Writers, photographers, storytellers — gather your lenses, unsheathe your pens — today Maptia 2.0 is launching.
Come and join this global community of creative individuals who love to explore new cultures and new places, who care about the environment, and who believe that thoughtful storytelling can make a tangible, positive impact in the world.
Maptia is a place to publish our most thoughtful and inspiring stories about the world around us. Stories about the places we call home, stories about the places closest to our hearts, stories about the places we have travelled. Stories about lives utterly different from our own, and stories about the people and places who need our help and support to thrive.
Together with our community, we are on a mission to gather an ever-growing, shared record of our diverse lives and experiences from every single place on the planet — one that inspires us to get out there and to make the most of our time on Earth.
Meanderthals is a Maptia founding storyteller, participating in the development of the original Maptia over the previous years. The Meanderthals storytelling page can be found here. With this launch of Maptia 2.0 all the capabilities and opportunities to share are now available to you as well. Why not join this group of passionate storytellers for a quest to gather tales from far-flung corners of the globe?
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to summit Mt. Everest. Their expedition started in Kathmandu, and led them to the village of Jiri; from there they trekked across 100 miles of mountains and jungle
Each year, tens of thousands of people journey into Nepal’s Sagarmāthā National Park to witness Everest Base Camp firsthand. Most fly into the tiny airport of Lukla to begin their journey, but an adventurous few retrace Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic steps from the beginning.
Most people who travel to Everest Base Camp today begin their journey by flying into “the world’s most dangerous airport” in the town of Lukla. From Lukla, it’s just a few days’ hike into the Himalayas along a path that has been neatly cultivated to facilitate thousands of tourists.
Of the tens of thousands of people that travel into Sagarmāthā National Park every year, mere hundreds do so by entering from the adjoining Gaurishankar Conservation Area, where Hillary’s journey began. The 65 miles from Jiri to Lukla constantly change with the elevation. The area down low is like the Costa Rican rain forest — vegetation is lush and green; turquoise rivers rage through every valley. Up high reminded is like areas in California — massive rock faces littered with pine trees; ridgeline after ridgeline filling the sky.
One of the longest hiking routes along the coast of Maine can be found within the densely populated boundaries of Bath. There the Whiskeag Trail traverses three conservation preserves and several municipally owned properties on its five-mile journey through the wooded outskirts of town, much of it along Whiskeag Creek.
The trail is a project of Bath Trails, itself a collaboration of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, the city of Bath, Healthy Maine Partnerships, local schools, mountain bikers, landowners and citizens.
Bath Trails worked for four years to establish a formal trail corridor and create continuous trail connections with adequate signage. Using 200 acres of Kennebec Estuary Land Trust holdings at Thorne Head, Sewall Woods and Whiskeag Creek, plus 450 acres of city land, the Whiskeag Trail was finally opened to the public in 2010.
Close to downtown yet with a backcountry feel along much of its length, the Whiskeag Trail not only offers fine hiking but opportunities for running, mountain biking, birding and other low-impact outdoor recreation, all the while protecting important wetland wildlife habitat that is home to several threatened species of plants and fish. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular on the trail in winter.
The crew at LeConte Lodge are connoisseurs of sky gazing. Whether it’s an orange sunset blazing across the horizon, an August meteor shower, or the International Space Station orbiting at night, they’ve seen it all.
Two weeks ago, the crew and lodge guests were treated to a rare occurrence when a dense layer of clouds settled over the valley at sunset, leaving the skies over Mount LeConte, elevation 6,594 feet, crystal clear.
With Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg buried beneath a sea of clouds, the stars that night twinkled at full strength, unblemished by city lights. Nobody was more thrilled by the nocturnal pageantry than Chris and Allyson Virden, a married couple who have been the site managers of LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2003.
Their last day as managers at LeConte was Tuesday, November 25th when the lodge closed for the winter. They say that after 12 years it’s time to leave the highest overnight lodge east of the Mississippi River for a world with electric lights, indoor plumbing and washing machines.
When LeConte Lodge reopens on March 23 for the 2015 season, the new site manager will be Ruthie Puckett of Decatur, Ala., who worked this past season as a crew member.
Throw a few supplies in a day pack, rendezvous with your nature-loving friends and get yourself to a trailhead for an outdoor adventure everyone will enjoy.
Here are 12 hikes a short distance from 12 major cities that offer excellent trail conditions, diverse landscapes and spectacular views.
Griffith Park, Los Angeles’s largest and most-visited green space, has 53 miles of trails snaking through it, but a proposed new project would increase that number considerably. The plan is to take about 180 acres of untouched, LADWP-owned land near Universal City (known as the Upper Hollywood Reservoir) and open it up to the public with hiking trails on about 11 miles, plus a parking lot.
