Saturday, December 29, 2007

Moving Up
Winter hikes an exercise in contrasts

By Craig Hill

You can make the 10 essentials list an even dozen by adding rain gear and hiking poles.

If you are a fair-weather hiker, you are missing half the fun. While you stay inside where it's warm all winter, your favorite summer trails are taking on new personalities.
The deciduous trees have lost their leaves and are unveiling the views they blocked all summer. The traffic has thinned to the point where some trails can be had all to yourself.
"Plus, winter hikes keep you from getting depressed," said Jonathan Guzzo of the Washington Trails Association. "You are less likely to feel the burden of winter."
What's so great about hiking in the rain and cold?
"For me, it's all about that exercise in contrasts," Guzzo said. "It's about getting cold so you can get warm again after your hike. There's nothing better than changing into dry clothes and having a warm drink after a winter hike. It's a great feeling."
Here's what you need to know to get that feeling. Call it Winter Hiking 101.
Grab a lid and some gaiters: Wearing a hat is crucial to staying comfortable on a winter hike.
"If you cover your head, you're going a long way toward avoiding being miserable," Guzzo said.
Perhaps the only thing worse than a cold head is cold feet. Gaiters boot covers that keep out mud and debris are a good way to assure comfort.
"In the winter, mud on trails can be 8 to 9 inches deep," Guzzo said. "If you get mud and water in your boots, it's going to be a real bummer. I always wear gaiters."
Gorp: One of the best reasons for hiking is that you can justify eating things you shouldn't if you're playing couch potato all winter.
"Your body needs all kinds of food to stoke warmth," Guzzo said.
He recommends sweet foods for fast warmth, carbohydrates for prolonged warmth and fatty foods for the most warmth.
He suggests gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) or trail mix, a combination of candy, fruit and nuts.
"If you take a lot of gorp, it will help you keep warm," Guzzo said.
The 12 essentials: No hiker should hit the trail without the 10 essentials, but especially in winter, Nos. 11 and 12 should be added to the famous outdoorsman checklist.
Robert Mooers, author of "Winter Hikes in Puget Sound and the Olympic Foothills," is big on adding rain gear to the list.
"How rain gear didn't make it on the 10 essentials list I'll never know," Mooers said. "It's vital in winter."
Mooers says to also pay special attention to packing extra clothes.
"If you break an ankle and have to spend the night outdoors in the summer, you probably only have to worry about temperatures in the 40s," Mooers said. "In the winter, you could freeze."
Mooers also recommends taking a hiking pole for traveling over possible icy portions of the trail.
"It's like having a third leg," Mooers said. "It's really helpful, especially going downhill."
No. 12 should be the cell phone – not to be used to chat while you hike, but in case of emergency. If you or somebody in your party needs medical attention and you can get cell phone service in your remote location, it could improve the odds of rescue.
Here are the 10 essentials on the regular checklist:
1. Map
2. Compass and the ability to use it
3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
4. Extra food and water
5. Extra clothes
6. Flashlight
7. First-aid kit
8. Matches or lighter
9. Fire starter
10. Knife
Cotton kills: In the summer, even the hard-core hiker will occasionally sneak out for a quick hike in a cotton shirt.
Don't be so bold in fall and winter months.
"Never, ever, ever, ever wear cotton in the winter," Guzzo said.
Cotton clothes don't wick sweat away from your body, don't retain body heat and don't dry very quickly.
At best, this will leave you miserable if you encounter rain or snow. At worst, cotton clothes will put you on the fast track to hypothermia.
Instead, read the labels and layer up with materials such as Gore-Tex, fleece, wool, polyester, spandex and nylon.
You don't have to wear all the clothes at once. You'll need fewer clothes when you're moving, but you'll be happy you carried that heavier layer to keep you warm when you stop for lunch.
Save yourself: It seems that every winter, a hiker or two makes news by losing the trail in the snow and getting lost. Some are rescued. Some are not.
Don't be one of those people, Mooers says. "When you can no longer identify the trail because of snow, it's time to go back."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Hiker Charles Rohrbacher stands atop Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, it is the highest peak along the Appalachian Trail.

Three pairs of boots, nine years and 2,175 miles later, Charles Rohrbacher did it; he finally finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hiking segments on the trail during six summers, Rohrbacher finally stood atop Mount Katahdin in Maine on July 14 this year and claimed victory. "I had enjoyed hiking during my 19 years with the Boy Scouts and what inspired me to finish the trail was when a former student, Ryan Schmit, completed it in 2006," Rohrbacher said. Rohrbacher, who is a High School business teacher, only had time to hike during some summers when he first started his odyssey in 1998 from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Hot Springs, N.C. The idea for a national hiking trail was first conceived in 1921 and was finally completed in 1938 with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Appalachian Trail stretches through 14 states, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Rohrbacher hit the trail again during the summers of 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Averaging approximately 10-15 miles a day, he found the last 100 miles were the most remote, had difficult terrain and weather and it was harder to find a place to sleep. "There are shelters every 8-10 miles but some are small and primitive. I’d check my trail guide and if there was a town close, I’d hitchhike and find a laundry, groceries, and place to shower and sleep," he said. Obviously not able to pack food for three weeks in an already stuffed 30-to-40-pound backpack, Rohrbacher also relied on family and friends who mailed food packages for him to post offices along his hiking route. And then there were the "trail angels," local friendly residents who would bring trail hikers cookies and other goodies to brighten their day. Rohrbacher saw quite a bit of history during his hike; Harper’s Ferry, a 300-year-old stone monument to George Washington, the site where Audie Murphy’s plane crashed, the nation’s largest tree in girth and Dartmouth College where the trail goes right through the campus. He also saw his fair share of deer, moose and bears but didn’t have encounters with any. "In the Smokey Mountains they have chain-link fencing around the shelters so the bears can’t get in," he explained. Rohrbacher said the north portion of the Trail through New Hampshire and Maine is the most arduous. "There are warnings of the dangers for inexperienced hikers. There are also some rivers that have to be crossed and a marker at one place requires hikers to be ferried across by canoe," he explained. On a lighter note he mentioned a remote restaurant on an island that could only be reached by boat. "There is an air horn on the dock and when you sound it, they send a boat to pick you up. Some people complained about the food prices but it was good and it was the only place to eat for miles," he laughed. After finally achieving his hiking goal, would he do it again? Rohrbacher simply said, "I’m glad I did it and I would do it again."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Continental Divide Trail/Red Desert--Great Basin

