Next time you go hiking through the forest keep an eye out for some pretty strangely-shaped trees. These trees are quite unique in that they bend in very unnatural angles. Sure, some trees are just weirdly-shaped, but there’s something special about these bent trees.
Native Americans would bend trees in order to create trail markers that formed an early routing system, which served multiple purposes. From indicating that water and food was nearby, to warning travelers of rough country ahead, these landmarks were important features in navigating the early Americas.
All across the country you can find bent trees that were used by Native American tribes to serve as permanent trail markers. Mountain Stewards have compiled a large database that includes over a thousand bent trees in 39 states. You can help out too. If you happen to run across a bent tree, snap a pic, note its location and shoot it over to Mountain Stewards.
These trees represent an important part of Native American history and many groups are currently working to help protect them.
When you think of hiking, you may envision traversing up and over rolling Appalachian or Rocky Mountains, braving the cold, sleet and snow. But while Florida may be popular for its amusement parks and beaches, there is a side of it off the beaten path that many have yet to discover: the more than 5,000 miles of diverse hiking trails throughout the state.
February marks Florida Hiking Trails Month, established first in 2013, to recognize the importance of hiking trails and encourage people to protect and preserve them. Experts say the prime hiking season in Florida is now, from October through April.
The Florida National Scenic Trail, the largest and most popular trail in Florida, stretches 1,400 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve just north of the Everglades to Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola — equivalent to more than half the length of the Appalachian Trail, which passes through 14 states.
On it, hikers will come across dwarf cypress forests, scrublands, open prairies sprinkled with wildflowers and end on a beachfront, a feature unique among the country’s National Scenic Trails.
Apollo Trifan hiked more than 275 miles last year, but this year it might be hard to top that, as he’s currently learning to walk.
Apollo is 20 months old and hiked all those miles last year with his parents as part of Hike It Baby, a group where moms and dads hit the trails with their newborns. The international group was started in Portland, OR in 2013, and a Vancouver branch was born last year with a hike at Salmon Creek Greenway.
Three women lead hikes throughout Clark County, BC, and the group offers multiple hikes of varying degrees each week. They offer trail hikes and neighborhood strolls, and they offer hikes that are stroller-accessible. The different degrees of difficulty are also helpful as children grow, which Trifan is finding out.
The Vancouver branch varies in size depending on the hike, sometimes with just a couple of families attending and sometimes with as many as 14 families. While most parents bring newborns, they’ve had children as old as 10 join the group on hikes.
When Mary Melton went hiking through the Verdugo Mountains one weekend in January of last year, she was struck by the lack of signs to guide hikers through the trails. The editor-in-chief of Los Angeles magazine was actually scouting the area with her friends and son, who was 9 years old at the time, for the publication’s April hiking issue.
Information available online or on-site detailing where to go and how to get there was scant — they even got lost a couple of times, relying on other hikers for directions.
Late last month, the Glendale Parks and Open Space Foundation, in partnership with the magazine, launched a crowd-funding campaign to make the signage, which is projected to cost $20,000, a reality.
“It’s a way of making people safe, especially safe when there’s an emergency.”
The cost estimate includes the design, fabrication and installation of 35 directional signs and six trail-head signs along the 25 miles of trails and fire roads used for hiking and biking in the Verdugos.
Grueling pretty much sums up the Seven Summit Challenge. Avid hiker Kim Matelski, recently completed the challenge. “It involves hiking the (Phoenix) Valley’s seven urban summits, which is a total of more than 26 miles of trails and a climb of about 6,000 feet. Matelski completed the journey in just 11 hours.
“We were prepared,” Matelski said. “We didn’t just decide to go out that day and do it.”
Not being prepared or knowing your limitations are some of the biggest mistakes people make on the trails.” Matelski said.
The scenery may be stunning but many of the Valley’s hiking hot spots have hidden hazards, such as loose rocks and steep climbs.
“Piestewa is like a big stairmaster you’re just climbing up rocks the entire way. And make sure you have your footing while you’re going down because I’ve seen a lot of people fall.”
Matelski says Camelback Mountain and Two Bit Peak also aren’t for beginners.
Which national park will claim your attention this Presidents Day weekend? All 405 national parks will provide free admission to everyone February 14-16, 2015 to honor our nation’s leaders and their accomplishments.
