Devil’s Slide, the mountainous stretch of California coastline between Pacifica and Montara, is a graveyard of transportation infrastructure. The Tom Lantos tunnels, opened last year to carry Highway 1 through the area, are at least the fifth attempt since the 19th century to build a stable north-south route through the steep, landslide-prone cliffs, and that’s not even counting the bankrupt railroad and the planned but never-built freeway. The persistent difficulty faced by road-builders is, however, a boon to hikers and bicyclists. The old routes, which proved impractical for motorized traffic, have been converted to hiking and biking trails.
The newest old route opened recently as the Devil’s Slide Trail, the 1.3-mile stretch of highway bypassed by the tunnels. San Mateo County spent nearly a year transforming the highway into a trail, restriping the road with designated bicycle and pedestrian lanes and building entrances, parking lots, and restrooms at each end.
The natural beauty of the area is astonishing. The trail alternates between narrow defiles and wide-open views of the ocean. The view will be familiar to anyone who took Highway 1 before the tunnels opened, but being there on a bike or on foot, rather than in a car completely transforms one’s experience of the Slide. Now that the route is a trail, you can actually stop and admire the waves crashing on the rocks and the towering green hills just inland, listen to the sea birds perched on the rocks offshore, and smell the salt air.
The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth once penned a sonnet titled “The World Is Too Much with Us.”
As an eyewitness to the First Industrial Revolution, Wordsworth believed the advancement of machines and materialism upon humanity would cause men and women to lose their powers as they distanced themselves from nature. By “getting and spending,” he stated, “we have given our hearts away” and have become “out of tune.”
Two hundred fifty years later, the environmentalist Edward Abbey expressed a similar perspective.
Said Abbey: “One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. … Save half of your lives for pleasure and adventure. … Get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests … climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive.”
Those who call Utah home are richly fortunate to consider the grand recreational spaces afforded to our respectful use. Ranging from its high-elevation alpine lakes, meadows and woodlands to its low-lying red sand deserts, Utah possesses over nine million acres of National Forests. Additionally, Utah is home to five National Parks, the third most of any state.
The word Chadar means sheet, and it refers to the sheet of snow and ice on the Zanskar River, a tributary of the Indus River in northern India.
Trekking the Chadar is only possible during a two-month window in the heart of the Himalayan winter. It is a rugged and dangerous path, not along jagged mountains, but through them on a river turned to ice. For centuries, this ice way has been the only winter trade route that connects the remote villages of the Zanskar region to Leh, the bustling trade center that connects the region to the world at large.
The primary exports of this region have historically been textiles, yak butter and salt. But Leh is also the destination for acquiring education, medical treatment and any other goods and services not readily available in a mountain village.
The newest economic opportunity to enter into the Chadar equation is tourism. Only in recent years have trekking and adventure companies offered tours that range from a couple of days on the ice to multiweek expeditions that include staying in one of the villages.
But this is also a time of year when there are few tourists willing to put out the expense for a trip to brave the cold, which makes for a special time for those who do to visit local monasteries. It can feel rather surreal, gasping for thin, freezing air in the bright Ladakhi sun while listening to Buddhist horns and watching traditional dances.
Hiking is a sport accessible to a vast demographic because you can choose your terrain, hills, tracks, flats and mountains. Yet the needs of hikers are the same no matter what their level and plan. Hikers need to make sure the following parts of the body are clear, open and strong:
Ankles: Flexible ankles will help hikers have more power to push onward with ease.
Glutes: The key muscle of forceful extension. For the most part, hiking isn’t straightforward. The muscles that you would use for climbing stairs need to be in tip-top shape.
Spine: We often ignore the spine, but it’s so important. A hiker’s posture can start to round forward, collapsing the anterior spine and inhibiting organ function and breathing. It can also overstretch the posterior spine, taxing the back.
Neck: In alignment with the needs and duty of the spine, pay attention to the neck and keep it in proper placement. Better breathing and posture will follow.
Legs: Legs must be in shape to tackle even the simplest hikes, so focus on opening the hips to allow the legs to do what they need to.
Check out these poses to improve gate and posture on your hikes. And as always, consult a doctor before you begin any new exercise program.
Where the Pacific Crest Trail winds through Crater Lake National Park, stretches of it seem to belie the majesty and beauty of Oregon’s only national park. Several miles of the PCT follow old fire-fighting roads, which makes for a less-than-wonderful hiking experience while also causing erosion headaches for park officials.
