John Muir had a passion for the outdoors that’s legendary and his extensive writings include accounts of his California adventures, ascending Mount Shasta in a snowstorm, walking all the way from San Francisco to Yosemite, and simply sauntering around Mount Wanda with his two daughters near his Martinez Ranch.
Muir first arrived in San Francisco from New York by Steamer on March 27, 1868, according to newspaper accounts. At the time, he was 30 years old, and the story goes that Muir asked a carpenter on Market Street for the fastest route out of town to “anywhere that’s wild.” Upon receiving the suggestion to go to Yosemite, he hopped on a ferry to Oakland and walked all the way to Yosemite Valley.
Thus began Muir’s love affair with the natural wonders of the Golden State. He went on to travel all over the country, but often came back to California and especially Yosemite, where he worked as a shepherd and lived in a tiny cabin beside a creek.
He eventually settled in the state permanently at the age of 40 when he married the daughter of a physician and horticulturist Louisa Strentzel. The couple lived in Martinez, where they raised two daughters and tended to their ranch and orchard.
He once said about his ranch that it “is a good place to be housed in during stormy weather, to write in, and to raise children in, but it is not my home. Up there,” pointing towards the Sierra Nevada, “is my home.”
Nature Deficit Disorder noun 1. The human cost of alienation from nature.
Okay, it’s not actually in the dictionary… yet. The term was coined by journalist Richard Louv in his modern classic study Last Child in the Woods to describe the negative effects of a steep, one-generation slide in children’s exposure to the natural world. Louv points to the obvious reasons: safety concerns and the electronic communications that have turned childhood play inside out.
What we once introduced to each other, child to child, is now a task for teachers and parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles). Time spent in nature creates connections not only with rocks, plants and creatures, but with science, history, art, literature, and with each other. And for grownups? “Peace,” “clarity,” “feeling alive,” are just some of the things that hikers say they get from their time in the woods.
Hiking matters because it takes us out of ourselves and connects us to the natural world, the parts of life we often forget about. When we lose that enriching perspective, we lose a little bit of ourselves.
Hiking moves a person through different habitats with various ecosystems. This is really the best way to see and experience the diversity of the natural world, by being right in the midst of it. Creative thinking happens while walking or hiking. It allows you to de-clutter and flow more like a stream.
Hiking with your children creates lasting memories for your family, lasting relationships with nature and builds a deep understanding of the world around you. The most valuable aspect of hiking with your children is that you do not have to do anything. Nature will take care of the experience.
by Michael Lanza - The Big Outside
The first time I backpacked in Yosemite National Park, more than 25 years ago, I applied months in advance for a permit to start at the park’s most popular trailhead, Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—and I got it. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was. I’ve since been shot down trying to get permits for popular hikes in parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. But I’ve also learned a few tricks for landing coveted backcountry permits in those flagship parks—which all receive far more requests for permit reservations than they can accommodate.
Following these 10 tips won’t guarantee you get the permit you want, but I’ve had pretty good success over the years using these strategies. And when you’re frustrated over being denied a permit for the hike you really wanted to take, keep this in mind: The permit system in parks imposes quotas on the number of backpackers in order to protect the landscape from overuse and give you an uncrowded, better wilderness experience. It’s a good thing.
A friendly warning: Don’t backpack without a permit. Backcountry rangers might issue you a citation for camping without a backcountry permit, which could involve a fine and a court appearance. The more immediate problem with lacking a permit for where you’re trying to camp is that all established campsites there could be occupied, leaving you the only option of camping illegally in a potentially uncomfortable spot and causing damage to a sensitive area. That’s not cool.
If I were to add an eleventh tip, it would be: When your first attempt fails, find another trip to do that year instead, and try again the next year. Wherever you go, the effort to plan and pull off that adventure will pay off.
It’s the beginning of the end for the “missing link” of the Foothills Parkway.
While crews still are completing the bridges along the 1.65-mile “missing link,” the paving of the entire 16-mile stretch of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley is scheduled to get underway this spring, with a groundbreaking ceremony featuring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., among other dignitaries.
