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  1. 3 points
    Chris, Randy and I sat at a local brewery, a map of Olympic National Park spread across the table. We had climbed in the Olympics for decades, but now we were attempting something different – a thru hike from one side of the park to another. You might have thought planning to cross using established routes would be simple, but it was proving anything but. “Even the freaking rain forest is on fire.” Chris traced a route with his finger. The Pacific Northwest was suffering through one of its hottest summers on record, and our choices were dwindling. Park rangers had nixed the north-south high route, telling us the Elwha Snow Finger – the path leading from the mountains to the central river valley – had disappeared with climate change. Descent would require a rope and rack of climbing gear. As Chris noted, the western exits were threatened by the Paradise Fire, burning for months in the upper canopy of the Queets Rainforest. After a month of planning we decided to come in from the east, up the Dosewallips River Trail, over 5800-foot Hayden Pass, and then out to the north, along the Elwha River. Even this route reflected the consequences of a changing climate and aging park infrastructure. We’d be out for six days and travel 60 miles, but 11 miles of that total would be on what were once access roads. A 310-foot section of the Dosewallips River Road had washed out in a flood in 2002, and cost, competing views of wilderness, and the likelihood the river would continue running higher essentially meant the road – the traditional eastern approach to the park – would never be rebuilt. We would end our trip the same way. On exiting the trail system at Whiskey Bend, we needed to trudge six miles along a road that was frequently blocked by flooding and was crumbling away one chunk of asphalt at a time. The trip began, then, with our staggering along the Dosewallips Road. The temperature topped 90 degrees. The steep rise to the abandoned ranger station angled us into the sun’s glare, bleaching the road bed white and burning the outline of my pack along my shoulder blades. Drenched with sweat, we dropped our packs at the base of a towering cedar. I sucked in a breath and looked at what remained of the ranger station and campground. The place felt haunted. The river’s white noise might have blended with voices, as families came to picnic beside the sparkling water. Now plywood covered the windows and doors of the park service buildings. Modesty at the toilet was provided by a shower curtain hung where the door had once been. Waist-high grass swayed, overgrowing the picnic tables, and the informational signs – “Dosewallips Trailhead/Mountain Wilderness” – and a host of others had been blown over, the plastic facings shattered and their bases smothered in weeds. On the trail at last, we fell into a familiar line: Chris leading, Randy next, and me anchoring. Our goal was camp on Deception Creek, 8 miles and 1500 vertical feet away. Our time on the sun-drenched road had wasted us. Even sheltered under the cedars and firs, I couldn’t catch a full breath in the heat. We dropped onto the mossy carpet beside the trail at ever-shortening intervals. At each stop we’d gulp water and then guiltily check our bottles, evaluating whether what remained in them would last till camp. Finally, mercifully, a bear wire appeared, tracing a line from a fir’s branches to the ground. The camp was just below the trail, a big dusty circle with the creek trickling quietly along one side and the river giving a full-throated roar on the other. I dragged myself down the path and walked out beside the river. The Dosewallips cascaded by in blue-white arcs smooth as Chihuly glass. We had 13 miles behind us and 47 left to go. “These long hikes, you get faster each day,” I said over dinner. Randy, ever the cynic, caught Chris’ eye and bobbed his head my way. “Does he ever stop lying?” “Well, the weather is supposed to break soon,” I replied, trying to fight the leaden mood exhaustion brought on. But the next morning supported Randy’s negative world view. The trail climbed the valley, popping out of forest and into meadows of head-high grass and Russian thistles, the plants holding heat like a sauna and disguising chuckholes deep as tiger traps. I remembered the first book I’d ever read about the Olympics – a 1970 edition of the Olympic Mountain Trail Guide by Robert L. Wood – and thought how this day contrasted with his telling. Mt. Fromme, described as “crowned with snow cornices”, now shimmered at the valley’s head, a series of naked cliffs that seemed to float, detached from the earth. Near tree line, Dose Meadows opened before us, acres of grass and lupine burning with light. At Woods’ writing, the meadow had teemed with wildlife, marmots, deer, and bears among throngs of backpackers, but we hadn’t glimpsed an animal, human or otherwise, in a day and a half, the three of us alone on the once-popular trail. A boot path led around a low dirt hill to another gorgeous site on the Dosewallips, the river here placid and shallow. Once the tent was up, Chris and I hastily repacked for our side trip up Lost Peak. We might be thru-hiking, but peaks rose all around us, and the climbing bug couldn’t be easily shaken. “You sure you’re not coming?” I asked. Randy stood beside me with a book under one arm. “Swear to god, man, just two miles up. No farther than that.” But Randy snapped his book open, and the two of us headed up the Lost Pass Trail, so primitive and steep we had to kick our boot edges in to hold the slope. We reminisced along the way. One goal of this trip was to slow life down and refocus. “I feel like the last twelve years went by like a dream, Doug,” Chris said. “Like I lost them. Where’d they go?” Once, we climbed three weekends a month, but we all settled down and had kids, and while their young lives flew by, our trips to the mountains had become rare and manic in turn. Harsh alpine country surrounded us at Lost Pass. We headed toward a rounded dome to the east, kicking over talus and through krumholz. The mountain was parched. Heather snapped as we pushed through, and every broadleaf alpine plant was burned a brittle red. Lost Peak was a rubble pile about 100 feet higher than the dome, and we scrambled the boulders to the top. We looked back the way we’d come. The river’s canyon wound away, slopes darkening with firs until everything vanished in the haze. Randy was still reading when we returned, reclining against a log in the meadows and bathed in sunset light. The scene was blissful, and, next morning, the universe picked that same joyous tune. High clouds rolled in and the heat wave broke. For day three we’d maintain our basecamp, go light to Hayden Pass, and then follow a climber’s trail to Sentinel Peak. The river breathed its last beneath a final bridge, just a sheen of water trickling down rock steps. We hiked through tundra and followed the looping switchbacks to the pass, just a sharp notch in the ridge. A strong trail south wound up Sentinel, crossing talus basins and squeezing through clumps of alpine firs. Views opened on the rock slabs just below the summit – far off, the smoke plume from the Paradise fire and, nearer, clouds building behind Mount Anderson, a tortuous ridge-run away, its twin summits separated by a glacier and a rock pillar thrust skyward like a knife blade. We settled back in camp early. I’d planned on an afternoon nap, but we shoveled down snacks and chattered away, and I couldn’t keep my eyes closed, afraid I’d miss the next story though I’d heard each one a dozen times. That evening, a buck stepped from the shadows across the river, the first animal we’d seen in four days out. Heedless of us, he lowered his head to drink, his neck and shoulder muscles rippling. He picked his way soundlessly through the brush, glowing in front of that dark forest like Zeus come to earth in animal form. The next morning we hiked to the pass again and took the Hayes River Trail down, coasting nine miles to the banks of the Elwha. The views of Mount Anderson’s intimidating glaciers disappeared. We navigated a trail washout, and shortly after that entered a gentler world. Hikers appeared in clusters. The forest rose and moss painted earth and blow downs a delicate green, every image softened as though viewed through a gauze-covered lens. On the porch of the Hayes River Patrol Cabin we took a break before strolling to yet another perfect river camp. Compared to the Dosewallips, the Elwha was mellow, its water clear and the gravel-lined bottom symmetrical as though a pool boy had taken a rake to it. Our final two days of hiking had a dreamlike quality to them after the battering we’d taken at the outset. On day four, the valley broadened as we passed the Elkhorn Guard Station, deciduous trees draped with moss in a scene out of the Mississippi bayou. After one last camp, on the Lillian River above the Elwha, we passed increasing numbers of hikers and reminders of the human history in this valley: the weathered cabin grandiosely named “The Elk Lick Lodge” and the equally-dilapidated Cougar Mike’s Cabin a couple of miles further up the trail. Half an hour past Cougar Mike’s came trail’s end at Whiskey Bend. We swung around the road damage and hiked the pavement the final six miles to one last barrier, the gate closing the road to traffic. There we encountered a scene of intentional destruction, all in service of this beautiful country we’d just traversed. I dropped my pack and followed my friends onto an overlook platform. Across the river, a matching platform was filling with tourists exiting a bus, but on our side we stood alone. A century ago, the Glines Canyon Spillway had been erected to dam the Elwha at a cleft between rock walls. Now the dam was gone, removed in 2014 to restore the river and allow a vanished ecosystem to be reborn. In all honesty, it didn’t look like much – the spillway was just two weathered cement walls caked with moss, old metal channels hanging loose above the rushing water. Back in the direction we’d come, manmade Lake Mills had drained. The ground it once covered looked like a construction site, braided channels flowing through a mudflat and patches of scrub. But the point of it, I told myself, was what this scene symbolized. With the park’s roads crumbling, the high