You have to walk quite a few miles, climb your share of hills and wear out an army’s stock of shoe leather before getting to the point of considering backpacking in Iceland.
Sixty-one-year-old Jim Foster, who refers to himself as a reformed attorney, has walked Patagonia, climbed Kilimanjaro, trekked New Zealand, backpacked the American west, and in 2007, hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.
Consider him qualified to stand, and walk, on his own two feet anywhere he wants.
Foster and his friend, Paul Shaw, are just back from nine days of hiking and backpacking Iceland, aptly referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice. It may be one of the most volcanic places on Earth, glaciers are underfoot and geysers are regular occurrences. Foster and Shaw saw all of that.
In summer, daytime temperatures can reach 70 degrees and dip to 40 at night. Summer in Iceland also means just three hours of night-time. Foster says he and Shaw spent just the equivalent of a half-day on this trip, walking on snow or ice.
By contrast, in the winter months, there are three hours of daylight and in the upland areas, as expected, the combination of warm water and cold air produces lake effect heavy snowfall akin to that which roars off the Great Lakes of the U.S.
A large swath of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Southern Cascades will be shut down beginning August 23, due to the growing activity of the 790 Fire.
The closure covers roughly 25 miles from Oregon Highway 140 north to the boundary of Crater Lake National Park, the U.S. Forest Service said. The closure includes most trails in the popular Seven Lakes Basin of the Sky Lakes Wilderness, where the fire is located, near Hemlock Lake.
The fire has recently crossed the trail and there are numerous down and burning snags making the trail unsafe.
Fire Crews continue to fully suppress this fire. The terrain is very steep and rocky with many wind fall trees and snags. This makes fire suppression activities slow and difficult while presenting serious safety hazards.
Other closed trails in the Sky Lakes Wilderness include: Alta Lake Trail, Middle Fork Trail, Seven Lake Trail, King Spruce Trail, Devil’s Peak Trail, Lake Ivern Trail and Seven Mile Trail.
The Phoenix Parks Board meets next week to discuss a proposal to install parking meters in the parking areas of the city’s most popular hiking trailheads.
The idea of “fee-based parking” was approved by the Parks Board in 2010 but never implemented. Now, with a looming city budget deficit, the idea is being revived to bring in extra revenue.
Deputy Parks Director Ken Vonderscher says the proposal would be for meters at only three trailhead parking lots: Echo Canyon at Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, and Pima Canyon at South Mountain.
“We have 37 others that range from moderately used to lightly used,” he says, adding that the cost of parking could sent some hikers to some of those lesser-used trails where parking will continue to be free. “To a certain extent, it spreads the usage out.”
Phoenix parks officials have abandoned a proposal to use parking meters to manage overcrowding at the city’s most popular hiking spots. The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department announced that it will no longer consider installing meters in parking areas at desert preserves such as Camelback Mountain.
Officials say hundreds of residents expressed opposition to the idea in the last several weeks. They say more than 60 spoke at a department board meeting. The parks department says it will continue to look for other ways to address the crowds and trail impact.
For adventurous hikers looking to traverse the paths less traveled, author Justin Rohde said his new book provides a detailed guide to the region that straddles the Oregon and California border, which contains the highest concentration of undammed wild and scenic rivers in the United States.
Rohde, who worked as a guide on hiking trails near Cave Junction in Oregon’s Illinois Valley in 2007, said putting together the 126-page “Hiking Oregon and California’s Wild Rivers Country” was its own long, difficult haul.
“It’s really exciting, and hasn’t really hit me yet,” Rohde said. “I’ve been slammed with field work this summer, and it’s a little bit surreal to have my name on the cover of a book — it makes me proud. The photo on the cover is a particular trail I cleared myself just because I loved it so much. It took a lot of effort to map it, clear it, get it in the book and describe it well.”
Rohde said a lot of the trails described in the book are in primitive condition — but that’s the point.
“There’s a certain solitude and interesting characteristics involved in the area that you can’t find anywhere else — wild and scenic rivers pulsing throughout the region,” he said. “It’s a very special place, and I encourage people to explore it.”