“I grew up hiking, hunting and fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains, a national and Tennessee treasure,” Alexander said when he and Duncan announced a $10 million federal grant for the project in July 2016. “Completion of this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway will help the Smokies’ more than 9 million visitors from around the world experience the Park more easily and have greater access to panoramic views of the mountains.”
Congress authorized the Foothills Parkway on Feb. 22, 1944, according to a National Parks Service fact sheet updated in March 2016, but it is the only one of seven congressionally mandated parkways yet to be completed.
Locally, a 6.4-mile section between U.S. 321 in Walland and Carr Creek was constructed between 1966 and 1970, the fact sheet explains. In the 1980s, two contracts were awarded for about 10 miles of road between Carr Creek and Wears Valley, but both projects experienced problems that caused the projects to be suspended in 1989, leaving a 1.65-mile segment uncompleted.
It is this 1.65-mile section commonly referred to as the “missing link.”
The “capstone” project that kicks off this week should enable Great Smoky Mountains National Park to open to the public the entire, finally completed 16-mile stretch of Foothills Parkway from Walland to Wears Valley in 2018, Jamie Sanders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park said.
Hiking is great fun for all ages and sizes. Like any other person who has the zeal and passion for amazing views and high alpine trails, sometimes you forget that the activity is strenuous and has several potential dangers.
If you have been hiking for some time, chances are you have had a taste of what it is to get one of more of the following injuries. An injury from hiking can be severe, and you have likely read all sorts of stories about even fatal hiking accidents. The good news is that fatalities are extremely rare, and even injuries aren’t that frequent if you are careful, are prepared, and pay attention.
Here are some common minor injuries that do occur while hiking:
No one wants to have their fun hiking day be ruined by an injury.
A few decades ago, the go-to centerpiece for many master-planned communities was a golf course, with buyers clamoring for homes that backed up to the green whether they were avid players or not.
Today, golf courses have faded from favor in new communities, giving way to more inclusive amenities, such as extensive trail networks, education centers and shared gardens that all give residents a connection to the outdoors as well as to their neighbors.
Today, built amenities like pools, clubhouses and fitness centers remain popular. However, the growing use of technology among residents for everyday interactions has them even more eager to shed their phone or laptop and get outdoors. “There is a real desire to be outside, to have their space and to get their breath of fresh air.”
Walking paths in communities are nothing new, but today’s trails are no longer straight — or end at the town center. “When you talk about trails, they should be meandering. No one wants to be on a linear trail where they can see what’s coming. We want curvilinear where the landscape changes. We like to create monuments along the way, respites to work out on or take a rest or enjoy art.”
Rather than cutting down every tree and flattening every ridge, some developers are working with the land as they incorporate green space, parks and trails. For example, a community in Folsom, CA, is rugged and hilly, so the developer is incorporating mountain biking and hiking trails that rise and fall with the topography.
The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest way-marked long-distance walk. The 128 km long walk takes you through the incredible Wicklow Mountains and through County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland.
Wicklow Way passes through Wicklow Mountains National Park and through Glenmalure, the longest glacial valley in Ireland. You’ll also walk past Glendalough, a 6th century monastic city, which is one of the most important in the country. Some of the scenery may be familiar to you if you watch the TV show Vikings – you’ll pass Lough Dan and Lough Tay, where scenes have been filmed. You’ll also get great views of Powerscourt Waterfall – the highest in Ireland.
The Wicklow Way is a combination of country roads (especially on the southern part of the walk), forestry roads, hiking trails and platforms over bogs. Approximately 28% of the route is walking on roads, past fields of sheep and countryside.
The highest point is 630m and you’ll do a total of 3,753m of elevation gain if you walk the entire route. You will find yourself climbing a hill, only to climb back down, and then climb back up, but only in a few instances is it really steep.
If you’re used to hiking in the Canadian Rockies or have done the Tour du Mont Blanc in Europe, the elevation will seem easy. Still, it’s not to be underestimated since some days you will be walking over 25km.
