With determination and careful planning, the Columbia River Gorge is set to become a worldwide hiking destination that could give a big economic boost to businesses in Gorge communities.
Trails that take tourists through meadows bursting with wildflowers and paths that give hikers a view of the Columbia River valley could even pass through a vineyard, where visitors could sample local wines. After a long day of hiking, tourists could trek down for dinner at one of the towns along the Gorge and spend the night at a bed and breakfast.
That’s the pitch “Gorge Towns to Trails” project manager Renee Tkach, of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, gave to members of the Chinook Trail Association on January 26th during the association’s annual meeting in Vancouver.
A system of trails that connect to riverfront towns would provide “not a backcountry experience, (but) more of a front country experience,” Tkach said, noting that just a few years ago, National Geographic magazine ranked the Gorge the sixth best place to visit in the world. “We’re on the map. Visitors are coming, and they’re looking for these experiences.”
The Chinook Trail Association’s goal to create one big 300-mile hiking loop around the Gorge goes hand-in-hand with that mission.
A five-year-old boy from Long Island became the youngest-ever hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail on January 24th when he and his family reached Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia after a months-long trek.
Christian Thomas, also known as Buddy Backpacker, started the 2,180 mile trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia, on April 27. Despite a hiccup caused by the government shutdown, Buddy managed to finish his continent traversing feat in less than a year.
Buddy had travel companions in his parents Dion Pagonis and Andrea Rego, who gave up life behind a desk to give the five-year-old a taste of adventure.
Through frigid temperatures, a government shutdown and even a hurricane, the family beat all odds and completed the trail where they started it – in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
‘It’s official,’ read the heart-warming post on the official Buddy Packpacker website. They have finished every mile and they are now thru hikers!’
One of the great things about living in the Central California Valley is the easy access to one of the great mountain ranges of the world, the Sierra Nevada, and its beautiful forests. Unfortunately, through no fault of anyone in the Valley, that access is being threatened. There has been a dramatic shift in the condition of the forests. The problems are twofold: lack of funding and lack of personnel.
The problem is acute in the Sequoia National Forest, most easily accessed from Bakersfield or Porterville. It has no forest rangers. Don’t think of “ranger” like others, who count anyone wearing a Forest Service uniform as a ranger. Instead, this is the absence of the traditional “ranger-naturalist,” who spends his or her time tromping the trails.
These are the rangers who interact with people in the backcountry, protect our resources on the ground, maintain the structures related to trails, check permits and help people in trouble. Such people are gone now. This has translated into a slow but steady degradation of the forest, and the rise of destructive visitor behavior, such as graffiti on trees or the creation of fires when conditions are dangerous.
Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks attract millions of visitors each year, and at the peak of summer vacation season, it can seem like all of them are there at once. But in the dead of winter, these iconic Southern Utah attractions take on a downright sleepy feel.
January and February are the slowest months by far at both parks. You can easily find yourself alone on even the most popular trails. And with a little effort and some extra gear, you can push out into areas where you might not see another soul for hours.
There are miles more of ungroomed trails suitable for cross-country skiing inside Bryce Canyon National Park. A good choice is the relatively flat, 1-mile road leading out to the canyon overlook at Fairyland Point — a perfect entry point for those who don’t spend a lot of time on cross-country skis or snowshoes but still want their trek through the white woods to pay off at the end.
Just east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on the east side of Zion National Park, which carries Route 9 through more than a mile of sheer canyon wall, is the half-mile Canyon Overlook Trail rising from the parking lot on stairs cut into sandstone. Then it hugs the cliff wall as it winds through a shallow cavern and out to a ledge overlooking the canyon and the towering stone sentinels that guard it.
Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii sent “cease and desist” requests this week to about 25 bloggers who promote hiking trails on the estate’s private property, asking them to remove any mentions of their properties. The landowner installed a wrought-iron fence and gate at the entrance to its popular Mariner’s Ridge trail in Hawaii Kai late last year.
On Jan. 22, hiking blogger Kenji Saito received an email from Kamehameha Schools, which owns the trail, asking him to immediately remove mentions of the Mariner’s Ridge and Kamehame Ridge trails, which Kamehameha also owns.
