for impressive sandstone cliffs, numerous waterfalls and even stone arches. Historically, the area is interesting as well. In 1775 Daniel Boone and a large group of axmen began cutting the “Wilderness Road” through the Cumberland Plateau, opening the area to European settlement. In fact, the trail is named after Boone. Legend has it that Boone was captured by the Shawnee and eventually adopted into the tribe by Chief Blackfish. He was given the name “Big Turtle,” or Sheltowee. The trail also runs through the site of the Battle of Camp Wildcat, one of the first Union victories of the Civil War. Starting in the north it soon becomes clear that despite not being in a mountain range, there are still significant elevation changes to deal with. While steep at times, the climbs and drops are rarely more than 400-500 feet. After some ridge walking there’s a road walk to cross I-64 and some miles on Forest Service road. These will not be the last stretches of road walking. It is quickly apparent that the trail is generally well blazed with either diamonds or turtle symbols. However, the map set came in handy on more than one occasion. At 24 miles, the blazes take you right through the town of Morehead, a very handy resupply location. Despite the occasional road walk, the Sheltowee Trace provides a parade of highlights that, for me, get more impressive along the way. Cave Run Lake has some great overlooks with camp options nearby. Less than ten miles further is Furnace Arch, the first of many natural sandstone arches along the route. By mile 65 the trail hits Clifty Wilderness and heads into Red River Gorge. Designated a national natural landmark and national archaeological district, the area offers impressive views, cliffs, and additional arches. There are also creek crossings to deal with in the gorge. Most are shallow, but a couple will be well above the top of a hiking boot. All major stream crossings throughout the trail are bridged, but there are numerous smaller creeks that aren’t. With the many stream crossings, running out of water is rarely a concern. Immediately down the trail is Natural Bridge State Resort Park with its namesake sandstone arch that’s 78 feet long and 65 feet high. The nearby lodge has a restaurant as well as rooms. It’s a great place to take a break without needing to leave the trail. Another state park on the route is Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The Sheltowee Trace takes you right past this “Niagara of the South” and the 70 foot drop of the Cumberland River is impressive. Interestingly, the constant mist generated by the falls, combined with a full moon, provides one of the few locations on earth where you can consistently see a lunar rainbow, or moonbow if you time things right. For my money though, the crown jewel of the Sheltowee Trace is Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BSF). The trail first reaches BSF nearly 100 miles from the terminus and the falls, arches, and overlooks within the park are second to none. As with all national parks, there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife sightings. Bear bag your food! Despite being close to the finish, now is not the time to hurry. There’s too much to enjoy, and the trail gets too steep at some points to hurry even if you want to. Elevations range between 900 and 1500+ feet; more than once making that change in less than a mile. In a couple spots there are cables or ropes to help you through the extreme topography. The extra effort earns you more rewards though. Just as an example, the last 20 miles of trail take you along the Clear Fork and Big South Fork Rivers, past imposing overlooks, near seven waterfalls, four arches, and through Boulder House, a huge jumble of, you guessed it, boulders along Honey Creek. For those looking for a shorter adventure than a thru-hike of the Sheltowee Trace, there are nearly 200 miles of hiking trails within BSF’s 125,000 acres. Several link up with the Sheltowee Trace and can be used to create loop hikes of varying lengths. Several of the more popular overnight hikes are listed on the National Park Service’s website. Options utilizing the Grand Gap Loop or the park’s own John Muir Trail would be my initial recommendations. Information: A good starting point to research the trail is at the Sheltowee Trace Association website. It contains general information about the trail along with specifics on availability of shuttles and resupply as well as contact information for trail angels. In general, resupplying is not difficult with options 60 miles or less apart. In addition, the STA has an active volunteer base and several will go so far as to accept a mailed resupply box and bring it to you on your hike. Camping is allowed throughout Daniel Boone National Forest and BSF. A permit is required to camp in BSF but is only $5 per group of 6 or less. The permit is available at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. A permit is also required to camp in Red River Gorge. Contact the Forest Service, Cumberland Ranger District at (606) 663-8100 for that one. The occasional road walks and hiking through private property/state parks does mean some planning is needed for picking camp locations. Best Time to Go: September or October work best from my point of view. The weather tends to be dryer and more temperate. The fall color can be outstanding as well. However, the trail can (typically) be hiked year-round. As you would think, winter means you have the trail to yourself. Spring rains means both waterfalls and wildflowers are in top form though the trail can be muddy. I’d avoid summer unless you enjoy sweating and ticks. Getting There: Northern terminus, take I-64 approximately 50 miles east of Lexington, KY to exit #137. Turn north on Rt 32 then right on Rt 377 to the trailhead. Southern terminus, from Oneida, TN, US 27 south to right on Old US 27, left on Mountain View Rd, right on W. Robbins and left on Honey Creek Loop. Maps and Books: Paper map sets can be found here and an interactive version of the map is available here. For more on hiking in Kentucky and this area in general, see this Falcon Guide and Day Hiking Daniel Boone National Forest, plus the Trails of the Big South Fork book.
