With all of the trendy workout classes and pricey boutique fitness studios out there, you might feel the need to get back to basics.
But don’t worry, simple activities can still get you in awesome shape: A recent study in the American Heart Association’s journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that moderate exercise, like walking, and vigorous exercise, like running or spinning, produce similar health benefits.
Humans have been hiking since, well, forever, but the nature-lovers’ activity is about to get a buzz boost from Hollywood, thanks to the upcoming movie “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, an adaptation of the best-selling memoir of the same name. It follows the true story of Cheryl Strayed, who hiked a large chunk the Pacific Crest Trail with absolutely no experience — to inspirational results.
But there’s more to hiking than hippie-dippy moments: Science, experts and hikers agree that the activity provides tried-and-true health benefits, inside and out.
The Black Balsam Road (FR 816) and Black Balsam Trailhead resurfacing project will begin Sept. 2, 2014. The road and trailhead will be closed until early October.
“We’ve received a number of complaints regarding the condition of the road. This project will address the numerous potholes and greatly improve visitor experience,” said a spokesman. “To avoid the highest use times and to be able to meet the requirement of resurfacing the road during warm weather, we are implementing the project just after the Labor Day weekend and before the leaf season begins.”
The road is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 420 just west of Graveyard Fields. It accesses the Black Balsam Trailhead, a major access point for the Art Loeb Trail, Mountains to Sea Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness and Sam’s Knob. Although motorized access to the trailhead will be closed, the trails will remain open.
Questions about the project can be directed to the Pisgah Ranger District at 828-877-3265. The Forest Service will issue a news alert when the road is reopened.
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife says hiking trails near peregrine falcon nesting sites on cliffs across the state have been reopened. That’s because the young falcons that were hatched and raised in the nests are now flying.
Audubon biologist Margaret Fowle says 41 peregrine pairs were spotted on cliffs this spring, 37 pairs nested, and 27 pairs successfully produced an estimated 50 young.
Fowle says two new nesting sites were discovered this year suggesting additional falcon pairs are selecting territories.
About 40 volunteers helped monitor the nests.
Peregrine falcons were once wiped out in Vermont by pesticides that made eggs brittle, but restoration efforts brought the birds back. They were removed from the state’s threatened and endangered species list in 2005.
Simeon Heier decided to do something different his senior year of high school. He’d spent most of his time at Lincoln High in Nebraska going class to class, jumping hurdles, shooting baskets. By his senior year, he was looking for a new challenge.
He found it along the rivers and trails of the Australian Outback, where he traded a backpack filled with textbooks and college-ruled notebooks for one that carried clothes, food and shelter.
He left behind his friends and family to spend 2½ months with kangaroos and macaws, crocodiles and lizards.
Heier’s tests those final months of high school no longer required memorizing chemical compounds and the Bill of Rights. They challenged him, instead, to escape a flash flood that threatened to sweep away his belongings, build a spear and a boomerang and avoid the world’s most poisonous snakes.
It taught him to write letters rather than text. To trade his GPS for a compass. To leave behind Netflix and YouTube and, instead, watch the sun set behind a 50-foot waterfall.
If you’re looking for a hike with incredible wildflowers, go to Shrine Mountain on Vail Pass, Colorado in late July/early August. The wildflowers are incredible. There are fields and fields of flowers.
The hike starts on Shrine Pass, about 2.3 miles from Interstate 70 and the Vail Pass rest area. At the trailhead, you’ll find a large parking lot and bathrooms. Expect to also find lots of vehicles. When we finished our hike at 9:45 a.m. on a Sunday in August, there were more than 40 vehicles filling the parking lot and parked along the nearby road.
From the parking lot, walk the wide, dirt road toward the forest. This road is used for stocking items at the Shrine Mountain Inn – three huts/cabins in the area that are rented out by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.
According to the Forest Service, Shrine Mountain was named Shrine for its excellent view of the Mount of the Holy Cross. “The pass was originally a Ute Indian trail and later used by silver miners and settlers,” the Forest Service says.
The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country, according to the Green Mountain Club, which built the trail from 1910 to 1930 and maintains it to this day. The LT runs up the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains, stretching from Massachusetts to Canada.
While some hikers tackle the trail’s 273 miles all at once, taking three weeks to a month, we did it by sections, in multi-day trips. Its southernmost 100 miles overlap the Appalachian Trail before that more famous footpath veers off to New Hampshire.
The Long Trail is rugged and, in places, quite steep. It can also be very sloppy: Appalachian Trail thru hikers call the Vermont section Vermud. But it’s also beautiful, passing ponds, crossing rivers, cutting through diverse forests and topping mountains with stunning views of the White Mountains to the east and Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west.
Hike the Long Trail and you’ll hit a bit of just about everything.
