Only three countries in the world are home to mountain gorillas: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). About 18,000 permits were given out in Uganda last year to see these gentle giants, with about 30,000 permits given in Rwanda. In total there are fewer than 900 gorillas in the wild—fewer than the white rhino (20,000), and fewer still than the Bengal tiger (2,500). They remain critically endangered due to poaching and humans moving in on their territory, and the chance to see them, to understand them, is increasingly rare.
When it comes to gorilla trekking, many wonder if they should go to Rwanda or Uganda. The experience in each country is similar: Tours are small, no more than eight people, with one guided hour with the gorillas. The volcanoes in both Uganda and Rwanda provide an amazing backdrop for the whole experience, and due to conflict in the DRC, most tourists choose one of the other two countries to see the gorillas.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is home to the Nyakagezi gorilla family with its five silverbacks (adult males). It holds a certain allure, boasting one of the highest concentrations of silverbacks within a family in all three countries. The mountain gorillas share 98 percent of our DNA.
Mike Summers was in good company last week as he relaxed in a leather conference chair, munched on a supreme slice from Tano’s Pizza and sipped a Sprecher’s Hard Root Beer.
At the end of the conference table was Tim Malzhan, 59, who thru-hiked the 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail more than 25 years ago. Across the table to his right was Luke Kloberdanz, 40, who hiked the trail in one continuous trip in 2003. And seated directly across from Summers was Dave Caliebe, 34, who in 2010 thru-hiked the trail that winds through Wisconsin along the terminal moraine created by a glacier that receded more than 10,000 years ago.
The trio all work for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, a nonprofit based in Cross Plains that builds, maintains and promotes the trail. Malzhan, Kloberdanz and Caliebe all did their hikes in summer and fall. But on this day, they gathered in the Alliance’s conference room to welcome and refuel Summers, a skinny, bearded 26-year-old from Portland, Oregon, who is attempting a winter thru-hike of the trail, something never before accomplished.
He started the trip at Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay on Dec. 22, 2016 and is hoping to be at the trail’s western terminus at Interstate Park near St. Croix Falls by mid-March.
In our day to day life, knots plays a vital role. Starting from the shoe lace to camping and fishing, a perfect knot can be an essential requirement. There are several steps to tie knots perfectly for various purposes. For example, the square knot is useful for camping and hiking. A clove hitch knot is for securing rope around things. Fisherman’s knot is for sailing and fishing and bowline knot is for securing a boat, mountain climbing etc. Knots are also very important for safety while hiking or climbing.
The following infographic from Sarah Brown at PT Winchester shows the steps to tie different types of knots for different purposes.
Perhaps you are 62 or older and think you might want to visit a national park or two before you die. Let us offer you some advice: Get thee to a federal recreation site – be it a national park, national forest or Bureau of Land Management office – and buy a lifetime senior pass that gains you entrance to all federal lands that charge entrance fees, for as long as you live. The cost of one will be increasing by 800%.
To be clear, the current price – $10 for a lifetime of access to any and all national parks and federal lands – may be the best of all bargains available to America’s seniors. For less than the price of a pizza, you can gain admittance to every national park, from Acadia to Yosemite, from Denali to the Everglades, and every Glacier and Yellowstone in between, at any time, for the rest of your life.
In all, the $10 pass gains seniors access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas. But last month, Congress raised the price of a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands senior pass to $80.
The steep hike was a little-discussed provision of the National Parks Centennial Act, which received bipartisan support in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate when it was passed in December.
“Eighty dollars for a lifetime senior pass is still pretty reasonable,” said National Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson. “Everybody else pays $80 a year” for an annual pass.
Trickling between Old Fort and Ridgecrest, Swannanoa Creek is a natural passageway into the Swannanoa Valley. Over the centuries, the storied tributary has led many travelers into Western North Carolina.
The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will lead a moderate-to-difficult, mostly downhill, four-mile hike down this path on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, shedding light on the natural, social, and cultural history of this once major artery into the Blue Ridge and crossroads for tourism, commerce – and calamity.
During Stoneman’s Raid at the close of the Civil War, the thoroughfare played a critical role in the defense of the region. Using an ingenious and surprisingly simple diversion, Confederate troops were able to prevent the Union Army from using the route to make its way to Asheville. Participants will hear the full tale as they walk the same route used by the troops more than 150 years earlier.
Near the road lies a mysterious gravestone related to the skirmish. The grave’s occupant is unknown, and Confederate veterans told two conflicting versions of the story, which museum historians will share when hikers reach the site. The gravestone, marked soberly “U.S. Soldier,” is visible alongside the creek, sometimes marked with Confederate flags and Old Glory.
Despite the solemnity and mystery enveloping the creekside, during much of the 18th century the Swannanoa Creek formed the backbone of the burgeoning Western Turnpike, the main pathway in WNC. Starting in 1820, a stagecoach line ran along the road from Morganton to Old Fort, and then up the mountain to Black Mountain along the stream.
