American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

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  • 17 May 2018 8:14 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Is Your Head in the Clouds?
    by Charles Baker

    “These fleeting sky mountains are as substantial and significant as the more lasting upheavals of granite beneath them. Both alike are built up and die, and in God’s calendar, difference in duration is nothing.” John Muir

    In the morning you break camp, perhaps check your map, don your pack and adjust your straps, then down the trail you go. A few miles into the day you notice the wind picking up a little and the temperature dropping. Looking up to the sky, you notice clouds moving in.

    “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” goes an old saying. While we may not be able to change the weather, we can certainly be aware of it, when it is changing, and take appropriate action. Do I need more sunscreen, or do I dive into my tent? Is my wet-weather gear handy? Will today’s umbrella be for sun or rain?

    The weather you are experiencing on the trail is part of that magnificent worldwide weather machine affecting every place on the globe. Being fueled by that massive energy source in the sky we call the sun, it follows somewhat predictable patterns. Warm tropical air is pulled north by the cold arctic air that is dropping to the south. The tug of the Earth as it spins around, pulls on that belt of air current, causing many prevailing weather patterns to move across the US from west to east.

    As air rises, it pulls moisture into the sky where clouds are formed. When clouds are white, they generally aren’t carrying enough moisture to dump rain or snow on us. But as more moisture collects, the clouds begin to change in color and take on a grey cast. These clouds are weighted with moisture and can drop rain, snow, or sleet on that head of yours as you wander down the trail. If those clouds are fast moving and have a tinge of green around the edges, look out for possible hail and the threat of severe storms such as tornadoes.

    Mountain, lakes, coastlines, prairies – all can affect the weather as well. The well-prepared hiker studies the weather patterns in the areas they will be hiking. Checking the most recent weather forecast is not only advisable but prudent. We may not be able to change the weather, but we can be prepared for it.

    Weather lore has been around for – well, a long time. People have been observing the weather and have become more efficient at recognizing emerging patterns. Sailors and farmers have added to the collection of lore that has become part of our vocabulary – “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” for instance. Outdoor adventurers too have added to this knowledge base; many believing that smoke going straight up from the campfire guarantees stable conditions.

    Understanding weather patterns can help you stay safe and possibly more comfortable on your hike. While “The Weather Channel” and other online sources are great to reference, on the trail we may not have such luxury, and, like basic navigation skills, we need to have enough knowledge to see us safely through.

    The international system of cloud classification has ten principal cloud types. If you can identify all ten, that is great; however, in this article, I will mention just three as a basis for building a hiker’s weather skills.

    Cirrus – these are the wispy white clouds moving high overhead. They are an indicator to alert you that good conditions may last a while longer, but something is changing in the weather system.

    Cirrus Clouds
    Photo by – University of Illinois Extension

    Cumulus – these are the big cotton-ball like clouds that I like to watch with my grandchildren and try to pick out shapes of animals, faces, or whatever our imaginations conjure. I like them too because they usually signal fair weather. However, keep an eye out. As warm weather pulls moisture into the sky, these can darken and billow into thunderheads. That fair weather may then turn into lightning, hard rain, or possible hail.

    Cumulus Clouds
    Photo by – University of Illinois Extension

    Stratus – these clouds are heavy with moisture, lower, and have less shape. Their coverage of the sky is usually complete, and they often bring with them rain or snow that can last for hours. They may be bringing Mother Earth needed moisture, but they have caused many “zero days.”

    Stratus Clouds
    Photo by – OU School of Meteorology

    Understanding weather takes time, effort, and practice. However, over time it can become one of the most valuable and useful tools in your hiker toolbox.

    Stay safe out there!


  • 10 May 2018 12:22 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Backpacking Recipes
    Contributor: Melissa “Treehugger” Spencer

    Hummus
    At home, hummus is one of our go-to snacks. You buy dried hummus, but the quality and calories are lacking. On a whim, I tried drying it myself, and I was surprised how easy it was and how good the finished product was! I only list this as a “gourmet” recipe because it does require a food dehydrator or an oven. Pita chips or tortillas pack nicely and, in combination with the hummus, make a great standalone snack or meal.

    Ingredients
    All you need is your favorite homemade or store-bought hummus!