Opening paths on the land would increase connectivity to Cahuenga Peak, in addition to giving Angelenos more land to hike. Cahuenga is that peak next to the Hollywood Sign that the city bought at great expense a few years ago.
The project’s well on its way—the LA Department of Recreation and Parks gave the go-ahead to a license agreement that will allow it to lease the land from LADWP for 20 years.
But all the enthusiasm does not mean this is an unequivocally good plan—the organization Friends of Griffith Park says that opening the land to the public may have some unintended effects on the area’s wildlife, possibly driving out animals like deer and mountain lions.
“We were hiking over mountain ranges to get away from all the war,” Pol says. “We were running over mountain ranges while we were being shot at. Landmines were everywhere. We were hiking for our lives, pretty much.”
His family had managed to survive the late 1970s under the Khmer Rouge, the brutal Communist regime that killed more than a quarter of Cambodia’s population. But when war broke out between Cambodia and Vietnam, the Pol family fled on foot to Thailand. Hiking was something you did out of fear and desperation, not for fun.
After nearly a decade shuttling between refugee camps near the Thai border, the family was finally sponsored to come to the United States. They resettled as refugees in Lowell, Massachusetts, which has one of the largest populations of Cambodians outside of Cambodia.
As soon as he finished high school and got his driver’s license, he had the “freedom to go hiking every weekend.” He got his routine down to a science so he could spend every minute of his weekends on Mt. Monadnock and other peaks in New Hampshire and Maine.
“After work on a Friday, I would drive up to the trailhead of the mountain that night,” he says. “I would either sleep in my car at the trailhead, or I would park the car and pitch my tent by the trailhead, so when I woke up that Saturday morning I was just ready to climb that mountain, first thing.”
The mountains have become a cure-all for Pol: “To me, the mountain is my vacation, my doctor, my therapist,” he says. “When I’m happy I go hiking. When I’m sad I go hiking.”
One of the highest forts in the Maharashtra region of India is Salher. As per the common lore, Kalsubai boasts to be the highest peak in the Sahyadri mountains while Salher has the distinction of being the highest fort in the Sahyadris and the second highest peak. About 5,141 feet high, the trek is arduous and takes about three to five hours from the base to the top. As per the ancient scriptures, it is mentioned that this mountain was a place where Lord Parshuram did penance after winning back Earth.
This ancient fort is historically significant as well. Battles took place during the reign of Shivaji here. The fort of Salher was captured by Shivaji in 1671, during his campaign of the Baglan region. The Marathas defeated the Mughal generals Ikhlaas Khan and Bahlol Khan in a battle, which saw tremendous destruction all over. The 120,000 troops of Shivaji lost 10,000.
Once you reach the top, you can see a few temples around the fort. Just further ahead, are two water cisterns and a bit further the Gangasagar Lake comes into view. Next to the lake are the roofless temples of Renuka Devi and Ganesh.
Fjällräven, a Swedish company (the name means “Arctic Fox” in Swedish) started in 1960, was the first to make and distribute the original external frame backpack, along with revolutionizing expedition tent and sleeping bag design in the late 60s and 70s. By applying the now-famous Swedish combination of functionality with elegantly simple and beautiful design to outdoor equipment and apparel, Fjällräven has been the choice of in-the-know outdoor enthusiasts for decades.
The secret behind much of their success is a patented fabric called G-1000. The company uses this fabric on their Keb Gaiter Pant, which may be the best pair of hiking, trekking, camping, fishing, hunting, and general adventuring pants you ever own.
G-1000 is a tightly woven, fairly straightforward blend of cotton and polyester that provides excellent ventilation, durability, and plenty of wind and water resistance. Plus, it doesn’t feel or fit like a plastic garbage bag or stiff Gore-Tex. Another great feature of G-1000 is you can wax it to increase the wind resistance and make it water repellent.
They’re stretchy where they need to be and durable and water repellent everywhere else. The front thigh pockets helped keep our compasses, GPS, wallet, and phone organized — all protected from the elements and easy to access. The pant cuffs hook to your boots to keep scree and water out. They even have a zip-off feature that allows the pants to become shorts. The bottoms morph into great gaiters.
Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on Saturday, December 13th at Weed Patch Mountain to hike the new trails at Town of Lake Lure’s Buffalo Creek Park. This hike is open to both members and non-members and is located just north of Lake Lure.