The High Country Chapter of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian State Chapter, will host a clean up of the Tanawha Trail, Sunday, April 23, 2017 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Tanawha Trail, stretching 13.5 miles from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights, parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.
Tanawha, the Cherokee word for fabulous hawk or eagle, is an appropriate name for this trail that offers hikers spectacular views of distant mountains. Completed in 1993, the Tanawha Trail, like the final section of the Parkway it mirrors, is unique in construction.
The trail traverses a fragile and ancient ecosystem and leads hikers through a surprising range of biological and geological terrains. Some sections tunnel through thickets of laurel and rhododendron. Others dip down into remote hardwood coves and then ascend into evergreen glens. Boulder fields and cascading streams punctuate the landscape.
Volunteers for the clean-up will meet at the Tanawha Trail Head, MP 305.5 at 9:00 am. Please dress accordingly in long pants, work boots or closed-toe shoes, work gloves and bring water and a lunch. Any questions please call Jennifer Kershner, at 828-406-5071 or email her: [email protected]
Hikers in general are an eclectic lot. If you asked 15 different hikers what kind of hiking gear you need for a comfortable day hike, chances are that you will get 15 different answers.
Of course, some of these answers will have a few items in common. You know, things like don’t go hiking in your flip flops. So preferably, the first piece of gear you will need will be good old fashioned hiking shoes.
Others will tell you that all you need is your mind and natural instinct for survival. These are the kind of hikers who believe the universe provides and that you can fashion yourself a knife using a very pointy stick.
Others will tell you to carry everything. Sleeping bags, tents, bug repellent and if possible, you should have a 911 response team shadowing you. These are the cautious kind of hikers. Maybe they have been through some kind of wilderness chaos in their life and as such are all too aware how badly things can go in the blink of eye.
Then, there is the ‘SANE’ kind of hiker. There are some essentials that you need to have with you when you go hiking but you do not need to bring every possession you have. In fact, a great deal of the world falls under this category; the kind that knows you do not have to haul the whole house with you when going on a hiking day. But that does not mean that you should be unprepared. Hiking is not your regular couch potato’s cup of tea. Aside from your fitness and health, there are several other hiking essentials that you need.
Ed. note: This is a good list, but I would add sunscreen as well.
When it comes to Colorado’s great outdoors, the Mesa County Public Libraries are here to help connect you to local scenic hiking trails at no cost. Bob Kretschman, Public Information Manager of the Mesa County Public Libraries said, “With a library card you can do a lot more than just check out books. This parks pass program lets you actually get out and experience what the state parks have to offer. ”
All you need is your library card, and that’s it. Many different hiking passes are available for checkout including some trails outside of Colorado, like Moab Utah.
“We’ve had parents take their kids out, they check out a backpack and take their kids down to connected lakes or whatever and have a little naturalist field trip for their family,” said Kretschman.
National geographic hiking trail maps are available as well. These maps are durable and water resistant in case of an unexpected rain storm.
“We also offer camera equipment for check out. We offer some point and shoot, Nikon cool pix cameras, we have GoPro check outs. We also have a Canon TSI check out,” said Kretschman. SD memory cards, tripods, camera straps, and binoculars are available as well with certain backpack options.
Kretschman said, “The parks pass and backpack combinations, you can check those out for up to 7 days.”
Colorado hiking trails spring hours are currently in effect, which makes for the perfect opportunity for a hiking excursion that doesn’t involve any payments.
Ed. note: What a great idea. Why aren’t we doing this around the country?
The National Park Service has long encouraged visitors to avoid peak crowds by planning their trips in the spring. And to give you even more impetus, here’s another good reason to visit this month: free admission.
For four days in April, 2017 — April 15, 16, 22 and 23 — the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at the 118 national parks that normally charge visitors. The fee-free days are all part of National Park Week, which is celebrated from April 15 to 23. In total, 10 free days are offered in 2017. After April, the other fee-free days are Aug. 25, Sept. 30, and Nov. 11 and 12.
Entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees are all included in the fee waiver. Other charges, such as those for camping, tours and concessions collected by third parties, are generally not included. Park officials say the fee-free days are designed to make sites accessible to a broader group of people.