By Nicholas Kristof for the NY Times
Escaping a grim world of war abroad and inequality at home, I fled with my teenage daughter to the mountains of Oregon to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and commune with more humane creatures. Like bears and cougars.
The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul. We hiked 145 miles, and it was typical backpacking bliss: We were chewed on by mosquitoes, rained on and thundered at, broiled by noonday sun, mocked by a 20-mile stretch of dry trail, and left limping from blisters. The perfect trip!
There are very few things I’ve done just twice in my life, 40 years apart, and one is to backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail across the California/Oregon border. The first time, in 1974, I was a 15-year-old setting off with a pal on a bid to hike across Oregon. We ran into vast snows that covered the trail and gave up. Then I wasn’t quite ripe for the challenge; this year, on the trail with my daughter, I wondered if I might be overripe.
Yet seeing the same mountains, the same creeks, four decades later, was a reminder of how the world changes, and how it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, America has trouble repairing its magnificent trails, so that collapsed bridges and washed-out sections are sometimes left unrepaired. We were rich enough to construct many of these trails during the Great Depression, yet we’re apparently too poor in the 21st century even to sustain them.
The trails are a reminder of our insignificance. We come and go, but nature is forever. It puts us in our place, underscoring that we are not lords of the universe but components of it.
In the same ranks as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest (NW) National Scenic Trail was officially recognized by Congress in 2009. More than 1,200 miles long, the Pacific NW Trail originates near the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park and traverses roads, trails and unmarked countryside through Montana, Idaho and Washington to a terminus at Cape Alava on the Pacific Coast.
“This one is more remote than others,” said Matt McGrath, Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail program manager, about the trail. “People will see a lot of different things along the trail.”
The concept of the trail has been around since 1970 and many people have hiked the trail despite “gray” areas on the map. In areas where no trails exist, a dotted line with the word “cross-country” adorns the map and lets hikers determine their own route to the next known point. The Selkirk Mountains are one area bearing that dotted line.
The ideal location of the trail through the Selkirk Mountains and other “cross-country” sections is being discussed as the U.S. Forest Service works on writing the management plan for the trail. The management plan sets the tone for the next 20 to 30 years, said McGrath.
The National Park Service is closing several hiking trails at Lake Mead National Recreation Area after a rash of heat-related medical emergencies and deaths. The temporary closure order includes the Goldstrike Canyon and White Rock Canyon trails on both sides of the Colorado River downstream from Hoover Dam.
In 2013, the Park Service logged 17 incidents on those trails resulting in 31 patients, five medical transports and one death. So far this year, the same areas have seen 37 incidents involving 35 patients, 13 medical transports and three deaths.
“We have added signs to discourage summer hiking in these remote areas. Unfortunately, these signs are not having the desired effect,” said Patrick Gubbins, deputy superintendent for the recreation area. “People are miscalculating their ability to hike these strenuous trails in the summer, and it’s not only endangering their lives, it’s endangering the lives of other visitors and rescue crews.”
The Goldstrike Canyon trail in Nevada is a strenuous hike requiring bouldering and climbing that leads to the Goldstrike and Nevada hot springs and the Colorado River. The White Rock Canyon area in Arizona has multiple trails leading to Arizona Hot Spring, Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River.
The steep, largely unshaded trails will remain closed at least until Aug. 30.
High above the Hickory Nut Gorge, a crew of college kids was roughing out a mountain trail through thick rhododendron Wednesday when they disturbed a yellow jacket nest under a boulder. Tools were cast aside as the students scattered from the swarm.
Several were stung, but the eight-person crew just let the bees settle down and kept working, moving boulders with steel levers, lopping limbs and breaking rock with sledges. It was all in a day’s work for the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps recruits.
While many of their friends partied at the beach this summer, members of this NCYCC crew were getting back to nature while bolstering their resumes, camping out for five weeks in the gorge and building trail for the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
Modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the NCYCC uses the natural world as a platform for teaching jobs skills, community service and environmental stewardship.
It will take the co-ed crew five weeks to painstakingly construct 1 mile of trail across steep terrain from Little Bearwallow Falls to Wildcat Rock, the second phase of a three-mile connection that will eventually allow hikers and trail runners to travel a 15-mile loop through the upper Hickory Nut Gorge.
Appalachian Trail legend Earl Shaffer is the subject of a new biography, “A Grip on the Mane of Life,” by thru-hiker David Donaldson and Maurice J. Forrester, a long-time activist in the Pennsylvania hiking community. Shaffer, a native of York, became the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in a single season in 1948.
His feat was featured the following year in a National Geographic article on the Appalachian Trail and led eventually to an upsurge in long-distance backpacking in this country. Shaffer’s gear from the 1948 hike, his slides, journal, boots and memorabilia are preserved by the Smithsonian Institution, which featured him in a major exhibit in 2009.