    At-Home Preparation
    Take your favorite 10 oz. Hummus and stir it up well (especially if it has a topping). If you like, stir in extras. I like to add Tapatio to spice up the red pepper flavored ones, or lime juice to sweeten the plain ones. Divide the hummus in three and spread it with a knife or spatula on three fruit leather trays in your food dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can spread the hummus on parchment paper or directly on a cookie sheet for drying in the oven. Either way, try and spread it evenly so that it is uniformly thin across the surface.

    If you are using a dehydrator, set it to about 100F. If you are using an oven, set it on the lowest possible setting, preferably 180F or below.

    In the dehydrator, the hummus will take about 8-10 hours to dry. When it is done, it will crack and easily flake off the trays. In the oven, it will only take about 1 hour, so keep your eye on it. You don’t want to cook or burn it.

    Hummus spread on fruit leather tray in dehydrator


    Divide into three small Ziploc baggies. Since hummus is oily, I recommend you store it in the freezer to prevent it from going rancid. However, I have had it out of the freezer for up to 2 months with no problems.


    On-Trail Preparation
    About 5 minutes before you want to eat, pour just enough (cold) water onto the dry hummus to cover it. Do not add too much water; you can always add more, but it’s hard to take out. Let it sit 5 min. Stir again. If it is not creamy enough, add a tiny bit more water or up to 1 T. olive oil. That’s it!


    Each serving is 200-370 calories, depending on the brand and whether or not you added oil. (Ex. Sabra hummus with no oil comes out to 235 calories.) Each baggie will make about 7 T. hummus and weighs about 1.5 oz.

    If you liked this idea, check out Treehugger’s other Gourmet Trail Recipes on her blog!


  • 17 Apr 2018 12:27 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    The Discreet Dirtbag
    By: Felicia “Princess of Darkness” Hermosillo

    The spring equinox has come and gone. Some folks have already begun long hikes while others make final preparations. Whenever you start, and wherever your adventure takes place this summer, you’ll likely walk into a town at some point...dirty, bedraggled, with gear to dry and a belly to fill. As more and more of us spend time in the outdoors, and then require rejuvenation in town, our interactions with business owners and their patrons become more important than ever. ALDHA-West has been adding a “Hiker Town Etiquette” section to their “Leave No Trace” presentation, and it is worth revisiting before the season gets fully underway. Here are some of the basic suggestions that have come from numerous conversations with business owners and hikers:

    • Always offer to pay for rides and services ($20 per night at a trail angel and $1 per few minutes of a ride; both of those prices are cheaper than a hotel and Lyft, respectively).
    • Say please and thank you every time, to everyone.
    • Ask for permission before plugging in electronics and/or spreading out your gear to dry and be respectful if they say no.

    "I asked for and received permission before spreading out my gear out.”
    Photo by: Liz “Snorkel” Thomas


    • Ask about alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana policies and then respect those policies.
    • Do not stack hotel rooms or allow friends to shower, ask the proprietor for permission and offer to pay up front.
    • Ask for garbage bags in lieu of leaving resupply boxes and paperboard stuffed and overflowing in trash cans.
    • Remember that you’re not more important than anyone else just because you happen to be on an extended vacation.
    “The Sharif told me I could take a nap here since the dogs are currently not using the park.” 
    P
    hoto by: Kate “Drop-N-Roll” Hoch

    • Be helpful to the locals.
    • When dining in a restaurant, shower first or ask to sit outside.
    • Watch your noise levels when in groups and in-town.

    Being a good ambassador is a responsibility that belongs to all of us, and, along with those lines, I would like to add one more suggestion:

    • Call your peers out!

    I know that is not going to be a popular item to add to the list of suggestions, but it is important. People don’t often change until they are called out by their peers. For those of you who are unsure how to do this I have a few suggestions:

    • Make corrective recommendations to the other person, “Hey Fire Ant; I think the owner might not be down with that, how about we go and ask before spreading out our tents?”
    • Define the undesired behavior, then leave a good impression by suggesting an inclusive recommendation, “Hey Twinkle Toes, we’re going to get hikers kicked out if we sneak alcohol in, let’s go have a drink at the bar instead before heading back.”
    • Don’t go along with undesired behavior and make sure they know what you are referencing, “Hey Taser Face; I’m uncomfortable with ______, I’m going to head back, and I will see you guys at the hostel.”
    • Circle back and say thanks when someone changes their behavior, “Hey Lightening Bee, thanks for asking the owner for us to plug in our phones, that was thoughtful of you and will make a big difference for future hikers.”

    Being a good ambassador and helping each other to leave a great impression is all of our responsibility and it will foster a great relationship between the towns we need and the trails we love.



