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Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 07/16/2019 in all areas

  1. 3 points
    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.
  2. 3 points
    It's an early December afternoon in Yosemite National Park, and I'm watching a bobcat padding down the trail in front of me. In his mouth is a lifeless gray squirrel, so large that he drops it several times. He turns and surveys me with the lazy arrogance of a house cat who's proud of his kill. I'm unsure if I should be following this wild creature down the trail. I think of how animals are protective of their food. Still, the large cat and I are headed the same way, so I continue at a distance. Eventually he turns off the trail, and I draw closer and look up the embankment where he stands. The bobcat and I both freeze as a large, shaggy brown bear appears from around a rocky outcrop behind him. The moment slows, the sight too surreal. Then the bear spooks and disappears as suddenly as he appeared. I look around in search of other witnesses, but there are none. As a woman, so many different people in my life told me that I shouldn't be in this wild place alone. My mother. My friends. Various family members, and various strangers. From the man that rented me the car to the lady that shuttled me from the airport. These encounters filled me with wonder. Wonder and gratitude at the kindness and compassion of strangers, but also wonder and frustration at the fear that blooms around a woman walking alone into the woods. Eventually I just stopped discussing my trip with strangers. Back in Yosemite Valley the morning after the bear, I walk along Sentinel Meadow. Three coyotes lope through the mist that rises from the snowy grass. Beyond the winter-worn trees ahead, the granite walls of the North Rim loom over the valley, broken by the ribbon of Yosemite Falls. Today I will ascend to the top of these falls, the tallest in North America. The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is one of the oldest and most iconic in the park, but on this chilled morning it appears abandoned. The bottom half of the trail is crisp but clear, the views expanding around every rocky switchback. Half way up the cold settles in, covering the granite in slick hard-packed snow. My progress slows as my feet slip continuously, too unwilling and fingers too cold to dig my microspikes out of my pack. By the time the trail levels out at the top, I've entered a pristine winterscape. I follow the footprints left by the intrepid before me, wishing to keep the snow out of my shoes and the trail under my feet. The sound of falling water grows, and the hill crest ahead reveals nothing beyond but fog. I've made it to the falls, but I must travel down two snowy switchbacks to the cliff's edge to see it. The first switchback bellies right up to the top of the falls, the pooled water disappearing ominously over a 2,425-foot cliff. As the trail turns, I'm faced with a snow-slickened rock ledge, hardly wide enough for one. Beside it, a single metal rail of unknown age and integrity protrudes from the cliff wall. Here I wait as a couple passes single file, the three of us clinging to the rail like a lifeline. It is my turn, and I descend carefully like a cat on a window ledge. I step down to the empty viewpoint and the expansive sight of Yosemite Valley from the top of the falls. Exhilaration washing over me like a wave, I can hardly believe I have this moment entirely to myself. I savor the experience for as long as I can, but standing still eventually lets the cold creep in. I wrestle my traction onto each shoe with stiff, clumsy fingers, then shove my gloves back on. Continuing to Yosemite Point is literally walking through clouds. Up this high, with the ground cloaked in snow and the mists swirling around me, the entire world is winter white. The silence is both peaceful and eerie, broken only by snow falling from branches and the occasional ice break down Yosemite Falls behind. I cross Yosemite Creek on a wooden bridge, snow covered and adorned with shimmering icicles. The trail is now a suggestion, a slight flattening out of the drifts. I know for certain I'm alone out here; the only tracks those of deer and birds. I think back to earlier this morning in the valley below, snapping photos of El Capitan and the Three Brothers near the Merced River. I came across bear prints so fresh, I checked over my shoulder for the animal that left them. Picturing the harsh gashes left by its claws, I shudder and hope not to see those here, or worse, cougar prints. The many warnings bestowed upon me creep back in, and my complete solitude suddenly feels heavy. But I've come this far and worked this hard, all these miles of climbing, feet slipping, thighs and lungs burning. These doubts are not even mine; I've only borrowed them from others. I dismiss them and forge ahead. Finally, the trees fall away, and then the world falls away as I approach the ancient metal railing of Yosemite Point. There are many more famous, more photographed, more sought-after views in this great valley. But this is my view, my precipice that no other dared adventure to in this untouched snow. Down below is the park in miniature, the silver road looping through, and out beyond are the looming walls and frosted peaks of the south rim. These are memories I know I'll carry forever, standing here grinning and heart pounding, just a woman alone in the woods. Information: No permit is required for day hikers, though all visitors to Yosemite National Park are charged an entrance fee. Wilderness permits for Yosemite Wilderness are required for overnight stays. Best Time to Go: Views of the waterfall are most impressive during the spring and early summer, when the falls are at their peak from winter runoff. The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is open year-round. Traction and hiking poles are recommended during the winter months, however, when parts of the trail are covered in snow and ice. While most of the trail is not exposed, falling rocks and ice are a potential hazard. Climbing down to the lookout at the top of the falls is exposed and requires extreme caution when the path is frozen. Getting There: From the park entrance, follow Highway 140 for 6.5 miles until the road splits. Keep right and follow Southside Drive, turn left onto Sentinel Drive, and left again onto Northside Drive, following signs for Yosemite Lodge. Park anywhere around Yosemite Village or Yosemite Lodge. The trailhead is located behind the lodge at the Camp 4 area. The hike to Upper Yosemite Falls is 7.2 miles roundtrip. To continue to Yosemite Point, follow signs east towards North Dome. This adds another 1.6 miles to your hike. Those looking for an even greater challenge can head west from the upper falls to Eagle Peak, the highest point on the north rim, adding another 5.8 miles roundtrip. Maps and Books: The National Park Service’s Yosemite Valley Hiking Map details the hike to the upper falls as well as Yosemite Point and Eagle Peak. National Geographic also offers their Trails Illustrated Topographic Map of Yosemite. For further reading, Hiking Yosemite National Park: A Guide to 61 of the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures offers a thorough guide to this hike and many others in the Yosemite Valley, while providing information about safety precautions, logistics, and other trip planning information.