The loss of eastern hemlock could affect water yield and storm flow from forest watersheds in the southern Appalachians, according to a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory (Coweeta) located in Otto, North Carolina. The article was recently published online in the journal Ecohydrology.
“Eastern hemlock trees have died throughout much of their range due to the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic invasive insect,” said Steven Brantley, a post-doctoral researcher at Coweeta and lead author of the paper. “Though this insect has decimated whole stands of eastern hemlock along streams in the southern Appalachians, few studies have addressed the effects of this insect outbreak on landscape-level watershed processes such as stream flow.”
Because of its dense evergreen foliage, eastern hemlock plays an important role in the water cycle of southern Appalachian forests, regulating stream flow year round. Although eastern hemlock rarely dominates the region’s forests, the tree is considered a foundation species in the streamside areas called riparian zones.
Previous research by the Coweeta scientists led them to suspect that the loss of eastern hemlock would cause stream flow to increase over the short-term, especially in the dormant fall/winter season, then decrease over the longer term, with small effects annually. They also thought that peak flows after storms would increase, especially in the dormant season.
The National Park Service has developed an interim policy prohibiting the use of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones, on NPS managed lands of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
This is a new park use that could affect park resources, staff, and visitors in ways that the National Park Service has yet to identify, analyze and examine. It is the National Park Service policy to not allow a new park use until a determination has been made that it will not result in unacceptable impacts on park resources and values, plus staff and visitor safety.
The closure prohibits the launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
This interim policy is effective August 20, 2014 until such time that the National Park Service can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.
Long before yoga pants made their first appearance in Runyon Canyon, a health guru helped Angelenos discover their local mountain trails.
Beginning in 1924, on the first and third Sunday of each month, members of the Wanderlusters Hiking Club followed Paul C. Bragg into the hilly terrain around Los Angeles. Dozens of them traipsed through Altadena’s Millard Canyon or hiked up Griffith Park’s Mount Hollywood. Men doffed their shirts. Women wore bathing suits. Sunscreen had yet to be invented.
Hiking was nothing new in the Southland. Bragg’s innovation, rather, was to sell it as a fitness activity: “Hiking is a wonderful sport to keep you young and fit and recharge your physical battery from the sun’s rays.”
But the images accompanying this article – commissioned by Bragg in the 1930s and recently digitized by the USC Libraries with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities – reveal a man unable to conceal his affection for Los Angeles and its trails.
“There is a veritable Paradise in the mountains lying adjacent to Los Angeles,” Bragg wrote in another of his columns, “and yet few people avail themselves of the opportunity to frolic in the sunshine.”
Provided you know how to find your way, there are miles of prairie and woodland trails offering scenic overlooks, opportunities to view wildlife, and areas to enjoy a picnic lunch alongside flowing water.
It’s all to be found in the seven Renville County, Minnesota parks, where it soon could be a lot easier to find your way.
Mark Erickson, community and environment director for Renville County, said the county park board and a specially appointed trails committee have developed a draft plan for developing a marked trail system in each of the seven parks. He presented the plan to the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. The board is expected to adopt the plan at its next meeting.
The plan outlines the routes for trails in the parks. It also describes how the trails will be signed and sets standards for the width of trails and how much vegetation to clear.
There are currently some maintained trails in the parks, but for the most part, hikers are making their own way by following long-established paths. Many of the existing paths are really well-tread deer trails that hikers keep open by their use.
Hiking Acadia is a pastime almost as old as the state of Maine itself. “People have been hiking Mt. Desert Island and these moutains since the mid-1800s,” said Gary Stellpflug, Trails Foreman at Acadia National Park.
Between the 1890s and the 1930s some 130 miles of trails were cut in this park. But then… “Finances for the trails program dwindled over the course of the next couple years, right into the 1960s and 1970s,” said Stellpflug.
Many trails were abandoned or fell into disrepair-that is until 1999 when a massive restoration effort began.
“People realized that the trails were a cultural resource, a natural resource, and something that everybody loved and that they were truly suffering and we needed a way to bring them back to their standard,” said Stellpflug.