country parched and the forest on fire, at least this attempt was being made to return one river valley to its pristine state in a way everyone could enjoy, whether or not they chose to hike the whole darned park to get there. Information: As the park service says, “Wilderness Camping permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park wilderness (backcountry) year-round.” All of the areas on this trip were considered “non-quota”, which makes getting a permit easier, but the process is still fairly complicated and appears to be changing from an in-person or phone in to an online system. Best recommendations are to check out the wilderness sections of the park website, call the park at (360) 565-3130, or stop into a wilderness information center at Hoodsport or Port Angeles. One possible complication is that the Hayden Pass Trail was damaged (fire again) in 2016, and right now the NPS doesn’t recommend it. If it is not reopened, you might consider taking the primitive Lost Pass Trail north and exiting at Hurricane Ridge. Best Time to Go: Obviously, the weather has been warming, but from the end of July through September, weather in the Pacific Northwest remains as close to perfect as you can imagine. While it’s always a necessity to pack rain gear, days are long and nights are temperate. Getting There: The Dosewallips River Road leads west off Highway 101, just north of the tiny town of Brinnon, Washington. If you’re coming from the Seattle area, the coolest way to make the trip is via the Edmonds/Kingston ferry (reserve your spot through the Washington State Ferry system), and then take Highway 104 till it ends at Highway 101, at which point you head south toward Brinnon. Maps and Books: Olympic Mountain Trail Guide by Robert L. Wood – last edition available out in 1970 is the book I still use for general park info since the author knew every trail well. A lot has changed, but for the basics, with reliable info on backcountry camps and distances, it’s still great. If the idea of bagging a few peaks along the way appeals to you, be aware that the Climber’s Guide to the Olympic Mountains is known to have some interesting route descriptions for obscure peaks. The guide lists both Lost Peak and Mount Fromme as Class 1, trail all the way to the top, excursions. Lost was a thrash that became a light scramble at the summit; Fromme appears to be a Class 2 that begins with a steep unpleasant stomp through krumholz. Most of the other allegedly 1.1 climbs in the Dose Meadows area are probably of a similarly mixed character. The book does give an overview of all of the approach trail systems, so it has its uses. There’s also a newer Falcon Guide, Hiking Olympic National Park by Erik Molvar. For navigation, the waterproof and tearproof National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park Map is suggested.
  2. 2 points
    Spacious silence and cool, dry air. The sun is always warm in California, even in the dead of winter. Winter time is the off season here in Death Valley National Park, but I can’t imagine why. Boasting the hottest recorded temperature on Earth, it seems funny that most of the park’s visitors come in the summer. If you want to feel some serious, otherworldly heat, then pay us a visit in July! However, if you come to explore at any other time of the year, California’s mild and pleasant weather can be almost guaranteed. Spring is especially nice in Death Valley, when the warm nights return, and the wildflowers occasionally bloom for miles. If you stop by in winter however, you will probably find ample solitude on the trails in the area. At higher elevations in winter, there will be snow and ice towards the top of the mountains, but usually not very much. Cold, crisp air awaits as you hike higher, complete silence, and most likely, isolation. Starting from the charcoal kilns area, deep in the Panamint Mountains you will know when you’ve arrived, because these strange, stone, beehive-like structures will suddenly appear in the pinyon pine forest. They will certainly bring a moment of fascination. Most people don’t realize Death Valley has forests at the higher elevations. As the road winds higher into the mountain range, trees will suddenly appear. Any further up from here it becomes 4 wheel drive only. That road will lead to the trailhead for Telescope Peak, another great day hiking option. The charcoal kilns are a very cool landmark to check out. In the 1800s they would burn the pinyon pine forest here to make coal, and send it for fuel to the nearby mining boom-towns. I used to live in Death Valley and I fell in love with the park. The Panamint Mountains were my great backyard. When I would get some time to myself I’d wander up into them and enjoy their majestic silence. The hike here took place in January, and the conditions were icy, but without too much snow. The hike didn’t require any special gear, or any special permits. Just drive up into this lonely land and see what’s out there. The Wildrose Trail will generally have less snow on it than the Telescope Trail, so can be a good option in winter. I felt refreshed at the beginning of the hike as I left the charcoal kilns, taking my camera along and meandering around a few scenic corners, before heading straight up! This was the most challenging part of the day as I climbed through the forest, but was the perfect warm-up in the sharp, high desert air. The charcoal kilns are already at 6,800 feet of elevation. Coming from the bottom of Death Valley, I left the warm weather behind having driven literally from sea level, and would climb to over 9,000 feet high on this 4.2 mile, one way hike. It wasn’t too far before cresting the ridge, and I looked down to the first sweeping view of Badwater Basin in the valley. This, I could tell, is where the great scenery would begin. The rest of the hike was much easier than the first part of the ascent. Now I got to stroll along the ridgeline, taking in the view of Telescope Peak behind me. Telescope is Death Valley’s tallest mountain, and has an incredible ridgewalk as well. Trails in this area are great options for day hiking the Panamints. After the mellow ridgewalk, I encountered one final push to get to the summit. This is where the snow and ice began, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I was actually wearing sandals as well! I wouldn’t completely recommend this, because my toes were getting cold, but I generally love sandals for desert hiking. Just don’t hit a cactus! Finally, the summit awaits. I sat there and froze for a very long time, writing in my journal and wandering around that place which feels on top of the world. I took shelter in a pinyon pine tree to each some snacks, surveying the colorful, mirage-like desert all around. No matter the elevation, the sun always feels warm around here. Another great thing about Death Valley is you can hike in the bright moonlight, so I didn’t feel too rushed to get down knowing the moon would be showing up tonight. Still, it’s always a good idea to bring a flashlight or headlamp and the 10 essentials. Upon arriving back home in Death Valley later that evening, the warm air was a welcome greeting. Information: There is a free campground at the beginning of Emigrant Canyon Road, and at the junction of Wildrose/ Emigrant Canyon Road. They are reserved on a first come basis, and are often crowded or full most times of the year (except winter). Free camping can be found on the BLM land at the bottom of Wildrose Road in Panamint Valley, on many dirt side roads, and roadside camping/sleeping is acceptable there as well. Backcountry permits, day hiking or camping, are voluntary in Death Valley, and can be filled out at the two visitors centers – one in Lone Pine, CA, and one in Furnace Creek, CA. Check with a ranger about snow condition before attempting a hike, and be prepared with all your own water. It’s up to you how much water to carry because it is heavy, but 2-4 liters should be sufficient for a colder, shorter day hike. Of course if you bring more, you can always drink more! Books & Maps: Hiking Death Valley: A Guide to its Natural Wonders and Mining Past by Michel Digonnet. This book is more than just a hiking guide, the author knows Death Valley very well and explains its rich and colorful history along with the descriptions of the hike. He will also tell you the many unique plants and animals found in the region, as well as more obscure hikes off the beaten path. This guide includes hidden gold mines to explore and descriptions of how to find them. This guidebook is one to constantly return to whenever planning a hike in Death Valley. Hiking Western Death Valley National Park: Panamint, Saline and Eureka Valleys by Michel Digonnet. This book provides a closer look at the trails on the west side (the best side) of the park. Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion by Richard E. Lingenfelter. A fascinating read for anyone interested in Death Valley, or who is familiar with the park, this book will convey all of its history. There are many stories, some grim and some funny. From the lost Mormon wagon train that accidentally discovered Death Valley and gave it the name... to the many prospectors and con-men who called the place home. It’s a long and highly informative read, and an excellent series of stories about this haunting land. Death Valley National Park Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic. This is the only map I have ever needed when exploring Death Valley. It has clear topography lines and the beautiful coloring of the map makes it fun to look at and easy to read. It has info on the side about trail suggestions and concerns about hiking in the park. Getting There: If traveling from the east, take CA hwy 190, the main road through the park. After passing Stovepipe Wells village, drive 10 miles further and you will find Emigrant Canyon Road on your left. Take that turn, and drive for about 25 miles straight to the Wildrose trailhead at the charcoal kilns. The road will turn to dirt 5 miles before the kilns. These same directions can be used if traveling from the West on CA hwy 190. After you pass Panamint Springs village your turnoff is 22 miles away on the right. If traveling from Los Angeles area however, you will be coming into the park from the south. In this case you can take the back route in... After leaving the town of Trona and cresting the Slate Range Pass, you will drop into Panamint Valley. Take the right turn for Wildrose Road, 15 miles after Slate Range Pass. This will connect you to Emigrant Canyon Road, take a right turn there, and drive just 8 miles to the charcoal kilns. When exploring the region, it is fun to take both roads, Emigrant Canyon and Wildrose Road, to make a driving loop out of it. Best Time to Go: Hiking the Panamint Mountains can be done any time of the year. My favorite time is December, because the air is very clear that time of the year, but the temperatures can be quite cold. The only time the hike should be avoided is immediately after a high altitude snowstorm or during one. This information should be found out at the visitor center, or at least by gazing up at the snow level on the peaks. Springtime snow is very possible in Death Valley. The best time to do the hike is on a rare cloudy day…In the summer, this hike is an excellent escape from the hot weather, and temperatures will still be mildly warm at the summit. In the spring, vast meadows of wildflowers sometimes bloom in the Panamint Mountains.