  3. 3 points
    We had been warned that the Three Fingers Lookout wasn’t for the faint of heart. But that didn’t take away from the shock of first seeing it. The hut was just a speck in the distance, perched precariously on a jagged spire of rock rising up above a crevasse-riddled glacier and a low sea of clouds. From our vantage, it seemed impossible that the wooden hut could balance there for another night, let alone that there would be a passable trail to reach it. My partner, Emily, and I had gotten hooked on the idea of visiting this 89-year-old lookout, in Washington’s Boulder River Wilderness, after a friend made the journey. She described needing to keep the windows closed for fear of falling out of bed and over a 2,000-foot cliff, and then showed us a photo of the panorama of the North Cascades. We were sold on the trip. Reaching the lookout doesn’t require technical climbing, but it wasn’t going to be straightforward, either. To start, the road to the trailhead was washed out, leaving a 10-mile mountain bike ride just to reach the trail. Neither me nor Emily are mountain bikers, so we borrowed bikes from friends – hers too large, mine too small. What better way to learn how to mountain bike than on frames that don’t fit, loaded down with overnight packs, in a classic Northwest drizzle? The road was just uphill enough that my legs and back started burning after just a few minutes of pedaling. With a loaded pack, though, I couldn’t stop for fear of never being able to get the bike moving again. I was pretty excited when we arrived at a brushy opening into the forest, much sooner after leaving the car than I had expected. If it seemed too good to be true; that’s because it was. After a few miles on the trail, we were still in the forest. I was beginning to feel suspicious – the route was supposed to be 7.5 miles to the lookout, yet we were still a long way even from the basin that it sits above. My GPS clearly showed a trail snaking its way from our position to the lookout, but we had hardly made a dent in the route after hiking for more than an hour. My questions were answered when we ran into another pair of hikers, who told us that in fact there are two different trailheads that lead to Three Fingers. The one we had been planning to start at was located several miles further up the road. The one we found started 15 miles from the lookout. After that revelation, the next few hours were a fast-packing blur. It was early afternoon and we had more than 10 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation to cover on foot – more than we had originally planned for, even after the time we had already spent hiking. The blur came to an abrupt halt three hours later when we reached the Tin Can Gap and got our first view of the Three Fingers Lookout. After how far we had come, it still seemed impossibly far away. Plus, we knew that this would be where the straightforward trail ended and the rock and snow scrambling began. Almost immediately, we transitioned into a steep snow-filled gully, cresting the ridge before reconnecting with the faint trail. From there, the scrambling involved was thankfully more mellow than I expected. Earlier in the season, the crux of the route involves stepping out onto the icy headwall of the Queest-Alb glacier. But we found that the snow had pulled away from the rock, leaving a small space that could be easily navigated without crampons. We reached the base of the lookout about an hour before sunset. Entering the hut requires climbing a series of three wooden ladders held into the rock with pitons, rope, and metal wire. At the top of the third ladder, I stepped out onto a slab that, at its edge, falls into the abyss of the glacier 500 feet below. A worn rope led up to the lookout’s front door. Even after Emily and I got inside the hut, it was hard to feel comfortable about where we were standing. The lookout extends past the rock platform on which it was built on two sides, and there’s only a small spit of rock outside the back door before the mountain tumbles several thousand feet into the valley below. But the exposure also allows for a view that is, simply put, unbeatable. The fog had begun to clear as we approached the lookout, and just before sunset it cleared away entirely. Out of the front door of the lookout, we watched the sun set over the Olympic Mountains and San Juan Islands as the lights of Seattle and the I-5 corridor grew in intensity. The North Cascades remained cloudy that evening, but we were treated to the sight of the sun rising over the shoulder of Glacier Peak out of the back door early the next morning. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around how the Three Fingers Lookout has existed in this spot for nearly 90 years without being blown off the mountaintop. But for those willing to believe that the hut can survive another day, let alone another 90 years, the commanding views make it well worth the effort required to spend the night. Information: There are no permits required to spend the night at the lookout. However, it is first-come first-serve and the hut does fill up on weekends in August and September. For more on backpacking to lookouts see this TrailGroove article. Best Time to Go: The upper sections of the trail typically melt out in July, and the passage across the top of the Queest-Alb glacier opens in August. If you go earlier in the season, be prepared with ice axes, crampons, and potentially a rope to cross the glacial headwall. The lookout can also be accessed on skis throughout the winter. Getting There: Follow the Mountain Loop Highway to Forest Road 41, and continue until the road closure at mile 8. You can hike or bike the gravel road from there. The Mountain Meadow Trailhead (15 miles to the lookout) is 2.1 miles up the road. The Three Fingers Trailhead (7.5 miles to the lookout) is 10 miles up the road. Maps and Books: The Green Trails Map for the Mountain Loop Highway covers most of the Boulder River Wilderness, including the Three Fingers Lookout. National Geographic also offers a Trails Illustrated Map that details nearby North Cascades National Park, offering more exploration opportunities in the area.
  4. 2 points
    Hey All! New to forums in general and super new here. The fam and I have always been campsite campers and day hikers, but the kids are getting older and more adventurous. We have only recently started to combine the two. Mostly, just looking to lurk and see if I can pick up any pointers along the way so that I don't make too many new backpacker mistakes...
  5. 2 points
    I'm so elated to have my very first hiking blog posted on Trail Groove! Thanks so much Aaron!!
  6. 2 points
    Hi! It's great to join the community here on TrailGroove. I look forward to chatting about the things we all probably love - hiking, backpacking, etc. Thanks!
