The warm weather might be throwing a wrench in some people’s holiday plans to go skiing, but while the snow stays at bay, exploring Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail might not a bad second choice.
The trail stands at a total of 1,200 miles across southern and central Wisconsin and is still growing. It runs through towns across the region, connecting communities with the outdoors. The conditions range from paved pathways to rugged and narrow trails.
“I personally like the Point Beach State Park area over in Manitowoc County. Just the forest there, the hemlocks and the cedars, and the different kinds of wildlife you see there. It’s just amazing its so beautiful,” said outdoors writer Rob Zimmer.
The wildlife on the trail spans a wide spectrum. “Along the trail you could see just about anything. I mean in some sections of the trail you could realistically see wolves or black bears, porcupines… I’ve seen mink and ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys and white tail deer, foxes,” said Zimmer.
The trail itself has largely been accomplished by community efforts. “Just about the entire trail has been put together by volunteers,” he said.
The hiking is a workout, but Hawaii’s Muliwai Trail—a 19 mile, three-day trek along the Big Island’s northern coast—rewards the effort with black-sand beaches, waterfalls and wilderness to call your own.
The payoff comes quickly. Within four minutes of starting an ascent of the steep path at the north end of the Big Island’s Waipio Valley, its mile-long black-sand beach comes into view. on that strand are 60 or so feral horses that live in the valley. From a well-earned perch, you can watch waves break along the shore, framed by 1,000- and 2,000-foot cliffs, while the vividly green valley that stretches 6 miles into the Kohala Mountains looks like a colossal spirulina-and-kale smoothie pouring into the ocean.
Home of Hawaiian royalty until the 1600s (and sometimes called the Valley of the Kings), Waipio was a fertile settlement of a few hundred until a 1946 tsunami drove most of the inhabitants away. Today, only a few dozen farmers and fishermen remain.
The single road down, with its at times 40% incline and deeply rutted bottom, is only open to cars with four-wheel drive, but the valley isn’t completely isolated. So the goal is to go beyond it, climbing the 1,200-foot cliff to its north and then hiking up and down the 12 gulches crisscrossing the Kohala Forest Reserve’s Muliwai Trail until you reach the next valley, Waimanu, which is fronted by its own dazzling beach. No road accesses that destination, so with any luck you would have the whole place to yourself.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy visitor center in 2015 recorded a record-breaking number of hikers passing through its visitor center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Since the release of the movie “A Walk in the Woods” on Sept. 2, the number of visitors at the center has increased more than 50 percent.
While the center is considered the psychological midpoint of the trail, the physical halfway point of the 2,190-mile national scenic trail is in Michaux State Forest, near Pine Grove Forest State Park in Cumberland County, PA. Hikers celebrate with a half-gallon of ice cream at the park concession.
The new AT records as of December:
– 1,385 northbound thru-hikers, from Georgia to Maine, passed through Harpers Ferry, an increase of 9 percent over last year.
– Southbound thru-hikers, who walk from Maine to Georgia, increased by 14 percent to 192.
– Those choosing to walk the entire AT by hop-scotching from section to section increased 139 percent to 291 people.
“These numbers reveal the importance of a proactive stewardship plan that will address the impact of growing numbers of hikers on the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, the ATC’s executive director. “With the help of our partners, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy plans to meet the challenge of ensuring all hikers are able to have a high quality hiking experience.”
January 1, 2016 marks the beginning of the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial celebration, and the seven National Park Service sites in Arkansas will kick off the celebration by launching the Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge.
This is a year-long program that encourages visitors to “Find Your Park” and improve their health and fitness by completing 100 miles of physical activity over the course of the year. Participants may choose to hike, bike, paddle, walk, run, or roll 100 miles in any of the national parks in Arkansas. Visitors who complete 100 miles of activity will receive a certificate and a commemorative patch to recognize their accomplishment, but the real reward will be experiencing the parks and the many benefits of physical recreation.
Buffalo National River Deputy Superintendent Laura Miller encourages visitors of all ages and fitness levels to participate in the Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge. “The National Parks in Arkansas have so much to offer. Visitors can see spectacular views paddling the Buffalo River, take a bicycle tour of President Clinton’s hometown at the Clinton Birthplace Home, hike in the Ouachita Mountains and then relax with a thermal bath at Hot Springs National Park, and see places where history was made from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. There are so many great options in Arkansas, so get out and have fun.”