Visit one of the scores of national parks with a direct connection to a president, including birthplaces, homes, monuments, memorials, and historic sites. One national park, the White House, has been the residence of every United States president except George Washington.
In addition to the 405 national parks, the National Park Service helps communities preserve other presidential sites through programs such as the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks. Keep in mind that only sites in the National Park System have free entrance this weekend.
Only 133 of our country’s 405 national parks usually charge an entrance fee.
Legions of hikers and state “highpointers” have had the vision for years that if you build an overlook on Sassafras Mountain, the curious will come. Now, it looks like the idea for an accessible observation platform straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina border is on its way, thanks to a $350,000 gift to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The department will be able start drawing up plans and moving dirt for building a new observation platform at the summit of Sassafras Mountain, the highest peak in South Carolina.
Work on the platform is expected to begin this summer and take about six months to complete. Other amenities, including restrooms, a picnic area and an upgraded trail to the platform, will require more fund-raising.
Architectural renderings are drawn, modeled partly on the handicap-accessible observation platform at Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina’s Yancey County, about 30 miles northeast of Asheville. Formal plans will go out to bid soon.
Fund-raising for Sassafras Mountain platform continues. For more information, contact Tom Swayngham, DNR Upstate regional wildlife biologist, at [email protected] or 864-654-1671, Ext. 21.
A late winter day in Oklahoma often is a great time to go hiking. There are no bugs or snakes to contend with and if a person dresses properly and plans for the weather, there are plenty of days when the temperature is very comfortable for a hike.
There are a number of trails near Oklahoma City that can provide an enjoyable outdoor experience. Four of the best are the trails at Lake McMurtry, Lake Thunderbird, Sportsman Lake, and Roman Nose State Park. All are within a short drive from Oklahoma City and are good day hiking destinations.
A hiker who picks any of these trails will not be disappointed.
In order to enhance the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) experience for thru-hikers and better manage this natural resource, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in cooperation with its partners, has launched a new voluntary registration system for those attempting to hike the trail in one year.
This registration system, available at the Conservancy website, exists to ease impacts from the increased number of hikers expected after the release of two hiking related films, “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods.”
In recent years, the A.T. thru-hike experience has at peak use times suffered severe overcrowding at the southern end of the trail. Crowding intensifies because hikers tend to start thru-hikes around specific dates, such as March 1, March 17, and especially April 1 and weekends.
Officials said, “Overcrowding puts undue pressure on the finite number of shelters and campsites and on the water, plants and wildlife near these accommodations. When too many people are crammed together at campsites, vegetation is trampled, trash may accumulate and unsanitary conditions can ensue. These issues that arise due to overcrowding are detrimental not only to the A.T. but also to the hiker’s overall experience.”
The Swiss are the inventors and exemplars of “hiking with options.” If you are eager to cut the day short after too many hours in an Alpine rain, you can board the cog railway back to town sooner than you’d planned. If your knees are sore after too many switchbacks up the side of a mountain, just take the gondola down.
Not only are the Alps crisscrossed with well-marked Wanderwegen, or hiking trails, but they’ve also nearly all been conquered by one or more forms of transportation. The Swiss (and French) have dug tunnels, laid track and flown aerial cables to even the most daunting locations.
Europe’s highest-elevation train station is near the top of the Jungfrau, reached through a tunnel more than four miles long through the Eiger and the Monch. Mont Blanc, the Alps’ highest peak, is approached via a two-stage cable-car ride from Chamonix. The conveyances include gondolas and funiculars, cog railways and narrow-gauge trains.
But mostly you are powered by our own two feet.
Curtis Penix, a 46-year-old Michigan native with Kentucky roots, plans to hike the 200-mile trek marked by Daniel Boone almost 250 years ago. Penix will start his 16-day journey on March 10, 2015 at Long Island on the Holston River in Kingsport, TN — the site from which Daniel Boone and his party left in March 1775.
Following ancient Indian and buffalo trails, Boone and his party of ax-wielding men blazed a pathway through the wilderness from Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. This pathway not only gave tens of thousands of European settlers a way into land in what would become the present-day commonwealth of Kentucky but, also, opened the gateway to the settlement of the west.