  3. 2 points
    In his beautiful and evocative memoir The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness, acclaimed travel writer Gary Ferguson breathes emotional and humane life into the Mountain West. After 25 years of marriage and as many seasons sharing a USFS ski patrol hut, Ferguson’s wife Jane passes away suddenly in a tragic canoeing accident in northern Ontario, dividing Ferguson from not only his partner and best friend, but from his identity in relation to her. In recognition of her last wishes, he sets out to scatter her ashes in her five favorite backcountry locations, and in doing so begins to hunt for what meaning he can reconstruct of his own life in her absence. As Ferguson takes the reader through the deep wilds of the American West, he constructs his world through prose as granular and pulsing as his environs: “West of Caineville the land melts into the bare bones of existence: rusted waves of sandstone peeling away with every passing storm; deep blue sky, hot and thirsty and bright.” But what breathes life into his writing is not the descriptions of the earth around him, but rather the emotional connections he generates to it with his readers. Each of the locations at which he scatters Jane’s ashes bears personal meaning, and he imbues that meaning into his descriptions from the opening passage: “The end came for Jane, and so for us, at the edge of a spring, when the leaves of the north country were washed in that impossible shade of lemonade green. A color she said always reminded her of a certain crayon in the old Crayola 64 boxes she had as a kid – one labeled simply “yellow green” – a clumsy name with no hint of the promise it held” From the first page, he reaches out and takes the reader’s hand, guides us through the Mountain West as he knows it. His travels to lay Jane to rest take him through the heart of the northern American Rockies, from the Sawtooth Range of Idaho to the northern reaches of Yellowstone and the Beartooths, south down to the canyons of Utah, but the greater story that he tells brings the reader to Colorado, Oregon, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. His trips start brief as he recovers from his own injuries, making short forays into the Sawtooths and into Utah alone to say his private goodbyes and close the intimate chapters on the story of their life together. But by the time he’s ready to make the final scatterings, he’s joined by friends, family, and anyone who has their own closures to make with Jane, and leaves straight from his front door in the foothills of the Beartooths and hikes a hundred miles south and west for her final ceremony in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. And like a guide, he shows us what’s worth seeing, tells us about his connection to it, but encourages us to make a connection for ourselves. He lays the emotional agar and steps away to let us seed it with our own experience. He occasionally gets in over his head in this regard, jumping back and forth, often several times per (already short) chapter, between multiple recollections of a place. But while understanding the location’s importance in his and Jane’s life is crucial to our appreciation of his voyage in the present, his frequent and sporadic trips into the locations’ natural and explorative history often interrupts the pacing and adds further complexity to an already complex story. But of course, a search for identity is necessarily complex, and that is ultimately what brings Ferguson out in the wake of Jane’s death. Not to find the right place to lay her to rest, not even to honor her memory at the places she loved the most. He spent 30 years of his life at her side, as rangers and as partners, and thus his identification with nature is pinned to his identification with her. His journeys lay Jane to rest, sure, but ultimately his driving force is to work out who and what he is without her, and how he relates to these timeless wilds. Jane is now part of the wilds just as she is part of him, but as the wilds go on, so too must he. You can find The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness here on
  4. 2 points
    The Rocky Mountains provide hikers with countless opportunities to immerse themselves in backcountry areas filled with quintessential landforms. Majestic mountain peaks, sublime subalpine lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildflower-filled meadows come immediately to mind. Rolling high-altitude plateaus, cascading mountain streams, and fragrant forests of dense conifers are also key contributors to this enchanting landscape. Somewhat surprisingly, there are even some natural arches scattered across the Mountain West, mixed in amongst the gendarmes, sawtoothed ridgelines, and other rock formations. Despite the abundance of grandeur in many regards, there is one piece of natural phenomena that the Rockies lack – the stunning display of fall color that deciduous forests come alive with each autumn. The mosaic of reds, oranges and yellows, presented in a stunning variety of tones – from brilliant to muted – is one of the most captivating sights in the mountains of the eastern United States. From New England to the Great Smoky Mountains, the trillions of leaves clinging to well over 100 species of trees form an enchanting tapestry of color. An almost kaleidoscopic canopy hangs above trails that traverse an already wonderful landscape for hiking. While the West lacks the type of forest that bestows hikers with the unique experience of hiking during peak fall foliage in New England or the southern Appalachians, it isn’t entirely monochromatic during the fall months. Aspens turn a rich yellow before dropping their leaves and many shrubs turn vivid reds as the nights get colder and the days grow shorter. However, in the high country of the Northern Rockies and the North Cascades hikers can witness a spectacle that – while lacking in the breadth of Eastern foliage displays – is mesmerizing enough to plan a backpacking trip around. Larch trees, also known as tamarack and containing several subspecies, look similar to spruce and other conifers, but every autumn their needles turn gold and drop to the ground. They’re somewhat of a contradiction: a deciduous conifer. When the sunlight hits these trees, which are the dominant species at certain elevations and in certain cirques, they emanate a glow that is almost iridescent. There are several different subspecies of larch, and going into the complexities of them is beyond the scope of this article, and the word “larch” throughout this piece refers to those found in Montana, Idaho, and destinations in Washington (such as the Pasayten Wilderness). Specifically, it is the alpine larch (larix lyalli) which is the focus of this piece. The sight of a golden conifer is magical enough on its own and would be worth hiking a few miles to see even if it was in the middle of a cornfield. That said, the context in which fall larch are set often increases the amount of awe to mystical levels. The subalpine and alpine country where the larch inhabit is both Spartan and spectacular. Rock, hardy conifers, and lakes tend to dominate the landscapes in these upper reaches of the Mountain West. Summer is short and the legacies of glaciers and dramatic geological forces are front and center. The summer months are understandably the most popular time to visit the high country, as the weather is about as benign and predictable as it gets in the mountains (which isn’t saying much). The days are long and allow a lot of miles to be covered while still providing plenty of time for a refreshing (or bone chilling) swim in a lake and lounging around camp. Or, for the ambitious, hiking up a peak near camp. Late fall in the high county comes with many rewards. The complete lack of biting insects is a major plus and the fishing in fall can be excellent. The larch trees, of course, are a bonus that can’t be understated. Lakes that would be crowded on a July weekend can become lonesome in late September and October. There are also some challenges in late fall as well. There is the potential for wet, heavy, early season snow which can be challenging to hike through or camp in. Earlier sunsets and clear skies allow for excellent stargazing, but the nights can come with a frigidity that lets you know winter is not far away. For hikers well-prepared for camping in shoulder season conditions, few things can be more memorable than a trip to the high country to see the larch. If you’re able to catch them at peak, with a dusting of snow on the ground and blue skies overhead, you will likely make a visit to see the larch a yearly pilgrimage. Information: Larch trees are common in most subalpine areas of Montana, Idaho, and Washington’s Cascade Mountains (you can find a map of past destinations that we've featured in TrailGroove Magazine at this link). They are typically found near treeline and usually begin turning in late September through the middle of October, although this can vary some from year to year depending on conditions. Consult guidebooks, ranger stations, and trip reports to get information about where the larch are at and how far along they are in turning when planning your visit.