For more information and to register for the Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge of 2016 go to www.ironranger2016ar.org.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 15, 2015, a rock slide occurred on the southwest facing side of Scotts Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. It is estimated that 25,000 – 30,000 tons of rock fell on Saddle Rock Trail, covering it up to six feet deep.
Additionally, the slide occurred directly under a portion of an upper section of trail, leaving it undercut and supported only by a layer of volcanic ash which could also fail. At this time the Saddle Rock Trail is closed indefinitely while the park assesses the situation and consults an expert(s).
Visitors may walk portions of the trail at the bottom and at the top. Barricades have been placed on the trail approximately .75 mile from the Visitor Center and .25 mile from the summit parking lot at the cement steps to keep people safely away from the slide area. Please do not walk around these barricades. The slide can be viewed from the summit parking lot, the county highway, and the Prairie View Trail.
The Scotts Bluff National Monument visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The summit road remains open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. All Monument trails are open from sunrise until sunset.
Heavy lifting and craftsmanship from a previous era combined to generate significant headway in the restoration of weary trails above Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park this year, work that should make the trails more resilient to hundreds of thousands of feet and weather vagaries of the Rockies.
The ongoing project, funded in large part through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s $17 million Inspiring Journeys campaign, had crews build roughly 1,500 square feet of stony masonry dry-stacked walls, an age-old technique that is as sturdy as it is impressive when you consider the time that goes into picking the right rocks for the right spots.
The focal point of this year’s work was the Inspiration Point Trail, originally hewn out of the landscape by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The restored sections of trail not only reflect the rustic nature of the original CCC trails, but are designed to cope with the Tetons’ weather: smooth, well-engineered channels of rock that serve as water bars are integrated into the stone staircases.
“Granite stones for walls and steps, crushed granite drain rock for structural fill, and fine-grained fill and topping material were hauled via helicopter to as near the point of use as possible. In all, over 500 tons—a million pounds—of imported rock was incorporated into the Inspiration Point trail in 2015,” Foundation officials said. “Locating granite material that blends with the Jenny Lake area is a project requirement. The material used for the Inspiration Point trail was sourced from the Teton Village area (just south of the national park) and multiple sources in Idaho.”
A primitive plank boardwalk, across water redder than rust, is not something to inspire confidence in a hiker, especially an exhausted one. After 3 miles of climbing clay embankments on muddy handholds, descending scores of hand-hewn steps covered with chicken wire for traction and brushing aside the gnarled branches of ohi’a trees on level ground, you scramble to find your footing through Kauai’s Alakai Swamp in Hawaii.
Now, with the goal less than a mile away, you are truly in the bog that you came to see. The boards laid across the Alaka’i Swamp more than three decades ago are rotting away, and where they have fractured or disintegrated, your boots sink into gray mud. Around you is an almost unimaginable wilderness, one which time seems to have forgotten. There are sights of bright red lehua flowers and the hand-shaped leaves of olapa trees, the licorice-like smell of mokihana berries and the pungent, earthy odor of the hapu’u fern.
Moreover, the constant calls of native birds — red-feathered ‘apapane and i’iwi, the lustery green ‘amakihi honeycreeper, the wren-like ‘elepaio and others that have not been heard for decades beyond this swampland — enrapture you with nature’s symphony.
If ever a journey was itself the destination, this is it. The climax is worth the hike. The path finally rises past the swampy turf, re-enters an ohi’a woodland and emerges at a tiny lookout atop the contorted cliffs of Wainiha Pali. From a rustic wooden platform known as Kilohana Lookout, a view extends across the entire north shore of Kaua’i, from Hanalei Bay to rocky Kilauea Point.
Tsali Recreation Area in the Nantahala National Forest is well-known for its mountain biking and equestrian trails, but it can also be a great off-season hiking destination. Four loop trails totaling nearly 40 miles occupy an area along the shores of Fontana Lake, which forms part of the southern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The area (pronounced SAH-lee) is named after a Cherokee man who escaped the removal of 1838 and was executed, along with a son and brother-in-law, when he surrendered so that the rest of his family would be allowed to stay.