Other artifacts from Shaffer, including a trail shelter he built himself along the Appalachian Trail north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are featured in the Appalachian Trail Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners.
The book’s authors both have ties to Shaffer. Donaldson finished the 1998 thru-hike with Shaffer and spent years researching the book. Forrester served as president of the Keystone Trails Association and is a board member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and a founder of the Appalachian Trail Museum. Forrester knew Shaffer for many years and wrote the foreword for his memoir, “Walking with Spring.”
New York State crews are building a new accessible hiking trail in Kings Park that officials said will accommodate wheelchairs, scooters and strollers, and help deter damaging all-terrain vehicles or people dumping trash.
The trail, to open in mid-August, begins off Meadow Road, south of the Long Island Rail Road tracks and west of Lawrence Road on state land known as the Kings Park Natural Resource Area. It stretches a quarter-mile south and connects to other footpaths.
Made of crushed stone and sand, the trail drops 1 foot in elevation for every 20 feet in length, an easy gradient for wheelchairs, scooters and strollers, workers at the site said.
The Kings Park trail is the second accessible state trail on Long Island, DEC officials said. It joins the Randall Pond trail in Ridge, which opened in 2012.
In addition to providing accessibility, officials said they hope the Kings Park trail will lessen illegal ATV use and dumping, which Fonda said has been an issue for regional forest rangers who have “issued several summons” in the past year.
Few books are more specifically titled than, “Day Hikes Along The Highway 108 Corridor”. There is no question as to what this book is about. This is Kathi Joye’s first book that she has both written and published.
Though seemingly self-explanatory, the book covers a total of seventy-six hiking trails from Knights Ferry to the east side of Sonora Pass in California. Joye classifies each trail in terms of length, duration, elevation, difficulty and whether or not the trail is primitive or well maintained.
Some of the trails listed in the book will take the average hiker less than one hour. However, one of the “day hike” trails is sixteen miles. All of the trails offers a scenic or significant reward such as a view, a lake or a historical destination.
When asked about other hiking trail books, Joye said that there are numerous books that typically feature the same four or five high Sierra trails in Tuolumne County along with hundreds of others outside of the county.
This book is very specific, covering not only trails in the Sierra Nevada (along Highway 108), but lower elevation trails found in Sonora, Jamestown, Chinese Camp and Knights Ferry.
The native Muiscas of the Cundinamarca-Boyaca Plateau consider their home to be the origin of all life. After a long hike to the top of the mountain, it’s easy to see why. The Laguna de Iguaque, situated in the Paramo de Iguaque in the Iguaque National Park, Columbia is among the calmest places in the world.
After a fairly bumpy car ride up a mountain next to the beautiful colonial town of Villa de Leyva, Boyaca, you arrive at the entrance of the national park to an elevation just slightly higher than the capital Bogota (8,850 feet). After paying a fee to hike up to the lagoon, the trek begins.
Little stations are dotted along the path to the lagoon that describe the distance, as well as the local flora and fauna. The stations also recount Muisca legends regarding the lagoon. The first of these stations is a small house situated a short hike up the mountain, but don’t rest yet! the most difficult part of the hike is yet to come.
According to the legend, the goddess Bachue arose from the lake with a child in her arms. Bachue would wait for her child to grow up, until he was old enough to procreate. From there, as the legend states, humanity came into existence. When she grew old, she went back into the lake with her husband/son in the form of two snakes (the sign of wisdom). The stone head of a snake can be observed on the hike up the mountain, formed by the power of Bachue.
At the end of June, outside the tiny California town of Warner Springs, Joe McConaughy took his first shower in days. The state might be suffering from a severe drought, but on the baseball diamond, the sprinklers were going. He wanted to jump in. He had been on the storied Pacific Crest Trail for just three days, but he had already covered more than 100 miles in the desert heat. He watched the sprinklers. Then he went for it.
At the beginning, at least, that was his best moment on the trail, he told his support crew. But it was still early. He had some 2,500 more miles to cover in order to reach Canada—and only 56 more days in which to do it.
This summer, at least six different people set out from the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, all with the same ambitious goal—to set a new record for tracing the trail’s 2,650 or so miles from one U.S. border to the other. As of 2013, the overall record—the fastest known time in which a human being has completed the trail—is 59 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes.
To break that record means hiking or running an average of 45 miles per day, every day, for almost two months.
At the end, there’s no trophy. There’s not even an official record book, or a set of hard-and-fast rules that govern these hikes. There’s just the knowledge that you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do and the recognition of a small community of people who know and care about these incredible athletic achievements.
The goal is a biking and hiking trail that would take you to major cities in the Mid-Atlantic and allow you to explore more than 250 years of American history. You could ride through York and see the reconstructed Colonial Court House, where the Continental Congress met and adopted the Articles of Confederation.