A thick forest thrives on hardened lava that once flowed down Mount Fuji’s northwestern flank into lakes that reflect the volcano’s snow-capped cone like rippling mirrors. Within it, the roots of hemlock and cypress trees snake out over the ground through a blanket of moss, and trails lead to deep caverns filled with ice.
The Aokigahara forest, as this tangle of woods is called, was born on 12 square miles of lava from an eruption in the year 864, the biggest in 3,500 years. The event left Japan’s rulers awe-struck and its countrymen inspired to worship the volcano as a god. A walk into this isolated place, where nature’s power to rebound from cataclysm is so clearly on display, can be intensely spiritual.
Perhaps because of that, the woods inspire an almost reverential fear in Japan and, increasingly, beyond it. In the past year alone, three North American movies have opened with plots based on the woods’ reputation as a suicide destination and warren of paranormal activity: “The Sea of Trees” with Matthew McConaughey, “The Forest” and “The People Garden.” Those films come six years after “Suicide Forest,” a Vice documentary that has gotten more than 15 million views on YouTube and has furthered the idea that the forest is a place where people end their lives.
Wherever a Search and Rescue (SAR) member goes; they are trained not to leave home without a 24-hour pack. The pack contains everything they need to stay out for 24 hours including water, flashlight, snacks, extra clothing and maps.
Many of the searches conducted by SAR could have been prevented if the hikers had carried a map of the area; those venturing out need to know where they are going and be familiar with landmarks and places around them. A map can be a life-saver if a trail sign is missed or a trail intersection is confusing.
It’s important to plan for changing weather conditions; it might be warm at the trailhead and a jacket seems like extra weight, but what if the hikers are still out after dark and the temperature is near freezing or a storm moves in and it starts to snow?
A light source is also important. Mountains are rugged with cliffs and thick brush. Trying to walk in the dark is not smart even if the lights of a town can be seen in the distance. What if there is a cliff between the hikers and the lights?
The need to have enough water cannot be stressed enough. Keep an inconvenience from becoming an emergency by being prepared. Plan for what could happen, not just for what is happening now. Take no less than two quarts of water per person and more if it’s hot.
Environmental experts will present information about the long-term effects of the Party Rock Fire on the natural environment in Hickory Nut Gorge on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 6 p.m. in the Community Hall at the Lake Lure Municipal Building. Experts include Clint Calhoun with the Town of Lake Lure, Marshall Ellis with NC State Parks, and Michael Cheek with the NC Forest Service.
The Party Rock Fire burned more than 7,000 acres in the Hickory Nut Gorge in November of 2016. While there were no fatalities and no structures were lost during the fire, there are other ways that the fire will affect the local community. The local economy relies heavily on tourism; the Hickory Nut Gorge’s natural beauty and unique plant and animal species are a major draw for visitors. The disturbance caused by the Party Rock Fire could create the ideal conditions for non-native invasive plants to thrive, which can lower biodiversity and affect the beauty of the gorge. In contrast, some of the rare and endangered plant species of the gorge are dependent on disturbances to create suitable habitats for them. There are many potential benefits and detriments from the fire.
The panel will present and discuss information about what the possible effects of the fire will be, when we can expect to start seeing them, and what the community can do to ensure the natural environment of the Hickory Nut Gorge stays healthy. The panel will be hosted and moderated by the Weed Action Coalition of the Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. It is free and open to the public.
One of the major attractions of living in the Chattanooga, TN area is the abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, which includes many miles of hiking trails close to town. As a new year gets underway, you may be thinking you’d like to get started or do more in the way of hiking some of those trails. Or you may already be an avid hiker who’s recently moved to Chattanooga from somewhere else and would like to explore the local trails.
What may be holding you back is the lack of someone to hike with. Your friends and family members may not be interested in doing serious hikes, and you may be reluctant to go hiking on your own. Well, there’s a solution to that problem. There are a number of organizations in the Chattanooga area that regularly host free guided hikes.
You generally aren’t required to be a member of these organizations in order to participate in outings, but if you plan to go on a regular basis, paying a modest membership fee will help support the organization and get you on the email list.
Besides being able to learn all you need to know about hiking from experienced experts, participating in group hikes such as these is a great way to meet interesting and like-minded people. You have no excuse for not making 2017 the year you get out and discover the wonders of hiking in the Chattanooga area and beyond.
The public finally has the amazing opportunity of experiencing a section of California coastline that has been closed to the public for more than 100 years.
Save the Redwoods League has opened their newly-constructed 2.3 mile trail, which cuts through 957 acres of forest known as the Shady Dell, and extends the Lost Coast Trail south, making it an even 60 miles in total length.
