Americans love to hike their 167,00 miles of trails located on federal and state lands. We are building new trails to meet demand, and trail use is projected to continue increasing. But how do Americans feel about placing hut systems on some fraction of their trails? How do we feel as a nation about hut-to-hut hiking, skiing and biking? No one knows. It’s worth talking about.
In the USA there are a dozen or so hut-to-hut systems. While popular with those in the know, hut systems are not yet part of the consciousness of most American outdoor enthusiasts and recreation professionals. There is almost no discussion about huts as part of our growing outdoor recreation and education infrastructure, and we know little about how they operate. Why does this matter?
First, population growth, along with demographic, lifestyle, and health trends are creating increased pressure for access to the outdoors. How can we accommodate more people on our trails without damaging the environment we are trying to preserve? The irrepressible impulse of Americans to connect with the outdoors is a significant challenge to parks and recreation managers. Hut systems are an environmentally responsible way of supporting human use of the back-country.
Second, we seem to have created a hiking paradigm of extremes: backpacking vs. day hiking — with nothing in-between. Of the 35,000,000 American “hikers”, 3% identify as backpackers, and 97% as day-hikers. Backpacking is great for the few of us who are strong enough to carry the weight, can afford the equipment, and highly resourceful and skilled. But lets talk about the 97%.
What are we doing to meet the needs of the “day-hikers” who are eager to go beyond 1 – 5 hour hikes that start and end at a car?
Then come back here and share your feelings in the comments below.
This new project would convert an abandoned rail line and Mississippi River levee road into an 84-mile biking and walking trail. Governor Asa Hutchinson, in his weekly radio address, said “I believe in this new vision for the Delta, and I want to do what I can to promote it. I’ve even pledged to take a bike ride along a portion of the Delta Heritage Trail this fall. I encourage every Arkansan to do the same; to enjoy our great outdoors and to rediscover the Delta.”
This project converts an abandoned Missouri Pacific rail line and part of the levee road into a biking and walking trail. When completed, the 84-mile trail will follow the Mississippi River from Helena to Arkansas City. Along the route is the site of the Elaine Race Riot, the White River National Wildlife Refuge, the Rohwer Japanese Internment Camp, and historic Arkansas City. Nearby are historic Downtown Helena, the Arkansas Post National Historic Monument, the Louisiana Purchase State Park and Lakeport Plantation.
The Trail pieces these small sites together to tell a larger story: the story of the Delta, the story of Arkansan heritage. In addition, the project will have a positive economic impact in the poorest corner of Arkansas. When completed, the trail will attract visitors from across the country and across the world, and the increased tourism dollars will mean jobs for Arkansans. In Missouri, the $6 million Katy Trail State Park has had an $18.6 million economic impact.
Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail have provided an interactive map that allows you to explore multiple aspects of the MST – the route across the state, terrain, and satellite imagery. They have also added icons to help you find places along the trail where the route has been updated, as well as photos taken along the trail route by FMST members.
Due to a drier than usual spring and summer, the fall leaf color in the mountains of Western North Carolina should be putting on a more spectacular show than it has in many years, according to Western Carolina University’s autumnal season prognosticator Kathy Mathews.
Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, gives her annual prediction of how foliage around the region will perform as the sunlight of summer wanes and days become frosty.
She specializes in plant systematics and bases her color forecast on both past and predicted weather conditions. She believes the formation of higher levels of pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year, but especially as fall comes around the bend.
“This fall could be one of the best leaf color seasons in Western North Carolina in recent memory,” Mathews said. “Three words explain it — unusually dry weather.”
Sugar concentrations in the leaves increase during dry weather because the trees are not taking up as much water through their roots, Mathews said. The abundance of sugars leads to the production of more anthocyanins, the red pigments that appear when green chlorophyll begins receding.
“That’s what causes the leaf colors to really pop, along with the simultaneous appearance of orange and yellow pigments on the same or different tree species,” she said.
The question arises: why are the three most famous accounts of hiking three of the world’s most famous long-distance trails written by people who did not hike the whole distance?
The loneliness and skull-bound nature of a long-distance hike fits quite nicely with the thinking out, if not the actual writing, of books. The dusty back aisles of Amazon are glutted with first-person accounts of successful thru-hikes, most of which tend to be buffed-up re-writes of the author’s trail journal. These books have a limited audience (namely, other thru-hikers), whereas the books that become best-sellers speak to people who would never embark on a long-distance hike in the first place.