  5. 2 points
    The musical theme from the 1960s Daniel Boone television show ran through my head when, as we drove across southern Kentucky, I saw signs indicating we were entering Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). The historical Boone was not actually a big man in physical stature, but his legend, and the actual accomplishments of the Kentucky frontiersman, were sizable. Daniel Boone was a man, Yes, a big man! With an eye like an eagle And as tall as a mountain was he! In 1775, Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and founded Boonesborough, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians. By 1810 more than 300,000 pioneers had used the route marked by Boone to migrate to Kentucky. When an account of Boone’s adventures was published in 1784, he became a legend in his own lifetime. Appropriately, the forest named for Boone is vast, with more than 700,000 acres of federally owned land within an outer boundary of 2.1 million acres. If you are driving east to west (or vice versa) across Kentucky, it would be hard to miss. Trying to spare ourselves the monotony of Interstate 40, my husband Bill and I were traveling to Virginia from our home in Oklahoma, taking a scenic route through Kentucky, when we encountered the Daniel Boone National Forest. Our schedule didn’t afford us the time to stop on the outbound leg of the trip but, having a more relaxed itinerary as we returned home, we decided to break up the long drive with a hike in the DBNF. Searching the Forest Service web site, I learned there are more than 600 miles of trails in this huge tract of land, which stretches north to south across eastern Kentucky. A relatively short and accessible trail with a waterfall near Corbin, Kentucky fit both our route and our schedule. Its name was also notable, and somewhat macabre: Dog Slaughter Falls Trail. In spite of its gory name, this trail turned out to be magical. It has two trailheads just off Kentucky Highway 90. The Forest Service’s information was a bit unclear and I thought at first the hike would be a four-mile round trip. When we reached the first trailhead at mid-afternoon on a sunny day, however, its sign indicated a four-mile one-way distance to Dog Slaughter Falls, the terminus. Since we didn’t have time for an eight-mile round trip, we drove to the second trailhead, 2.75 miles farther up the county road. The trailhead was not obvious from the road, but we spied a few cars parked in small roadside pull-offs and nearby a path leading into the forest. A short walk from the road and over a bridge there appeared the second trailhead, its sign indicating the falls were only one mile distant. I felt a bit like Goldilocks. Four miles was too long, but one mile seemed too short. In the end, it turned out to be just right. Once setting foot on the trail, we were enchanted. A narrow, rooted and rocky path took us through a dense forest of hemlock and rhododendron, along a beautiful clear stream. We noticed littering the forest floor what appeared at first to be used paper towels but were actually platter-sized leaves, some more than 18 inches long, and colored a silvery white. It turned out they had fallen from big leaf magnolia trees, a rare plant that grows as a small understory tree in the southeastern United States. I had seen them only once before, in a beech grove on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas in the Ouachita National Forest. The trail took us beneath huge bluffs farther into the cool, deep hollow. Soon we could hear the distinctive sound of a cascade and finally reached an overlook above a grotto containing a 15-foot waterfall surrounded by huge boulders. Three other people were below, enjoying the peaceful spot. We descended the trail into the grotto and scrambled around on the boulders, enjoying the beauty and relative isolation before turning back toward the car and the long journey ahead. As we walked, I noticed the afternoon light had turned golden, creating mesmerizing reflections on the water as we passed by. Had we continued beyond the falls, we would have intersected the Cumberland River and the Sheltowee National Recreation Trail, considered the "backbone" of the DBNF trail system, with links to a wealth of other footpaths. The Sheltowee Trail begins in northern Kentucky and extends south almost 290 miles to Tennessee’s Pickett State Park. Only a short distance from where we turned around, the Sheltowee Trail comes to the Cumberland River and the well-known Cumberland Falls, sometimes known as the "Niagara of the South.” This 68-foot high, 125-foot wide cascade is best known for its “moonbow,” a rainbow visible during the full moon, something seen consistently in only a handful of places on earth. As we drove west toward home, I pondered the wealth of natural resources available to modern outdoors aficionados in the U.S. Perhaps we’ve no trails left to blaze in the Daniel Boone sense, but each of us can blaze our own new trails on a personal level by enjoying, respecting and protecting the great blessing of our abundance of public lands. Information: The Daniel Boone National Forest includes 708,000 acres of federally owned land in eastern Kentucky with an outer boundary of 2.1 million acres. Its name was originally the Cumberland National Forest and was changed in 1966 in honor of the explorer Daniel Boone. Rugged terrain and a wealth of water features characterize the area. 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: DBNF is located in eastern Kentucky. The closest major cities are Lexington, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee. The Dog Slaughter Falls Trail is located off Forest Road 195, 0.8 miles (the first trailhead) from its junction with Kentucky Highway 90, 14 miles southwest of Corbin, Kentucky. Maps and Books: A map for the Dog Slaughter Falls trail is located here. Several guidebooks are available on Amazon, including a Falcon Guide to Hiking Kentucky, and a book on Day Hiking the Daniel Boone National Forest by Johnny Molloy.
  6. 2 points
    My personal luxury item is good coffee. It might not sound like much of a luxury but a relaxing cup of high quality coffee brewed over a fire puts me in my Happy Place.
  7. 2 points
    Being a "naturalist" is what makes being out there so rewarding. There is actually more to see off the trail. The term is left over from the NPS days when they had people in ranger suits giving talks to people at campgrounds. Now they mostly have law enforcement agents instead. I am always looking for plant ecologists, foresters, range people and wildlife biologists to talk with in the wild.