There are stretches along fire roads that are less-aesthetic,” says Ian Nelson, regional coordinator for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “Doing something about that is definitely on my list for this year.”
Nelson and park officials will look at possibly rerouting the PCT off those roads as part of a new effort to craft a plan guiding the park’s trail management for a decade or longer. The National Park Service is in the early stages of drafting its first-ever Trail Management Plan for Crater Lake, outlining ways to integrate how the park service deals with the nearly 100 miles of trails within the 183,224-acre park.
Possibilities include trail monitoring to find out where traffic is heavy and where it is light, adding new trails or decommissioning old ones, says Scott Burch, the park’s management assistant overseeing the plan’s creation. The plan will also look at creating more connectivity between trails, all with the idea that the park has more underfoot than blue water, clean air and the story of Mount Mazama.
The Molalla River Trail System is loaded with so many trails that one could visit it several times and never repeat a hike or ride. There are dozens of loop options to customize your own adventure.
It is located 12 miles southeast of Molalla, OR in the Molalla River Recreation Area, which is managed by the BLM. The trails are open to equestrians, mountain bike riders and hikers.
This trail system is a combination of over 20 miles of single-track trail and old-forest roads. Nineteen individually named trails spiderweb their way through more than 9 miles of the Molalla River Valley in the western foothills to the Cascade Mountain Range. Each trail is marked with its name, distance and difficulty.
With its warm days and wildflowers in bloom, springtime is ideal for touring the Palm Springs, CA Coachella Valley’s diverse ecosystems on foot.
The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is truly seasonal. Serving as a transitional zone between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, it offers visitors a rich landscape suggestive of New Mexico hill country. An explosion of cottonwoods, red willows, cattails, bulrushes, and other riparian species contrasts sharply with the barren desert landscape nearby. In fall, the yellow cottonwoods scent the air with the musty odor of approaching winter, whereas in spring, vibrant, crisp shades of green re-emerge to color the canyon once again.
The preserve is a favorite escape — its clear, cool morning air complementing majestic San Gorgonio Peak to the west, while the mountains slope down from on high with their verdant forests. Spring is the most inviting of seasons, as more than 250 species of birds are found in the canyon. So different is this area from the nearby lower deserts that in just a few miles visitors have traveled back both in time and in place, refreshed by the brilliant foliage and colors, odors, flowing water, and wildlife.
Flying over from 11,000m Austrailia’s Red Center seems monotonously flat and, well, desert-like. Things are very different at ground level where you encounter a magnificently corrugated landscape: parallel ridges of buckled granite run to the north and south, stretching away along east-west fault lines to a vanishing point. The rocks are an intensely rusted colour: the more iron, the redder it becomes. The deadwood takes on a metallic cobalt hue.
The climb is the second part of a three-day hiking tour of the Larapinta Trail, which runs for 223km from Alice Springs over the West MacDonnell Ranges. You can walk the entire stretch in 12 days, or take a condensed, guided version of the trail.
The name “Larapinta” comes from the language of the Western Arrernte people – Lhere-pirnte means “salty river” and is the old name for the Finke River, one of the oldest river systems in the world. Red river gums stand in lean-to poses, clinging to life. There clearly hasn’t been water here for some time.
The Larapinta Trail has ancient echoes, but it’s a new walk, one of seven treks rebranded as The Great Walks of Australia.
From Alice Springs you make your way to Simpsons Gap, the first of several delightful gorges and chasms, caused by weaknesses in the quartzite of the MacDonnell Ranges. Bathed in a sunlight that transforms the rocks into dizzying shades of red and ochre, almost beyond description, they are miniature versions of Petra, without the crowds. At Simpsons Gap there are peregrine falcons, while black-footed rock wallabies scoot about on the mountainside.
Nepal intends to distribute free mobile SIM cards to trekkers traveling alone to remote corners of the country, to address safety concerns and aid any rescue efforts after a spate of missing hikers, including a young Australian man.
Tens of thousands of independent trekkers arrive in the Himalayan nation every year, with the majority traveling through the scenic Annapurna, Langtang and Khumbu regions.
Recent reports about missing hikers prompted the government to launch the new initiative, which will see officials distribute mandatory SIM cards to all solo trekkers when they apply for required entry permits.
“We hope to start distributing free SIM cards within a month,” said Sharad Pradhan, spokesman of the national Nepal Tourism Board. “The cards will allow us to trace the location of missing trekkers, so we can get them help in a timely fashion,” Pradhan said.