But if the dates don’t work for you, there are plenty of other ways to save when visiting any of the 417 areas that make up the parks system. An annual pass to the country’s national parks costs only about $80. And U.S. residents age 62 and older can obtain a lifetime senior pass for only $10. Those with disabilities and members of the military (and military families) can get annual passes for free.
In addition to the highly popular sites such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, there are plenty of lesser-known parks to check out including Congaree in South Carolina, Dry Tortugas in Florida, and North Cascades in Washington.
“Hiking in nature provides an opportunity to tune in — both to our own experience and to the world around us. While it can be easy to get lost in thought or daydreams while hiking, the simple practices of mindfulness can draw us more closely into our experience of the natural world.” — Khalila Archer, program director at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education.
Start by paying attention to each step. Simply notice each time your foot makes contact with the ground. Notice your body, moving through space. Feel the contact of air against your skin. Is it hot, cool, heavy, light? Bring your awareness to your senses.
Touch: What do you feel in your body as you hike?
Smell: What scents do you pick up as you move?
See: What do you notice? Pay attention to both what is below and above you.
Hear: What sounds do you hear?
Allow each sensation to wash over you, not holding on to any one, but gently receiving each as you notice it.
When hiking uphill, take your time. Let your weight come fully into each step before you take the next one, and find a pace that allows your breathing to have a steady rhythm.
Find moments to stop and receive the experience, at the top of a hill, looking over a view, at a junction in the trail or in front of a beautiful flower or tree.
Feel your feet on the ground, your body in space and notice the movement of the environment around you.
After a three-hour hike, you crest the ridge. Before you is the glowing caldera, filled with dancing fountains of lava.
Ethiopia is increasingly making its mark on global tourism. Once just the province of dedicated Peace Corps workers and intrepid backpackers, newly built roads and new hotels are opening it up to the broader tourist market.
But even for the most veteran traveler to Ethiopia — who has already visited the baboon-infested northern highlands, the nearly inaccessible mountain monasteries of the Tigray Region or the rock-cut churches of Lalibela — the Danakil is in a category of its own.
This punishingly hot lowland, set between the mountains of the Tigray Region and the Eritrean Red Sea Coast, is home to immense salt flats that once were a major source of wealth for the medieval Abyssinian Empire, as well as colorful sulfur pools and the Erta Ale — or “smoking mountain” — the most accessible of the region’s volcanoes.
At the summit, your guide leads you down into the plain around the crater and you scramble over lava flows that were just a day or two old. Once, you could camp right next to the crater. In the past year, though, Erta Ale has become quite active. You will only make it within about 70 yards of the bubbling cauldron before the heat keeps you back.
The road less traveled—it’s an old adage, sure, but also advice worth taking when it comes to exploring U.S. national parks. After all, our beloved parks are crowded: Last year, they had a banner year, with 325 million visitors enjoying (sometimes free) time in the great outdoors. Particular park trails, though, are more crowded than others, and in 2016, 24 million people traveled the U.S. National Parks’ “most popular” trails—a more than seven percent increase from 2015.
That’s where GPS wearable TomTom comes in. In an effort to prevent overcrowding (parks like Utah’s Zion National Park are bustling even in the off-season), the company has teamed up with the National Park Foundation to develop curated digital maps of “off-the-beaten-path” trails throughout the national parks.
How to it works: Find a park near you on TomTom’s site, download a map to a lightly-traveled trail, and instead of trekking by roaring waterfalls at Yosemite’s signature Mist Trail in tandem with hordes of others, you may wind up venturing toward the Elizabeth Lake Trail, which climbs up to a puzzle-piece-shaped, glacial lake, bordered by Unicorn Peak.
At Acadia? You’ll bypass a classic path like Beehive, in lieu of quieter Pemetic West Cliff Trail, complete with high dramatic views. Right now, the program is suggesting 23 less-trekked park trails around the U.S., but TomTom plans to continue growing its suggestions.