With a total of 13.9 miles, two connector trails provide 4.5- and 8-mile options. To avoid conflict between horses and bikes, the trails alternate uses on different days, with two trails being open to bikes and two to horses on any given day. Hikers may use any trail on any day, but it is recommended using a trail designated for horses, as it will probably be less crowded. For the Right Loop from December through April, that’s Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There is a $2 fee per person for trail use.
A third option is to do an out-and-back hike up the County Line Road section, taking the second connector trail and then the Windy Gap Trail to the point, making an approximately 6.5-mile round-trip hike.
Along the way, the trail passes through different areas of the primarily deciduous forest where one or another of a variety of understory plants would predominate. These include hill cane, mountain laurel, American holly, rhododendron and others.
Fontana Lake, with 240 miles of shoreline, is impounded by the tallest dam in the eastern U.S. The water level tends to be lowered significantly during the winter, leaving bare a wide and steep shore.
There is a new travel guidebook describing more than 200 day hiking trails to the must-see wonders of America’s national parks.
“Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks,” by Rob Bignell, covers sights at the 54 most accessible national parks. It was released in early December, 2015.
“Whenever anyone goes to a national park, the first question invariably is ‘What should I see?’ which is quickly followed by ‘How do I see those things?’” Bignell said. “This volume answers those questions by listing each park’s top sights and short trails you can take to reach them.”
For example, Yellowstone National Park offers Old Faithful and other geysers, a massive prismatic hot spring, and because of its wildlife is known as “North America’s Serengeti.” Trails to see each of those and other park standouts, such as a waterfall and a canyon, are described.
“With the trails listed in this volume, you’ll never have to worry about missing waterfalls, inspiring mountain views, wildlife, incredible rock formations, or any of the other top sights at our nation’s great natural treasures,” Bignell said.
This is Bignell’s 17th hiking guidebook, most of which focus on Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Along with the beech trees, mountain wildflowers and ferns on the TRACK Trail at North Carolina’s Elk Knob State Park, visitors will soon discover carefully placed artwork by Appalachian State University students and local artists. The mile-long art-and-nature experience will be inaugurated during First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, 2016.
The artwork was created on sections of stumps of hazardous trees that had to be removed for the new trail. After treatment by the artists using various mediums, the sections are being put back into place, providing visual surprises for hikers.
Ranger Kelly Safley said the idea originated while brainstorming with the Interpretive and Education Council of the state parks system, which includes rangers, exhibit experts and education specialists. The thought of somehow incorporating artwork into a trail reoccurred for Safley as she was trimming the trail of hazardous trees. The TRACK Trail – also known as the Beech Tree Trail – is a perfect candidate as one of 28 in the parks system specially adapted to spark kids’ exploration.
Safley cut the wooden sections from waist-high stumps and gave them to the Student Art League at the university. “Some local area artists wanted to create pieces also, so the concept has grown into a community art project,” she said. “We intend to continue working with ASU and the community to have a stockpile of art and rotate out the pieces, so it is an ever-changing gallery.”
Whale-watch week, Dec. 27-31, is prime time to spot migrating leviathans while stretching your legs on a beautiful shore.
One of the greatest privileges of being in the Pacific Northwest is the knowledge that whales, those largest and most magnificent of mammals, are often seen off the coast. And while winter and spring can bring their share of headaches, those seasons also are some of the best times to spot gray whales as they migrate past the shores.
“I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of them,” said longtime state-park ranger David Newton, looking out at the sea from the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, on Oregon’s central coast. “But when someone comes from the Midwest or something and has never seen a gray whale, to see their reaction is what makes it worthwhile.”
Savvy whale watchers know how to maximize chances for seeing one: Find an outcropping above the water with unobstructed views. Conveniently, many of the best whale-watching spots are also great for hiking, which makes it easy to combine the two.
The week after Christmas is always an official whale-watch week in Oregon (Dec. 27-31, 2015). The state parks’ “Whale Watching Spoken Here” program trains volunteers to answer questions and help folks spot whales at 22 sites along the Oregon coast, as well as at Washington’s Cape Disappointment State Park, in Ilwaco, and in Crescent City, Calif.