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 2 points
    While not an unknown destination by any means, Aravaipa Canyon in southern Arizona is considerably less famous, even among backpackers, than many other destinations in the Grand Canyon State. One of the few perennial streams in the Sonoran Desert, Aravaipa Creek offers those who hike in the area a reliable source of water. This is a welcome treat in arid Arizona, since many backpacking trips in the state must be carefully planned around water sources. Not only does the year-round water in the canyon ease the anxiety about access to water, it also nourishes a lovely forest near the creek and provides for a delightful soundtrack at the campsites that are within earshot as the water flows through the canyon. Since Aravaipa Canyon is such an enchanting and unusual destination, and is less than two hours from the major population centers of Tucson and Phoenix, access is limited by the Bureau of Land Management (the BLM oversees the 19,410 acre Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness) to 50 people per day and you cannot stay in the canyon for more than three days. This limits backpackers to a two-night, three-day trip – enough time to enjoy a sense of immersion in the canyon, but also brief enough to leave you wishing you could have stayed longer as you hike out. The permit system preserves a sense of solitude in the canyon and minimizes impact and, in my experience in fall 2019, it was not overly difficult to obtain a permit for Thursday-Saturday during the peak visitation time of mid-November. However, I did book the permits as soon as they became available (three months in advance) and they were all booked within a few weeks of opening. Weekday permits are easier to obtain, but if you are travelling any significant distance to visit Aravaipa Canyon you would want to prioritize the permits before making other travel arrangements. While there are plenty of other amazing spots to see in Arizona, there are few that come close to Aravaipa Canyon in regard to scenery and solitude. As already mentioned, water is without a doubt the defining feature of Aravaipa Canyon. And you must really like water to backpack in the canyon, because you will be walking in it for perhaps up to two-thirds of your hike. There are no official trails in the canyon and it becomes so narrow in many places that wading in the creek is the only option to continue your journey. You end up utilizing the path of least resistance more often than not and that path just so happens to be the creek. In mid-November, with air temperatures in the mid-70s and water temperatures in the mid-50s – with the water rarely much more than ankle deep – walking in the creek was not uncomfortable in the least. I found that wearing non-waterproof trail running shoes with wool socks and gaiters was the perfect combination to be comfortable while hiking in and out of the water for the approximately three hours it took myself and two friends to reach a superb campsite about five miles in the canyon, near the mouth of Horse Camp Canyon. After setting up camp and enjoying some time airing out feet out in camp shoes, we crossed Aravaipa Creek and hiked up Horse Camp Canyon to explore the potholes, cliffs and boulders of this side-canyon. Edward Abbey, renowned author of fiction and non-fiction regarding Southwestern landscapes, describes his own visit to Horse Camp Creek in the essay “Aravaipa Canyon” (contained in the essay collection Down the River). Having previously read his essay, and being partially inspired to visit the canyon after reading it almost a decade ago, it was a neat experience to be looking at some of the same landmarks he described. On an exceedingly important but more somber note, Abbey notes in his essay that the original inhabitants of Aravaipa Canyon – the Apache, Pima, and Papago tribes – were massacred by American pioneers and the survivors forced on to reservations. It was the native inhabitants who gave the creek its name, which is translated to mean “laughing waters” in English. Further down the canyon, and out of the reach of my short but maximum-duration-allowed visit, is a Native American dwelling built into a cliffside. We enjoyed a nice sunset from our vantage point in Horse Camp Canyon, watching the fading sunlight subtly change the colors of the cliffs in Aravaipa Canyon below and illuminate the leaves on the sycamores and cottonwoods that were taking on their fall colors. After the short hike back to camp we enjoyed a filling dinner and fell asleep to the sound of the creek. To make the most of our limited time in the canyon, we hit the “trail” shortly after sunrise with a dayhike from camp on the agenda. Although the creek was chillier than it had been the previous afternoon, the warmth generated by moving and the brief reprieves when a footpath presented itself next to the creek kept us all from becoming too chilled. It was much more pleasant to be navigating our way up the canyon without our backpacks. Although the footing is generally fairly good throughout the creek bed, no matter how well-balanced and secured your pack is it still throws you a bit off-kilter. Trekking poles were very helpful in the few circumstances where a misstep or slippery rock caused a momentary loss of traction and balance. Our destination for the day was Deer Creek Canyon, roughly 3.5 miles upstream from our campsite. This canyon has towering sheer walls that aren’t much farther apart than your average neighborhood street in some places. While not technically a slot canyon, Deer Creek Canyon provides similar amazement at the forces of geology. Its sandy, dry stream bottom made for easy hiking and we explored the canyon almost all the way to its terminus. While it was incredible every step of the way, a small spring and an arch high up on the cliff wall were particular highlights. Somewhat surprisingly, we had the entirety of Deer Creek Canyon to ourselves on a perfect autumn Friday. Although we did encounter a handful of hikers on our way to and from Deer Creek Canyon, a feeling of solitude was much more pervasive than I would have expected. With the mid-November sun setting at about half-past five, and the canyon walls causing twilight to settle in even earlier than that, we arrived back at home just a few minutes before headlamps would have been necessary. We stretched out and relaxed with our boots off and our feet enjoying the fresh air and reprieve from dampness. While hanging our food, I caught a brief glimpse of a curious coatimundi before it darted into a mesquite thicket. The next morning we found ourselves packed and on the trail fairly early and following the flow of the water downstream to the trailhead. Three days was enough time to get a good taste of the canyon, but left us all wanting a bit more time to bask in its riparian glory and its beautiful mix of desert and creekside oases. Hiking along and looking past sycamores to spot a Saguaro cactus only fifty feet or so from the creek, with soaring cliffs not far behind that, is a type of scenery that never loses its magic. Although there are many places to explore in Arizona, I doubt that this will be my last visit to Aravaipa Canyon. Information: Permits are required for backpacking or dayhiking and are available up to 90 days prior to your trip. Reserve permits via recreation.gov. For backpacking, you must have a permit for each day you will be in the canyon. For example, for an overnight trip you would need to reserve permits for two consecutive days. You are not allowed to reserve more than three consecutive days. Best Time to Go: Although it is feasible to access Aravaipa Canyon all year, the summer months can be miserably hot, even with the creek to cool down in. Possible flash floods from summer storms are also a major safety issue. The middle of winter can be uncomfortable as wading through the water is not pleasant in cold temperatures. The most popular months are March through May, and again from October through November. Getting There: Aravaipa Canyon can be accessed from either an east or a west trailhead. The east trailhead involves lengthy travel on an unimproved road requiring high-clearance and good driving skills. The west trailhead, which is closer to Tucson and Phoenix, is easily accessed by turning onto Aravaipa Creek Road from Hwy. 77, north of Mammoth, AZ. You then follow this road for 12 miles to the dead-end trailhead, with the last nine miles being on a good conditioned gravel road. Maps and Books: There is no standard map for Aravaipa Canyon; printing maps of the canyon off Caltopo is your best option, and you could also save USGS topos to your smartphone using an app like Gaia GPS to combine with a paper copy. I was able to fit the entirety of the section we planned to hike on two separate 8.5 x 11 inch pieces of paper and they were detailed enough for navigation. That said, you will be by the creek for the entirety of the hike. Benchmark offers a recreation map that can be useful for getting to and from Arizona destinations. Most guidebook descriptions of Aravaipa Canyon are limited, given that there isn’t really a trail to describe. Hiking Arizona by Bruce Grubbs contains a description of the hike.