Crossing Wyomings Great Basin Along the Continental Divide Trail:

As it turned out, the dragon was fairly tame. I had given much more thought to the Great Basin than was necessary. I left Wamsutter, Wyoming, with two gallons of water and my purifier. I made the crossing in three days and found plenty of water along the way. My original plan was to head straight north from Wamsutter until I reached a junction with the official CDT route and follow the trail west to Atlantic City. An hour after I left Wamsutter, I was still considering other options. According to my map, the Hay Reservoir was off to the northwest which held the promise of water and a much more direct route to Atlantic and South Pass City. Shortcuts do not always work out the way you plan them. I considered the Donner Party and their peril as they took the shortcut through the Sierras in the 1800s—one good reason not to deviate from my original plan worked out with the Bureau of Land Management staff. But in this case, my original plan had no more merit than any other cockamamie idea I could come up with. I decided to take the shortest route to the Sweetwater River, the only water source I knew I could rely on.
Because of gas exploration and development in the lower Basin, there are roads going in every direction. Even here in this remote and barren moonscape, the Earth seems in chaos, dealing with the constant onslaught of man. When in doubt which road to take, I pulled out my GPS and cut across the sagebrush until I junctioned with a road that seemed to be going in the same direction that I was. Even though I had not seen a rattlesnake in over two months of hiking, I kept thinking about my breakfast tutor and looking for serpents on top of each of the million plants I brushed.
The second morning, I found a flowing well at Lost Creek Fork. By noon I ate lunch near the Hay Reservoir, and, though it was dried up, I found enough puddles to pump water through my purifier and wash down my cheese tortilla. The morning of my third day, I passed Scotty Lake which was not saline as I had been told and there was plenty of water. At this point I cut cross country and north around the west side of Picket Lake to reach the Forks-Atlantic City Rd., a two-track which would lead to South Pass City. During the afternoon, I came across another flowing well near a stock tank. By evening, I was sitting on the shore of the Sweetwater River, drinking my fill. Because of cloudy overcast days with sprinkles now and then, I was able to hike thirty plus miles each day, reaching the trail to South Pass City on the third day.
For me, the Great Basin was a quiet land of solitude with its own magical landscape. I sat in the ruts of the Oregon Trail and looked back over the terrain and time. I realized, once again, that knowledge and experience turn fears into facts, dragons into friends.
For nearly a hundred miles, I could see the Wind River range to the northwest. It seemed like an oasis to be reached, rewarding me for crossing this dry alkali basin. I could see rain from the Winds dissipate as it was blown across the basin.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Mountain House, the leading seller of prepackaged backpacker meals, has been using freeze-drying to remove moisture from its meals since its parent company, Oregon Freeze Dry Inc., began selling long-range patrol rations to the military during the Vietnam War.


With more than one million acres of undeveloped wilderness, Florida’s 31 state forests are a veritable playground for backpackers, birders, paddlers and cyclists.By Terry Tomalin
Withlacoochee State ForestOn a cool morning in late October, an eerie mist rises over the sandhill scrub in the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest. As the first rays of sunlight filter through the pine trees, a thunder of wings echoes the woods.“Whoo! Whoo-whoo-whoo!” the great bird cries. “Whoo! Whoo!”The horned owl, one of the forest’s great hunters, is returning from its nocturnal work. We sit quietly and wait, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious bird. Then, after a few minutes of awkward silence, we are rewarded when the owl takes flight again, its five-foot wingspan casting a shadow on the forest floor.It is moments such as this that brings us back, again and again, to Florida’s fabulous state forests. I have spent many long days wandering along empty, tree-lined trails, with birds, deer and wild hog my only companions. These vast, publicly-owned lands are one of the state’s best- kept secrets.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Backpacking Clothing

What should you wear for your adventure in the wilderness? Posted by: Andrew Engelson Filed under: Health & Hiking, Hiking Etiquette & Safety, Gear & Gadgets
Washington Trails Association
What should you wear for your night in the wilderness?Temperatures can range widely in the mountains, even in the height of summer. For safety and comfort, it’s crucial you keep warm when you’re in camp or resting, and also stay cool when you’re huffing it up the trail with a pack on. The key to clothing in the backcountry is layering. By bringing lightweight, but well-insulating layers, you can add or peel off clothing as your activity level or the outside temperature changes.
The first, or base, layer should be made of a wicking synthetic material that helps carry moisture away from your body, and can insulate even if wet. Polypropylene, Capilene, Thermax or other fabrics are ideal for this purpose. Bring both tops and bottoms of long underwear of this variety.The second, or middle layer should be a warm insulator. A fleece jacket, a down jacket or wool garment (or combinations of these) can help insulate you.The third layer is a windproof and waterproof layer. This means a water-shedding material, preferably one that "breathes," such as the famous GoreTex. Bring both jacket and pants. Other clothing to bring includes shirt, pants, sun hat, gloves and bandana. A warm knit hat of wool or fleece is absolutely essential. Shorts can be great in the sun, but when brushy trail or stinging nettles are encountered, a good pair of lightweight hiking pants is ideal. Avoid cotton clothing. The old mountaineers’ bit of advice, "cotton kills," is true. Cotton is a bad insulator when wet. Stick to synthetic clothing, wool, and waterproof fabrics to keep you warm—even your underwear.You’ll find an infinite variety of hiking socks, from wool to synthetic materials. To prevent blisters, many backpackers chose to wear two pairs of socks: an outer insulating sock, and a thin polyester liner sock.Photo of backcountry campers by Jason Zabriskie.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Backpacking News--Colin Fletcher