  • 15 Feb 2018 11:43 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Charles Baker – Editor

    "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir



    Sunset along the West Rim of Zion

    As hikers, and specifically as ALDHA-West members, we love the outdoors and have an interest in preserving and maintaining the great wilderness areas of our nation. As Kate “Drop-n-Roll” Hoch declared; “It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.” “Continue to make your voice heard.” (Gazette, December 7, 2017, “I Continue to Stand for Public Lands).

    Recently, I ran across a notice by the National Park Service regarding a proposal to redesign the Zion National Park South Entrance Fee Station. As an advocate for this beautiful national treasure, my interest was peaked. Here is another opportunity for me, as a long-distance hiker, to voice my opinion and respond to a request for input from those managing this project.

    There are a few questions you may ask yourself as you formulate a response to this type project:

    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed project?
    • Are there any specific issues or concerns that should be addressed in the environmental assessment of this project?
    • Are there other options, alternative, or information that should be considered?
    • Do I have any other comments or suggestions for consideration of the project?

    It is always best to research these issues for yourself and develop your thoughts, opinions, and recommendations. The following background information may help as a starting point in your analysis.


    Hiker taking in the view near the east entrance of Zion

    Visitation to Zion National Park has increased significantly and is straining the existing infrastructure and has resulted in longer wait times to enter the park, specifically at the South Entrance Station. During 2016, the tenth busiest day of that year had a 324 vehicle/hour demand on the gate. The fee station has a capacity of only 194 vehicles/hour. The traffic congestion at this gate is frequently one-quarter to one-half mile in length. On busy days, the traffic line can backup all the way to the neighboring town of Springdale, UT. Visitors to the park can wait in this traffic line for up to an hour just to enter the park! As a visitor to the park, think how frustrating this could be; and the exhaust emissions have got to be horrible! Also, park fee rangers try to expedite the process by “roving” this queue, putting themselves in danger.

    The Utah Department of Transportation analyzed this situation in 2016 and summarized that an additional entry lane could increase the number of vehicles processed/hour by 50%, fully accommodating current park entry demands. As such, the National Park Service is proposing a redesign of the Entrance Station and the roadway. The proposal recommends adding additional traffic lanes leading into and out of the park, increasing the number and size of the fee booths, traffic islands, an employee parking lot, a shade structure to cover the fee booths – complete with solar panels, and two culverts for stormwater runoff.


    Hiking the east rim in Zion

    You are invited, even encouraged, to review this project and submit your thoughts, ideas, and comments regarding its purpose and scope by the deadline of March 1, 2018. The National Park Service website is a great place to start your research, but other resources may be found through a simple web search.

    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=76178

    Comments may be submitted in writing, before the March 1, 2018, deadline, to the project Superintendent, or, easily entered on the following website:

    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=85397

    "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey


  • 17 Dec 2017 8:36 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Editor's Note: With the majority of our members living in the West, we tend to get more information and articles written about trails in that region. However, this week’s trail specific article and photos came to us from Jerry Barker, Board Member, Friends of the MST (Mountain-to-Sea Trail), MST in a Day Coordinator, North Carolina.


    For more information:
    Kate Dixon, Executive Director
    919-698-9024
    kdixon@mountainstoseatrail.org
    mountainstoseatrail.org


    North Carolina’s 1175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail hiked on “MST in a Day”

    On the exact 40th birthday of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), more than 1700 people working together completed 100% of the 1175-mile MST hiking route, from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. (Three legs of an alternate paddle route were not completed due to paddlers being called away to prepare for Hurricane Irma.)


    Mt Mitchell Lands Hiking Group

    Although not officially confirmed, it is thought that North Carolina, known as the First in Flight state, can add another first to its list -- the only state where hikers have collaborated to complete a long-distance trail in one day.


    Mountain-to-Sea, Segment 24

    The average segment was three to five miles with the longest of 21.5 miles. A group of seventeen hikers started a minute after midnight; one hiked from dusk to dawn; one hiked over 25 miles from dawn to dusk; a dozen hiked in memory of a family member. Others were so deep in the woods that it took a couple of days to confirm their completion. Overall enthusiasm for the event resulted in more than 7,300 miles being hiked.


    The Parks Family Hikers

    The non-profit Friends created MST in a Day to raise awareness of the trail and help celebrate the 40th anniversary of a speech by Howard Lee on September 9, 1977, to a National Trails Conference in North Carolina. Lee, then NC Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, said North Carolina should create a “state trail from the mountains to the coast leading through communities as well as natural areas.”

