This is a banner year for two Western North Carolina land trusts: Asheville’s Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) celebrates 40 years of land protection, while Hendersonville’s Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) reaches its 20-year milestone.
Fittingly, the two organizations are partnering in 2014 on a project that gives hikers, bikers, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts their own reason to celebrate. The awe-inspiring beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG)—starting at the Eastern Continental Divide about 20 minutes southeast of Asheville and running through the communities of Gerton, Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure—has drawn visitors for centuries.
Now a partnership between CMLC and SAHC will seek a Recreational Trails Program grant to construct three miles of public, sustainable hiking trail along the Eastern Continental Divide. The section will connect Hickory Nut Gap to the summit of Blue Ridge Pastures, a grassy peak with dramatic views.
After this section, the conservancies will collaborate on the final segment to complete a 15-mile loop circumnavigating the upper gorge, connecting lands conserved by both trusts, highlighting Tater and Ferguson Knobs, and linking the gap to CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve.
Delaware Water Gap, PA made official June 28,2014 an identity embraced for decades by its citizens and the Appalachian Trail hikers they welcome.
The borough was named an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservacy, which has designated about 35 towns so far for their proximity to the trail and support for it. Delaware Water Gap is the fourth AT Community in Pennsylvania. The initiative brings together officials and area business leaders to promote connections between the trail and nearby towns.
Chuck Cooper, owner of Edge of the Woods Outfitters, who grew up in town, said he felt a connection to the trail from childhood that continues now as he sells gear and supplies for hikers.
The Rev. Karen Nickels, former pastor at the Church of the Mountain, said some townspeople were a little unsure of the bedraggled and sometimes “odiferous” strangers who passed through in the 1960s and 1970s without the same gear as today.
The church founded the first hostel on the Appalachian Trail, offering showers and a rest. The town embraced the hikers and looked to aid and welcome them, but not capitalize on them, Nickels said, with free movie nights and trail maintenance.
A comprehensive collection of historical morsels, unique facts and present day tidbits are molded into a unique perspective of the spiral-capped summit. Clingmans Dome Revealed captures the significance of the natural, historical and cultural gem that stands as the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Author Bradley D. Saum offers insight into the wide array of events and history associated with the peak and surrounding slopes. The inaccessible and lesser known aspects of Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains are featured, including the small stone tunnel that sits silently under Clingmans Dome Road, a huge boiler left on the slopes of Clingmans Dome from the logging days, and much more. Each section is illustrated with many photographs that reveal the wide array of historical and present day topics.
“My goal is to provide insight into the unique aspects of Clingmans Dome,” Bradley D. Saum said, “especially areas that visitors are not exposed to during a typical drive through the Smoky Mountains. The views of the Southern Appalachians are magnificent, but the hidden gems revealed underfoot are equally intriguing. I hope this book creates wonder and helps visitors develop an appreciation for the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains.” The trails are where the real action is.
Clingmans Dome Revealed highlights the fascinating peak that rises above the Southern Appalachians to an elevation of 6,643 feet. Known to the Cherokee as Kuwahi and the early European settlers as Smoky Dome, the story of what is now the most accessible peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is revealed.
Roger Poulin, who is deaf and blind, ascended the summit of Mount Katahdin on June 24, 2014 to likely become the first person with both disabilities to finish the entire 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.
He hiked the rugged footpath, which spans from Georgia to Maine, with the support of Roni Lepore, a support service provider who happens to be deaf herself.
“As a young child, I had so many barriers in my life,” Poulin said, his sign language translated by an interpreter at a celebration in Millinocket. “People kept telling me I couldn’t do things, and I really took that on. … So I wanted to really let go of that and show people I could do things.”
Now 46-years-old, Poulin has achieved his dream, one that took him four years of sweat, diligence and some blood to accomplish. When he reached Baxter Peak at the AT’s northern end, he said, it was all worthwhile.
“I wanted to prove to the deaf-blind community that they could do something like this,” said Poulin, who now lives in Washington state. “You don’t have to sit at home all day. You can go out and really adventure.”