Although much of Boone’s original road has been lost to natural forces and land development, Penix will follow the route determined by the research in the late 1960s of pioneer history author Neal O. Hammon and, most recently, by Dr. John Fox, president of the Friends of Boone Trace — an organization dedicated to historical, educational and research activities for the preservation of the Trace and its legacy.
This project is being planned not only to promote the hike and the trail itself, but also to stimulate tourism for the historical sites and communities along the route.
Growing numbers of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Mexico-to-Canada route made increasingly popular by the movie “Wild,” have led officials to take steps to alleviate traffic.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association announced on February 4, 2015 a new permitting system that will limit to 50 the number of long-distance hikers heading north each day from San Diego County.
An online application process will allow hikers to schedule start dates and view projected hiker density on any given day.
The PCTA’s Jack Haskel says the goal is not to limit the number of hikers, but to spread them out.
The trail starts near Campo, California, and stretches 2,650 miles before ending at the Canadian border.
Haskel says since the movie came out in December, website traffic is up 300 percent.
There is no day wasted on an African trek; you can chose from a variety of rugged barren mountains, thick indigenous forests with pristine falls to show off their rain-making ability, fiercely jagged canyons, deep eroded cliffs giving way to valleys and escarpments and vast stretches of lose dessert sands and giant dunes.
Whichever is your choice, trekking in Africa calls for distinctive preparation and a thorough briefing of what to expect in terms of terrain, altitude and weather conditions. While some trekking companies have adapted a grading system to guide trekkers in selecting trails within their ability, excellent physical condition is top priority.
A group of Cub Scouts on a hiking trip in California ended up on a nudist beach. Parents are outraged after the nature hike exposed a group of 4th graders to dozens of nude people on Black’s Beach in San Diego.
The hike, which included a parents group, ended up having to walk through the entire beach. One couple couldn’t believe that the pack master knowingly walked the kids through the area and filed a complaint against the Boy Scouts.
“When I got up there I said, ‘Hey what are you doing? We’re in the middle of a nudist beach.’ He said ,’This is a naturalist beach, and my family and I go through here all the time. It’s not a big deal.’ And I got really angry,” said parent Diane Lekven. “It’s not anything against the nudists. They were in their environment and they were looking at us like what the heck are we doing there. I don’t think it’s OK for somebody to not disclose that they’re going to put other people’s children in an environment like this. I think it’s wrong.”
The Boy Scouts of America says the walk through Black Beach wasn’t against their policy and officials in the local chapter have met with parents to discuss the incident. The organization says they’ve, “concluded proper protocol had been observed and appropriate steps were taken.” The pack leader who organized the hike has not been disciplined.
Kirkland Ranch in south Napa County, California has a ridge with sweeping views of vineyards, wetlands, San Pablo Bay and beyond, which the local park district wants the public to experience. “I think that would certainly be a draw for a lot of people,” Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District General Manager John Woodbury said.
The district recently released its “to-do” list for 2015. If all goes as planned, it will buy hundreds of acres of land and build new trails allowing the public to see parts of Napa County presently off-limits.
This push includes buying 411 acres of the Kirkland Ranch. Then the district could create a 5.5-mile trail leading from Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon up to the Tuteur Loop trail, which links with Skyline Wilderness Park east of the city of Napa.
Another proposed land deal involves buying 588 acres near the 6,350-acre Cedar Roughs Wilderness Area west of Lake Berryessa. This would provide the first convenient public access to the wilderness area owned by the Bureau of Land Management, a district report said. Cedar Roughs Wilderness Area is home to a large stand of Sargent cypress that covers about 50 percent of the property.
For solitude and sunshine, try winter hiking on the west rim of the Río Grande. A variety of trails follow the edge of the gorge and lead to dramatic overlooks with views down to the river and up to the snow covered mountains. These hikes can be found in the Orilla Verde (Green Ribbon) portion of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, south and west of Taos, New Mexico.
The Petaca Point Trail is one of these hikes. A lightly traveled trail, it begins at the south end of the West Rim Road. The trailhead is located just before the road descends along the switchbacks to the Taos Junction Bridge.
The Petaca Point Trail follows the west edge of the gorge south for more than four miles. It is single track with some rolling hills to start and soon joins a double track section, the remnants of an old road. The trail is surrounded by sage and passes through an expansive meadow.