  10. 2 points
    A friend just pointed me to this site, and I think I fit right in. I'm 72, which means I have now been a somewhat serious hiker for 60 years. There were a few down years in my raising kids/earning a living phase of life, but I've been back on the trail pretty regularly now for 30 years or so. I'm not much inclined toward backpacking any more. I've found I can get my trail fix with day hikes, and have a nice dinner and a comfortable bed at the end of the day. Still, I give you more ambitious geezers credit for being out there, and I'm happy to read your stories.
  11. 2 points
    Hello Tom and others, Fun to hear of your experiences. In my mid 70's the wilderness still calls strongly. I continue to chip away sections of the PCT and last year I finally got to the Maroon Bells in CO. A place I have longed to see for years. I noticed a big change last year. Interestingly my body remains quite strong but I had trouble mentally. I just didn’t seem to have the grit or determination to always forge ahead when I was wet and hungry etc. I did it , but not with the grace or enthusiasm I once had. I’m cheating this year and going to Switzerland to hike from hut to hut. Surprisingly it makes me feel like a wuss, but secretly I’m looking forward to it! We’ll carry on. I can’t imagine life without immersion of some sort in the wonderful outdoors! Jill
  12. 2 points
    Take a deep breath and smile. Then ask them if they're OK. Then continue hiking. Not sure why you let this get to you... And stop hiking in those torn clothes, with a limp, and with a grimace on your face...:-)
  13. 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.
  14. 2 points
    It’s almost as if the Pacific Ocean is a magnet, pulling me west each time I venture out to explore. While I take full advantage of the natural wonders offered by my home region in the central U.S., if I am traveling very far to hike, it is usually somewhere west of Oklahoma. As a result, I have hiked very little in the eastern United States, though I’ve managed to walk short sections of the Appalachian Trail on trips to Vermont and Maryland. Not much to brag about. Recently, I was in Virginia on business with my husband, Bill, and found myself with a free day, presenting an opportunity to experience a slice of the hiking in the East. We were stationed only a 30-minute drive from the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park (SNP), so it was a natural choice. The 200,000-acre park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia, stretching 105 miles from north to south. One main road, Skyline Drive, runs the distance of the long, narrow park and most hiking trailheads are accessed right off that main road. With more than 500 miles of hiking trails at SNP, there’s plenty to choose from. But how to choose? Since I was coming from the south and wanted to maximize my time hiking rather than driving, I picked a trail in the Loft Mountain area, about 20 miles north of the park entrance. And who doesn’t like waterfalls? SNP is full of waterfalls and I selected a couple of trails that appeared to have nice cascades, connecting them in a loop with a section of the Appalachian Trail, which runs all the way through Shenandoah. My total walking distance would be about eight miles, a nice length for a leisurely day hike. Arriving in Shenandoah early in the morning on a cloudy October day, I pulled into a nearly empty Jones Run Trailhead, pleased to be getting ahead of the weekend crowds. There was only one other vehicle there and I let its owner get on the trail ahead of me. I was alone, since Bill was working, and I preferred some solitude on the trail. The leaf-strewn path lined with ferns took me down, down, down into the hollow toward Jones Run Falls, a 42-foot cascade. I knew what the long descent meant – what goes down must come up. But for the moment I enjoyed the easy walking. Raindrops began to pepper the forest canopy and I thought how silly I was to have forgotten a rain jacket. In spite of what the calendar said about the season, there was little color change in the oaks and hickories, and what little existed was muted by the overcast skies. The temperature was pleasant, though, and the rain had stopped. I was enjoying myself thoroughly, nearly scampering along on the rocky trail. “I got my picture of a bear,” said a hiker, approaching from the opposite direction. The gray-ponytailed man in a ball cap stopped to explain he had just seen a bear on the trail and was able to capture a photo of it. He said he’d had to wait a while before proceeding, watching the bear cross the creek and eventually clamber up the hillside. I thanked him and continued, a little more watchful in case I too might get such a photo op. Soon I came to Jones Run Falls, but it was only a trickle, as the area had been experiencing drought. The 42-foot cascade was a 42-foot dribble, but I imagined it would have been quite spectacular with water. Continuing, I crossed the creek and began to ascend, now on the path toward Doyles River Falls. There are two falls along the Doyles River Trail, the upper and lower. Like Jones Run, there was only a trickle of water flowing across them. As I approached the lower falls, my solitude ended. Crowds of hikers, young and old, human and canine, were coming down the hillside as I climbed up, up, and up. If they were looking for spectacular waterfalls, however, they were out of luck. Soon I came to a spring surrounded by a wall of mossy stones. A sign there pointed to Doyles River Cabin. Curious, I followed the spur trail to find a woman and two young girls sitting on the front porch of a rustic house. “I didn’t mean to intrude,” I said. “I saw the sign and wondered what was up here.” “No worries,” said the woman. “You’re not the first hiker we’ve seen today.” “I accidentally locked us out,” said one of the girls. “My daddy’s gone to get the ranger so we can get back in.” Probably more information than the mother would have liked her daughter to share with a total stranger, but then I also probably looked (and am) pretty harmless. I wished them luck and turned back, continuing my climb. It was a relief when I reached the top after the long ascent, and there I found the trail marker for the Appalachian Trail (AT), indicating a 3.4-mile walk back to Jones Run, my starting point. The AT was narrower than the trail I’d just been on, appearing less trafficked at this point. Right away, I saw bear spoor on the trail, and only seconds later another such deposit, renewing my alertness. I started walking more quickly and making a bit of noise, becoming nervous about a bear encounter. Soon I began to meet other hikers on the trail and relaxed a bit. Then, lo and behold, I came across the first hiker I’d met, the guy who took the bear picture. I told him I hadn’t seen the bear and he asked about my camera, a lightweight mirrorless I was carrying around my neck. He was carrying his big DSLR with its huge lens in a waist pack. Good for pictures, heavy for hiking. Bidding him adieu, I soon reached my car, well satisfied with the hike but hungry. I drove a little farther into the park to the Loft Mountain Wayside and grabbed a late lunch, then began my return trip. As I drove south, the sun broke through the clouds, lighting up the red leaves of the maples along the roadside, so much so that I was compelled to stop at a turn-out and admire the view. The wind freshened, and as I left, autumn leaves skittered across the road and onto my windshield. Fall, it seemed, had just decided to arrive. Information: Shenandoah National Park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. Almost 40% of the land is designated as wilderness and protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet. Best Time to Go: As with most of the southeastern deciduous forest, spring and fall are generally the best times to go, avoiding humid summers and often snowy winters in the mountains. Getting There: Shenandoah National Park is located about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C. The park has four entrance stations along its 105-mile length. The Jones Run Falls trailhead is located at mile 84.1 in the south district of the park. Maps and Books: A map for the Jones Run Falls/Doyles River Falls loop is located here. Note, however, I connected the two trails with the Appalachian Trail rather than with Browns Gap Road. National Geographic also offers their Trails Illustrated Shenandoah National Park Map. Several guidebooks are available on Amazon, including a Falcon Guide to Hiking Shenandoah National Park.