Colin Fletcher, acclaimed, reclusive writer on backpacking
By Valerie J. Nelson,
LOS ANGELES — Colin Fletcher, who was considered the father of modern backpacking for his lyrical and practical writings on hiking, including "The Complete Walker" and "The Man Who Walked Through Time," died in June in Monterey, Calif. He was 85.
Mr. Fletcher died at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula of complications related to old age and injuries suffered in 2001 after he was hit by a car, said Chris Cassidy, a business associate.
"He brought this idea that you didn’t have to be a nut case to take long solitary walks in the wilderness at a time when a lot of people were really looking for ways to create holistic lives and escape from the craziness of Vietnam and the stresses of the ’60s," said Jonathan Dorn, editor in chief of Backpacker magazine.
Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club, said that Fletcher helped start a movement by "speaking as an adventurist who would share his own exploits then tell you to lighten your load by cutting your toothbrush in half."
"He was to backpacking what Jack Kerouac had been to road trips," wrote Annette McGivney in Backpacker magazine in 2002.
Romantic conflict inadvertently inspired Mr. Fletcher’s walking-writing career.
In 1958, Mr. Fletcher decided to hike the length of California from Mexico to Oregon so that he could engage in "contemplative walking" and decide whether to get married.
Six months and 1,000 miles later, he married his girlfriend and wrote his first book, "The Thousand-Mile Summer" (published in 1964), which detailed his route across the Mojave Desert and up the Sierra Nevada range.
The marriage ended within weeks, but the man some call "the J. D. Salinger of the high country" had discovered a way to communicate.
"He found he could touch people in a grand and far-reaching way and have friends without having them in his hair all the time," said Chip Rawlins, who helped update Mr. Fletcher’s "The Complete Walker IV" (2002) and considered Fletcher one of his heroes. The first edition of "The Complete Walker," published in 1968, is an exhaustive guide to outdoor travel that is regarded as the backpacker’s bible.
"Colin was cranky, opinionated, irascible, yet I found him quite wonderful, actually," Rawlins said.
Outside Mr. Fletcher’s Carmel Valley home hung a sign that said: "Beware of the Man!" Once he touched fame, Mr. Fletcher guarded his home’s location and scratched a decoy name on his mailbox.
In 1963, beckoned by the Grand Canyon’s beauty, Mr. Fletcher became one of the first humans to walk the length of the chasm. He wrote about the two-month trek in "The Man Who Walked Through Time" (1968).
"I saw that my decision to walk through the Canyon could mean more than I knew. I saw that by going . . . deep into the space and the silence and the solitude, I might come as close as we can at present to moving back and down through the smooth and apparently impenetrable face of time," he wrote.
The "artfully worded account" "introduced an increasingly nature-hungry public to the spiritual and physical rewards of backpacking," McGivney wrote in 2002. The book remains in print.
In all, Mr. Fletcher wrote seven books in a 35-year span, providing what he termed "great, granular detail" about camping, he told the Associated Press in 1989.
At 67, Mr. Fletcher hiked and paddled solo 1,750 miles down the Green and Colorado rivers and recounted the experience in "River: One Man’s Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea" (1997).
Of his need for the trip, he wrote: "I needed something to pare the fat off my soul. . . . And I knew . . . there is nothing like a wilderness journey for rekindling the fires of life."
Of his works, Mr. Fletcher favored "The Man From the Cave" (1981), possibly because he related to the main character — a gold prospector who inhabited a cave in the Nevada desert, said Carl Brandt, his longtime agent.
"He had worked out a life for himself that was very, very happy," Brandt said. "The three things he loved the most were walking and writing and then, oddly enough, tennis."
Born March 14, 1922, in Cardiff, Wales, Mr. Fletcher was an only child who traced his love of walking to his mother, who enjoyed venturing out in the rain.
He first backpacked as a commando for the Royal Marines in World War II and spent five years in Africa, mainly farming. Several odd jobs followed, including prospecting and laying out roads for a mining company in Canada.
Well into his 70s, Mr. Fletcher continued to hike. He was working on an autobiography when he was struck by a car while walking near his house. He suffered severe brain trauma, many broken bones, and other injuries.
As he aged, Mr. Fletcher had admitted it was harder for him to convey a sense of wonder about the back country. "I’m not young anymore," he said in the 1989 AP story, echoing a line from "The Thousand-Mile Summer:" "I’m no longer rich with the rewards of inexperience."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Continental Divide Trail--White Goat Wilderness