The Arroyo Petaca begins near San Antonio Mountain to the north. It has been used as a travel corridor for humans for 10,000 years or longer according to archaeologists with the BLM and Carson National Forest.
Michael Kyte, district archaeologist with the Tres Piedras ranger district of the Carson National Forest, says “Although it seems a remote and little known part of the Taos Valley today, the Arroyo Aguaje de la Petaca has for thousands of years played a central role in allowing human life to thrive in this high, dry, and often harsh environment. Its name as shown on modern maps, no doubt only the most recent of many similar names in many languages, conveys something of its vital importance as ‘the water source for the Petaca.’
February has arrived, and we all know what that means: it’s time to start making plans for Valentine’s Day! But let’s face it, chocolate and dinner are so overdone, so why not try something new this year?
America’s National Parks have come up with some unique ways of celebrating your love for your significant other this Valentine’s Day. And even better is that February 14 falls on a free park admission day this year, so you can visit those parks without having to pull out your wallet.
There’s probably nothing more romantic than sitting on a beach and listening to whale song, and that’s exactly what you can do at California’s Point Reyes National Seashore. This ranger-guided program teaches you all about gray whales and their migration habits.
Another romantic activity is stargazing, especially when it comes complete with stories about lovers immortalized in the constellations at Colorado’s Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The Air Force Academy is keeping mum when it comes to a “buddy system” rule that bars solo hiking, running and mountain biking on academy trails and open spaces.
Two days after releasing a statement attributing the new rule to on-campus attacks, the academy says it won’t provide more details. A spokesman refused to divulge where and when the attacks occurred, what happened or whether anyone was injured. “It’s under investigation,” academy spokesman Meade Warthen said.
Anyone using academy trails and open spaces must do so with at least one friend, according to the rule. The only exception is the Santa Fe Trail, which skirts the campus’ eastern edge. The policy is temporary but will remain in place until further notice, the statement said, adding that it applies to visitors as well as Air Force personnel and others in uniform.
The statement provided little information about the basis for the change, saying only that someone was “physically assaulted” in December and again “more recently.”
The academy is home to dozens of miles of trails, including the popular 13-mile Falcon Trail and the path to Eagle Peak.
New Zealand takes hiking—or “tramping,” as the Kiwis call it—very seriously. The country has nine designated “Great Walks,” ranging from 20 to 48 miles, which pass through some of its most scenic areas and are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The DOC also maintains more than 8,700 miles of trails and a network of more than 950 basic accommodations for trampers to spend the night.
The Routeburn Track, which passes through both Fiordland and Mount Aspiring national parks in the country’s Southern Alps, offers a little bit of everything: glacier-carved valleys; beech forests; still, glacial lakes; rushing streams and waterfalls; and craggy slopes that get an occasional dusting of snow.
A number of endemic bird species, including the endangered bush canary and the kea, an alpine parrot said to eat an occasional sheep, are also found in the area. An added bonus for hiking newbies: The trail is about 13 miles shorter than the popular Milford Track, and about 17 miles shorter than the Kepler Track, another local option.
The Routeburn Track can be hiked in either direction and takes between two and four days to complete—depending on your pace and how many detours you take. Weather is best from November to late April.
After finishing the fastest thru-hike ever of the Appalachian Trail in 2011 Jennifer Pharr Davis was ready to slow down.
Having completed the then-2,180-mile trail from Maine to Georgia in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Davis looked forward to settling down at home in Asheville with her husband, Brew, and starting a family. Their daughter, Charley, was born about 15 months later.
“After the AT record, I wanted to evolve into more sustainable hiking, day hikes and shorter overnights we could do with Charley,” she said. Davis also had a business, Blue Ridge Hiking Company, to run and a book about her AT accomplishment to promote, titled “Called Again.”
So Davis’ next adventure — hiking all 50 states with Brew and Charley — grew out of a desire to balance family, business and time spent outdoors on the trail.
“We had planned, every summer, to do a book tour,” Davis said. “We’d set it up ourselves. The original plan was eight weeks of events and we were just going to hike up in New England. And one day, we just had the idea: look, we’re running ragged working at home. Why don’t we work together and have an adventure?”