  8. 1 point
    I have a lot of what I refer to as "City Miles" built up on my body; a few injuries that I have had to work around, added to the general aches and pains associated with getting older. The main thing that has helped me out is high quality insoles for my boots. This, along with adjusting expectations as far as weight and daily distances has gone a long way towards keeping things pleasant for me and not making my trips an endurance test.
  9. 1 point
    My first pack frames were military surplus, provided by my scout troop, made of sheets of plywood bent a bit at the edges, with a piece of canvas laced across to rest against your back. We laid an army surplus "shelter half" over the plywood, piled all our stuff in the canvas, folded up the edges and lashed it all to the plywood. Crude but effective.
  10. 1 point
    I managed to fit in one last adventure with Chip Morrill in the Mokelumne Wilderness last weekend, this time hiking down the Mokelumne River from Hermit Valley to Deer Creek and beyond. This is a really beautiful area with deep pools in the river, wonderful views, and great campsites. But this is also very isolated country. In fact, the sign at the trailhead pretty much discourages anyone from hiking down more than a few miles. On the other hand, the scenery in amazing, and we had a great time trying to make it more accessible to more people. We hiked in on Friday morning, a crew of four volunteer and Chip. We did a bit of lopping and trail work on the way in, and set up camp at the confluence of Deer Creek with the Mokelumne. The trail to this point was not bad...and M and I had hiked it years ago, and we managed to follow it to the cascade at the bottom of Deer Creek. But then came the crossing of Deer Creek. This creek is fed by the outlet from Meadow Creek Reservoir, so it runs all year with a good flow. Our crew spent at least an hour and half just looking for the best possible place to cross: the perfect solution would include a nearby dead tree to drop across the creek to form a bridge. After a lot of bushwhacking and consulting, Chip made the call, and we got to work with the saw. Before you knew it, we had a bridge that would withstand high water and was pretty darn stable. We used it for the rest of the weekend as we worked lower down on the river. The next day we hiked the trail, lopping bushes where they impeded progress, cutting through logs where they blocked the trail, marking the trail with logs and branches where we could find them, digging out duff through the forest floor, and putting up cairns where the trail went over solid rock. Hard work, but we got a lot done. Day three began with Chip suggesting that we might want to take a quick one-hour hike up Deer Creek to see the cascades. I think we were all perfectly happy to get to work, but also really appreciated Chip's desire to make sure that we really enjoyed the trip. We happily followed him on a bushwhack up the creek...which turned out to be a two and a half hour adventure up granite, through manzanita, under trees, and over logs. What fun! And the views we attained were really amazing. Once back in camp, we loaded up our tools and headed down the Mokelumne. Another tree sawn through, more work with McCleod and loppers, and we stopped for lunch on the gravel beach of a lovely deep pool. From there the trail became a bit confused, and we finally determine the best route through the last bit of forest...and then it opened up into the granite of the canyon itself. We followed cairns and did some minor work for another stretch of the trail, until it dipped down around a small granite dome. We were done for the day, so hiked up to the top of the dome and took in the view--well worth three days of trail work! The next day we packed up our camp, packed up the tools, and hiked back up to the trailhead, stopping to fix one section of the trail that had really been mixed up, and lopping whenever we got the chance. By 11 we were back at the cars, and driving off on our separate routes back to civilization. We had seen only a handful of other people over four days.How much fun was this trip? Jan and Vicky, excited about the work, decided they would come back in the near future to finish off the lopping and trail clearance nearer the trailhead. A great way to spend a few extra days in the wilderness, with good people and glorious weather. The photo album is here:
  11. 1 point
    I can no longer carry 40 lb pack for 8 miles. The last time I did that it caused a pinched nerve that made my arm numb and the trip uncomfortable. My doctor told me to carry no more than 15lb but with pairing down my gear I hope to be at 20lbs. The bear cannister requirement in the Sierra's doesn't help. I don't want to spend the $$$ for ultra-light gear. My goal is less weight and shorter miles. I don't want to give up the backcountry experience. As Bette Davis said "Old age ain't no place for sissies."
  12. 1 point
    Like most backpackers, my cook kit usually consists of a stove, pot, spork, and mug. Sometimes I even forego the mug in a quest for simplicity and weight savings and just drink my tea and coffee out of the pot. And, inadvertently, I’ve left my spork behind once or twice and enjoyed extremely minimal and inconvenient weight savings. However, under certain conditions, I’ve been known to expand my cook kit to include a non-stick skillet and cook up meals normally reserved for car camping or the kitchen at home. Scrambled eggs, veggie quesadillas, ground beef for tacos, and chocolate chip pancakes have all been cooked up at one time or another on backpacking trips – meals that would’ve been virtually impossible to make without a skillet. The MSR Quick Skillet has been my skillet of choice for nearly ten years of backpacking and if you’re looking to expand your cooking options beyond dehydrated or freeze-dried options or simple one-pot meals, this skillet is an excellent choice. Weighing in at 5.9 ounces, this additional piece of cookware isn’t horribly noticeable when added to a backpack for an overnight or short multi-day trip. The handle is removable, which makes it easy to pack up. I use this skillet in conjunction with the MSR Alpine Spatula (given the non-stick coating, only plastic utensils are advisable), which folds up conveniently and weighs less than an ounce. Although this a review of the skillet, it is worth noting that the tip of the spatula is prone to melting when placed in contact with the heated pan for more than a few seconds, so use appropriate diligence to avoid unpleasant consequences. Aside from that, I have found this pairing of utensils to be all that is needed to cook delicious and creative meals in the backcountry. Cleaning this skillet is a breeze and only needs a minimum of water (be sure wash this and other cookware in compliance with Leave No Trace principles and pack out food scraps). For the most part, after removing any food particles, a quick wipe with a damp paper towel and some water to rinse is all I’ve found is required. The non-stick coating has remained largely intact, although the rim is starting to lose some of its coating – likely from being packed with other cookware items that rub against it. I’ve used this skillet on MSR Whisperlite and Primus Micron stoves, and on a woodstove in a fire lookout. Although the skillet is made from aluminum, one notable limitation of this skillet is that it tends to hotspot in the middle and not evenly distribute heat throughout the pan. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with cooking in the backcountry, but it is something to be aware of when using this skillet. I’ve been able to get around this by simply moving the skillet around in a circular motion when cooking and making sure it doesn’t sit directly on the burner for too long. This “babysitting” is a bit tedious, but I’ve found the results are worth the extra attention you have to pay when cooking with it. One of my favorite meals to cook in this skillet is veggie quesadillas. Two 10-inch tortillas (folded in half) fit in this skillet with a little squeezing (its 7.75 inches wide) so you can cook two at once. Mexican rice, your choice of backpacking spices, and jerky tossed in the skillet is a great entrée that I've found makes for a great group meal as well. When staying at lookouts or backcountry cabins, another easy and tasty meal is tacos. I cook the ground beef or turkey at home and simply re-heat it on the skillet. With none of the other ingredients typically requiring cooking, this meal cooks up quickly and with little clean up or other preparation. Pancakes with chocolate chips, fresh huckleberries, or banana slices tossed in are a great morning dish to make using this skillet. I use a fair amount of butter to prevent sticking and make sure the pan is moved in a slow circle over the stove so the pancake doesn’t end up burned in the middle and uncooked on the outer edges. Scrambled eggs are also easy to make using the same strategy and, if you have extra cheese and tortillas handy, can result in a tasty burrito for breakfast. Overall, I’d recommend this skillet to anyone looking to add some flexibility to their backpacking (or car camping) cooking options. At a reasonable price and modest weight, it isn’t a major investment after you’ve acquired your initial backpacking kit (and likely gotten tired of freeze-dried meals, or oatmeal breakfasts). Eating tasty, fresh food in beautiful locations can be a memorable experience and this skillet is a great tool to help you experience that. The MSR Quick Skillet retails for $30 – find in here at REI and on
  13. 1 point