“You never know what you can encounter [while hiking],” said Mike Keckler with Idaho Department of Fish & Game. “That’s one of the things that makes [wilderness] so special.”
While we may want to stop and snap a couple of pictures, Keckler says we should be aware of potential dangers – especially when it comes to mountain lions.
“Always be aware of your surroundings, take the time to look around and just be thinking at all times,” Keckler said. “[Wilderness, particularly in the Western U.S.] is prime mountain lion habitat and we should be aware of that.”
While Keckler says attacks on humans are extremely rare, there are several sightings every year. He says the last thing you should do is run away.
“If you see a mountain lion keep your eye on it,” Keckler said. “Turn around, square up and get big. Yell at it and if you can, throw something at it. When I say get big I mean if you have a coat bring it up over your head and make yourself look big.”
Keckler says once the mountain lion realizes this will be a challenge, it will usually back down. Sometimes Keckler says, the animal is just curious.
“It’s not unusual,” said Keckler. “I’ve heard of people yelling at them and have the cat actually sit down and look at them.”
As for dogs who come along for the hike, Keckler says they should always be on a leash to prevent the dog from chasing after the mountain lion. “You don’t want your dog tangled up with a mountain lion, the dog is not going to come out of that well,” Keckler said.
The main message, Keckler says, is don’t be afraid – be aware.
BY MARJORIE WOODRUFF HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
Taking a hard look at the soft line between acceptable risks and ‘what-were-they-thinking’ risks.
Six: That is the number of times I’ve frantically dashed out of a slot canyon because it started to rain. Once that happened when I was leading a well-advertised Sierra Club hike to promote wilderness with a capital W. We had hiked in four miles to the start of the narrows and set up camp when it started to rain. “Change of plans,” I announced, and hiked everyone back out. Did I get a modicum of flak? Just a bit.
I also have turned around a half-hour from a summit if there was lightning in the distance. This earns me great disdain from those who soldier on, only to return to share selfies showing their hair standing on end and sparks dancing along their pack frames. Called “chicken” much? Oh, yeah. You get used to it.
The intrepid ones get away with it. Usually. They go in — and out — of a narrow slot canyon in the rain. They climb in the lightning. They complete their 20-mile hike with one liter of water when the temperature tops 120. It works. Except when it doesn’t.
Sometimes the flood does come. Sometimes the lightning does strike. Sometimes there is a crevasse that is precariously covered until the weight of one hiker uncovers it, and that hiker tumbles down. Then it is often said, “Well, at least they died doing what they loved.” I am not sure that the last thing going through my mind would be: “Well, it was fun until now.”
Duke Energy got the official go-ahead for a renewable energy project that’s drawing praise from some of its most frequent critics. The “microgrid” system, atop Mount Sterling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, represents Duke’s latest, small foray into linking solar energy to battery storage – a combination that experts say is key for the expansion of renewable energy.
At Mount Sterling, about 40 solar panels could generate up to 10 kilowatts of power, twice what a typical home would need. Energy produced during the day will be enough to power the park’s emergency radio tower.
Excess electricity will be stored in a 95-kilowatt-hour, non-toxic zinc-air battery – the same technology often used in hearing aids and heart-monitoring devices. When it’s too dark or cloudy for solar panels to work, the battery will supply the tower.
The “microgrid” system is entirely self-sufficient, allowing the removal of power lines that currently connect the radio tower to Duke’s electric grid.
“They did the numbers and found it was less costly to build, versus replacing four miles of transmission line up a rugged terrain,” said Jack Floyd, an engineer with the North Carolina Public Staff, the state-sanctioned ratepayer advocate.
Removing the transmission lines also restores 13 acres of parkland on Mount Sterling, named when early settlers mistook lead for silver in the nearby Pigeon River. It’s considered one of the Smokies’ most historic spots.
“Mount Sterling is a very popular place to go,” said Julie Mayfield, co-director of Asheville-based Mountain True, which advocates on a range of environmental issues in the region. “When you’re deep in the Smokies and you’re hiking, not having transmission lines is going to be a real benefit.”