The rare best-sellers leap this pitfall by hitching onto other well-established genres: Bryson’s is a humorous travelogue, Strayed’s a memoir about healing, and Coelho’s a quest novel. They also avoid the doldrums of strict, day-by-day linear storytelling.
Because they began in places of utter ineptitude and painfully ascended to the status of hardened veterans, Strayed, Bryson, and Coelho were able to fashion engaging emotional trajectories for their books. But that same lack of preparation and training made it exceedingly difficult for them to finish the trail, so they were ultimately forced to trim back their ambitions.
Is it looking like your plan to hike your kids and your 12-year-old nephew 3,000 feet and nearly four miles uphill to the brink of Upper Yosemite Falls—and then, of course, back down—is on the express bus to the graveyard for dumb ideas from overzealous hiker-dads?
Hike, backpack, cross-country ski, or do anything physical outdoors with kids regularly, and there will inevitably come a time when you have an unhappy kid who’s complaining he can’t take another step without severe consequences, possibly including death. You’re out on the trail, still on the hike—you can’t just call a cab. What do you do?
First and foremost, picking a hike that inspires kids will go far in making the outing successful. Minutes beyond that moment of epidemic disgruntlement in Yosemite Valley, you round a bend to your first view of Upper Yosemite Falls plunging over a sheer cliff through a vertical quarter-mile of air, creating a cloud of mist that rains onto the trail. That will spin the kids’ attitudes 180 degrees. They may alternately walk and run the remaining 2,000 feet of that ascent.
But that turnaround may be because of some other tactics you used to energize the kids. Plus, you can’t always count on having a 1,400-foot waterfall in your corner.
The South Coast track is not like the Overland track, Tasmania’s most popular walk. There are no huts and it’s not guided. We would be cooking all our own food, carrying our gear the whole way and carrying out all our rubbish.
The only access to the starting point at Melalueca is by light plane. A false start on day one – the fog was too thick for the plane to land – made it clear why most hikers choose to fly in and walk out rather than the other way, risking getting stuck in bad weather waiting for a flight back to Hobart.
Some days you need to time the start of your day with low tide so the tide chart, printed from the Bureau of Meteorology site, is essential. With various creek, river and ocean point crossings, just trying to cross quickly doesn’t keep the water out of your shoes. Take them off – it’s worth it.
The Ironbound mountain rangesinclude a 3,000 foot climb that is steep, rocky and full of false summits. Start early to avoid full sunlight and when you reach the peak the sun burns through the clouds and reveals spectacular views of Tasmania’s rolling mountain ranges and stretching coastlines.
Tech. Sgt. Stacy Trosine is on the journey of a lifetime. The Fairchild Air Force Base airman is hiking 710 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, much of it alone, in honor of three soldiers she served with in Afghanistan. She started the trek on Aug. 8.
Trosine has been deployed seven times in her 18-year military career, including three stints in Afghanistan, but her most recent deployment affected her profoundly.
“I was embedded with the 466th EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) last year. I was deployed with the most amazing group of men,” she said during an interview before she left on her hike. “On one of the missions, three of our guys got blown up during an ambush.” She paused and cleared her throat. “It was hard to deal with.”
Trosine returned home determined to do something to honor the wounded soldiers’ courage and sacrifice.
On her blog, she wrote, “I was in awe by everything that I have witnessed and got to know about these outstanding EOD techs.”
A popular Windward Oahu hiking trail sees countless hikers every day. How safe is it?
There have been concerns about rocks falling at the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, that danger is currently being addressed, but hikers have brought up new issues about the pillboxes and are worried they could one day come crashing down.
Ask any hiker headed up the Lanikai Pillbox trail and you’ll probably hear something like this. “The pillboxes, its quite a historic place and its an unbelievable view on Oahu,” said hiker Lasse Christiansen.
“I have been coming here for a few years and it is definitely deteriorating up there,” said hiker Noah Cronin.
“It looks like a very hazardous situation because a lot of people go up there with their kids,” said hiker Taylor Kennedy.
Many people climb on the pillboxes and the the concerns are that many of the support beams are rusty and falling apart. “It is only a matter of time before one breaks off and someone is going down the hill,” said Cronin.