So each summer a crew of 35 federal workers and some 16 youth corps are going trail by trail, bringing them back to life.
If you want to cross the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park and are looking for more adventure than walking past the sign atop Going-to-the-Sun Road, take the trail over Gunsight Pass instead.
The 20-mile trail connects Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east with Lake McDonald Lodge on the west, and can be done as a long day hike or as a backpacking trip.
Along the way, you’ll see plenty of waterfalls, at least a couple of glaciers, possibly moose and more than likely mountain goats.
One of the easiest ways to hike the full length of the trail is to park at Lake McDonald Lodge, ride the free shuttle over Logan Pass to Jackson Glacier Overlook and then walk back to your vehicle – at the end, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to sink your tired feet in the lake behind the lodge.
“There is a great human story” of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to Ken Burns, the Emmy award-winning filmmaker. As co-creator of the PBS series America’s Best Idea: The National Parks, Burns and his team spent over six years filming in national parks across the United States.
Burns sat down with USA TODAY and shared the secrets of Great Smoky Mountains and nine other national parks for a special 10-part series, Secrets of the National Parks.
While the U.S. national parks celebrate nature at its best, Burns says that there’s a great drama to the Smoky Mountains. Creation of the park forced the removal of existing towns and “not everyone wanted to be removed,” Burns said. “Remember they’re leaving dead family members in the family cemetery … or churches that they worshiped in all their lives. A lot of people were grandfathered in and permitted to stay there until they passed away and then it became a part of our common wealth.”
Burns says that one of the best things about this park is its intimacy. All you “need to do is park and get off the many, many roads of this large park and see that blue mountain haze that is part of this beautiful mythological place.”
Watch the video to hear what two trails are Burns’ favorites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This year’s Hiking Spree enthusiasts will start their morning at the Highlands Center at 9:00 AM, September 6th with a free presentation by Sam Frank, Central Arizona Director for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition (AWC), in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. “This presentation will include inspiring photos, history of the AWC, take-home maps, and a Q&A session. As it is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Hiking Spree will have a special focus on wilderness trails, with six wilderness trails (two new and four previous trails), chosen for hikers to explore,” commented Dave Irvine, Executive Director. A Highlands Center naturalist will lead the first hike following the presentation.
“Participants hike at least eight of the 12 provided hikes and then can enter into a drawing for a $200 gift card to the Hike Shack. Trails consist of various skills but at least eight are fine for any participant,” Irvine added. Participants do not have to complete the hike to count it. Entry for the drawing will close on December 10th, and then within a week one participant will have a $200 gift certificate to the Hike Shack. Hikers can pick up forms at the kickoff event, or at the Highlands Center’s Benson Family Nature Store, Hike Shack, or the Prescott National Forest Offices on Cortez Street.
“Several of the hikes this year have been highlighted for families, and are a wonderful way for new and avid hikers alike to explore new trails and be invigorated for the upcoming winter holiday season. Trail maps will be provided highlighting interesting points along the way,” Irvine added. Pre-registration is required for the free bi-monthly guided hikes also available. Check highlandscenter.org for dates.
For sheer dramatic natural beauty, Tiger Leaping Gorge in China’s Yunnan province takes some beating. Situated around 60km west of the historic city of Lijiang, the 15km-long gorge carves its way through steep-sided and snow-capped Himalayan peaks that line up like a rugged roll-call of nature’s tough guys.
Most people walk part or all of the one-day Low Way, a 21km flat and paved path through the bottom of the gorge. However, the 22km High Path – a more physically demanding two-day trek through remote Naxi hill farming terraces – is the ultimate way to discover the region’s beauty.
The High Path is widely considered to be one of the finest treks in China due to its unbeatable mountain and gorge views. It is also one of the most accessible treks in the world. While most great mountain treks require multi-day supported and guided backup, this well-marked route does not require a guide or any technical mountaineering skills. In addition, you’re far from the tourists hordes below.
Starting from the small town of Qiaotou, the gateway to the gorge, trekkers simply need to pay the entry fee, pick up a free trail map from the visitor centre and start walking.