The last leg of the Great Divide Trail would take me into the unique and remote area known as the White Goat Wilderness. My entrance would be a long slow day walking along and through Owen Creek. It took nine hours of my day to climb six miles. The trail was nonexistent. The boulder strewn creek bed was nature’s idea of a compound angle, the steep drop creating steep sides. Several times, becoming frustrated with my progress, I would climb the creek bank and have another try at hiking the forest edge. Each time I would be turned back by thick forest tangle. I was now entering the land of unnamed passes. I reached the first one by early evening and my route opened up as I began to hike above timberline. To my right was Michele Lake, a glacial fed beauty framed by an immense background of blue sky and dirt-brown mountain terrain. I lingered to capture the lake in perfect evening light on film then continued to climb to the highest pass on the Great Divide Trail.
At the top darkness was beginning to get serious about shutting the day down. According to my guidebook I should study the valley below and locate my route to the next unnamed pass before dropping in. It looked simple enough. It was beginning to rain and as I hiked into this verdant valley I thought to myself, "I can’t believe this all belongs to only me. It seemed as though I could see for a hundred miles in every direction and every eyeful was filled with beautiful mountains. Waterfall Creek cut the valley in two and ample moisture gave it a lush look of green, splashed with a rainbow array of wildflowers. The evening light added shadow. Sun rays bursting through broken cloud cover, lighting the field below me, gave the setting a spiritual glow.
I often think about space in time. It takes a leap of faith and much effort to place yourself into special moments during your life. This valley between two unnamed passes would be one of my moments.
I was completely wrong about my enormous real estate holdings. I spent a very peaceful night in the valley before I met the actual owner. Morning broke in a drizzle. As usual I was warm and dry in my down bag and didn’t want to get up and deal with the cold and wet. I can never just lay there and relax. Partly because I know I have miles to cover and partly because I am excited about discovering what is over the next pass. Making plenty of noise I broke camp, retrieved my food hanging in a nearby tree, packed my damp gear into my pack and, covered in my poncho, headed across Waterfall Creek.
Studying the valley from my eagle’s perch the night before, I could see that the bench I needed to reach began to climb directly across the creek from where I had spent the night. Midstream, up to my knees in "wake-me-up" water, I noticed a movement just ahead. Looking up I was a little shocked to see a very large, wet and muddy grizzly working the field on the opposite shore. He had a huge patch of thick grass completely rototilled and he didn’t look like he was anywhere near done.
They say not to make eye contact and I like to follow good advice when it comes to grizzly encounters. I immediately started backing water and slowly making my way back to shore. At that point I continued to walk backwards in the direction of a ridge behind my campsite. I kept looking at the bear to see if he was going to look at me. He never did. He never even acknowledged my presence. He was as intent on his excavating as I was on my evacuating.
After slipping quietly over the ridge and out of sight, I hiked quickly downstream about a half mile before making another attempt at crossing Waterfall Creek. I was confident that my friend was still upstream digging but now I had a new problem. To reach the bench that would take me out of the valley would mean a very steep climb through dew damp vegetation and rock outcropping. It would mean an hour or so of exhaustive climbing but I wouldn’t have to negotiate land issues with an 800 pound earth mover.
By noon I had entered the White Goat Wilderness. Immediately I was confused. I was standing in the middle of the Cline River when two Indians on horseback pulled up along the shore. I could tell by the look on their face that they thought I was nuts. I scampered out of the river and asked them the best route to reach Cataract Creek. They explained it in two broken sentences, kicked their mounts and splashed across the river. I kind of wanted a second opinion but decided instead to follow the trail they were taking. Had I continued on that trail I most likely would have joined the trail I was looking for but I am too impatient for that. I pulled out my GPS, crossed over and up a new tributary and headed straight north. Within an hour I connected with the trail that would follow Cataract Creek for the rest of the day. I still had the fresh vision of the morning’s encounter in my mind. All along Cataract Creek there were fresh diggings to remind me.
I spent the night at the base of Cataract Pass on a small rock bench overlooking the creek. It rained hard all night and the wind blew cold. My Akto tent had its first good workout. The nylon sang all night but everything held together. Not one leak and it stood the wind like a portable bomb shelter.
The climb in the morning showed no sign of trail. I would not see trail again for several hours. From atop the pass I could see several hours of hiking into the valley below along the Brazeau River. It would be a steep descent across shale slopes. I was so cold I took shelter in a rock crevice and decided to boil water for coffee. Knowing I would be above timberline, I carried a small plastic baggie filled with wood chips I had collected the day before along the creek. I had just enough to fire up my Zip Ztove. Just as I was about to add the boiling water to my cup of instant coffee, I poured it into my wet boots instead. It was wonderful. I started hiking soon after and my feet stayed warm the rest of the morning.
By late afternoon I found four hikers in the first campground inside Jasper National Park. Again, my Zip Ztove made the introductions. Most backpackers are gear-heads. They are always looking to see what others are carrying. During dinner they told me where they had seen a black wolf that morning near Jonas Pass. I told them I planned to spend the night at Jonas Cutoff Campground and they said I would never make it. I hear that a lot. It was only thirteen miles and according to my map mostly valley trail with the exception of Jonas Pass.
It turned out to be a big, wide, beautiful valley full of wildlife. I stopped for a rest break near a herd of elk and spotted two wolves near the fringes of the herd, very close to where the other hikers told me to look. It was the first time on the trip that I wished I had my monocular. The pair was constantly moving away from me and the elk. It was my first wolf sighting in the wild. I have heard their haunting howls on Isle Royale in the middle of Lake Superior. Surprisingly, seeing them was not as exciting to me as hearing them at night, knowing they are close but always elusive.
By the time I reached Cutoff Campground it was dark. There were more backpackers in camp than I had seen on the entire trip. Everyone had retired to their tents. I quietly set my tent up in the only vacant space. The tent to one side of me was snoring and the tent to the other side was passing gas. I didn’t think I would have any bear problems this night.
I was gone at first light and never saw a soul. The trail was a mud bog and full of wolf tracks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought the wolves must run the trail all night. There were miles of prints. Hiking around a bend in the trail a wolf came charging straight at me—waging his tail—and he had a backpack on!
I soon discovered the tracks I had been following belonged to the malamute of the trail crew building a new bridge across the Poboktan Creek. They were staying at a nearby warden cabin and hiking the several miles to work each morning. The dog carried lunch.
My first three days in Jasper were continuous rain. Between river crossings and wet trail vegetation my feet stayed constantly wet. I keep much of my gear dry by packing it in plastic garbage bags, but after 72 hours of precipitation things become wet from the inside out—gear gets heavier, down loses its loft and extra socks won’t dry out. On the third night I built a smoldering fire along the Maligne River and smoked my socks as dry as possible.
I needed a little sunshine. I know the sun shines every day at 76,000 feet, but I needed some a little closer to earth. My wish was granted when I reached Maligne Lake. I hiked into a tourist mecca. It was a picture perfect area and swarming with shutterbugs. It was also the beginning of the end for this trek to Jasper, Alberta. I was now hooking up with the Skyline Trail—a premier North American pathway. Well used and well defined, I was one day away from reaching Jasper. I found a secluded, sunny meadow and spread my gear out to dry in the warm sun. I wanted to sleep dry my last night on the trail.
My blistered feet were still giving me problems but the hike from Waterton had whipped me into shape, and climbing out of the Maligne Lake area was effortless. This is a calendar pathway that slows hikers by inspiration more than elevation.
My last big challenge was a place called, "The Notch." After summiting I hiked a crest trail along Amber Mountain during the late evening in a gathering storm. Again, the sun was melting holes in the storm clouds and giving me a laser light show across the granite sentinels that surrounded me in all directions. It was dark hiking into Tekarra Campground. It would be my last and I was only two days off my hiking permit schedule. Not bad for a trek across almost six hundred miles of unfamiliar and very rugged wilderness.
I arrived in Jasper by noon the following day and immediately found and enjoyed a strawberry milkshake as I waited for the reunion with my family. I was already dreaming of someday continuing the next leg of the journey along the Divide which leaves Jasper and snakes its way to the Yukon border.
An excerpt from "Crossing the Divide, A Family Adventure Along the Continental Divide