  15. 2 points
    Sitting atop the summit of Mount Saint Helens, with views of over a hundred miles in every direction, a passage from a novel came to mind as I sipped a cup of coffee and gazed at distant peaks. Seemingly appropriate when applied to an exceptionally clear autumn day observed from atop a mountain, an experience that makes one feel full of life. It felt like the “most beautiful day in a thousand years. The October air was sweet and every faint breath a pleasure.” As Annie Proulx wrote in the book, Barkskins. My climbing partner Kerra and I had begun the hike up Mount Saint Helens at 5 a.m. sharp, leaving our camp under a starlit sky with an archetype of a crescent moon making its way toward the horizon. We had camped just below 4,800 feet in elevation and had approximately 3,500 feet of elevation to gain on our way to the 8,365 foot summit of one the Northwest’s most famous stratovolcanoes. Kerra and I had meet two years prior when we were both hiking the Loowit Trail, which loops around Mount Saint Helens and is one of the most dramatic hikes in terms of scenery-per-mile that I have had the pleasure of hiking. We kept in touch after that hike and had since ice climbed in Montana and backpacked along the Oregon Coast. When Kerra let me know she had a spot on a permit to climb Mount Saint Helens in early October I jumped at the chance to climb a mountain that I had already circumambulated the base of, which would be a hiking “first” for me. Although I do not consider myself a “peakbagger”, as I’m often most content simply ambling along in the woods and spending my time looking at up peaks from lakes while I flyfish, the opportunity to summit Mount Saint Helens had a distinct and irresistible appeal. Approximately the first half of our climb was by headlamp and we reached the snowline after less than an hour or ascending. The amount of snow on the mountain, which was fairly substantial for so early in the season, was fortunately more of an aid than a hindrance. As we climbed, the final dark hours of night transitioned into the ethereal predawn glow, and then into a beautiful and clear morning with brilliant blue skies. The colors of the sunrise were vivid and the sight of the sun rising near Mount Adams was absolutely breathtaking. Kerra, who had summited Mount Saint Helens three times previously, remarked several times on how helpful the hardpacked snow was. It allowed us to travel above the ashy and sandy slopes on the final summit push, which can make for frustratingly slow going in summer conditions. Additionally, the ash and sand are easily whipped up by the winds which usually blow across the summit, which can make hanging out atop the mountain a less than enjoyable experience. Fortunately for us, not only was the wind so light and infrequent as to be almost unnoticeable, but the ash and sand were covered up by snow. This allowed us to stretch out up top, make some warm drinks and breakfast, and enjoy the view for almost two hours before starting our descent. Given our early start and the permit limitations that keep the number of climbers to a steady, but not overwhelming, stream we ended up having the summit to ourselves for almost an hour. The summit view was made even sweeter by the fact that I could see Mount Adams, thirty miles away in a straightline distance but seemingly so close you could reach out and touch it, which I had also hiked a loop around. Several other mountains were visible that had trails around them – such as Mount Rainier and Mount Hood – which provided ample inspiration for future adventures in Washington and Oregon. Looking into the crater of the volcano, the surrounding mountains, and the intriguing waters of Spirit Lake (which are filled with floating dead trees that were blown into the lake by the May 1980 eruption) made the time fly by. We were still able to enjoy beautiful views on the way down, although the snow was starting to soften up and we encountered several groups of hikers headed up. While the mountains in Montana, the state where I reside and do most of my backpacking, has amazing mountain ranges which provide a lifetime of backpacking, you are almost always hiking in the mountains rather than around them. While this experience is incredible in its own way, a hike involving something like Mount Saint Helens is something different to experience. My take on this could be partially due to the novelty of the experience, hiking around mountains provides a sense of scale and majesty that is different from trips which venture into the heart of mountain ranges, even if you do climb a peak along the way. Information: A permit is required to climb Mount Saint Helens. Please the permit information page on the website of the Mount Saint Helens Institute for current regulations. Getting There: Travel on Forest Road 90 and near Cougar, WA turn north onto FR 83. Drive north on forest road 83 to forest road 81. Make a left onto forest road 81 and drive 1.6 miles and turn right onto FR 830. Follow this to the trailhead. Best Time to Go: Mount Saint Helens can be climbed year-round, although winter ascents require technical skills and equipment. Summer can be uncomfortably hot as the climb provides little shade and the rocks can radiate heat they absorb from the sun and windblown ash and dust can be irritating. The weather can be less reliable, but late fall can be a perfect time for a climb. Maps and Books: The Green Trails Map for the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument is an excellent resource, National Geographic offers their Trails Illustrated Mount St. Helens and Adams Map, and this guidebook provides detailed information about hiking in Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument.
  16. 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.