Save the Redwoods League purchased Shady Dell from the nonprofit Redwood Forest Foundation in 2011 for $5.5 million with the help of the California Coastal Conservancy who contributed $3 million to the acquisition.
Hikers on the trail not only get to enjoy amazing ocean views, but also the magical experience of walking through the “Enchanted Forest,” which is home to about a half dozen 500 year-old candelabra redwood trees.
As the name suggests, they grow in the shape of a candelabra, which is believed to be due to the influence of heavy winds and salt water during their growth.
To find the trail drive along California Highway 1 until you reach the Usual Road turn off, located at mile marker 90.88, then drive along this road until you see signs for the trail.
Despite a late fall wildfire that shut down the park for nearly two weeks and scorched 11,000 acres, Great Smoky Mountains national park drew a record number of visitors last year.
Park spokeswoman Jamie Sanders said more than 11.3 million people visited the Smokies in 2016, helping increase a healthy connection to the outdoors while boosting the economy.
The visitation was a 5.6 percent increase over 2015 when there were 10.7 million visitors.
The Smokies is a rugged swath of a half-million acres of wilderness, front- and backcountry campsites, picnic areas, historic structures and some 900 miles of trails straddling the North Carolina-Tennessee border. It is the most visited park in the National Park Service.
Visitors used the park’s Gatlinburg, Tennessee, entrance most, with 3,715,480 visitors last year. Some 2.2 million entered through Oconaluftee in Cherokee, nearly 1.6 million through the Townsend, Tennessee entrance, and another nearly 3.2 million entered through the park’s outlying areas, such as Cataloochee and Deep Creek on the North Carolina side.
By Scott Finn
It started out of desperation.
Winter is a hard time for my son, Max. He has autism, which means he hates any break in routine — and winter has a knack for screwing up schedules.
And not unlike most 10-year-old boys, Max is a tightly-wound ball of kinetic energy. He literally bounces off the walls during the winter. Sometimes, we get in the car and drive around, just to get out of the house.
So last January, I signed us up for the 100-mile hiking challenge in the New River Gorge. I thought hiking 100 miles over the next few months would be a good way to kill time.
I didn’t realize how the experience would change me. It reminded me what I love so much about West Virginia — its unique history, natural beauty and authentic people.
Hiking with Max became a metaphor for how we can approach the challenge of living here. I learned that our so-called weaknesses can be turned into strengths.
All it takes is the willingness to look at things in a different way.
It was a sleepy little town where farmers worked the rich land along the Linville River. The Burke County town of Fonta Flora was also once home to a post office, the Rhyne School and Old Sardis Church of 1838.
But starting in 1916 the residents were dispersed and displaced to higher ground as the Catawba and Linville rivers and Paddy’s Creek were dammed to create Lake James and produce hydroelectric power for the growing region.
A century later, the little lost town is being honored by the creation of the Fonta Flora Trail.
The newest unit of the North Carolina State Parks System, the Fonta Flora Trail aims to unify Western North Carolina towns from the foothills to the mountains, stringing together spots from Morganton to Asheville. The planned 70-80-mile foot and bike trail will bring back to life, if only in name, the little lost town.
The signature piece, now under construction, is a loop around the 6,800-acre Lake James, nestled in the foothills of the Pisgah National Forest, with views into the Linville Gorge Wilderness.
A New Hampshire woman has become the first known person to complete a vaunted White Mountains hiking challenge – which takes some hikers a lifetime – within a single year.
Sue Johnston of Littleton, NH hiked each of the state’s 4,000-foot mountains in January, and then again in February, and in March, and so on, for a total of 576 peaks in 2016 – plus some extracurriculars.
The quest to hike all 48 Granite State mountains on “The List” in each calendar month is called “The Grid.” Only 70 people have finished it, including Johnston in 2003, when she became the first woman and third overall.
By hiking The Grid in a single year, she has created a new bar for hikers who take on increasingly difficult challenges in the White Mountains.
Johnston, a 51-year-old, adds the accomplishment to a hiking and running résumé that includes 26 100-mile races, more than a dozen long trails hiked end-to-end and very nearly the high points in all 50 states.
Travel takes on lots of perspectives, depending on your mode of getting around. From high above in a plane, out the window of a moving car or train or perhaps from a bicycle perch, each grants its own scope of exploration.
For an up close, intimate look at your surroundings, nothing beats hiking and connecting with your environment step by step. And nothing could be more perfectly suited to hiking than the collaboration of your own two feet and nature’s pure scenic beauty discovered in our state parks and national monuments.
In celebration of Anza-Borrego Desert Foundation’s 50th Anniversary, the Foundation and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are inviting visitors to complete the 5 Hikes for 50 Years Challenge on some of the state park’s most famous and infamous peaks and trails.
This challenge designed to unfold the wonders of California’s largest state park is a winning challenge no matter what your hiking level might be.