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rpdale Sells Backpacker Magazine and

Rodale sells backpacking magazine
Rodale Inc. of Emmaus sold its Backpacker Magazine to Active Interest Media Inc. for an undisclosed amount, the companies said today.
Active Media, of El Segundo, Calif., publishes enthusiast magazines and books, holds consumer shows, and operates Internet sites.
Backpacker, founded in 1973, has a circulation of 340,000 for its nine issues per year. The magazine provides information about backcountry adventure in North America and focuses on hiking trails, camping gear and survival tips.
"The sale of Backpacker will allow Rodale to focus its resources on long-term growth and further strengthen the position of its business and brands in the health, fitness, and wellness space," said Steven Pleshette Murphy, Rodale's president and chief executive.
Jonathan Dorn, Backpacker's editor-in-chief, will join Active Media, which has 13 magazines in the fields of healthy living, marine, homebuyer and Western art/living.
Rodale publishes health, fitness and wellness publications with a combined circulation of about 40 million monthly. It also is a book publisher and operates Internet sites.

Backpacking with kids

By Dan Vierra Sacramento Bee
Think it might be a major challenge to persuade your online kids to sample an on-trail adventure? Author Tim Hauserman makes it sound easy (and fun) in "Monsters in the Woods" (University of Nevada Press, $15.95, 137 pages). The monsters, of course, are the kids.With humor, Hauserman lays out strategies and advice for parents to help motivate kids to get out into the wild. The reward is a great time with Dad, so he says."To me, backpacking with my children is by far the best time I spend with them," Hauserman writes.He had no problem persuading his two daughters, although he learned what works best. Instead of taking both on a trip, he prefers bringing one and her friend. He also invites the friend’s father.What do I pack? Can I take the dog? Is an infant too young to take backpacking? All these are addressed in this comprehensive how-to of family adventures.Hauserman, who lives in northern California, also wrote "The Tahoe Rim Trail: A Complete Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, and Equestrians" (Wilderness Press, $15.95, 160 pages). He knows his backpacking trails and has great hopes for the younger, high-tech generation.During a field trip to Mono Lake with one daughter, an American Indian medicine man related to the school group how he had been taught to appreciate nature as a child and how he learned to be "part of the river" while fishing."Will our children ever learn that level of appreciation for nature?" Hauserman writes. "Probably not, but if we can help them learn to love nature and understand it, we will be doing them and the planet a great service."