    After making the switch from hiking books to trail runners a few years ago, I’ve been fairly loyal to various iterations of the Brooks Cascadias. At any given time during the hiking season, there is usually at least one Gore-Tex pair of Cascadias and one regular pair on my feet or in my gear room. Alternating between the two based on trail conditions or the season has kept my feet happy for well over a thousand cumulative miles of backpacking and trail running. I’ve found both versions to be supremely comfortable for my absolutely average feet and, when purchased on sale, to be reasonably economical since they generally seem to last less than a year of frequent use, even when splitting the wear between two pairs. The Brooks Cascadia 13 is the most recent version of the popular trail running shoe and continues with the same general principles of comfort and performance that have defined them since they came on the market. I used the Cascadia 13s on a few brief day hikes before lacing them up at the Iron Gate Trailhead on the edge of Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness for a 60-mile backpacking trip. As expected, and as with most trail running shoes, there really isn’t any break-in period required – they’re comfortable right out of the box whether you’re going on a 3-mile run or a 30-mile hike. The trip in the Pasayten put the shoes through a good mix of terrain and conditions – from well-graded forest trail to steep burned sections, and sunny afternoons followed by snowy mornings. Despite a pack with gear for shoulder-season weather in the Pacific Northwest and five days of food, the Cascadias were exceptionally comfortable and provided all the support needed. Even after long days with lots of elevation change – the most challenging day being around 24 miles and with 3,500 feet of elevation loss and 4,100 feet of elevation gain – my feet were still pretty happy at the end of the day (although they became even happier when slipped into Crocs at the end of the day after a quick soak in a stream). I’m prone to sweaty feet and appreciate the breathability of non-waterproof trail runners, but even on uphills during a warm and sunny afternoon my feet never felt like they were sweltering in these. The Gore-Tex lining came in handy when crossing small streams and was particularly appreciated when walking through a few inches of wet snow. Similar conditions a few months later during a trip to a hot springs in Idaho saw the Cascadias working well in the same conditions, as well as when hiking through overgrown stretches of trail. They also gripped well on dusty and eroded sections of creekbank which, at one time at least, had a trail along it. Subsequent trips with more cross-country travel, including some particularly rough sections through recovering burns, put some wear and tear on these shoes. Extended use in such conditions rapidly wears out the less rugged parts of the shoes, with the mesh areas and spots where one piece of fabric transitions to another being the most vulnerable. While the performance in full-blown bushwhacks is reasonably good (a pair of gaiters is almost essential for keeping our debris), it is best to avoid using these when in rugged off-trail terrain due to how rapidly it reduces the lifespan of these shoes. As a backpacker and not an orthopedic expert, I can’t comment with much authority or intelligence on the various merits of the shoes relatively standard 10mm midsole drop or its “neutral” support. All I know is that for someone with no major footwear preferences, no foot issues, or other special considerations that the shoes performed slightly above my more-or-less average expectations. One nifty feature that I truly appreciated was the elastic stash pocket on the front of the tongue to tuck the laces into. This clever design provides a place to keep laces out of the way, which was helpful when putting on gaiters as well as when trail running to provide some additional peace-of-mind about tripping over them or having them snag on an errant branch or root. At 12.3 ounces (each) the Cascadias are light enough to not feel burdensome when on the trail and, after changing into fresh socks and opening up the laces, function decently as a camp shoe once you’re done hiking for the day. Based on my experiences with the 13s, I plan to buy at least another pair when the 14s inevitably are released and they are marked down for closeout. And I’d say that it’s likely you can count me in for the 15s, 16s, and 17s as well. The Brooks Cascadia is available in both a Gore-Tex and mesh version starting at around $130. Find them here at REI, at, and on
  14. 1 point
    As a backpacker, I’ve found few things more enjoyable than hiking over a nameless and trail-less mountain pass to beautiful subalpine lakes with trout swimming in their frigid waters. In the mountain ranges of Montana, this isn’t too difficult a feat to accomplish, at least logistically. However, the physical challenge of gaining nearly a thousand vertical feet in well under a mile of horizontal travel is nothing to scoff at, regardless of your conditioning. With millions of acres of public land and hundreds of subalpine lakes, Montana is a veritable playground for those who like their trails lonesome and their lakes trout-filled. Although there are plenty of mountain ranges to choose from when planning hikes, I’ve found the eastern Pioneer Mountains well worth returning to for multiple visits. On a recent mid-September trip, for example, I passed eight lakes – seven of which had fish in them (six of which I actually caught fish in) – and crossed two mountain passes with wonderful views. One of the passes had a faint trail over it, the other was cross-country travel through fairly open subalpine forest. Surprisingly, even given the low population and massive landscape of Montana, I only encountered one other group during my three-day trip. For five of the lakes I stopped at, and one of the ones I camped at, I was the only person there. In an era of increasing permits and quota restrictions, and decreasing opportunities for solitude on public lands, to be able to have such a trip during a prime weather weekend was fairly lucky, but by and large such luck is not unusual in the Pioneers, at least in my experience. Lacking the “name brand” recognition of Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks (two of Montana’s biggest destinations for outdoor recreation), the Pioneer Mountains aren’t on the agendas of most tourists visiting the state. Their somewhat out of the way location in the southwestern part of the state, away from the few cities that are the centers of population, the Pioneers are mostly left to those who are relatively local or to avid backpackers and hikers in the state who can look at a map and recognize the wealth of opportunities for unbeatable hiking and backpacking experiences that lay within them. Although lacking in official wilderness designation, many of the trails in the eastern Pioneers are non-motorized and non-mechanized, allowing only foot travel and equestrian use. The western Pioneers, which are more subtle and lower in elevation, have more motorized and mechanized use but still have great options for hiking and backpacking. The primary trails in the Pioneers are in remarkably good shape and often have gentle grades and great tread, with some exceptions for the steepest sections up to certain lakes. With many high mountain lakes (most lakes are at elevations between 8,500-8,950 feet) clustered fairly closely together, the eastern Pioneers are especially attractive for backpackers looking to spend some of their time fishing. Many lakes were stocked in the past, with some still seeing regular stocking, and cutthroats and rainbows (or hybrids) are the most common fish to catch. Catching trout 12-14 inches is not uncommon in many lakes, with some holding fish even larger. In my experience, trout in mountain lakes can frustratingly vary from striking virtually any fly thrown on the water to being exceedingly picky and fickle. This can even vary from lake to lake on the same day, and given how close some lakes are to each other this can mean that you can go from striking out to hitting a grand slam just by packing up and hiking a mile. Although there are some nice campsites along creeks and tucked in the forest along the edges of meadows, for the most part the best campsites are at the lakes. Many offer excellent tree cover to shelter you from wind but still experience the subalpine scenery and majestic views of talus slopes stretching upwards to sheer cliffs and lofty mountain peaks. Several passes easily reached from the lakes provide breathtaking views, but routes up to peaks are relatively indistinct and can require significant scrambling or traversing on unstable talus. Hiking up to these passes, even if you don’t intend on crossing them, is well-worth the effort as a side excursion from a campsite at one of the lakes. While the Pioneers lack any outstanding loop trips, no backpacker would be disappointed with an out and back trip to any of the lakes. The mileage seems to go quicker on the trail than it looks on paper, which is an unusual but welcome idiosyncrasy. Having a shuttle can make for particularly enjoyable trips, especially given that distances between trailheads along the Wise River Scenic Byway isn’t particularly long. A bike shuttle is even a reasonable option for certain trips, provided that the time and energy required are factored into the planning. Information: No permits are required for hiking or backpacking, although rules regarding group size and duration of stay do apply. For specific information, please visit the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest website. Best Time to Go: Late June to mid-October is the best time of year to hike in this area. Early in that span includes the possibility of snow on the mountains passes and lingering around high mountain lakes (some of which may not be totally unfrozen), later in this span means the potential for chilly nights and early season snowfall. Mosquitoes can be unpleasantly abundant for a few weeks in July and August, although this is often when the wildflowers are at their peak. August and September offer generally pleasant weather and great fishing at the mountain lakes. Getting There: The Pioneer Mountains are most often accessed from Interstate 15 near Dillon, MT, with the western side of the eastern Pioneers and the eastern side of the west Pioneers accessed via the Wise River Scenic Byway between the tiny towns of Wise River, MT and Polaris, MT. Access to trailheads on the western side of the west Pioneers is from Montana Hwy. 278 and Montana Hwy. 43 near Wisdom, MT and Jackson, MT. Maps and Books: The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (Central) map provides a non-topographical overview of the area and is a good resource for planning general routes. Maps for specific areas should be printed out via Caltopo or a similar resource. Exploring Montana’s Pioneer Mountains by Leroy Friel is one book that covers the area. Hiking Montana (a Falcon Guide) also covers a few hikes in the Pioneer Mountains, as does 100 Classic Hikes: Montana by Douglas Lorain.