In the United States, more than 38 million people annually go hiking and the popular recreational activity has recently seen increased interest in its more competitive and extreme forms. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) reminds all hikers, whether avid or recreational, injuries are common and careful planning is essential to reducing the likelihood of injury and complications when they occur.
“We’ve all seen hikers accomplishing great feats such as completing the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails and these stories inspire us to undertake more challenging or longer hikes,” says Gregory Catalano, DPM, FACFAS, a Massachusetts-based foot and ankle surgeon. “As the number of people hiking increases and they take on more challenging terrain, we are seeing an increase in injuries of all levels of hikers, from Achilles tendon and heel pain to more traumatic injuries including sprains and fractures of the foot and ankle as well as stress fractures of the leg, foot and ankle.”
Hiking related injuries range from minor concerns such as blisters and bruises to more serious conditions including stress fractures and ankle sprains. These complex hiking injuries may initially be assessed as less serious or even overlooked as an overuse injury that will repair itself. Some hikers first attempt to treat pain by modifying their walk (gait) or pace or by switching shoes. While these kinds of modifications seem straightforward, they can actually contribute to complications and further injury.
“It is critical hikers know the signs and continually monitor for complex injuries, as not seeking treatment may result in additional damage that can lead to longer, more involved treatments and recovery periods,” continues Dr. Catalano.
Careful preparation can help reduce the likelihood of injury and make it easier for professionals to treat when problems occur. ACFAS advises hikers that a few key steps can make an important difference:
Shenandoah National Park protects 79,600 acres along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains between the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the foothills of the Virginia Piedmont to the east. The Appalachian Trail follows in close proximity to Skyline Drive, the park’s popular tourist road.
Most weary thru-hikers, on the trail since Georgia, find the week-long, 105-mile traverse of the park to be rather luxurious, with mild terrain and easy access to hiker amenities like snack bars and restaurants, grocery stores, campgrounds with hot showers and laundry, and even a pub.
Grand views from Blackrock, Hightop, Stony Man Mountain, the Little Stony Man Cliffs and Mary’s Rock are scenic highlights, while occasional encounters with bears provide an uncommon measure of excitement.
The trail follows the Virginia-West Virginia state line before descending to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry, the psychological midpoint for thru-hikers. Out of Harpers Ferry and into Maryland, you follow the towpath of the old Chesapeake & Ohio Canal before climbing to the heights of Weverton Cliffs for a last look over the Potomac.
History abounds on South Mountain. Many clashes between Union and Confederate armies occurred on its flanks, at Crampton Gap, Fox Gap, Turners Gap and others. The first monument to George Washington, a milk bottle-shaped stone tower, was erected by Boonsboro citizens in 1827.
In the middle of the woods, the best moves are don’t move, but do trust the technology.
Pennington County, South Dakota Search and Rescue said a young woman who was lost while hiking did the exact right thing by staying put, contacting authorities and remembering that modern electronics mean you’re never really lost.
The 18-year-old woman and her friends were venturing to the popular swimming spot called Hippie Hole on Battle Creek near Keystone. The rugged trail down to the swimming hole proved too much for the woman, and she decided to turn back toward the parking lot, letting her friends go on without her.
It was at that point the woman got off the difficult-to-follow trail, leaving her lost and alone in the forest, without water and in sultry, mid-90s temperatures. She called 911 emergency dispatch, saying she did not know where she was and couldn’t find her way back to the car. Dispatch told her to stay put and help would find her.
About a half-hour into the search the team found her sitting under the shade of a tree roughly one-third of a mile from the parking lot. She was hot, thirsty and a little scraped up, but uninjured and able to walk.
“She did the exact right thing by staying put,” a rescuer said. “We were able to put in her GPS coordinates, and that got us within 100 feet of where we found her. It is a lot harder when we are chasing a moving target.”
The Fiery Gizzard is one of the most celebrated hiking trails in the country, but a land dispute could close the Grundy County, Tennessee trail by Dec. 1, 2015. A private property owner has told the state he will no longer grant access to hikers beginning Dec. 1.
“What we have is as land gets sold or passed down to heirs, that handshake agreement, that verbal agreement can change overnight,” said George Shinn, park manager at South Cumberland State Park. “That’s what we have right now.”