He said plans were also underway to develop an easy to recall emergency number that stranded travelers could contact in case they needed urgent help.
Eden Valley Enterprises, WGTE/PBS and FilmAffects are making a documentary about record-setting Appalachian Trail Hiker Grandma Emma Gatewood who became the first woman to solo thru-hike the 2,050-mile AT in 1955 after raising 11 children and surviving domestic abuse. Recently, they have been awarded a $15,000 challenge grant from the Ohio History Fund and a $1,000 grant from the Staples Foundation’s “Two Million & Change” program for this project.
Though Emma’s place in Appalachian Trail history is clearly established, and serious hikers are aware of her accomplishments (including TWO additional trips she made later), most people are not aware of the whole story, or that she later went on to hike the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail, or that she was instrumental in developing Ohio’s Buckeye Trail. A firm believer in exercise, by the time Emma died in 1973 at the age of 85, she gained both local and national notoriety and had hiked more than 10,000 miles.
Emma was very involved in conservation all her life. She spent most of her life on a farm and taught her children to respect nature and its resources. She also believed in making do with what you have. Emma knew how to live off the land and this skill was one of the reasons she was able to complete three AT hikes alone. (For complete information about Emma, her achievements and this project, please visit the Eden Valley Enterprises Emma Gatewood feature.
This documentary, which will be broadcast and distributed nationally by WGTE/PBS, is the final part of a large project spotlighting Emma’s life that includes: a completed storytelling program (with a companion E-book and DVD) and a one-act play.
For more information about the project, to arrange for a presentation of the storytelling program or the play or to make a tax-deductible donation toward the documentary, contact Bette Lou Higgins.
In the meantime, enjoy this trailer from the documentary:
The Cradle of Forestry in America historic site near Brevard, NC will begin the 2014 season on April 12 with living history interpreters on site, new exhibits and an art exhibit.
This season opens with several new exhibits in the Forest Discovery Center. Changing Climate, Changing Forests interprets climate change as it relates to forests and what Southern Research Station scientists are learning. Fire in the Forest traces fire’s use as a tool from American Indians to today’s land managers. Visitors will experience a new firefighting helicopter “ride” and can peer into a live amphibian habitat in the exhibit hall. An art exhibit, Painting Western North Carolina by the Mixed Nuts plein aire (outdoor painters) artists, will be on display through the end of May along the Cradle’s Gallery in the Woods.
Outdoors visitors will see the Cradle of Forestry’s continuing efforts to demonstrate native landscaping that sustains the interdependence between pollinators and plants.
The Cradle of Forestry will be open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., from April 12 – November 9. At various times during the season, living history volunteers will demonstrate wood carving, fiber arts, blacksmithing, and making candles, corn husk dolls, and brooms. The Giving Tree Gift Shop at the Cradle offers many of their creations as well as forest related books, maps, gifts and snacks. Hobnob at the Cradle offers a casual Appalachian gourmet experience and is open for lunch on weekends only in April and 7 days a week beginning May 1.
A full schedule of events is planned in 2014 including Salamander Saturday May 24, the Songcatchers Music Series Sunday afternoons in July, and Forest Festival Day October 4. Visit www.cradleofforestry.com for details and updates.
Not only is Bako compact, it’s easy to explore. A system of 16 colour-coded walking trails offers full day jungle hikes to gentle strolls. The circular Lintang trail passes through all of Bako’s vegetation types from dipterocarp forest, scrub-like padang, swamp forest, mangroves and delicate cliff vegetation.
The Telok Delima and Telok Paku trails are the best vantage. The park is a treasure chest of flora and fauna. With its rainforest, abundant wildlife, jungle streams, waterfalls, exotic plant life, secluded beaches and trekking trails, Bako offers visitors an excellent introduction to the rainforests of Borneo.
The proboscis monkey, only found in Borneo, may be the star of the wildlife show but it has a supporting cast of long-tailed macaque monkeys, usually patrolling the park headquarters, silvered leaf monkeys, monitor lizards and squirrels.
Bird watchers are spoiled for choice. More than 150 species have been recorded at Bako, including some rare varieties. The wildlife is most active around dusk and dawn, so an overnight stay is recommended if you want to get as many snapshots of the park’s inhabitants as possible.
Swimming, beach combing at low tide and sunset watching are popular activities along the sandy bays of the Park.
The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a prescribed burn in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, on Thursday, March 27, 2014. The agency will conduct the 2,365-acre burn off of Old State Route 105 (Kistler Memorial Highway) in the Dobson Knob area of Burke County.