    Now nearly 700 miles have been built. Rural roads connect the completed sections for a total of 1,175 miles. The General Assembly designated the MST as a state park in 2000. Each year Friends’ volunteers work more than 30,000 hours on the MST.

    The MST runs through 37 counties from the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail connects two National Parks, two national wildlife refuges, ten state parks and three national forests, historical sites, and the highest point in the eastern United States. Unlike most other long-distance trails, the MST occasionally goes through communities, as Lee proposed.

    Over 80 people have completed the entire trail with thousands using the trail annually for day hikes and overnight excursions.


    For additional information and a video of the day: mountainstoseatrail.org/mstinaday/


  • 07 Dec 2017 8:19 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    I Continue to Stand for Public Lands
    by Kate "Drop-N-Roll" Hoch

    Bubbles in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

    In the spring of 2016, I walked 1000 miles through southern Utah and Northern Arizona roughly along a route called the Hayduke Trail. I say roughly because, for the most part, there is no actual trail. The route was conceived by 2 guys who just like exploring the desert and happened to write a guidebook about it. This is no “National Scenic Trail”, there is no trail agency or organization overseeing anything about it. Without such official oversight, the route is free to be whatever one walking it chooses. We chose dozens of alternate routes during our hike, using beta cobbled together from the internet, maps and other guidebooks. In the end, we were able to string together about 1000 continuous miles of travel over public lands. To me, this was the greatest joy of the hike – the ability to choose almost any direction and travel freely.

    Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

    Today, these lands are threatened. On December 4, President Trump announced a reduction of about 85% of the Bears Ears National Monument and 50% of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The intention is clear: open the areas to mining and gas extraction. Having spent weeks walking through these lands, I feel deeply connected to them. Bears Ears was not yet a National Monument at the time I hiked the Hayduke, yet I understood the impact and rejoiced when President Obama declared the protections in late 2016. I had experienced not only the vast beauty of the land, but saw evidence of native people’s history with the lands. I can only imagine the devastation they now feel, after having fought so hard to protect lands uniquely special to them.

    My 2016 Hayduke Trail route through the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments before their reduction.

    My time in the Grand Staircase-Escalante was some of the best of my entire hike. The area is (was) so expansive and continuous, I felt I was in truly remote terrain. Though even in the most seemingly rugged and wild areas, human impact was evident: so many cow pies and fouled water sources; old rutted roads crisscrossing the fragile crytobiotic soil; mining debris; cowboy trash. It’s not all a pristine landscape, but I don’t believe that doesn’t mean it’s not worth protecting. Rather, a call to be better stewards of the land, make the changes now to preserve and protect the land for future generations.

    Hiking in Bears Ears

    The threat to our public lands is real, and it’s easy to feel defeated. During the review of the National Monuments by Ryan Zinke, I dutifully called and wrote my representatives, submitted official comments to the review. So did millions of other Americans. Despite the overwhelming support of the Monuments by the people, we were ignored.

    Hiking in Bears Ears

    I expressed my grief and feeling of powerlessness with my fellow ALDHA-West board members. They reminded me of the importance of continuing to fight to make our voices heard. It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.

    Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

    What can you do?  Continue to make your voice heard. Contact your Congressional representatives to start (find them here: https://whoismyrepresentative.com).  


    Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante

    ALDHA-West is the voice of the long-distance hiker and as such, we feel this new direction the current administration and Department of the Interior are taking undermines any federally protected lands that our members utilize - whether as federally designated trails or cross country routes, and sets a dangerous precedent that at any given moment (even with overwhelming public support), we could lose these valuable resources. With the ever-increasing popularity of hiking and use of the trail systems, we the long distance hiker personally understand the relationship people have with the land, and also the benefits connecting users to regions can have. Anyone who has walked a long distance trail or route has certainly passed through small rural towns, many of which welcome us and the economic shot in the arm to their communities. Further many of us understand that long distance hiking not only provides mental and physical health benefits but also allows the user to connect to unique wilderness environments and engage with various cultural and historical sites along the way. We hope you our members will use your time to help speak up for the lands and places we all enjoy to preserve them for future generations of long-distance hikers.


  • 29 Nov 2017 8:26 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    At the 2017 Gathering in Keystone, Colorado, two new Board Officers at large were elected. We are excited for the passion and insight Jeff "Siddhartha" Kish and Craig "Skygzr" Gulley will bring to ALDHA-West!