This will force a complicated reroute on the rugged, remote trail. The popular Raven’s Point campsite will close and the 12.5 mile trail will be rerouted. It will no longer be a plateau hike, but a steep drop into a gorge followed by a steep climb out.
“In a sense, we are losing a choice,” said Latham Davis with Friends of South Cumberland. “We are losing people with limited abilities to cross the plateau. Now they will have to go down deeper in the gorge. We hope it works out.”
Backpacker magazine recently named the Fiery Gizzard the sixth best trail for fall foliage in the entire United States.
High-altitude training is important for proper fitness and to avoid health risks like high-altitude pulmonary edema.
You’ve signed the dotted line and in a few short months you’re strapping on your boots and heading “into thin air.” Whether it is climbing Mt. Everest or Mt. Evans, you’re going to need to improve your high-altitude fitness, the question is, how?
Let’s start by clearing up one of the more common misunderstandings when it comes to high-altitude training. There is no process by which one can naturally acclimatize, or adjust to high altitudes, that doesn’t involve physically being at altitude.
In other words, unless you spend the days leading up to your trip living in the high mountains, and then take a helicopter directly to your objective, there is nothing you can do to physiologically prepare for the climb. It is a natural process; you can’t rush it or take short-cuts (unless you buy a high-altitude chamber, which totally misses the point). Oh and another thing, whether or not your body is actually capable of adjusting to high-altitude is mostly genetic. Sorry, it’s not for everybody. Blame it on Dad.
Any parent who hikes with young kids is bound to hear a fair share of whining. “Why do we have to hike?” or “This is hard!” And the most common, “How much faaaaarther?”
But worry not, dear parents. Paragon Guides near Vail, Colo., offers a fun remedy to prevent such protests: Take a llama to lunch. This half-day, family-friendly, guided tour not only serves as a way to get your kids up the trail with fewer complaints, but also acts as an introduction to these animals, which serve as ideal companions for mountainous journeys because of their ability to lug up to 80 pounds of gear. Paragon Guides allows kids to take charge of these calm pack animals.
“As pack animals, llamas offer the opportunity for hikers to carry much smaller backpacks, [plus] a few special items that you might not normally carry because of the added weight,” says Donny Shefchik, Paragon field director and senior guide, who has worked with the company for more than 30 years.
Besides easing the burden of carrying food and gear, llamas are also eco-friendly. Their padded hooves and articulating toenails leave less trace than a hiking shoe. And since their scat is similar to an elk’s, it’s easily processed in the mountain environment. What’s more, their calm, gentle disposition can enhance the hiking experience, especially for kids.
“Due to their quiet nature, llamas are generally kid-friendly,” Shefchik says. “Their temperament on the trail is quite predictable, and they seem to watch out for whoever is leading them.”
The most sensible approach to the Alpine geological wonderland known as the Dolomites is also the most evocative one. Here’s how it’s done: After the three-hour drive from Venice Marco Polo Airport toward Austria, pull off the autostrada into the inviting city of Bolzano.
In the pedestrian zone on Piazza della Mostra you will encounter the town’s best restaurant, Zur Kaiserkron. The lunchtime flavors — smoke-cured ham known as speck, orange-infused ravioli, honey-glazed duck with beet sauce, an array of local mountain cheeses — inform you that you’ve arrived in a distinctive place with a robust Mitteleuropean sensibility that also has the capacity to surprise.
As you proceed northward, note how the city gives way to silky green meadowland. And then suddenly you see it: the asymmetrical limestone spires of the Dolomites erupting from the placid landscape like a gigantic prehistoric paw in gruff welcome.
An altogether different experience awaits a summer visitor. Prices are lower, rooms and tables at the best places are more accessible, the ski lifts are open to any and all sightseers, and its picturesque, if at times nerve-rackingly corkscrew, thoroughfares are far more easily negotiated. Shorn of its wintry curtain, the mountainous landscape leaves no doubt that — with apologies to Tuscany, Sicily and Campania, home of the Amalfi Coast — the Trentino-Alto Adige region bordering Austria and Switzerland features Italy’s most stunning topography.
The 18 peaks — some exceeding 9,000 feet — form the centerpiece of a national park as well as a Unesco World Heritage site. They loom over deep valleys, wildflower-speckled meadows and a multitude of glistening lakes. Encased in their flinty bulk is the fossilized narrative of a rich marine life that perished in the Triassic period over 200 million years ago.