Saito has been blogging about various hiking trails for about three years, he said. A post from 2010 details hikes on Mariner’s Ridge, with a half dozen photos and descriptions.
“We ask that you consider helping us prevent criminal trespassing on our private properties, and instead responsibly promote hikes that are safe and open to the public.” wrote Kekoa Paulsen, Kamehameha’s community relations director in the email to Saito and other websites or bloggers that promote hikes on the estate’s land.
The ridge lands “have never been open to the public,” Paulsen said, noting that thousands of people have hiked there anyway for years. “Our intent is to manage access to these sites so we can reduce the erosion and further degradation of these conservation lands caused by years of unauthorized and increasing foot traffic.”
The landowner allows access to the Mariner’s Ridge trail through the Sierra Club and the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club for supervised hikes at specific times.
Colorado Trail users are often surprised when they emerge from heavily forested sections of trail along the Continental Divide and descend into the Cochetopa Hills, miles of rolling grasslands in southwest Colorado where cattle and sheep outnumber humans by a fair measure.
Although the gentler going and change of scenery provide a welcome relief to many who have hiked, biked or ridden for days over the trail’s rugged terrain, many are disappointed to find the single-track trail ends as the CT moves on to logging, jeep and ranch roads for the next several miles.
Add to that the lack of reliable water sources for some 20 miles and it’s little wonder that this section of the CT, which shares the tread with the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST), is also one of the least popular.
That soon could change, however.
Efforts to reroute the CT/CDNST between Lujan Pass and the La Garita Wilderness Area to get it closer to the actual Continental Divide and off this motorized section began six years ago when the U.S. Forest Service responded to entreaties from The Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) and the now-defunct Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA).
With recent favorable decisions by the Forest Service regarding the reroute, including a tentative starting date in 2014, the agency this summer sought help from the Colorado Trail Foundation in reflagging the 30 miles of new trail.
Back in mid-December, Southern Appalachian Highlands Cconservancy protected another tract at Hickory Nut Gap near Bat Cave, NC. This new conservation easement preserves 62 acres adjacent to the Florence Nature Preserve and close to the Drovers Road Scenic Byway. The property will remain privately owned, with permanent protection against future development.
“You may recall SAHC reporting on the three properties we protected at Hickory Nut Gap in December 2013, which totaled 173 acres spanning both sides of the Drovers Road Scenic Byway,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “This year we were able to expand the protection in the Gap by ensuring that the headwaters and tributaries of Ashworth Creek, and the intact forested views from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway, will remain pristine forever.”
Five tributaries of Ashworth Creek flow through the conservation easement property, three of which are headwater streams originating on its wooded slopes. The southern portion of the property also lies within the Audubon Society Chimney Rock-Hickory Nut Gorge Important Bird Area and provides wildlife habitat.
This newly protected tract is adjacent to the Florence Nature Preserve, a popular public recreation area for hikers and mountain bikers that is owned by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Placing a conservation easement on the adjoining 62-acre parcel will help preserve the public’s wilderness experience on the existing trail system at the Florence Nature Preserve.
If you’ve lived in Avon, NY for any length of time, you probably have your own memories of the abandoned steel railroad bridge at the end of Farmers Road. You’ve probably ventured down the narrow dirt road, past the village Department of Public Works, to the old bridge which last saw a train more than 30 years ago.
More people will soon discover the location — about three-tenths of a mile off Route 5&20 — after the dedication of the Erie Attica Trail, a mile-long trail that takes its name from a former railroad and connects the village with the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail. The bridge is the linchpin in the long-developing project.
“This is just a wonderful way to open up the area,” said Mary Lou Marks, an Avon resident for more than 30 years. Marks and her husband John are “walkers,” they said, and the new trail provides “a reason to come. And there’s a sense of familiar history that people can explore.”
The truss bridge, designed by the Pratt brothers, was abandoned in 1979 by Conrail. Harvey Hanson, Dick Ash and Vito Santo had bought the railroad right of way and the bridge that came with it years ago. They donated the land to the Village of Avon, and then the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation took ownership of the bridge because it connects two municipalities.