  15. 1 point
    I am happy to finally be able to say that I managed to make my trip to Yellowstone. My wife and I spent a week there and I was able to spend some great, albeit wet, time on the Lamar River trail. We managed to avoid the worst of the recent snow storms and saw a lot of amazing scenery. I have been trying to put this trip together for the last several years and am happy to say it was worth the effort. By the time I got into the backcountry, the weather was turning sour again and I ended up coming out a day early but the time there was worth being a bit cold and wet. The weather did keep most of the wildlife denned up but I managed to spot some wolves at a distance on the second day. There were loads of buffalo, as well. (They are essentially weatherproof, it seems). spending a week in the park only gave us time to barely scratch the surface of the place and we are going to plan a second trip next fall, as well. Attaching a few pictures for your enjoyment. On a side note, the wolf track in the photo is in one of my boot tracks from the day before. I thought that was pretty cool.
  16. 1 point
    unfortunately not, it is top on my list for next spring, though.
  17. 1 point
    Greetings to all and happy to of found this site. I have lived here in west central Florida in an area now know as Lakewood Ranch, for around three decades, having moved here from central North Carolina (Go Heels!). Been sort of out-doorsy since my Boy Scout days and coined my name, infiniteMPG, from activities we like, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, wildlife photography, all of which burn no fuel aside from calories. The name also was coined as my handle when I was introduced to geocaching (thanks to my better half, Cathy!) to which I gained a reputation. Some cachers love my hides, others hate them (or just aren't up to the challenges). Unfortunately life, work and family issue have kept me off the trails, caused my geocaching responsibilities to falter, and kept the 'yaks dry. But hoping to turn a corner on that stuff. A co-worker invited myself and my son to join he and his son on a hike next year to the Bear Lake Trail area in the Rocky Mountains which has sparked my renewed interest in the great outdoors. My son also wants to hike some of the AT sometime with me which also has my attention. My prime reason for joining up is to get some advice on some gear as what I have isn't worthy of these adventures. Been reading reviews until I'm spinning and just getting started on gearing up but since this is an introduction area I'll save the info mining for the correct forum areas. Glad to be here and looking forward to some helpful advice, Scott
  18. 1 point
    I do find it more natural to take shorter steps at a quicker pace on steeper inclines. My main interest is energy conservation. Wondering which uses less energy, short faster steps or longer slower steps on 15% to 25% inclines. Or maybe it is a toss up. The amount of energy expenditure being about the same? BTW, I am a 75 year old day hiker who on occasion hikes 7-9 miles round trip with elevation gain/loss of 2,000-3,000 feet. At home I walk 3-4 times a week at a park to stay reasonably fit. The trail route I take covers 4 short 150 yard inclines which average about 10% to 15% with short sections of 20%-25%. The inclines are unmaintained rough and rocky trails. The area between the climbs/descends is mostly level and varies from 100-300 yards. Total distance is about 4 miles, a total elevation gain/loss of 700 feet on mostly rough rocky trails.
  19. 1 point
    Good afternoon! My wife (Deidre) and I (Erik) live in Tampa FL. We try to take a few trips every year to do some hiking, usually just day trips. So far we have only been hiking in Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas and of course Florida. It has been both of our dreams to do some mountainous hiking out west (RMNP) but due to my wife's heart condition we must stay under 8,500' Elevation... My main reason for joining is to be able to discuss potential hikes with others who have been and can make suggestions. It's also just fun to talk with fellow hikers!
  20. 1 point
    Thanks Aaron! We have had some GREAT hikes! Mt. Chocorua has been our favorite, but we LOVED the ozarks and a few great little hikes in Maine like Mt. Borestone.
  21. 1 point
    I have backpacked in the Highlands of Scotland and can relate to that. In my experience, sprays can work temporarily. Most that I have tried, however, don't last much past one or 2 good soakings. Others here might have some better ideas than I do on this, but I usually try to carry plenty of extra socks and air my feet out whenever I can. One thing I learned about waterproof boots tho, if water gets in them, it doesn't come out. I got caught in a storm and had my pants tucked into my boots. Water ended up soaking thru my pants and running into my boots.
  22. 1 point
    Wow....just wow... I think this is the best "lesson learned" story so far! No bum sliding down a snowy hillside! Thanks for sharing.
  23. 1 point
    Hey all, I have been a novice hiker for a long time, but recently I have been really wanting to get into back country hiking. I thought a forum would be a good place to start and gain information from the more experienced people. At the moment I am starting to acquire gear. I have a compass, hiking shoes and camel back. LOL. I'm taking my time because I have no idea what would be the right gear needed hence why I am hear. Any information would be so appreciated. I am currently living in California, but I am originally from Maine. Hopefully, I can make it to some meet ups and meet some great people and enjoy God's beauty. Cheers.
  24. 1 point
    Hey Everyone. I'm Andrew I'm hoping to gain experience from on the boards. I'm very new to hiking and backpacking. I'm from Philadelphia and I'm trying to get back into hiking. I did some small group hikes years ago. I'd like to get back into in and maybe do a multi day backpacking trip. I'd like to meet some people and get suggestion on easier hikes i could try.
  25. 1 point
    Hi All! New here and excited to learn more about this group and the various hike destinations. Taking a team to the Grand Canyon in a little over a week and looking to branch out in other hike destinations.
  26. 1 point
    Your question has motivated me to write a post about my favorite multi-day backpacking loops in the PNW.
  27. 1 point
    Got it, that makes more sense. If you can get permits for it, a loop from Deer Park Campground, up Gray Wolf River to Falls campsite, on to Gray Wolf Pass, to Dose Meadows campsite, up Lost Pass to Cameron Pass (nice campsite in Cameron Basin below the pass) and then Grand Pass and Grand Valley, then back to Deer Park via the ridge east of Obstruction Point. About 50 miles total and not very crowded at all, with spectacular scenery. I did it in late August and there were no bugs to speak of.