Although out-of-staters don’t particularly know New Jersey for its hiking prowess, the state offers a diverse range of hiking trails and parks that are fitting for those looking for a rocky mountain hike, a beachy shore run or a stroll through flat meadows, which Dawn L. McClennen, co-founder of njHiking.com, is well aware of.
“We don’t have the elevation of something out West but it’s actually quite diverse,” said McClennen, who is from Middlesex County and has been hiking the state for about 20 years. “North Jersey is rugged and then Central is more mild and a little more farmlands. The Pine Barrens are flat and sandy with a lot of diverse trails that butt up against the beach. When you hike up a mountain here, you might see a city skyline.”
Some of the more popular hiking destinations in New Jersey include Northern Green State Forest in Ringwood, Sourland Mountain Preserve in Hillsborough, Cheesequake State Park in Matawan, Wharton State Forest of Hammonton and Belleplain State Forest of Woodbine.
David Dendler, park ranger manager at the Somerset County Park Commission (SCPC), said that the Sourland Mountain Preserve maintains its popularity because of its rugged terrain and accompanying uniqueness as well as its size, with 14 miles of trails over 4,000 acres.
BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 10, 2015–After the successful funding of their first sleeping bag hammock, the couple behind the Bison Bag G1 are back with the next version of their sleeping bag hammock: the Bison Bag G2.
The new polyester design features triple layer insulation ensuring that minimal body heat escapes during overnight adventures. The sleeping bag hammock is rated to 55 degrees Fahrenheit; however, it can be used in lower temperatures, if a sleeping bag pad is used. To keep it simple, the sleeping bag, hammock, carabiners and rope can fit within the included sleeping bag sack.
“We’re so excited to share this with the Kickstarter community and beyond, said Lance Williams, CEO and Founder of Camp Clayborne Outdoor Goods. “There’s been a ton of time and effort we’ve put into designing the Bison Bag, and as a result my camp nights have been leaps and bounds better in a hammock, and so much warmer in a Bison Bag.”
In continuation of a family tradition of long backpacking trips, the husband and wife duo strives to enjoy their outdoor adventures, while traveling as minimally as possible-gone are the tents and poles, sleeping bags and camping pads.
Inspired by a love of the outdoors and memories of a 2010 tornado, Girl Scout Alison Campbell organized a team that worked 30 hours this summer clearing 4,250 feet of trail at Old World Wisconsin that had been untouched for five years. The project, which makes the Old Railroad Forest Trail safe to hike once again, was the culmination of Campbell’s Girl Scout Gold Award efforts.
In a brochure created for visitors to Old World Wisconsin, aerial images show the devastation of the EF2 tornado that leveled the wooded parking lot at Old World Wisconsin on July 21, 2010, leaving many hiking trails unsafe for people to use. The Old Railroad Forest Trail looked more like “a jungle rather than a hiking trail,” according to the brochure.
“The fond memories I have for Old World Wisconsin, the fact I want people to take a break from their lives to get out and notice nature, and wanting to fix up the damage that the devastating tornado caused, are what have inspired me to choose this project,” Campbell wrote in her project report.
Although Campbell only expected to finish a third of a mile of the trail, due to her “team’s hard work,” they “worked together and finished the whole trail.”
Sean Longstreet witnessed four days of startled reactions when he backpacked over Piute Pass above Bishop, CA this summer in the Eastern High Sierra. The popular Beaumont school district music instructor was not behaving oddly. He didn’t pick his guitar strings or blow his trumpet as he walked the steep trails. Instead, his companion attracted stares of surprise and reactions of laughter.
Longstreet backpacked with his standard poodle, Hendrix, a calm, friendly dog named after the legendary late rock guitarist. Labs, golden retrievers and shepherd mixes are more typical trail dogs. One thinks of poodles as canines that tread sidewalks sporting painted, manicured nails and wear ribbons in chic, urban neighborhoods such as Little Italy in San Diego. You would expect a poodle to drink Perrier while reposed at a sidewalk cafe, not lapping from a high-mountain lake.
Longstreet noticed people on the trail must have thought the same thing. He said they looked startled when they rounded a corner and spotted a big, light-brown poodle wearing a red backpack filled with dog food. Hendrix was a great conversation starter in the back country. Just about everyone who saw him stopped to chat.