The Farmers Road bridge is the second bridge that Avon officials have saved from demolition. The first, the five-arch stone bridge on Route 39, has become an iconic structure for the town.
If you are able to tolerate the cold temperatures, winter can be an incredible time of year to take a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visibility soars in the crystal clear air and there are hardly any bugs. That is, except the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid insect that has infested and killed millions of the mightiest trees in the eastern United States.
“This time of year, the hemlock woolly adelgids are awake. They are feeding on the Hemlock needles during the winter time. They actually hibernate during the summer,” said Jesse Webster, a forester who coordinates the GSMNP program to control the hemlock woolly adelgid. “You see what looks like snow on the underside of the hemlock branches on the needles. Each one of those little cotton balls is a female in that woolly mass sucking the carbohydrates out of the tree.”
Hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA) have devastated some of the mightiest trees in the forest since it was first identified in the national park in 2002. The invasive insect from Japan has not only benefited from the absence of natural predators, but also thrived in the relatively mild winters during the last decade.
“When we really saw the adelgid spread so fast across the Southeast was in 2007 and 2008 when we had extreme drought and warm temperatures,” said Webster. “There is a reason these insects have not thrived in places farther north than Vermont and Maine. They cannot withstand prolonged periods of extremely cold temperatures.”
The recent stretch of frigid conditions is finally punching back at the insect that has threatened the very existence of the hemlock.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act and the Southern Appalachian Office of The Wilderness Society in conjunction with other agencies and organizations across the Southeast presents events and activities to celebrate this milestone throughout the year. These include guided hikes and walks in Wilderness Areas, events celebrating the connections between Wilderness and the arts, trail maintenance volunteer opportunities, celebratory gatherings and more.
The list of regional events can be found at www.southeastwilderness50.org and more events will be added throughout the year.
The Wilderness Society is the leading American conservation organization working to protect our nation’s shared wildlands. Its mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places.
Magnetic north has made an unusual and historic shift but how does that affect walkers in Scotland’s hills? For those who navigate Great Britain’s landscape by map and compass there are three norths.
Grid north is the direction of a grid line which is parallel to the central meridian on the National Grid, the reference system on Ordnance Survey maps. True north is the direction of a meridian of longitude, an imaginary circle of the Earth, which converges on the North Pole. Magnetic north is the direction magnetic compasses point to.
It is always shifting, very slowly, influenced by changes in the Earth’s magnetic field which is itself affected by changes to the spinning of the planet’s core.
For the first time in more than 220 years of map making, Ordnance Survey has noted that it lies east, and not west, of grid north for parts of southern Britain.
But how does that affect map reading in Scotland’s hills?
The M’goun massif lies between Morocco’s central plateau and the dunes of the Sahara desert. It is a far cry from the high-energy souks of Marrakesh and from the well-trodden hikes of Jebel Toubkal, the country’s highest mountain. M’goun, by contrast, is empty. This is the place to come for enormous skies and towering rocky bluffs, for Berber nomads, walnut groves, and a soaring sense of freedom. M’goun is wild, remote country where wolves still roam the mountain ridges and vultures drop bones on the flanks.
Morocco’s central plateau is an almost Biblical landscape of verdant oases and fruit-tree groves, wadis lined with date palms and dark red kasbahs, some with soaring minarets, others crumbling like giant termite mounds.
The Berbers—or Imazighen, meaning “free men,” as they call themselves—are the indigenous people of North Africa. A proud, semi-nomadic group, they have successfully resisted invading forces for thousands of years. Some, like the Ait Atta nomads, still migrate throughout the year. The Ait Atta’s ancestral land is the desert plains of the Jebel Sagrho, and they say their love for their homeland is akin to a horse tethered to the Sagrho by a long rope; however far from the plains they wander, they always return.
Prior to the late nineteenth century, few people entered the mountains for pleasure. Devoid of established roads or settlements, the rugged highlands of Los Angeles were relatively inaccessible and undesirous to the general public. Primarily gold miners, loggers, hunters, and pioneering early settlers braved the backcountry to seek profit from wilderness exploits.