Backpacking 101--Women on the Trail

Enthusiastic hiker definitely walks the walks
I STEPPED INTO Peet’s Coffee and Tea looking for a tanned woman — a serious hiker I was about to interview. I was sure she would be decked out in multipocketed khaki pants. After all, Susan Alcorn, of Oakland, spends her time tromping trails — and right after our interview was heading for an overnight backpack trip on Sunol’s Ohlone Trail.
But the woman who answered to my "Susan?" was dressed in black slacks and a black-and-white checked jacket, looking like a schoolteacher.
Alcorn had in fact been a elementary schoolteacher in Hercules in the 1990s. But following her divorce, she expanded her interest in hiking, taking the sport up at age 48 with Sierra Club-sponsored hikes.
One good thing led to another — in this case a new husband whom she met on one of those outdoor outings. Ralph Alcorn, who had grown up in Yellowstone National Park, was game to go along with Susan’s yearning to expand their hiking to backpacking. That led the couple eventually to a trek to the top of Africa’s 19,335-foot Mount Kilimanjaro. The Alcorns have also hiked the famous pilgrimage trail, Santiago de Compostela, in Spain and have covered most of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Canada to Mexico.
Susan Alcorn is now 66 and Ralph Alcorn is 71.
Keep on hikin’
So what makes the Alcorns keep on hiking these days?
All the usual "because it’s there" reasons apply.
But Susan Alcorn also notes how empowering it is for women to feel the self-sufficiency of
making their way in the wilderness. That’s a theme Alcorn explored in an earlier book, "We’re in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill" — a book of essays by backpacking women, which Alcorn edited and self-published under her imprint Shepherd Canyon Press.
The Alcorns also hike because, "You can go places you couldn’t go otherwise," Susan notes. To practice for their longer outings, they prowl the trails of East Bay Regional Parks, of which Susan says, "We’re so lucky here."
Fingers do the walking
Alcorn also hikes so she can write about it. Her book "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago" (Shepherd Canyon, $14.95) is a finalist for the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award, sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association. The book chronicles the Alcorns’ experience along the trail, and outlines the history of the ancient pilgrimage route. The trail was a newsmaker when the likes of Charlemagne walked it, and it continues to attract thousands of pilgrims still today, including actress Shirley MacLaine and presidential daughter Jenna Bush. The trail leads to Compostela de Santiago, where the bones of the apostle St. James are in the crypt.
Villagers along the trail, Alcorn notes, are very supportive of hikers. The same holds true for Pacific Crest Trail hikers in the United States along which "trail angels" drop food and water, or answer Internet postings to drive hikers 100 miles to the trail.
Heavy on the shoulders
The difficulty of carrying enough food and water is a big issue for backpackers. At one point on the PCT the Alcorns went 10 days before refueling. Yet Susan — whose shoulders are slight — is only comfortable carrying a 25-pound pack. That’s not a lot when you think of food, water, cooking utensils, medical supplies and a sleeping bag. Ralph picks up the slack with their sleeping tarp and extra food and water.
I must say, I have yet to meet the woman who loves shouldering a backpack, so it impresses me to talk to one who is even willing.
So what does Alcorn miss the most when she’s out tromping the wilderness?
"Salads and showers," she said promptly.
And the most unexpected thing you will find in her pack?
"An umbrella." She goes on to describe a lightweight version that gets them through both rainstorms and brain-frying heat, such as what they found on the Mojave desert.
And what does the Montclair woman do to survive those many sweaty days with no showers?
"Baby wipes," she said.
Anne Chalfant is a travel editor.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Backpacking 101--Physicist Gives Advice

No car, no house, no electricity, no job — it’s a liberating feeling.
Hiking, backpacking and mountain climbing improve your fitness level. We humans are animals, and as such, we have muscles to use. A host of diseases affect those who do not use those muscles.
When you backpack, you can eat like a pig and still lose weight. I started out with a 65-pound pack when my wife and I backpacked the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. When we finished 10 days later, we were down to our last few peanuts and raisins, and my pack weighed about 40 pounds. We each lost five pounds in body weight.
When you die, you cannot bring money or material goods with you. You carry forth only memories of your experiences. The struggles I’ve put my body through, whether it’s climbing a mountain or trudging to a campsite after a long day of backpacking, have exalted my spirit and imprinted lifelong memories.
One such memory is from my Mt. Rainier climb. We left Camp Muir (elevation 10,000 feet) at about 3:30 on an August morning, climbing in the dark over Cowlitz Glacier, Cathedral Rocks and then Ingraham Glacier. Taking a break, we saw the sun rise over Little Tahoma. It was like watching the world being born below us, the day coming alive in the cycle of death and rebirth.
True, there are tribulations, such as no plumbed toilets in the backcountry (one exception is Bright Angel Campground in the Grand Canyon). Answering nature’s call can be a mini-adventure in itself.
Nature is not a benign environment. Weather and predators can kill. Cougars have been known to stalk humans. It’s a good idea to carry a folding or sheathed knife with at least a four-inch blade. The folding knife must be capable of opening with a snap of the wrist. One survivor on Vancouver Island suffered bites to his neck because he needed both hands to open his knife to kill the cougar that was attacking him.
Be receptive to your experiences outdoors.
From the interior of the inland forests, Highway 101 southbound on the Olympic Peninsula suddenly bursts into the gray-white expanse of the Pacific at Ruby Beach. It is like coming out of a tunnel, or coming out of the womb. The trees have given way to the cathedral ceiling of sky. Now there is more light — a flat, gray light that reflects off the clouds, the gray-green ocean and the gray sand. The quiet of the forest has given way to winter’s thunderous clap of surf, a surge-and-give that rolls over sand and driftwood, eating away at the coast to leave behind sea stacks — hard rock islands of the previous shoreline.
Such moments are little epiphanies. As a physicist-turned-writer, I find that they occur more and more for me in the natural world, on that edge of experience where the mind is alert with the possibilities of remembrance. The moments pass quickly enough, but I’ve learned to recognize them.
Go out and recognize yours.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Backpacking 101 Grand Canyon