Eric White has hiked 8,500 miles. And his favorite mileage has been along the Continental Divide Trail. It’s what brings him to Butte, Montana every summer to volunteer on crews improving the trail. White, a retired orthopedic surgeon who lives in Williamstown, Mass., spends part of his summers in Butte volunteering with AmeriCorps to improve the trail.
He first became acquainted with Butte in 2008 when he became lost on the infamously poorly marked CDT. He bumped into Jocelyn Dodge, recreation forester with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, who pointed him in the right direction. But a week later, when he found he couldn’t make his way through deep snow in the Pintler Wilderness Area, he contacted Dodge and asked to be put to work.
For White, contributing a few weeks a year of his time to help build bridges, put up signs and record routes on GPS units is the least he can do. “Many hikers who have done the long trails appreciate all the help they get from others – Trail Magic,” White said. “Having experienced this, many hikers, myself included, want to give back to the trail community what we previously have received.”
White, known as “Mini Mart” in the long-distance hiking community, which is fond of bestowing nicknames on its members, said of the triple-crown Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails, the latter is his favorite. He hiked the AT while still working in the late 1990s and the Pacific Crest shortly after retirement.
Hauling yourself up a stony path, the air thins with every breath. Ribbons of mist weave past and a vulture circles overhead. Just when you think your legs can’t take it anymore, you reach the top.
Your guide warns you not to step any closer to the edge. It is the most terrifying sensation—and one of the most rewarding. All around similar hills rise like turrets in the valley below, with sheer drops for sides, and it is hard to take in the scale. With these majestic cathedrals of rock—and not another soul as far as the eye can see—it’s obvious why they call this the Roof of Africa.
The Chinese-built roads make the three-hour drive to the base camp at Sankaber an easy whiz through lush pastures and past goat herds weaving their way across the road, oblivious to traffic. Soon the roads give way to dirt tracks, and after leaving the final village, the real adventure begins. It is unimaginable to contemplate this stretch without an SUV, as you lurch from side to side through unfathomably deep mud, on a number of occasions jolting within a hair’s breadth of the precipitous edge.
Once on foot you pass trees covered in lichen as wild thyme perfumes the journey. Blue salvia plants illuminate the pastures. Sitting contentedly in a neat circle, are three gelada baboons—found only in the Ethiopian Highlands.
This summer’s devastating wildfires in eastern Washington have cast a smoky pall over some of the state’s premier hiking destinations, but those trails have been largely untouched by flames. So “best days” can be had in abundance throughout the Cascade Mountains, on trails within easy driving distance of the city. And you don’t have to scramble up steep rock to experience them.
It’s hard to say what’s best about a trip up to Ingalls in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness — that glorious moment when you pop over the ridge and 9,415-foot Mt. Stuart is revealed in all its majesty, lunch beside Ingalls Lake, the après-hike dip in the crystal-clear Teanaway River to wash away the trail dust or the blue-cheese-and-grilled-onion burger at the historic Brick tavern in Roslyn — which stood in as the Alaskan town Cicely in the ’90s TV show “Northern Exposure” — on the way home. Partake in all of these, and you’ve got yourself one magical day.
There are options. Most straightforward is the trail to Lake Ingalls (nine miles round trip, 2,500- feet elevation gain) at the edge of Washington’s legendary Enchantments range, the views getting better with each step as you rise up to Ingalls Pass, with the culminating moment with Mt. Stuart. From the pass, the trail dips down to flower-filled Headlight Basin before its last jaunt to the lake. Or go a shorter distance (five miles round trip, 2,100-feet gain) on a branch to Longs Pass just to see the view and perhaps some mountain goats.
Since the closure of Fort Ord in 1994, the 28,000 acres that comprised the military base have been spun off into various civilian uses. As a part of that process, on April 12, 2012, President Obama signed a declaration setting aside 14,650 acres—half of the former base—as Fort Ord National Monument. The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees 7,200 acres, and the remainder will be turned over to the BLM once the military completes environmental remediation.