  17. 2 points
    Got to add mine! A couple buddies and I were on Mt. Hood. Goal was to summit. We made to setting up a base camp and we were not but 2,000 feet below the summit. So, it was a great night with hot mugs of sweet tea and an early rise. The weather was not looking good with the clouds obscuring the summit. But hey, let's start and see if the clouds don't lift as we make our way up. After a few hours and only 1,000 feet from the summit it was still socked in and getting lower. So, we decided we better retreat. One guy was in a mountain rescue organization and got great new gear to try out. He had a Jansport bibs with double knees and butt and the other guy had on a pair of rain pants. I was sporting wool knickers, yes I was wearing knickers! LOL! The Mountain Rescue guy suggested glissading back to camp and off he went. The next guy followed and I was the last. When I got to bottom of the glissade right at camp and stood up they both went into hysterical laughter. What? What's so funny. Until I looked at my rear end. The knicker seat was GONE My wool insulated underwear seat GONE My underwear seat GONE My butt was crimson red and frozen. The pain started after it thawed out! Thankfully I had a pair of nylon rain pants and a pair of underwear for the hike out. Let's just say the pain in the butt was for real. Those expensive European climbing knickers were never replaced.
  18. 1 point
    What a great amenity to have secluded trails near your house!
  19. 1 point
    I have been out hiking at least weekly since April--just practicing social distancing while on the trail. Lot of the hikes with a close friend that I trust, and have carpooled to trail. Just got back from an overnight trip--drove to trailhead Sunday over a very rough 4WD road (won't ever drive it again, but that's another story), climbed two peaks Monday (tellurium 13,300 and west tellurium 13,074), and returned yesterday. Weather was great and met no one on the climb.
  20. 1 point
    Good for you! Looks like a nice hike. We've now done two backpacking trips--one in the Sierra near Tahoe, and one in Lassen National Park, plus some dayhikes. I'll post a trip report later today.
  21. 1 point
    A couple of rare grizzly bear sightings in Banff National Park this spring. First, an all-white 3 1/2 year old grizzly has been spotted near the town of Banff. I'm surprised it doesn't seem to have been noticed in past years. Video of the grizzly on train tracks (a persistent problem in our mountain parks). The second unusual grizzly sighting the last few days is a white headed grizzly cub. https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/thought-it-was-a-panda-second-rare-grizzly-bear-seen-in-banff-national-park-1.4986881 I'm visiting Banff this week and it would be a real treat to see one of these bears.
  22. 1 point
    Hi, I am Tephanie. I reside in El Paso. Texas. Home of the Franklin Mountains with the nickname the Sun City. It's quite sunny most of the time but it also gets crazy windy but no one really speaks of that. My bucket list hike is the Guadalupe Peak. I haven't hiked that far yet but hope to in the near future. Anyways, I'm happy to be part of the group. Oh yeah, I want to add a photo to my profile but I don't see how. If anyone can share that, I'd appreciate it. Best, Tephanie
  23. 1 point
    I'm from East Texas and I've only been out to Guadalupe Mountains once. It is beautiful for sure and it is definetly a hiker's park. If I remember correctly there is a state hwy that kinda travels around the east side of the park and that's it. No vehicle access to the park past the campgrounds. That's a good thing, but be prepared for it. I'd like to get back there. We went in February and woke up the first morning to a couple inches of snow and 14 degrees. Pretty sure we had the whole park to ourselves! Have you been to Big Bend? Love that park and have been numerous times. Check it out.
  24. 1 point
    Very nice blog. I’ve hiked Tory Pines, beautiful place. I moved to EP from CA about 6 months ago and I’ve been exploring hiking areas here too. You are right about it taking maintenance work. I’ve done Aztec cave and am working towards doing Guadalupe peak when it opens. As far as diversity, I’m not a minority but I am over 60. Anyone can hike and if more tried I believe they would fall in love as well. I much prefer nature to a sweaty gym.
  25. 1 point
    I must admit I started a like affair with hiking around 1993. I did not know I was hiking since I was mandated to do it, along with some fellow Army comrades, while stationed in South Korea. When your company commander says to take that hill, you take it, or as I would like to say, “hike it.” I do not remember the specific area where we hiked, but I know I was surrounded by lots of trees, large leaves, and some trickling of water. I remember almost falling into the water, and guess what, I can’t swim, so that would not have been a good end to my hiking journey. I also recall being captivated by the smell and sound of nature; it was delightful. Fast forward 20 years, and remember: I said I started a like affair with hiking. Well, I met this guy through an online dating app as I was feeling out the dating scene after my divorce. He reintroduced me to hiking. I did not fall in love with him, he was cute, but I fell in love with hiking. We hiked the Aztec Cave in the Franklin Mountains. It was only .7 miles, a moderate hike. I must admit it was not moderate for me; it was challenging because I was not in my best shape. But when I reached the top of the mountain over the entrance to the cave, and I saw the view of the rest of the mountain, it was absolutely stunning. I was in love with hiking! Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve But you know, love takes work, you just can’t fall in love and be content. You have to work on it. It’s like being married. After the honeymoon, that’s when you realize it’s not all kisses and cuddling. You must work at it. So, I worked on my passion for hiking by hiking more. I took my first getaway hiking and trip with Fort Bliss Morale, Welfare, and Recreation – an organization that provides recreational programs for military families – around 2015. I was so excited to visit the place I’d seen on nearly every computer screen saver. Do you know what that place is? It’s Antelope Canyon. It’s literally a screen saver for most computer screens, or at least back then it was. Antelope Canyon is in Page, Arizona, owned by the Navajo Tribe. We got there early and waited a bit before our tour guide came, but it was worth the wait. Made of sandstone, the bright orange canyons are carved by many years of wind and water erosion. Side note, orange is my favorite color, but that’s not why I love the canyons so much, but it might be. I remember nervously descending into the canyon, but that faded when I saw the sun so brightly reflecting the orange sand. I was absolutely mesmerized. The Slot Canyon tour was fascinating. The tour guide was outstanding; he told us all the spots to take the best photos and shared some history of the tribe as well. Hiking always takes me to another level. It brings out the sunshine in me. It makes me feel like a ray of hope, and joy is radiating through me. It’s so uplifting when you make it to the top, or the bottom like in Antelope Canyon. It may sound cheesy, but when I hike, I