You will be ensconced in some hidden natural beauty that is mainly enjoyed by the surrounding wildlife from your very first step to the last.
The John Muir Trail passes through what many backpackers say is the finest mountain scenery in the United States. This is a land of 13,000-foot and 14,000-foot peaks, of lakes in the thousands, and of canyons and granite cliffs. The John Muir Trail is also a land blessed with the mildest, sunniest climate of any major mountain range in the world.
The trail is 211 miles long and runs (mostly in conjunction with the Pacific Crest Trail) from Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney, in California. Winding through the famed Sierra Nevada, the JMT visits some of the crown jewels of America’s park system: Yosemite, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The John Muir Trail section of the Pacific Crest Trail will stay with you forever.
If you’re planning to hike the John Muir Trail, here’s a checklist with facts to get you started.
Route: Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park to Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park or vice versa
Length: 210.4 miles (an additional 11 mile hike is required to get from the summit of Mt. Whitney to the nearest road at Whitney Portal)
Highest elevation: 15,505 feet
Lowest elevation: 4,040 feet
Total elevation change: 84,000 feet (estimated)
Lyme disease has been spreading across the United States over the past several decades, and a new study has confirmed that ticks carrying the disease are present in eastern national parks.
According to the study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Park Service (NPS) collected ticks along hiking trails in nine eastern national parks. They found blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), also called deer ticks, infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in all nine parks. The study is the first to confirm the presence of these ticks, which researchers already suspected because Lyme disease has been reported in the region.
The nine parks the researchers studied were Acadia National Park, Catoctin Mountain Park, Fire Island National Seashore, Gettysburg National Military Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monocacy National Battlefield, Prince William Forest Park, Rock Creek Park, and Shenandoah National Park.
And how can park visitors reduce risk? Here are some of the best ways, according the CDC and NPS:
The first Appalachian Trail Community in New Jersey is here. The Greater Blairstown Area is now an official community along the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.
That puts Blairstown on trail guidebooks, hiking maps and on the trail’s website. Eventually, the designation could have a financial benefit for the town, Warren County’s Public Information Director Art Charlton said.
“We’re very excited about it,” Charlton said. “It really works both ways, connecting hikers to the town and the town to the hikers.”
Hikers will hopefully stop in town for amenities such as laundries, grocery stores and local restaurants and entertainment services, he said.
Blairstown will have an official dedication ceremony for the trail designation in April, 2017.
While Blairstown is the first New Jersey trail community, there are five designated trail communities in nearby Pennsylvania.
The Appalachian Trail Conservatory created the Appalachian Trail Community to assist communities with economic growth through tourism. The communities then would help preserve the trail.
Even by Utah standards, few things are as beautiful as snow on redrock, especially in Zion Canyon where visitors can take in this lovely sight this week in the stillness of winter — if they can get there.
It may be the middle of the “offseason,” but the canyon, the centerpiece of Zion National Park, has been so packed since Christmas that park officials have had to exclude tour buses and oversize vehicles and close the canyon road because no more vehicles can fit in the parking areas.
Traffic has periodically backed so far into Springdale from the south entrance that officials had to “flush” the vehicles through the toll gate, foregoing the revenue that comes with the $30-per-vehicle charge. And that was even before the long New Year’s weekend had quite arrived.
Visitation is expected to exceed a record 4 million visits in 2016, up from 2.7 million six years ago, prompting officials to initiate a process to craft a “visitor use management plan.” December and January are typically the least busy time for the park, with monthly visitation below 100,000. But the winter months have seen the greatest percentage increases in recent years, growing by nearly 70 percent since 2010.
Utah’s busiest park has become a year-round destination, and overcrowding is no longer limited to the high season of spring, summer and fall — the park’s shoulder-season window is closing.
Jim Warnock, principal at Arkansas’ Alma Intermediate School, wrote “Five-Star Trails: The Ozarks – 43 Spectacular Hikes in Arkansas and Missouri,” which was published in August.
Warnock’s guide offers hiking advice, detailed trail descriptions, GPS coordinates, driving directions and topographical maps.
A “recommended hikes” list at the beginning of the guide offers tips on the best hikes for various needs, such as for hikers traveling with children or dogs, interested in history, or looking for springs and cascades.
“When I recommend trails I usually look at what (the hiker is) wanting – do they have kids, do they want a long trip, are they looking for scenic value – and I usually suggest a part of a trail,” Warnock said. “I worry that people will go out and do too much at one time and be discouraged. It’s always better to start out easy.”
As its title promises, the book features 43 trails in the Ozark Mountains area.
Warnock and several other area residents began cleaning up the Alma trail in 2012, and markers and benches have since been added to the scenic hike. Warnock also started a hiking blog in 2012 in an effort to encourage hikers to visit the Lake Alma Trail. His book is a natural takeoff from that.