The Forest Service is conducting the two-day burn as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project, a 10-year project designed to restore 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District. The project is restoring fire-adapted ecosystems by enhancing conditions for a variety of native plants and wildlife, controlling non-native species and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids.
The Old 105 Rd. will be closed from Wiseman’s View in the north to the last private residence to the south. The 106 road (Dobson Knob) will be closed as well. The Mountains to the Sea Trail will be closed from the foot bridge over the North Fork of the Catawba River to the Pinnacle. The Over Mountain Victory Trail will be closed as well between Old 105 and Old Linville Road.
The safety of the public and firefighters is the highest priority during a prescribed burn. The public is asked to heed signs posted at trailheads and roads and to stay away from burn areas and closed roads and trails. A helicopter will assist in conducting the prescribed burn.
The Nature Conservancy, NC Department of Transportation and the NC Forest Service are assisting in the prescribed burn.
Appalachian Trail hikers can get a free breakfast in Franklin through April 11. First Baptist Church in Franklin has offered this four-week period of “trail magic” for eight years, last year feeding 595 hikers from 44 states and seven countries.
In addition to breakfast, hikers can have their picture taken at the church and mailed to a friend or loved one, along with a note from the hiker. Meals are served from 7 to 8 a.m. daily with a free shuttle picking hikers up from the Budget and Sapphire inns.
Emma Gatewood found her purpose in walking. In her case, it didn’t manifest in furious sneaker-lapping around the local mall. (There weren’t malls in her day.) She had something more epic in mind. At 67, a fully enfranchised mother and grandmother, she decided to hike the 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail alone and keep it secret.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ben Montgomery’s new book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, tells the story of her 1955 journey from Georgia to Maine on the then little known trail. She was serious about the secrecy and left home without her grown children knowing. But reporters heard rumors of this grandma in sneakers and newspaper stories followed in her wake.
The first question was always “Why?” Emma Gatewood had a different answer every time she was asked. It was done on a whim, or, with her children gone, why not take a walk? Or, she told some of the reporters, it was just something she always wanted to do.
But maybe it was because the walk gave her purpose.
The hills are popping with poppies! Precious late-winter rains turned Lamorinda, CA green, at least for a little while, as spring arrives in full bloom. If you’re in the mood to take it all in you’ll be glad to know that taking a hike just got easier, or rather, more informative, thanks to Lafayette’s trail maps project.
Looking to avoid steep hills? Then these new and improved maps are your friends – that crucial information, along with trail length, surface, terrain and parking information is now a click away via the city’s website; printed maps are available at the Parks and Recreation office at the Lafayette Community Center and other locations.
Updated trail maps range from the challenging, yet scenic, Walter Costa Trail (a steep, more than two-mile trek) to the much more moderate Silver Springs Trail to the flat, one-mile Hidden Oaks Trail. Both the rigorous Rim and lower trail maps of the Lafayette Reservoir, along with the East Bay Regional Park District’s map of the Lafayette-Moraga Trail, can also be found on the website.
Cathy Shill and her small crew of guides at the Hole Hiking Experience usher thousands of people through the Jackson Hole, WY wilderness each year. The business has been good to Shill, allowing the biologist to do what she has loved since 1989, when she founded the company.
She has kept the enterprise relatively small and local, but she recently expanded it halfway across the world to the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Through a partnership with a naturalist there, Shill is offering guided treks to mountains and monasteries under the moniker Bhutan Himalayan Experience.
The country, with a population near 750,000, is considered a modern-day Shangri-La by some. The capital city, Thimpu, doesn’t have a single traffic light.
It may sound like a strange place to grow a business, but for Shill it’s not about expansion. It’s about connecting people with the natural world and broadening their horizons.
Would the Devil’s Glen make a good present for the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act?
The 16,000-acre strip of Dearborn River canyon at the southern edge of the Rocky Mountain Front makes an awesome postcard. Waterfalls and moose tracks line the trail to the Continental Divide. So does a collection of ranch houses and summer camp cabins. The parcel is part of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, currently before Congress. But it got passed over in two previous wilderness designations.
As the nation’s outdoors advocates celebrate half a century of preserving pristine backcountry, Montanans confront 30 years of failing to agree on what they want to protect. Montana has about
6 million acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management territory that might qualify as wilderness. About one-third of that has regularly been proposed for designation since 1983. This year, roughly 400,000 acres might finally come up for a vote.