More than 1,500 acres of Weed Patch Mountain were saved from development when CMLC acquired the tract in 2009. The Town of Lake Lure has since purchased 200 acres for the creation of Buffalo Creek Park and is currently constructing a network of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Hiking distance is 4.0 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. The difficulty of this hike is rated as strenuous.
Space is limited; so sign-up today to reserve your spot.
Click here to sign-up for CMLC’s December hike at Buffalo Creek Park.
After a daylong slog through the suffocating Guatemalan jungle, you emerge before a soaring pyramid in the ghostly ruins of El Tintal, the first stop in the forested realm of the Serpent King.
A slight breeze stirs the air, offering a respite from the heat. You climb the pyramid and watch the forest swallow the sun. Earthen mounds entombing cities lost to time lay scattered below. You are heading for El Mirador, the grandest city of them all, only now beginning to reveal its secrets.
You set off before dawn from Flores (about 300 miles north of Guatemala City), driving four hours to Carmelita, a forlorn village on the edge of the rain forest. From there you would go on foot.
El Mirador, or the Lookout, is considered the cradle of Maya civilization, the birthplace of its language, art, mythology and architecture. It was ruled by the dynasty of Reino Kan, or the Serpent King, flourishing between 600 BC and AD 100.
But unlike the ruins of nearby Tikal, which gets up to 350,000 visitors a year, El Mirador is far more isolated. Many of the 3,000 or so who try the trip annually are defeated by fatigue, illness or weather. Anyone attempting the journey should be reasonably fit.
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), the lead National Partner for management of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) has launched a new Fundraising campaign through Indiegogo titled “The Next 32 Miles” to raise funds to construct a 32 mile non-motorized section of the CDT on the Rio Grande National Forest near Saguache, CO.
“The Next 32 Miles” launched on November 18, 2014 and raised over $10,000 in the first 48 hours of the effort. The Campaign will run through January 2, 2015 and can be found here.
This project would allow the CDTC and partners, including local Youth Corps programs and volunteers, to complete one of the last remaining sections of the CDT in Colorado. When complete, this 32 mile trail section, which co-aligns with the Colorado Trail, will be a highly desirable, primitive back-country hiking experience.
Unlike the PCT and the A.T., the CDT is incomplete, despite being created 36 years ago. The CDT is falling through the cracks, and is facing great difficulties in maintaining what so many have worked so hard to build and is threatened by ever shrinking federal budgets and resources. Because the Trail is unfinished, it is vulnerable to interests incompatible with the vision of the Trail as a remote back-country primitive experience.
There may not be a better way to escape the rainy day blues than a dip into the magic waters of Oregon’s hot springs. Geothermal activity creates pools of relaxing glory that are particularly welcome when the temperatures dip and the rain falls across the mountains.
The hot springs in the Beaver State vary considerably. Some are wild outposts with naked hippies running around, others are pricy retreats and some are little-known secrets.
To keep hot springs an enjoyable experience, it’s important that visitors not trash them. There’s a disturbing history of people acting poorly at hot springs in Oregon and ruining it for everyone else. Remember, while clothing might be optional, acting like a jerk is not. Wait your turn, clean up after yourself and enjoy the soothing waters.
Here’s a round-up of the best hot springs in Western Oregon, including five public destinations and four private resorts:
With year’s end quickly approaching, don’t let it pass by without making the annual “Trek to the Tree” at Kings Canyon National Park to watch as rangers lay a wreath at the bottom of the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
This year’s trek is the 89th annual. It will be held on December 14 from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Sanger District Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the National Park Service, the event will include the Jubilation Singers, Sanger High School Choir, Fresno Tuba Christmas Ensemble, and a non-denominational holiday message. During the ceremony, a National Park Service representative will speak about the General Grant Tree’s role as a national shrine in memory of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served, fought, and died to keep America free. A memorial wreath will be placed at the base of the General Grant Tree.
The ceremony will be held at the General Grant Tree, a quarter-mile walk from an adjacent parking lot. Given limited parking at the grove, a free shuttle service will be available from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center parking area to the Grant Tree Trail.
With an average of ten million visitors each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park experiences many visitors who get lost in the park because of inaccurate Location-Based Services (LBS) or outdated maps. Park-issued maps are available at visitor centers, but many visitors rely on navigation assistance from their mobile phones or other GPS devices. This is a major problem because the map data used by many LBS providers does not reflect authoritative data – causing many visitors to follow poor navigation directions.