On the lower slopes of Catbells, a fell that rises in a ridge above Keswick in the Lake District, there is a memorial plaque to an otherwise mostly forgotten man. As ramblers and visitors trip past on their way up the modest hill, they might miss the tablet, inscribed to the “Father of the Open-Air Movement in this Country”, but those who know the story of Thomas Arthur Leonard say there would be far fewer walkers in the British countryside without him.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Leonard’s birth and devotees are keen to have this social innovator rediscovered. “He should rank alongside Thomas Cook and Billy Butlin as the holiday pioneers for British working people, but he’s the forgotten one,” says Laura Sims, marketing director at HF Holidays, a co-operative society founded by Leonard and now the UK’s biggest walking tour operator. “We’d love to see him take his rightful place as a really interesting character with a big bold vision that is just as true more than 100 years on.”
He founded the Co-operative Holiday Association in 1897 and was instrumental in setting up the Youth Hostel Association, the Ramblers Association (becoming its first president) and the National Trust.
Leonard founded HF – then known as the Holiday Fellowship – after becoming disillusioned with the numbers of middle-class and wealthier people that the Co-operative Holiday Association was attracting and because he wanted to try to offer an alternative to the new trend that had gripped the working classes – a week’s binge, spending their hard-earned annual savings, in a seaside resort such as Morecambe or Blackpool.
Here’s one way to find wilderness in Nevada, walk until the trail ends in a thicket of trees and thorny bushes. Then keep walking. That’s the strategy Kurt Kuznicki and Shevawn Von Tobel used on a recent trek into Burbank Canyons Wilderness Study Area near Reno, Nevada.
“I think we are pretty much having a wilderness experience,” Kuznicki said after his group emerged from another stand of thick brush. “Maybe a little too much wilderness.”
Kuznicki, associate director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, was being facetious. Like lots of wilderness advocates Kuznicki and Von Tobel say traveling on foot beyond roads and even trails is a great way to explore the landscape.
And their trip to Burbank Canyons near Smith Valley was, in part, an attempt to change the perception that preserving wilderness is a way of keeping people out. Federally designated wilderness areas, as opposed to any remote place people refer to as wilderness, are limited to human and animal powered recreation.
That means no motors and no bicycles. But it still allows for a wide range of activity, including hiking, primitive camping, hunting, trapping, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, horseback riding and grazing. The restrictions on motors and wheels merely preserve opportunities for people-powered activity, Kuznicki said. In this 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act, it’s a good reminder.
Snow-capped mountains at close range framed every stretch of your hike, high in the Bernese Alps. The trek couldn’t be easier: no panting, no sore feet and no problem hiking down in time for dinner.
An aerial cable car whisks you straight to some of Europe’s loveliest Alpine scenery. Such scenic rides make it easy to tour the Jungfrau, a popular ski spot and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Switzerland.
The same gondolas, trains and cable cars that bring skiers to the slopes also ferry hikers and sightseers from May through October. You can hike for an hour or the whole day. Or just take in the dramatic views at a mountainside cafe.
Summer is peak hiking season, especially mid-June to mid-July, when wildflowers fill Alpine meadows.
Getting high — no not that getting high — by climbing a fourteener is the quintessential Colorado bucket list item.
Colorado has 54 peaks rising 14,000 feet or higher, the most of any state. They are within a few hours’ drive of anywhere else in Colorado and all offer breathtaking views.
Climbing any fourteener in not easy. You need to be physically fit, expecting 8 to 12 hours of hiking, be acclimated to the elevation and also carry some common sense to the mountain. Climbing Longs Peak for your first fourteener probably isn’t a good idea.
To make your first fourteener experience a positive one, here are five beginner-friendly fourtenners to bag this summer.
Hikers and climbers have long been going to Eaton Canyon in Altadena, CA but a dangerous portion of the trail will soon be closed off to the public.
The U.S. Forest Service announced that they will be blocking off a small area known as “Upper Falls.” It’s a challenging part of the trail even for the most expert-level climbers, yet many try to go through it and are unable to finish it with disastrous results.
Five people have died on the trail (that’s nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains) since 2011, and there were 60 helicopter rescues in 2012. Just last year, a 17-year-old girl fell to her death going to the second set of waterfalls at Eaton Canyon.