  28. 1 point
    Some great suggestions in here. I'm a bit confused by your request -- are you looking for a loop (hike that starts and ends at the same trailhead) or a thru/point-to-point hike where you start at one trailhead and end up at another (requiring a shuttle/two cars/other arrangements to get back to starting point)? For loops, I would suggest looking at options in Olympic National Park and maybe North Cascades National Park, both require permits so go check out the websites and figure out your itinerary. You could also do point-to-point hikes there as well, with hiking on the Olympic Coast being an option if you wanted to do another coastal trip. Both are great. The Loowit Trail around Mt. St. Helens is fantastic, but is probably only a 3-4 day trip at most (around 30 miles, but with no camping in a 12-mile section which throws off equal-mileage days a bit).
  29. 1 point
    I would highly recommend the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood. One of the best loops in America with all aspects of the Pacific Cascades. I do the Timberline Trail every year. Here are my last two TT treks:
  30. 1 point
    That was a mistake I made. I bought a Helium II rain jacket, and while it was fantastic it didn't fit over my down jacket. That was fine until I went on a trip where the snow was a bit wetter and the down started getting damp. Exchanged it for a size up (thank you REI return policy!)
  31. 1 point
    Yeah, Iooks like the dividends have been calculated / applied but the rest of the page wording just hasn't been updated quite yet.
  32. 1 point
    Cool, good to know those are posted. I'm considering a new tent to replace the MSR Hubba I've been using since 2012, but haven't totally decided whether or not to do that this year or try to squeeze another season out of it. Still going fairly strong, just had to patch some mesh earlier this year.
  33. 1 point
    I took my daughter for her first "official" hike to Saddle Lake in the Hoosier National Forest. It is a very short trail, but I wanted to start her out on something easy. She enjoyed the stream and creek crossings, and picking icicles from the rock outcroppings. I do recommend this trail, even though it is a short one.
  34. 1 point
    I will agree that it is something of a luxury item. Wildlife photography is something I very much enjoy and I want a chance to potentially shoot (as in photography) some of the more nocturnal critters. I will be sure to post some pics and a review here after I have tested it for any that might be interested.
  35. 1 point
    I've got that same cup (same color too, albeit a little less faded) and it is one of my favorite pieces of backpacking gear. I've had it for probably around 10 years now and think it will definitely be seeing another ten years of use. My only complaint is that it is just barely too tall to properly nest inside my kettle (MSR Titan) with the lid on.
  36. 1 point
    Great information here. Site selection seems to get overlooked by many backpackers (even more experienced one) and can make all the difference in having a good campsite. Always good to remember that even though it might look like a great campsite, it is always smart to double-check that it has some of the actual criteria for a great campsite.
  37. 1 point
    Relatively new backpacker here from the great city of New Orleans. I say relatively new because I have been on 4 group backpacking excursions but have yet to strike out on my first solo hike. Hopefully, I will be checking that off my list in March of 2019! I look forward to meeting plenty of like-minded souls and soaking up as much knowledge as possible from all of you. Opus
  38. 1 point
    We've got plans to visit Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon and other sites this spring, then later in the summer headed for Utah and Colorado. July and August is for RMNP to Glacier on an extended swing Can you tell we're retired?
  39. 1 point
    yea, that would give me pause, too. A story that made the news a few years ago still sticks in my head. A guy found a rifle that was over 100 years old leaned up against a tree in a national park in Nevada. One thing I love about traipsing through the backcountry is that you never know what you will stumble across.
  40. 1 point
    Looks like the top of a woodstove to me. That's the chimney outlet in the back--the oval opening
  41. 1 point
    Went to Yosemite this fall in late October and it was glorius.
  42. 1 point
    I'm also a fan of Tarptent inner tent options. I have the one-person Moment DW with both mesh and solid interiors. I really like having both for the versatility of being able to use whichever inner is best suited for a trip. The mesh version is my favorite for warm weather and ventilation. The solid interior is great for cooler temps, and for the Moment DW, its only adds 2-3 ounces to the weight of the tent vs the mesh version. It's also great for more privacy when you are camped with a group and you want to leave the vestibules open for ventilation. I used the solid interior for snow camping on two winter backpacking trips and it really helped to keep me toasty warm inside the tent. I also have the optional crossing pole for the Moment DW, making it freestanding with the ability to handle light snow loads. My only wish is that the mitten hooks were easier to open/close for swapping out the interiors.
  43. 1 point
    I have been carrying polycryo for a ground sheet for several years. I backpack often, and I have only had to repair one small puncture hole over the years.
  44. 1 point
    We all have a responsibility to never need to be rescued.
  45. 1 point
    I always start with the USGS topos - was just looking at the area you mentioned on my Gaia GPS app. But, if you don’t use an app is an option where you can view and print maps, and you can measure out distances on either resource. I like to use the Gaia GPS app for planning, and it’s nice that you can also save the maps to your smartphone etc. for offline use. This post goes into detail about my planning process with the app and utilizing and saving maps, etc.
  46. 1 point
    This is one of my favorite recipes. I love everything about this soup from the easy five minute home prep to the uniquely satisfying earthy aroma of mushrooms simmering in a rich broth at the end of a perfect day in the woods. Ingredients are easy to find in any supermarket. Dried mushrooms are sold in one ounce packages, typically in the produce section or readily available online. Beef broth powder (or beef soup mix), found in the bulk food section, combines with whole milk powder (Nido) and butter to create a rich broth. Orzo pasta is slightly larger than rice grains and is a backpacker’s best kept secret, giving this soup a hearty feel and rehydrating in a... In Issue 37 Karen Garmire shares an intriguing recipe sure to be a great fit for those chilly spring trips - check out the article in Issue 37: Backcountry Cuisine 37: Beef and Mushroom Soup Issue 37 Page 1
  47. 1 point
  48. 1 point
    I don't know if I would say it was a mistake or just a really dumb move. A number of years ago I was on a business trip out west. It was to one of the mountain states and I extended my stay so I could take a day hike in the mountains near where I was working. It was February and as it should have been, snowing in the higher altitudes. I left my hotel in the rain and by the time I got to the trailhead it was snowing pretty hard. Several inches had already accumulated so I decided I would hike out a short way and then come straight back to my car and get out before the snow depth was too excessive for me to get off of the mountain. The trail was devoid of landmarks even without the snow and it was nearly impossible to see the trail with the heavy snowfall. The falling snow cut my visibility to 50 yards or less as I proceeded down the trail for about an hour or so. I decided it was time to return up the mountain and back to my car when I turned around to follow my trail out, there was no trail. The snow was accumulating so rapidly I could only follow my steps for about an eighth of a mile or so. I was not prepared to stay on the trail for long, neither in clothing I was wearing or in the provisions in my daypack, so I did the only thing I could think of. I headed straight down the mountain so I would walk out of the snow and then headed east in hopes of finding the road on which I had driven up the mountain. Luckily, my plan worked and after about two hours I was out of the snow and within another 30 minutes, I was on the road. I walked up the road for about three miles and found my car right where I left it. It was covered in more than a foot of snow, but it was there. I swept off the snow and drove up the mountain a couple of miles where I found a little lodge, a beer and one of the best bacon cheeseburgers I have ever eaten.
  49. 1 point
    I hiked the NJ AT a couple of years ago from the Water Gap to High Point. Just looking at my maps, I think the only camping restriction was in Worthington State Forest where the only backcountry camping is at the intersection of the AT and the Douglas trail near Sunfish Pond. I made notes on my maps of potential campsites in the Delaware Water Gap and the other Forests. I know I camped at a non-designated site the first night and at a shelter the second night. I had a hammock which was the only reason I was able to camp where I did the first night, a tent would not have worked. If you are really worried, I'd contact Hope that helps.
  50. 1 point
    I spend a lot of time in the Wichita Mountains and volunteer for Fish and Wildlife on different projects for the bios. I always keep my camera handy and love to shoot big critters. What we call an Elvis bull. A few elk. And a few not so big critters.