At 3:30 a.m. on a mid-June morning my 13-year old daughter, Gina, and I strapped on a fully loaded backpack for the first time.We were about to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.Don’t shake your head at our naivete - my husband and son, both experienced backpackers, were with us, too. Husband Brad and 15-year-old son Zachary had plenty of backpacking experience through Boy Scouts.Postcards and guidebooks are no substitute for being there, so with back-country camping permit in hand, we boarded the 4 a.m. shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.We set out, and after a brief descent we reached Ooh Ah Point at sunrise. It was aptly named.After watching the sun rise, the hikers we had arrived with each set off down the trail at their own pace.A few hikers carried nothing but water, having sent their gear down by mule, and they seemed to fairly sprint down the trail.Most, however, were like us, laden with full backpacks, hiking boots and trekking poles (don’t leave the rim without them).Zachary was our family’s fastest hiker, Brad and Gina were fairly evenly matched in the middle, and I always brought up the rear with the shortest legs and the biggest camera. How much weight is being carried in a backpack is a huge consideration on an adventure such as this, but we opted to redistribute some food and necessities to bring along our bigger digital camera. We have never regretted the decision.There is no water on South Kaibab trail, but we were prepared and completed the trail to the bottom in about 5½ hours, enjoying every step of the way.The single rattlesnake heard and spotted was never really a threat.After a refreshing dip in the Colorado River, we proceeded to Bright Angel Campground where we set up camp next to Bright Angel Creek. Though it was extremely warm, we spent the afternoon exploring the area (complete with deer, not-so-wild wild turkeys and the mule corral), relaxing in the creek, and enjoying lemonade in nearby Phantom Ranch cantina, complete with hardworking air conditioner. Phantom Ranch was built in the early part of the 1900s as tourist lodgings. It’s still in use, and a must-see piece of Americana.The night was peaceful and we slept well, being awakened only once by the intense light of a full moon.We began our climb out of the canyon at 5 a.m., following Bright Angel Trail, which skirted the Colorado River for some distance. Sunrise from the bottom of the canyon was just as awe-inspiring as what we had seen the previous morning.The scenery along the trail was breathtaking and varied as we hiked out of the canyon. Along the way we met Ranger John, whose job that day was to hike the trail from the canyon floor to the rim, visit with hikers and make sure everyone stayed safe. He told us many stories about the canyon as we hiked with him.Bright Angel Trail has three rest houses where hikers can take a break and fill water bottles. We saw many more sure-footed Grand Canyon mules on this trail, and on the distant rim of the canyon we finally spotted historic Kolb Studio, home to early 20th-century photographers.As we approached the top we encountered tourists in flip-flops and tennis shoes taking a brief walk into the canyon and we, with our trekking poles and tired legs, began to feel that we were about to leave something very special behind. After leaving the floor of the canyon 12hours earlier, we finally reached the top, exhausted and ready to do it all over again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Backpacking With Bears

Dealing with bears along the CDT can be tricky. You need to be aggressive. You need to make a statement and take a stand. Don't run, don't walk away from a fight. Example of how to act in bear country:

Friday, March 9, 2007

Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park

It is a magical place and in many hiker’s opinions, the best backpacking in the Midwest. I have always enjoyed not only my time on the island but the adventure of getting there and back. One fall I spent a good deal of the six hour boat ride back to the mainland listening to Rolf Peterson and his wife talk about their ongoing wolf study on the island. The Isle Royale wolf-moose survey is the longest running predator-prey study in the world, now in its 45th year. Peterson has conducted the study for the last 33 years.
I found not only the wolf study interesting but also their personal life, raising a family on the island during the summers.
Hikers are lucky to see a wolf, or hear them for that matter. They blend extremely efficiently into the island’s surroundings. At night it is more common to hear the haunting sound of the loon and the waves lapping on shore seeping through the tent walls.
The Greenstone Ridge Trail is heavily used by the 20,000 plus annual visitors. It offers the most impressive views. Overlooks such as Mt. Ojibway and Mt. Franklin position hikers to see the northern end of the island and the rest of the archipelago as well as the Minnesota and Canadian shore.
Backpackers do not have to worry about bear on the island but hanging food is still a necessity if you want to hang on to gear. Squirrels will chew through your pack and eat with you but the fox prefer to steal your food and gear and eat alone. You can go home one booted if you are not careful.
It is tempting to feed camp beggars. They come in close and bold and look cute and needy. The problem is they are habituated to camps because many prior visitors have already broken the no feed rule. There is a saying on the island, "a fed fox is a dead fox." This goes for all wildlife in all wilderness areas. It is not a diet that will keep them alive during the winter months and their boldness will eventually turn to conflict—with conflict wildlife always loses.
This isolated island will only continue to be a unique ecosystem if campers are responsible in their actions. Here, as everywhere, you must remember, "Leave No Trace."
My first visit to Isle Royale was in late season, 1972. It is the time of the year that brings the least visitation to the least visited National Park in the lower 48. Even today the number of fall visitors rarely approaches 200. Yellowstone National Park has more visitors in one day than Isle Royale has in a year, and Isle Royale is the only national park to completely close down for the winter. My other backpacking trips to Isle Royale have been late summer. The end of August could be considered late season for the park. Like the western mountain parks, visitation is waning, seasonal rangers are shipping out, park concessions are shutting down, students are heading back to the classrooms and the park pace ebbs.
Another plus for late August is the fact that the weather can still be incredibly hospitable and the bugs, for the most part, have all frozen to death. You see more wildlife, you hear less noise, the campgrounds are not full and often empty.
In the crisp morning air you can expect to round a bend in the trail and find a moose belly deep in still water that is reflecting a mirror image of the shoreline bordered by white birch, decomposing aspen and cattails withering away along a rocky shoreline. This is a land of rock and wetland bog. In a healthy year there will be a couple thousand moose sharing the island with a small pack of wolves. For this reason it is wise to purify drinking water. I do not normally purify my water but on Isle Royale there seems to be a lot more wildlife using the accessible water sources. I think the chance is remote but I have heard the tapeworm stories and figure that treating water is a safe bet in this environment. That said, on my recent pack trip there I did not treat water.
The vegetation is often encroaching on the trail system. On a cold drizzly day you can expect your clothing to brush against the waterlogged vegetation and soak your gear.
The island offers a variety of trails from the well used system just outside the Rock Harbor city limits, to the rugged Minong Trail, originally constructed for fire fighting access.
By any measure, the Isle Royale wilderness is in the fullest Midwest sense—remote. Trails weaving through the park’s forested ridges can offer you a backpacking experience not found anywhere else. Paths entwine to create plenty of loop trip options. It is a safe place to wander if you don’t mess with the moose, and the terrain is gentle and friendly to those in decent physical shape.
The islands woods here harbor a lot of history for those who take the time to discover it. Late summer berries are ripe for the taking, and you do not have to worry about Yogi competition.
The experience could be your first glimpse, or sound bite (no pun intended) of a wolf—but don’t plan on it. You will find many other treasured wilderness moments along the Superior shoreline of this National Park System jewel. —Keep Smilin’, Dick E. Bird