“It’s not a designated trail,” Nathan Judy of the Angeles National Forest said. “It’s very steep … very dangerous, and we’ve lost a lot of lives up there and because of that we are doing the closure.”
Around noon on June 5, a sweaty man walked into the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center near Dahlonega, Georgia, about 30 miles northeast of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The man put his keys on the counter and told a clerk he’d pay her $200 if she’d watch his car. How long will you be gone? she asked. Four to six months, he said.
A few days later, hikers reported seeing a backpack in the middle of the AT, about a quarter mile from the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center. It hadn’t been moved in days.
Local sheriff’s deputies fetched the pack and found brand new gear inside—hiking boots, a GoPro camera, a GPS system, tent, and a sleeping bag. They also found a wallet containing the driver’s license of a 50-year-old Wisconsin construction worker named Paul D. Paur.
Sergeant Darren Osborn of the Union County Sheriff’s Office tracked down Paur’s girlfriend outside Milwaukee. She told him Paur had suggested he was taking a sabbatical and had withdrawn $5,000 from the bank and split. She was frantically worried about his mental health.
“His girlfriend was very concerned,” Sergeant Osborn said. “He had prepared for a hike, but he just left it all behind. What made it even more strange was the $3,000 he left in his backpack.”
Swiss scientists are urging alpinists and hikers to keep an eye out this summer for lost items in melting ice patches – items lost hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
A project run by a Swiss cultural institute and a graduate student in the canton (state) of Graubuenden aims to gather artifacts trapped long ago in glaciers – finds that are now turning up with more frequency due to a warming planet.
The project – the brainchild of Leandra Naef, who has a master’s degree in prehistoric archaeology from the University of Zurich – encourages people to turn over things like wood or clothing they might run across in eastern Switzerland where the Swiss National Park is located.
In recent decades mountaineers have found everything from goat skin leggings in the Swiss Alps to a corpse in the melting ice of South Tyrol, each about 5,000 years old.
Each year, California’s Sequoia National Park draws a million people to commune with nature and be dwarfed by some of the largest living things on earth. Visitors pass trees recognizing presidents and heroes of war: Washington, Sherman, Lincoln, Grant. A summit trail bears the name of John Muir, known as the father of our national parks.
But few Americans know the name or story of the man who carved this national park into being: Charles Young, a black Army Captain born into slavery in Mays Lick, Ky. It was Young, with his segregated company and crosscut saws, who transformed Sequoia from an impenetrable wilderness to a tourist mecca. In 1903, with teams of mules hitched to wagons, Young’s mountaineers became the first to enter the Giant Forest on four wheels.
When we think of great conservationists, or just ordinary Americans trekking in the outdoors, we don’t typically picture black faces. There are reasons for that: Today, more than a century since Young’s team opened up Sequoia National Park, blacks are still far less likely to explore its trails. A 2011 survey commissioned by the National Park Service showed that only 7 percent of visitors to the parks system were black. (Blacks make up nearly twice that percentage of the US population.) Latinos were similarly underrepresented.
But if African-Americans don’t figure in our notion of America’s great outdoors, geographer Carolyn Finney argues, it is also because of how the story has been told, and who has been left out—black pioneers and ordinary folk whose contributions to the land have long gone ignored. Reclaiming those stories, she contends, could have huge implications for protecting our wilderness in the future.
Among early mariners of Lake Superior’s frigid, storm-prone waters, few places were as feared as Point Au Sable. There, from a picturesque bluff topped by an 19th century lighthouse, a series of sandstone reefs reach out beneath the dark blue surface for up to a mile, poised to rip the hulls from ships driven off course by fog or storm.
Long after satellites transformed wayfinding, rusted steel from century-old shipwrecks still can be spotted in the shallow waters off Point Au Sable, surviving as vivid reminders of the perils of hauling timber and iron ore on the continent’s largest freshwater lake.
Serene as they are macabre, the unrecovered shipwrecks are among the attractions at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – an embarrassment of riches offering a 42-mile trail through the forests, cliffs and dunes of the U.P.’s “graveyard coast.”
A dream destination for hikers and backpackers – when the bugs aren’t out – the Lakeshore Trail is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail from eastern New York to central North Dakota.