When the National Park Service NPMap team announced several initiatives built around OpenStreetMap (OSM), the Smokies quickly saw an opportunity to get accurate maps and data into the hands of an increasingly technologically-savvy public. All National Parks must make their authoritative map data available through the NPS Data Store, but few park visitors possess the knowledge or the software required to manipulate the data or load it onto their personal electronic device. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, is built specifically for non-technical users, and it gives them the ability to edit and interact with the data in a platform of their choosing.
The Smokies update to OSM has been complete for over a year now. Present in the OSM database, available for public use, is what the National Park Service considers essential base data for visitor services: transportation networks, points of interest, and visitor services infrastructure. For example, anyone can consume OSM data from the Smokies and make a map showing the location of visitor centers, ranger stations, campground, and hiking trails – no specialized skills required.
We humans are pretty ritualistic creatures. We crave routine and seek out the familiar. When we start to pass these behaviors down through enough generations, we start calling them traditions. Every culture has its own traditions, including the community that surrounds the Appalachian Trail. Hiker traditions and customs can be hard to understand for those on the outside, but that’s not surprising. Life on the AT is almost the exact opposite of what most people in the U.S. consider “normal” life. We hikers are a quirky group of people, indeed. Sometimes we can’t even explain why we do what we do, but there’s something kind of fantastic about that.
Here is a list of some of the most popular hiker traditions on the Appalachian Trail. It’s true not every hiker participates in them all, but that doesn’t make them any less amazing. Some of the traditions may seem fairly obvious, but for those new to the Appalachian Trail, you may consider partaking in a few of them on your own thru-hike experience.
Ferry Beach State Park in Saco, Maine is a 117-acre gem in Maine’s state park system that features a nice stretch of oceanfront beach, a pleasant network of foot trails and some interesting history.
Long before the advent of roads, a ferry crossing connecting Hills Beach and Camp Ellis at the mouth of the Saco River served early travelers along the beach from as far away as Boston, thus giving Ferry Beach its name.
By combining the park’s trails plus a walk along Ferry Beach with three trails of the Saco Bay Trails system and two short sections of paved road, hikers can enjoy a scenic and ecologically diverse four-mile loop hike known as the Saco Beach Loop.
Ferry Beach State Park is open from April 1 through Oct. 31; that’s when you can start the loop hike from the beach parking lot in the park’s interior. Outside of that period, hikers must begin from the gate at the park entrance on Bayview Road.
By combining the Red Oak, Tupelo, Greenbriar and White Oak trails on your trek through the park, you’ll enjoy easy walking through a mixed forest while visiting a tupelo swamp and a freshwater tarn named Long Pond.
At the University of Chicago, Ginny Too was “the Asian girl with glasses hanging out at the library.” She was neither athletic nor outdoorsy. “It was never part of my upbringing,” she says.
How things have changed. Too, now 34, has climbed three challenging mountains: Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Cotopaxi in Ecuador, and Mount Whitney in California.
More impressive, the “geek” who graduated Phi Beta Kappa has hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail and, for good measure, America’s two other long-distance trails, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Earlier this fall, she was honored for completing the so-called “Triple Crown” by the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West. She is in elite company; only 233 hikers have had the stamina and perseverance to accomplish the 8,000-mile feat.
Her adventures have convinced Too of the importance of taking chances and risks. She has also become more appreciative of her fellow travelers, both on the trail and in life.
“Whenever I saw people on the trail, I would stop and take the time to hear their stories. I came to appreciate the value of interacting with people I may never see again. I try to talk to people more now and to have meaningful conversations.”
Temperatures are dropping, snow is in the forecast and restlessness tugs against the temptation to grab a good book and settle in by the fire. With a few exceptions, most bikes, boats and summer gear are packed away for next year.
Then the email rolls in. “Hey, who wants to do some winter hiking?”
It appears that there are two kinds of winter hiking. One involves multi-day excursions that are borderline tests of survival skills while the other is simply doing what you do in the summer but adapting to winter terrain and conditions.
To get outdoors to hike in the winter requires the same steps as doing so at any other time during the years, just more of them.
Yellowstone, America’s first national park, is one of the USA’s most popular vacation destinations, especially during the summer months. This same park rewards adventurous travelers with a much more intimate experience during the winter when only about five percent of the park’s 3.4 million annual guests choose to visit.
For first-time Yellowstone visitors, winter in the park is like magic. For travelers who have enjoyed Yellowstone only during the spring, summer, or fall, a winter visit is like being in a different park. In addition to smaller crowds, there are few vehicles (only a small portion of the park’s roads are open during winter) and an entirely different array of activities. A snow-covered Yellowstone is truly a wondrous place.
Three major issues of a winter visit to Yellowstone are: 1) how to get there, 2) where to stay, and 3) what to do once you arrive.