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Backpacking For Health

About one and a half million years ago, mankind learned how to stand upright and walk. So in some way, you could say that hiking was developed during the Stone Age. Nowadays, when we talk about hiking and trekking, we mean it in the pastime sense of the word. It is hard to say when walking as a means of hunting and surviving became walking for fun and recreation. Throughout the years, man has always used walking as a means of relaxation. Going for a stroll is a great way to meditate on possible dilemmas or to get away from things and clear your mind.
Walking is often a recreational activity and sport. Especially among those with sedentary occupations, hiking is a natural exercise that promotes physical fitness, is economical and convenient, and requires no special equipment.
In its most basic definition, hiking is simply walking for recreational purposes. A good summary is: "In Hiking, the Journey is more important than the Destination". Hiking could be your average Sunday walk through the park, or it could be a three-week expedition through the Andes mountain range. There are many words often used for hiking depending on the hiking conditions, hike length and terrain. Trekking, backpacking, bushwalking, trailing and mountaineering are just a few of the terms that could be seen as hiking disciplines or variations. In their most basic forms, these activities all boil down to walking. If you are able to put one foot in front of the other then you can hike.
When people think about Hiking, they mostly think of nature, the great outdoors, a backpack, and a tent. Hiking is an escape back to nature and a great way to get a good workout while forgetting all about the day to day hassles of city life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Great Just What I Wanted To Hear!

I have often wondered what I would do if attacked by killer bees while hiking in the desert southwest. I know there have been deaths in Arizona from killer bees. So now I know. Cover my head and run for a couple miles swatting at 50,000 angry bee behinds. Most people worry about running into a rattlesnake. I know I can outrun a rattlesnake!
I have been attacked by bees and it can throw anyone into a panic. I once slapped myself so much I knocked the lens right out of my glasses. These we not even the crazed killers. These were just regular ordinary ornery buzzy bodies I disturbed.
But let’s try to keep this in perspective. As an official in New Mexico said, "There is no need to panic. Even though there are some significant AHB colonies, you still have a much greater chance of being killed by a drunk driver than being killed by Africanized Honey Bees."
That’s probably true. If I am hiking in the middle of the desert I’m never looking over my shoulder for that drunk driver. While I’m concentrating on killer bees—WHAM—I get broad-sided by some drunk who’s driving around on the trail.
"Africanized honey bees communicate to one another using scents, and tend to be quite sensitive to odors." Wonderful. I hope they are talking about perfume, because when I am hiking you can smell me coming from miles away. It has always been my bear protection.
More than 100 counties in Texas, 6 in New Mexico, 14 in Arizona, 1 in Nevada, and 3 counties in California have reported Africanized honey bees. AHB continue the northward expansion of their territories by swarming, the process by which bee colonies replicate.
"Wear light-colored clothing. Bees tend to attack dark things. Dark clothing, dark hair, any thing dark in color could set them off."
Okay, I’m good there. I usually wear light clothing while hiking in the desert and I have gray hair. You would almost have to describe me as "bee friendly" if I smelled better!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Jeans Are Back

Backpackers are sometimes identified as a subculture of generally youthful travellers dedicated to budget travel. I think that identify comes from the fact that there were millions of us traveling on a shoestring in the 60s.
Those of us who started backpacking in the 50s and 60s more fully appreciate the major innovations in outdoor gear in the past three decades. Materials and technology continue to make gear much lighter, more weather resistant and even fashionable.
My personal gear 40 years ago was mostly canvas, wood and leather. I felt more like a pack mule than a backpacker.
They say there were some 14 million of us backpacking in the 60s. Most, if you remember, were wearing Levis. It may not have been the smartest choice for hiking but we could all afford jeans. They were as trail tough as when Levi Strauss first started sewing them for the California Gold Rush miners in 1850. They were so popular in the 1960s that Levi salespeople spent their time visiting retailers and apologizing for not being able to fill all their orders. One of the biggest drawbacks was the fact that denim took so long to dry. Wet and heavy, the pants would become uncomfortable and actually dangerous. Jeans were soon replaced in the hiking community by lighter, faster drying materials. I have been hiking for years in jungle style pants that wick moisture and dry quickly, but I have always missed the look and feel of hiking in jeans. I have searched outdoor catalogs for years thinking that surely some innovative company would sooner or later figure out how to build a blue jean pant that could wick moisture and dry as quickly as the paper thin hiking pants that are currently on the market.
From the ad above you can see that has happened. Royal Robbins® has put jeans back on the trail. The company sent me a pair and before the UPS man was out of the driveway I was testing them in the creek. Within an hour they were completely dry. Several field tests between the new jeans and my current Supplex hiking pants proved that the jeans dry as fast and wick moisture as efficiently. The bonus the jeans offer is the same toughness that denim originally guaranteed wearers.
In her book Where the Waters Divide, Karen Berger tells a story about crossing paths with a know-it-all backpacker that was wearing jeans. Her opinion was that if he knew it all he wouldn’t be in jeans. That train of thought will not hold water any longer (pun intended).
You’re going to like hiking in these pants and it won’t be just nostalgia. Nox Jeans have a vintage-wash look of broken-in jeans with the added performance benefits of wicking moisture, Coolmax®, and the shape retention and stretch of Lycra®. This is definitely NOT boring old denim.
You won’t find me on the trail any longer in paper-thin jungle-style pants that make me look like Safari Sam. I’m stylin’ in my new Nox Jeans!