    Jeff "Siddhartha" Kish

    Jeff’s first taste of long distance hiking came when he left behind a comfortable life in Portland, Oregon and hitched a ride to the Mexican border to thru-hike the PCT in 2012. Five months later, he stood in Manning Park. Hooked.

    Upon returning to Portland, he decided to keep on living “outside,” bought an old van, and converted it into a stealth RV, where he split his time living between the city streets and the wild wide open spaces of the Pacific Northwest.

    For most of the summer of 2013, Jeff parked in Cascade Locks, grilled tri-tip dinners and breakfast scrambles for every hiker who came through, and toted hikers all around Oregon and Washington in his big red home on wheels.

    After a year of giving back to the trail that had given so much to him, it was time to get back to hiking. In 2014, Jeff found his way to Glacier National Park to begin a thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Along the way, he shared his experiences with an international audience as a contributing editor at gearjunkie.com.

    In 2015, Jeff was appointed to the United States Forest Service administered Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Committee. That fall he was honored to speak at the 20th Anniversary Gathering about his adventure on the PNT.

    In 2016, Jeff accepted his dream job as Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

    In addition to long distance hiking, Jeff enjoys mountaineering. Along his PCT thru-hike, he climbed 10 major adjacent summits. In the time since, he’s climbed most of the major volcanoes in the Northwest, including an untethered winter summit of Mount Rainier.

    Jeff currently resides near the Pacific Northwest Trail, under the shadow of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, Washington with his partner and their son (in a real house!)


    Craig "Skygzr" Gulley

    As the newest board member and the one with the least amount of actual long trail experience, I am thrilled to be able to serve the long-distance hiker community through Aldha-West. While my thru hike adventures have been limited to the two-week variety; Ozark Trail, Superior Hiking trail, TGO Challenge Scotland, Foothills Trail, Maah Daah Hey, Zion Traverse, etc. I have been hiking these types of trails for decades with almost 5,000 miles behind me. I have been a trail volunteer in Smoky Mountain National Park and worked with College kids on leadership team building in the Grand Canyon. I also have a degree in Astro-physics from University of Missouri-St.Louis.

    I have admired for decades the toughness both mental and physical of the long trail thru hiker. I have followed along the trail, either via book, blog, or journal, the adventures of many in the long-distance hiking community. I hope to be able to represent and reach out to hikers like myself that may have thousands of miles of trail beneath their feet, but haven’t experienced a truly long trail, but still feel like they are part a community the cares and supports the hiker and bring them into the Aldha-West family. I believe that Aldha-West is the organization that first and foremost represents the hiker and is devoted to their needs. I am looking forward to my time on the board and I am eager to help in any way I can.



  • 06 Nov 2017 1:05 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Scot "SoFar" Forbes


    September 29th-October 1, the annual ALDHA-West Gathering was held. This year, for the first time, the Gathering was held in Colorado. ALDHA-West took over the Keystone Science School in Keystone, CO for the event. It was one of the best-attended Gatherings in recent history, with over 120 lively participants. There was a wide variety of activities throughout the festive weekend. Friday evening was the usual social time with old friends reconnecting after the hiking season. The evening culminated with a live string duet performance by Joshua ‘Bobcat’ Stacy and his bandmate Jacob Martin.

    Did POD really sing at the Gathering??

    Saturday the main program got underway, with four presenters- starting with a presentation from our own Scott ‘Shroomer’ Williams and ‘Sym’ Blanchard about their adventures hiking long pieces of the island of Madagascar. They, along with their friends Francis Tapon and his wife Rejoice, explored the terrain and remote wilds of the island and encountered wildlife and interesting people along the way. It was a terrific journey.

    Junaid ‘Speshul 47’ Dawud, shared the adventures of his Colorado 14ers hike. The hike was a feat not only in backpacking and all the navigation and logistics that come with such an endeavor, but also the mountaineering that truly challenged he and his friend throughout their trip.

    Then, the Legendary Jean-Ella, who along with her partner Jule Wind, described their hike across the Pacific Northwest Trail in 1979. Complete with photos, the presentation reminded many in the audience of what we now take for granted with the amenities available today for backpacking.

    Last up was Kristin Gates. She is a current resident of the remote Brooks Range in Alaska and has explored much of that vast territory. Her presentation entertained, informed, and touched on the important topic of how to maintain those and other wild spaces in our country.