Where the Salinas Valley reaches Monterey Bay, a vast level plain separates Big Sur’s Santa Lucia Mountains from the Gabilan Range. On the pancake-flat agricultural outskirts of west Salinas, drive south on Davis Road through huge fields of green salad fixings. Up ahead, across much of the horizon, the lands of Fort Ord National Monument rise as a level stretch of upland bluffs perhaps 100 feet above the farm lowlands.
The map of the national monument indicates several access points, but the Creekside Trailhead is the quickest approach to an impressive web of trails. The parking area is at the foot of the bluffs, so job No. 1 was getting up top.
The trails at Fort Ord National Monument are ideal for mountain bikers, and dog lovers will appreciate that their pets can explore off-leash. Don’t expect a special landscape or an enticing destination, but you will find many miles of pretty trails.
Minnesota’s “Land of 10,000 Lakes” moniker evokes lasting memories of fishing, paddling and campfires at the edge of a shore. But being on the water isn’t the only way to enjoy the outdoors.
Thousands of miles of hiking trails crisscross Minnesota, with some seeing more foot traffic than others. From well-maintained, easy-to-access trails to narrow footpaths hidden deep in the wilderness, there’s a trail to suit all tastes and skill levels.
On Aug. 21-23, the North Country Trail Association will host the Minnesota Hiking Celebration at Spirit Mountain in Duluth. In addition to seminars on hiking equipment and guided tours on the famous Superior Hiking Trail, the event will promote hiking on the lesser known North Country Trail and other under-the-radar routes.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of the North Country Trail,” says Matthew Davis, regional trail coordinator for the North Country Trail Association in Minnesota and North Dakota. “We want to get more people to think about hiking as a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors and disconnect from our fast-paced society. Enjoy a healthy activity,” says Davis.
Minnesota will be home to 775 miles of the North Country Trail, but only about 60 percent of the state’s network is complete, with two contiguous sections.
A group of hikers pause along a heavily wooded trail in the Lincoln National Forest. One leans into a Ponderosa pine, sniffs the trunk and proclaims, “Vanilla cookie tree! Who wants to smell vanilla!”
The other hikers raise their eyebrows, wondering if their companion has gone mad, but you can’t resist. Feeling slightly foolish, you lean into the tree, put your nose against the bark and inhale deeply. The others wait silently for your verdict. “Hmm, smells more like … butterscotch.”
Yummy surprises with Trail Snails! Soon everyone in the Trail Snails, a local informal hiking group, presses noses against the tree bark. “Deep inside the crack is best!” “Yes, it smells just like vanilla!”
Jim Edwards, the Snails’ organizer, explains, “When a Ponderosa’s bark begins to show yellow or pink, the tree is mature and acquires a smell reminiscent of vanilla.” Sniffing “vanilla cookie trees” is one of many yummy or tasty surprises enjoyed by the Trail Snails on our twice-weekly excursions.
“Algerita bushes smell like citrus, and corn lily leaves smell like peanut butter,” reminds Jim. “And don’t forget mint,” add hikers Carolyn and Roger.
Other hikers chime in, “Wild morel mushrooms and common field mushrooms are delicious!”
No shortage of stunning scenery exists in the Lake Tahoe Basin, but while the majority of sightseers flock to the southwestern portion of the lake to take in the postcard-picture-perfect vistas afforded by Emerald Bay, the northeastern portion of the lake offers a quieter and equally spectacular experience.
Tunnel Creek, just outside of Incline Village, is a popular trail with locals due to the unparalleled look at Crystal Bay as it spans out beneath the ascending trail, along with the swerve of coastline as it winds southward. Couple those views with its relative degree of seclusion, particularly in comparison with much of the easy-to-moderate hiking trails in Lake Tahoe, and any avid hiker can see why the trail is an indispensable part of the basin’s recreation portfolio.
The trailhead is located just south of Ponderosa Ranch roughly one mile from the downtown corridor of Incline Village, Nev.
Ponderosa pines dominate the East Shore, as the Carson Range has a different geology and ecology than the Sierra Nevada Mountains that populate the West Shore.
One of the chief attributes of Tunnel Creek Trail is the great views come early and often, so those with less of an appetite for exercise or on a time crunch don’t have to carve out a huge portion of the day to get the experience.