feel like I have a “pocketful of sunshine.” You know, like the song by Natasha Bedingfield. Since that hike, I’ve hiked numerous places like the Tom Mays Unit in El Paso, Texas, the Willow Springs in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I hiked at Joshua Tree National Park just to name a few. But what I noticed with all the hikes is, I was usually the only one that looked like me, an African American female. According to the 2018 Outdoor Participation Survey, there continues to be a gap between the diversity of outdoor participants and the diversity of the U.S. population. The survey also found that all non-Caucasian ethnic groups reported going on far fewer outings in 2018. However, I thought that since Outdoor Afro, a national organization that encourages hiking amongst minorities, was introduced, I’d see more people like me out hiking. I really noticed it when I visited my son in San Diego for Christmas in 2018. I went to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to hike. My son didn’t come because he had to work, so I went alone. There were a lot of people hiking there that day, but nobody looked like me. I must admit I was somewhat fearful because the world can be a dangerous place for a single woman, let alone an African American single woman, but I proceeded anyway. If you know me and I know you all don’t, I can strike up a conversation with nearly anyone. So, I saw a couple, and I said hello and introduced myself, and we began talking. I asked if they cared if I tagged along since I was by myself, and they said, “yes,” I could. We had a great conversation, and I found out they were not an actual couple, but they were just a couple of friends who grew up together and came back to San Diego to visit. I was glad to have the company and on our hike together that day, the sights and the sounds in the park were truly dazzling. The smell of the ocean was breathtaking, and listening to the shorebirds was music to my ears. It was a gorgeous hike surrounded by the rarest pine tree – Pinus torreyana, or Torrey pine, that only grows in San Diego and off the coast near Santa Barbara. The park preserves not only the trees but also one of the last vast salt marshes and waterfowl refuges in Southern California. I must admit it was tough, but a fun hike and the views of the ocean were awe-inspiring. With the recent COVID-19 preventative measures that are in place, I can’t really hike like I want to right now. But my love is still very strong for hiking. While there are challenges we all face in life, I won’t let race get in the way of my passion for the trail. I hope that minorities, others that look like me, or those that don’t look like me but haven’t yet tried hiking due to any roadblock they feel they might be facing, can head to the trail and fall in love with hiking too. That way, they too can smell the scent of the ocean, hike through the canyons, see the vast views from the mountaintops, and hopefully, find friendship on a common trail. Hike on!
  26. 1 point
    A new dinner from Mountain House, their Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal brings backpackers, hikers, or considering the current situation we've been facing here in the spring of 2020 just about anyone a decent Mexican themed meal that's also compatible with gluten free diets. And while normally we don't dive too much into packaging here at TrailGroove, in this case it deserves mention with a redesign that not only includes an artwork update but important updates to functionality as well for 2020. The Mountain House Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal offers 2 servings and 570 calories total, in a meal that is dominated by rice, beans, and chicken with accompanying vegetables in an Adobo style sauce. While personally I must admit that I'm not an Adobo sauce expert, what I can tell you is that the meal very much reminds me of the rice side dishes you’ll get at an authentic Mexican restaurant – each place has their own unique recipe – with, in the case of this meal some pinto beans thrown in (reminding one of refried beans and rice), plus chicken. As such, I think of this meal as a good Mexican rice and beans combination plate. Before rehydration What really sets this meal apart is the vegetables Mountain House has thrown in here: specifically tomatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower – all things that we don’t normally get on a backpacking trip. The tomatoes deserve special mention. After rehydrating the meal (1.5 cups of boiling water and 9 minutes) you could have told me the tomatoes in the meal were fresh. I just wish there were more. Overall the meal rehydrated well with only a couple of the pinto beans somehow escaping the water added to the meal and still having a dry consistency. The overall taste of the meal is good: I wish there were more vegetables and chicken to really make it more of a “meal” however. As the meal stands out of the bag, it comes across as more of a side type dish to me. However, by adding cheese and some tortillas, this is easily solved while adding a very nice calorie boost as well. Spice level here should be manageable by just about everyone. When I purchased this meal I thought the new artwork on the package was just that, but with their newer meals Mountain House has thankfully eliminated the sharp corners of their pouches; they are now nicely rounded. No longer will I have to trim the corners of every meal (from Mountain House) I take on a trip so that they don’t puncture the OPSak that I keep my food in. Additionally, the pouches are shallower, so our spoon or utensil (and fingers) will stay all that much cleaner, and the packaging also has a split corner on the bottom that seems to add some stability. The improvements are quite welcome. The Mountain House Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal retails for around $10 and can be found here at REI. You can also get it (plus a few more meals) all at 10% off using REI’s bulk backpacking food discount. You can also find the meal (when in stock) here at Amazon.com.
  27. 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.
  28. 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!
  29. 1 point
    Aaron, I actually went to REI Grand Junction and tested out the Flash Air 1--ultimately decided against it as the denier on the fabric seemed a bit too light. I'm probably going to go with the REI quarter dome SL-1-----it's identical in weight to the copper spur UL-1, slightly smaller interior square footage but slightly larger vestibule and similar in peak height and basic configuration plus it's $70 cheaper at $299.
  30. 1 point
    Thanks, Aaron. Just the kind of advice I'm in need of. Appreciate it!
  31. 1 point
    Aaron-For the upcoming trip I am going to have a RuffWear pad. I have cut up an old surplus closed cell foam pad and inserted into the pad. I bought an inexpensive OutRav sleeping bag. The bag has a zipper. Brooke will probably sleep with her down coat. As another measure I can throw my down jacket over her. When I first started taken Brooke on trips I woke one night with her shivering. I threw my down jacket over her and pretty soon she was snoring. I vowed never to let her sleep cold again.
  32. 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.
  33. 1 point
    I boil it down to this...walking is walking. Enjoy the trip.