SPARtool is a lightweight multi-tool for camping and general outdoor use.
The SPARtool combines the functions of a shovel, axe, saw, hammer, pick, pry bar, and bottle opener. It is 100% manufactured in the USA, and its solid construction from spring tempered 1075 carbon steel and shatterproof Zytel polymer gives it the advantage in simplicity and durability compared to current camp shovels on the market. The SPARtool’s total length is 22″ and it weighs 2.8 lbs.
A common gripe with multi-tools is that many of their mechanisms are awkward and difficult to use, and inferior to a dedicated tool for the job. SPARtool strives to create a design that shifts smoothly and safely between functions, and is comfortable for all its uses.
The SPARtool features a 6″x 8″ shovel head with integrated chopping edge, saw blade, and bottle opener. The 1075 carbon steel and Zytel handle is topped with a flat pry bar, hammer, and 4″ pick that functions as a handle for digging and sawing.
Experienced trekkers are warning United Arab Emirates residents to take appropriate safety precautions when trekking or hiking in the mountains of the UAE and neighbouring Oman.
The issue of mountain safety was starkly highlighted on December 12, 2015 by the death of a 22-year old British national who perished on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s tallest mountain, in Ras Al Khaimah.
In another incident, on August 30 a UAE resident died from heat and dehydration after getting lost while hiking on Wadi Al Sameenah Mountain just across the UAE’s border with Oman.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, Amy Subaey, director of the popular UAE Trekkers group, noted that it is easy to get lost while trekking in the UAE. “Here, it is not a recognised sport. There are no trail signs. There is no cell service. People don’t really understand why you’d go out in these mountains.”
Although Subaey’s warning applies to all mountainous areas of the UAE and Oman, she noted that the notorious “Stairway to Heaven” climbing route near Jebel Jais in RAK is particularly treacherous. In 2012, a British national died after falling during a trek there.
The Keystone Trails Association (KTA), the statewide voice of Pennsylvania’s hikers is offering two winter hikes along the Appalachian Trail in the Palmerton area in January. Both hikes will start at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.
The Appalachian Trail is Pennsylvania’s most well-known trail. It stretches over 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine and is enjoyed by millions of hikers each year.
In the past, this 10 mile section in the vicinity of Lehigh Gap, was maintained by a trail club from Philadelphia. This club has decided to discontinue this maintenance responsibility. KTA would like to become the maintaining club for this area. In order to do this, KTA needs a corps of dedicated local volunteers to help.
Are you interested in finding out more, as well as going on a nice winter hike? Please join in for a hike to explore the section and talk about the opportunity. Feel free to participate with no future obligation.
Chimney Rock State Park just got bigger. The Nature Conservancy recently transferred 536 acres to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, expanding the state park to 6,200 acres.
By connecting existing parcels of state park land, the acquisitions will provide a land base for future trail development and protect high-quality natural areas, conservationists say.
“When we started putting this park together, what we had were a handful of large tracts that were scattered thoughout the Hickory Nut Gap Gorge,” said Charlie Peek, public information officer for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Since 2007, the state has been working with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy and other organizations and trusts to tie the tracts together.
“It’s critical to link up the properties that we already had,” Peek said. “Importance is not always measured by total acreage at this point for Chimney Rock State Park.” Buying the smaller properties like the 536 acres would remove the gaps, Peek said, and secure the park for natural resource management as well as trail and other recreation development projects.
Hiking with your family is a great way to spend time together outside. If you can walk, you can hike, which makes it an ideal activity for family members of all ages and ability levels. But when your idea of a fun hike is different from that of the rest of your family, you can run into some problems. Maybe you enjoy summit hikes that make you work hard for an outstanding view. Your family? Maybe not so much.
Don’t end the day with your mom sitting face down at a restaurant table, too nauseated by altitude sickness to eat.
When choosing a trail for a family hike, make sure you take a variety of factors into account. How in shape is your family? Are you hiking with small children? If you have family visiting from out of town, what is the elevation difference? While there may be a difficult hike you want to check off, it might not be a good fit for the rest of your crew.
Make sure everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into before starting the hike. It’s a good idea to take family members on hikes you’ve already done so you can provide details before and during the excursion. In other words, scout your destination.