The National Forest Service in Washington will be holding local meetings in June, July & August to find out which of the approximately 2000 miles of Olympic National Forest roads will need to be closed. Currently, 1,400 miles of road are currently open to vehicles, but 600 miles of the roads are closed, but may be opened intermittently to provide access for resource management.
According to the Forest Service, “Most roads on the Forest were built between the 1950s and 1990s to support timber management. Needs for and uses of the road system have shifted dramatically; timber harvest on the Forest has declined while other uses such as recreation have increased. As timber-harvest declined over the past two decades, so too has funding for road maintenance.”
“The current road system cannot be maintained or sustained, so it is likely the future road system will include fewer open roads. Closing roads to motor vehicle use, but maintaining use as a trail may be an opportunity identified in Travel Analysis. However, funding for trail maintenance is continuing to decline too, so an opportunity to convert a road to a trail must consider sustainability of the trail system, too.”
Rails-to-trails advocates have announced the formal launch of the Trans Allegheny Trails network.
“The Trans Allegheny Trails are 13 trails that stretch from the Allegheny Ridge to the Allegheny River,” said Laura Hawkins, a greenway coordinator with the Allegheny Ridge Corp., which is working to promote the recreational, historical and economic assets along the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway.
Starting with Roaring Run Trail in the west, the Trans Allegheny Trails include a nearly continuous string of hiking and biking trails along the Kiski and Conemaugh rivers and Blacklick Creek from North Apollo to Ebensburg.
Also included are spurs to Delmont and Indiana; a trail network around Johnstown; and three trail segments primarily in Blair County.
Hawkins was joined by representatives of the Roaring Run, West Penn, Westmoreland Heritage and Blairsville Riverfront trails for the first of three ceremonies promoting the initiative.
Operators of the individual trails began to combine their efforts in 2011 after the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hosted its annual Greenway Sojourn on several of the trails.
Ever since the April 18, 2014 Everest tragedy, when 16 Sherpas died in an avalanche, the Nepal Tourism Board has been grappling with how to make extreme tourism safer within the country.
After months of active discontent from local entrepreneurs, the board has made decisions about how to monitor foreign recreation, trekking in particular.
“The government has made it mandatory for foreign trekkers to accompany a local trekking guide or a porter while going for hiking,” Ramesh Dhamala, president of Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN) told reporters. He is also the coordinator of the Joint Tourism Coordination Committee.
The JTCC had been agitating for the past two months over their various demands, including that trekkers take along a local guide while mountaineering, restructuring of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and a probe into the alleged irregularities in the NTB.
Climbing activities were completely halted in the Everest region for the entire spring season following the mishap, affecting the highly-lucrative industry.
Chesterfield recently joined a program that aims to create a network of linked hiking trails around western Massachusetts.
Under the auspices of the Pioneer Valley and Berkshire Regional planning commissions and the Trustees of Reservations, the Trails Linkages Project seeks to connect long-distance trails in nine towns centered around what is known as the “Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway” (Route 20) and the Route 112 Scenic Byway.
Nancy Rich, Chesterfield’s representative for the project, said the first step is to identify and map designated trails as well as informal trails.
Rich said while the vast majority of existing trails are on public land, some tracts may be privately owned which means the project would need to gain permission from landowners before proceeding.
“We want to work closely with landowners early on in the process,” Rich said. “It is important that property owners are on board and support the project.”
There’s a mystical forest in Belgium, not far from Brussels, that will take your breath away if you visit it in April or May. Every spring, Hallebros, or Bois de Hal (Halle Forest in Dutch), a beautiful 552 ha forest, is carpeted with a thick layer of bluebell flowers. Being in this forest during the bluebell season is a spectacular experience.
Visiting would be best during weekdays, as it is packed with tourists and local visitors on weekends. Naturally, picking the flowers in this wood is strictly forbidden in order to preserve its extraordinary natural heritage.
The ethereal fog that forms quite often in this forest accentuates its mystical and surreal atmosphere even more. To experience this forest with all of your senses, visit early in the morning or at night – when the wonderful smell of the bluebells is at its strongest.