You could meander through the Gettysburg battlefield, the turning point of the Civil War. You could sail past the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital, trek to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. and journey to Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
But the hill the planners must climb could be unforgiving. They must garner support from communities and pull together millions of dollars for construction. They must coordinate support among officials in at least three cities, seven counties, two states and Washington, D.C.
Some of the 33 segments that the 300-mile Grand History Trail would use already exist and are open to the public. But other sections, totaling more than 120 miles, would need to be planned, approved and built. Budgets, in the post-Recession era, remain tight, and land would need to be acquired.
On a warm afternoon in Boulder, Colorado a small group of residents and scientists walked alongside South Boulder Creek. “Today, we are here to talk about our regional air quality,” said Jennelle Freeston, the volunteer coordinator for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks.
The group had gathered as part of an educational effort to teach area residents more about ground level ozone, the most serious air pollutant on the Front Range. Because the area has so much pollution, scientists from NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are currently flying planes to learn more about what causes the pollution and how it moves through the atmosphere.
With low-flying planes likely to capture resident attention, NCAR also seized the opportunity to help them learn — and capture some additional air quality data en route. In collaboration with the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, they created a set of hikes at Boulder Open Space and Rocky Mountain National Park.
In addition to learning about ozone themselves, the hikers were also gathering information to help scientists learn about it. To do this, they carried two different instruments. Freeston and another hiker had a CairClip, a pollution monitor about the size of a 35 mm film canister that measured ozone and the pollutant NO2, attached to their waists.
The other instrument, called an M-Pod, is also wearable. It connects to a smart phone and measures a wide range of pollutants, including ozone and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
South Koreans are weekend warriors. The sport of choice? Hiking. Mountains are everywhere, and most can be climbed in a day. You need only the following prerequisites: a love of nature, multi-course meals packed into Tupperware, several bottles of rice wine and high-end gear.
Hiking has long been a South Korean pastime, but it has become more like a national identity. In a typical month, about 1 in 3 Koreans goes hiking more than once. The mountainous national park north of Seoul attracts more visitors annually than the Grand Canyon.
Part of this passion can be explained by geography. The country is a topographical eggshell mattress, covered with hundreds of steep, climbable peaks.
But it’s the rituals surrounding Korean hiking that define mountain culture here. The pace is brisk, and at the top, big groups spread out on blankets and devour elaborate spreads. They also drink rice wine — sometimes lots of it. Amazingly, the hike down is also brisk.
The views are barely believable: hundreds of miles of uninhabited landscape, unspoilt by humans, but home to an uneven terrain of sheer cliff faces, deep reservoirs and dense forests hiding rarely seen creatures. It’s as if everything as far as the eye can see has been created by set designers whose brief is to create an environment so otherworldly, vast and overwhelming that it couldn’t possibly exist in real life.
This is the Scottish Highlands, specifically the Cairngorms National Park where uncultivated country is in abundance, covering 4,500 sq km. These mountain wilds are also home to five out of six of the highest peaks in Scotland.
Trekking through the Scottish boondocks is risky business. You have to be able to read a map properly and dress appropriately. The climate changes the entire time and when the clouds descend over a mountain top it can be disorienting for even seasoned mountaineers. But that’s the whole point of the wilds: the danger attached to exploring those untamed, uninhabited territories. You’re not going to feel as enriched by nature if you take a coach trip and admire the same panorama with 57 ice cream-eating tourists. To feel a sense of isolation you must literally put in the leg work. Otherwise you might as well browse Google images.
You’re out in the woods, miles from the nearest road on a day hike or perhaps a multiday backpacking excursion. You stop at a gurgling stream or the shore of a lovely pond to refill your water bottles. The water is crystal clear and clean looking, so you dip your bottle in and take a long, much-needed drink. The water tastes just fine so you fill your bottles or bladder and continue down the trail.
Soon after you get home from your hike, however, you start to get a queasy feeling in your stomach, then cramps and even a fever. You begin to wonder if perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to drink that untreated water on the trail. But before you can get too far with that thought you’re headed for the toilet, the first trip of many. Yep, you’ve got Giardia, one of the nasty bugs that afflict hikers who consume bad water, and it’s probably going to take a prescription of the antibiotic Metronidazole to get rid of it. No fun.
“There are a lot of pathogens in the water out there, even in remote, pristine areas,” said Kevin Nadeau, a senior product developer at L.L. Bean in Freeport. “There’s no way to know if the water is pure so you should assume that it’s not.”
Besides the protozoan parasite Giardia, which is readily transmitted by way of the feces of deer, beavers, cattle and other mammals, there are bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, cysts and another particularly bad protozoan known as Cryptosporidium in the Maine backcountry. Viruses in the water are only a concern for trekkers overseas, so you can skip worrying about that one.