Does everyone have the right shoes and layers for the hike you’re about to do? Most importantly, does everyone have water? If your family is visiting from out of town, especially if they’re coming from a lower altitude, you’ll want to make sure that you bring plenty of water to help ward off altitude sickness.
The federal government should create two national recreation areas in Western North Carolina and designate nearly 110,000 acres of national forest land as wilderness, a coalition of more than 30 environmental and outdoor recreation groups says.
The groups released a joint position statement this week calling for the designations to be part of the long-range plan for Nantahala and Pisgah national forests, which take in parts of virtually every county in WNC. The U.S. Forest Service is revising plans for the forests.
All of the recreation and wilderness areas would require approval by Congress, but proponents say getting them included in the forest plan expected to be adopted in 2017 or 2018 would be a vital first step in that process.
Pisgah National Recreation Area would include Mount Pisgah, Looking Glass Falls, Shining Rock Wilderness, Graveyard Fields, the Cradle of Forestry and other scenic areas located on 115,573 acres between Brevard and Waynesville.
Grandfather National Recreation Area would cover 57,400 acres in Avery, Burke, Caldwell and Watauga counties and include upper Wilson Creek, Harper Creek and Lost Cove.
Near the northwestern tip of the Texas Trans-Pecos, some 30 miles east of El Paso, four massive hills of jumbled boulders rise above the desert floor. No doubt this prominent and oddly compelling landmark has had many different names through time. Today it is known as Hueco Tanks. Characterized as an island in the desert, a natural oasis, a spiritual sanctuary, the site has meant many things to many people.
For thousands of years, Native peoples camped here among the hills, drawing on the site’s diverse plant and animal resources. Some stayed longer than others, finding a way to eke out a living in the arid Chihuahuan desert. In earlier times, they came for the rainwater pooled in natural rock basins, or huecos (“whey-coes”). Visitors today marvel at the imagery left by those ancient people.
Roughly 900 years ago, people of the Jornada Mogollon culture built a small village and grew corn and other crops in the soils that accumulated at the base of the rocks. More recently, the site was operated as a cattle ranch, among the first and largest in the region.
Following several recreational developments, the property became a county park, and finally a state park. The site today still remains a special place for many Native American peoples who find a spiritual connection here.
At Hueco Tanks, you can hike, rock climb, bird watch, study nature and history, picnic and stargaze. Visitors can take guided and self-guided tours to view rock imagery.
A team of hikers set off on a 50-day trek from Oman on December 10, 2015 that will take them across the Empty Quarter – the world’s largest sand desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula.
Led by British explorer Mark Evans, the three-man team will retrace the 1,300-kilometre route taken by a British civil servant, Bertram Thomas, in 1930, from Salalah in southern Oman, through Saudi Arabia, to Doha in Qatar.
Despite the threat of warring tribes and a constant struggle to find enough water, Thomas completed the journey in 57 days.
Mr. Evans, 54, and his two Omani colleagues will be accompanied by two vehicles to carry water and provisions, along with a train of four camels that will be stopping at the same watering holes Thomas used 85 years ago to top up their supplies.
“It will be a trip that has its difficulties. We’re walking across one of the least inhabited places on earth,” Mr Evans said as he prepared to set off.
But he said the team would count on the same kind of hospitality that Thomas experienced on the original journey. “The openness and the warmth and the friendship is the same as it was 85 years ago,” Mr. Evans said.
Are you finding it difficult to get motivated about exercise? Does sweating at the gym seem less than appealing? Then hiking is your solution. People who hike on a regular basis enjoy better overall health, markedly less stress and are more energetic in general.
If you maintain a regular hiking program you’ll not only feel great when you hit the trail but you’ll enjoy optimum fitness. The better your condition, the more you’ll enjoy the hiking experience. No matter whether you’ve considered dabbling in the world of hiking, or if you’re an avid hiker who frequently takes a step back to appreciate the world around you, you can appreciate the health benefits of hiking.
New studies show that walking or hiking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut a person’s risk of stroke in half. Walking conditions the heart and is an excellent way to get outdoors and may help you live longer. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, including hiking at your personal fitness level, is safe for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).