  4. 1 point
    Well, I'm also a photo-hiker, and live just about an hour south of Mineola. Once all this Corona stuff blows over we'll have to try and get together. I can show you a few places in Arkansas that I've been to several times.
  5. 1 point
    Hi DanL, Glad to hear you're getting back out on the trail. I'd like to suggest taking a few shakedown hikes when you do get your gear. There is plenty of room in the Davy Crockett National Forest (maybe a two hour drive?) and much of southwest Arkansas is N.F. land and close enough for weekend trips. You can make a base camp and day hike with your gear or actually backpack from point to point. Since this is almost all "dispersed" camping land, you can tailor your trips to your needs and comfort level. I live near Tyler and have done several trips to Utah. I love it, but it's a looooong drive!
  6. 1 point
    The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2015) is an approachable book of bite-sized chapters explaining the mysteries of trees. Ever wondered if trees can talk to each other? How they know when to drop their leaves in the fall (and why)? That they can lower the blood pressure of hikers beneath them? Wohlleben answers all these questions – and brings up fascinating others – in this easily-digestible book that’s sure to make a tree-hugger out of anyone. Wohlleben spent his career managing a forest in the Eifel mountains of Germany, and his passion for trees is contagious. The heart of his essays revolve around the fact that while trees grow slowly and live much, much longer than humans do, they share a remarkable amount of things in common with humans. For instance, tree roots connect with the roots of other trees in forests – even other tree species – to share nutrients, water, and even share signals about predators. While trees have countless ways to compete with each other for available sunlight, they’re surprisingly social creatures whose well-being depends on their community. And not just forest communities – but also communities of fungi, insects, birds, lichen, and plants, too. Wohlleben’s true gift lies not just in his lifetime of knowledge and devotion to forests, but his uncanny ability to spark wonder in the reader. I most enjoyed learning about how trees differ from one another in strategizing how to eek out a living. It’s stiff competition in forests, after all! Some trees are extremely good at soaking up all the sunlight they possibly can, like beeches, which catch 97 percent of sunlight (that’s not good news if you’re a tree that needs lots of sunlight and you happen to grow beneath a beech). Oaks create lots of tannins in their bark to discourage and slow down fungi from feeding on their tree bark. Spruce store essential oils in their needles and bark, which acts like antifreeze to keep them healthy during very cold winters. Quaking aspen get their name from their leaves, which – thanks to their triangular stem - blow in even the slightest wind; this helps quaking aspen generate more energy, because both sides of their unique leaves are able to photosynthesize. Wohlleben shares a great depth of knowledge of trees in “revealing even more of their secrets” throughout the book, and since chapters are usually 5-10 pages long, readers can take in these facts in bite-size chunks. The book also discusses the importance – and disappearance – of old-growth forests and forest preserves. Take the Great Bear Rainforest in northern British Columbia, which covers a whopping 25,000 square miles along the Pacific Coast. Over one-third of this area is covered in old-growth trees, which provides much-needed habitat for the rare spirit bear, a black bear with white fur. Old-growth forests in particular have soft, moist soil rich in nutrients — and soil health is essential to healthy ecosystems. Conserving undisturbed forests isn’t just good for ecosystems — it can also provide new sources of income for humans, too. Consider the Adirondack and Catskill parks in New York State, forest preserves that initially curbed excessive logging, soil erosion, and the silting-up of the Erie Canal; today, they’re also a vital source of tourism to the area. The Hidden Life of Trees shares many of the ways that countries around the world aren’t just understanding the importance of conserving forests — but finding out new ways to monetize them as well, through tourism, education, and more. Explaining complex scientific systems is no easy feat, and doing so succinctly is admirable. My main issue with the book, however, is his tendency to anthropomorphize the trees – to make them seem like they have thoughts and behaviors as humans do. He talks of trees that live in urban areas as “street kids” and the upper canopies of trees being the “executive offices.” I’m sure Wohlleben does so to make his writing more clear and relatable to the audience, but it also makes it sentimental, patronizing, and, well, unfitting for a book with a number of scientific citations. Nevertheless, The Hidden Life of Trees is a book I’ll keep suggesting to my outdoorsy and non-outdoorsy friends alike for a long time to come. You can find the Hidden Life of Trees here at Amazon.com.