After the unprecedented population growth of Los Angeles during the real estate boom of the 1880s, however, recreational use of the mountains exploded in popularity. Like no other time in its history, the isolated sylvan canyons and remote peaks of the mountain range became of great interest to increasingly urban lowland residents. The virtues of wilderness exploration, extolled by writers like John Muir, inspired people to venture beyond the San Gabriels’ “forbidding” facade with an untrammeled enthusiasm.
The uncultivated frontier afforded boundless opportunities for ambitious recreation through a period that stretched into the late 1930s. Families, friends, and numerous outdoor organizations, including Muir’s Sierra Club, flocked to the foothills to hike the expanding system of foot paths, fish rushing canyon streams, picnic, play in the snow, and camp at the myriad of mountain resorts catering to weekend adventurers. According to the L.A. Times, in a typical year such as 1935, “2 million people flocked to the San Gabriels and 140,000 hiked 10 miles or more.”
With peak tourism season just around the corner for Southern Arizona, both locals and visitors can’t resist going for a hike. Two west side trailheads, specifically the parking lots, have become problem areas with several reports of vehicle break-ins.
Pima County is now teaming up with law enforcement to try and crack down on crime in the area.
At the trailheads at 36th Street and Genser, the parking lots are plagued with reports of break-ins and thefts. At the Genser parking lot there is still physical signs of trouble with broken glass from a car window scattered across the pavement.
For the second time in two years, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is taking a stab at greatly enlarging the portion of Olympic National Forest that would receive highest federal protection as a designated wilderness.
Murray and fellow Washington Democrat Rep. Derek Kilmer, of Gig Harbor, on Friday introduced a bill to put logging, dams and other development off-limits on 126,554 acres of federal lands on the Olympic Peninsula.
Currently, 88,002 acres of Olympic National Forest’s 630,000 acres have been declared wilderness areas. The forest surrounds the Olympic National Park.
The legislation also would designate 19 rivers, including the Elwha, and seven major tributaries as wild and scenic, ensuring congressional protection to preserve their flow-flowing nature.
Only Congress can preserve virgin forests and wild rivers permanently from mining, drilling, dam building and other human intervention.
After watching a film in which a man travelled around the world on his motorbike, Welsh journalist Hannah Engelkamp was inspired to go on an odyssey of her own.
The international aspect didn’t really appeal to her, though, and she thought she’d like some company. So it was, then, that on May 27 last year, Miss Engelkamp set off on her own challenge: a six-month, 1,000-mile trek around Wales, with Chico, her newly-acquired donkey.
The pair of them set off from Miss Engelkamp’s home in Aberystwyth early last summer, heading north up the coast and then clockwise the whole way around Wales.
With little more than 29 maps, a video camera, and a couple of panniers with such essentials as hoofpicks and fly repellent, the pair made the countryside their home, camping in fields overnight, and clip-clopping through the countryside by day.
Miss Engelkamp said: ‘Thankfully I met a lot of kind people along the way and many of them let me stay in their living rooms or camp in their back gardens.
North Shore Rescue in British Columbia says installing surveillance cameras at the trailheads of popular hiking routes could help rescue missing people. Spokesman Tim Jones said the idea is simple: Once a search is activated, crews will be able to review the footage to get a better sense of where to look.
In the case of the recent search for 22-year-old British tourist Tom Billings, North Shore Rescue scoured three mountains trying to find him before deciding to focus on the Hanes Valley area between Grouse Mountain and Lynn Headwaters.
“For the Tom Billings search, 1,600 hours was put in by our team in December. That’s a huge, huge volunteer manpower outlay,” Jones said. The official search for Billings was called off on Jan. 4.
District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton said he agrees with the rescue group, and is supporting the proposal to add cameras in some recreation areas on the North Shore. “Normally, you talk about public places having cameras as a result of crime, not because you are trying to track potentially-missing people,” he said. “It’s a novel idea.”
Another hiker told CBC News there might be other factors to take into consideration. “I think if they had cameras at the beginning of the trail, that would probably be fine but, you know, it is a privacy issue,” she said.
So what do you think? Should cameras be installed on popular hiking trails? Use the comments box below to share your thoughts.