  34. 1 point
    I'm sure that there are many of us that have favorite trips. I have several and thought I would share this one. I put the photos in here rather than sending people to another site. If this is a forum faux pas, please let me know. I have done this trip 5 times and it always shows me new things. I like this route so much that I actually took a couple friends with me back in 2010. I start at Horseshoe Meadows (Eastern Sierra) and have used all of the passes at some time or other. My favorite being New Army Pass. Once on the top, a lot of people use this area to hit the Mt Langley summit. Once over the pass we were basically on the back side of Mt Whitney. On this particular trip we had thunderstorms move in with a lot of blustery wind and little water. Once we got to Crabtree Meadows light snow fell and the temp dropped. Scenery, as you can imagine, was terrific...and the fishing. Our tiny group spent the night at Crabtree and then headed towards the Kern Canyon. Once in the Kern Gorge the fishing changes. Kern River Rainbows are the dominate fish with some nice Browns thrown into the mix. Walking downstream we ran into the popular Kern Hot Springs. Luckily this was late season and we had the place to ourselves. Refreshed, we headed towards the junction back to Horseshoe Meadows. Towards other fishing and meeting new trail buddies. Beautiful water. Great camp spots. After crossing the metal bridge on the Kern we headed up towards the high country and Brook Trout and Goldens. Out over Trail Pass. Okay, I'm Jonesing to get out. I've been hold up for 8 months now after shoulder surgery (sucks to get old) and needed to get some sort of fix. Remembering my trips helps. I am out again in mid-March to Eastern Arizona. Doesn't look like a tough trail and the fishing should be good. A gentle return. My dog (Brooke, The Wonder Dog) is more than ready. Thanks for indulging me and maybe we could look at some other packers favorite trips.
  35. 1 point
    Well, I am new to this forum as i stumbled across it while searching for gear reviews and somehow got caught up reading posts for days and decided to create an account. I'm from the Phoenix, AZ area and although I like to consider myself a fairly experienced backpacker as I have been doing it regularly for 10 years, I'm excited to learn from everyone else here! Oh, and this is probably my first time using a forum since the late 90's or early 2000's so this will be an adventure in itself.
  36. 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 Amazon.com.
  37. 1 point
    Refreshingly informative. Only hiking in OK known was mainly the Ouachita Tr.
  38. 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.
  39. 1 point
    I agree with getting there anytime you can. I am not a fan of going when there is a high density of other visitors, personally, I head to the wilds to avoid people. We did see bears, fattening up before winter, and just about every other form of wildlife there. The best part of that time of year for me was that there were no mosquitos or other biting insects.
  40. 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.
  41. 1 point
    I certainly made them aware of it... I don't know if they were aware at first. I encouraged them to read their wilderness permit.
  42. 1 point
    Fairly new hiker here. Been hiking and rock scrambling for a bit- informally. Going to Ireland soon. Hiking a bit there. Should be amazing. Cheers! I will appreciate all the feedback I get in the Forum questions.
  43. 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.
  44. 1 point
    We wanted a short escape before school starts, and stopped in at the Summit Ranger Station in Pinecrest to see what they might suggest in the Emigrant Wilderness. (A lot of Carson-Iceberg burned last year in the Donnell Fire and is still not open to hikers.) But since this trip was for P's birthday, we wanted something where we wouldn't run into much of a crowd. That excluded Kennedy Lake (there are lot of people up there right now) as well as the usual suspects out of Gianelli and Crabtree Trailheads. Gem Lake, in particular, was mentioned in a recent magazine story (just possibly because P suggested it to the editors) and now Gem Lake is the icon destination of Emigrant Wilderness. Sigh. So where else could we go? P asked about Chain Lakes. Nobody there. The trailhead, Box Springs, is a long drive on a difficult road. Not ideal for most hikers. It sounded perfect for us. And it was. The road into the trailhead was really quite rough--absolutely not recommended for passenger cars, although our 2wd 2008 Ford Escape managed it with careful driving. It took us almost two hours from the Ranger Station to the trailhead, and that was a total of ten miles on Highway 108, 20 miles on paved County Road 31, and then 7 miles on rough dirt to the trailhead. That last 7 miles took us more than 45 minutes to feel our way along... And then we got to the trail itself. While it is in fairly poor condition, with lots of downed trees, quite a few trail re-routes around the biggest ones, and some swampy areas, it was also chock full of the most amazing displays of wildflowers. Like walking through a botanical garden. And it is only two and half miles in total. It took us longer to drive to the trailhead than to hike the hike! Chain Lakes themselves are really just one large lake (fishless, with no inlet or outlet stream) and three smaller and swampier ones. But boy was it peaceful. And we had only one other group for company, and they camped far away---there are tons of good campsites in this area. The weather was perfect, and mosquitoes were only about a 3 on a ten point scale. Perfectly manageable. The next morning, we hiked up to the top of the nearby granite dome, for views of most of the Emigrant Wilderness, and even a distant view of Mt Hoffman to the South in Yosemite. And the road out seemed just a little better, since it was downhill, and we knew that it was passable the whole way. A really nice way to spend a birthday... The photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wxRZNEKHrGCeShEm8
  45. 1 point
    True, my research tho has led me to believe that Yellowstone has some rather unique rules regarding some things and I didn't want to assume. I was originally going alone but I talked the wife into tagging along also. She's not going hiking with me due to health reasons but we are going to take in the sights together as well. Expect pictures when I am back.
  46. 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.
  47. 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.
  48. 1 point
    Welcome to TrailGroove and best of luck getting started and getting all the gear assembled. For some tips in that regard feel free to browse past issues of the magazine - as a Premium Member you can download all the past issues here to catch up on all our past reviews and tips on gear. You can also find reviews and guides on everything from pack selection to sleeping pads over on the blog: https://www.trailgroove.com/blogs/ Lastly, feel free to ask any questions that might come up here on the forums!
  49. 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!)
  50. 1 point
    Our next trip to Sipsey will be on Oct 19-21. We're headed to Deer Skull Falls this time and hopefully we'll be able to find it lol. It is where two separate rivers/streams join together with twin waterfalls and high walls. I have posted a picture from the internet below. Expected high/lows for the trip are 72°/47° but experience has taught me that being in a holler with waterfalls can be as much as 20° lower since cold air is heavier thus filling your holler with cold air and the streams and/or mist from the waterfalls raises the humidity. Also, never count on a fire here since most wood is either punk wood or soaking wet. Bring a stove just in case and make sure that your gear will keep you warm without a fire.