    Keynote speaker Kristin Gates



    During the day, the classic ‘Hiker Olympics’ was held, with athletes competing in a wide variety of different backpacking-related events. This year’s overall winner was Craig “Skygzr” Gulley.

    HIkers demonstrated a variety of skillsets during Hiker Olympics

    After the content presentations, we had a ‘Rocky Mountain High’ themed chili dinner, complete with a cowboy costume contest. The night finished with the two big presentations: The Martin Papendick Award for outstanding trail angel of the year, and the Triple Crown Award for all those hikers who have completed the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. This year, the Martin Papendick Award went to the very worthy Dinsmores. Andrea and Jerry Dinsmore have been taking hikers in for 14 years, and it was a touching ceremony as they received the award.

    The Triple Crown Award Ceremony gave the newly-minted Triple Crowners a chance to speak and reflect on their experiences. With emotions running high, there was much laughter, handshaking, backslapping and comradery as this group of great hikers came together to share and receive. Of the 40 hikers awarded the Triple Crown this year, 27 were in attendance.

    2017 Tripe Crown Inductees

    Sunday morning, the annual membership meeting was called to order - this is an important one – it is the only meeting of the year that the general membership meets to discuss organizational business and hold elections. The yearly recap showed the organization is doing well financially thanks to a series of very successful events such as the rucks. Elections for the offices of President, Secretary, and two at-large board positions took place. Whitney ‘Allgood’ LaRuffa won another term as President; Kate ‘Drop n’ Roll’ Hoch was elected Secretary; Craig ‘Skygzr’ Gulley and Jeff Kish were nominated and elected to the at-large spots on the board.

    The last order of business was the final raffle, where many lucky participants took home some top-shelf gear. The lively weekend came to a close with an LNT exercise. Then, after many hugs, everyone scattered to their separate ways.



  • 11 Oct 2017 9:48 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)


    What to Know About Hiking the Great Himalaya Trail
    Megan “Hashbrown” Maxwell

    The author hiking in Nepal’s Dolpa region

    This past March, I flew to the other side of the world to hike Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail (GHT). This was my second trip to the Himalaya. Back in 2015, I spent a few months in Nepal hiking in the most popular regions. This time the goal was to get as far from the tourist track as possible.

    If you are thinking about hiking the Great Himalaya Trail here’s what you need to know.

    High Route vs. Low Route
    There are two different suggested routes for the GHT, the High Route and the Low Route (or the mountain and cultural routes, as the locals say).

    High Route
    As the name implies, the High Route is known for its higher elevations. Often, the trail crosses overpasses that are upwards of 18,000 feet. However, the grade of the trail is usually not so bad on the days without passes.

    There are several sections of trail where technical mountaineering skills are required. Guides are mandatory in Kanchenjunga, Manaslu, and Upper Dolpa.


    Low Route
    The Low Route connects villages of rural Nepal, and offers the opportunity to see a way of life that is far from that of the United States.

    The term “low route” might lead you to think that it is in some way easier than its mountain counterpart, but that is untrue. Expect to gain or lose elevations of 3,000-5,000 feet on a daily basis. Many of the passes are over 13,000 feet, which is apparently “low” by Nepal standards.

    My hiking partner and I did a combination of the two routes. For the most part, we stuck to the Low Route during the spring and the High Route during the summer.

    Guest Houses
    One of the cool things about the trails of Nepal is the guest house system. If broken into shorter hikes, many regions of Nepal can be hiked without carrying any camping gear or food. With guest house accommodations, you usually get dinner, breakfast, and a hard bed to sleep in. Don’t expect a shower unless you’re in the Annapurna or Everest regions.

    I would estimate that we stayed in guest houses 60% of the time and camped 40% of nights.

    A stretch of trail in the lower Everest region

    Time Commitment
    The amount of time this trail will take really depends on the type of hiker you are. For example, most GHT thru-hikers go with a trekking agency and have guides and porters. These groups are usually on a five-month schedule. On the opposite end of things, the fastest thru-hike was done in under a month by a runner on the Low Route.


     Another factor that will determine your time frame is if you go back to the city to resupply. For example, if you’re hiking the trail in one push it will take significantly less time than if you make trips to Kathmandu or Pokhara.

    My partner and I were in Nepal for four and a half months, and we were on the trail for three of those months. We treated our thru-hike as a travel experience and took our time. When we went to the city to resupply, we usually stayed for a week. While in regions with guest houses, we often stopped by three p.m.

    Resupply
    There are two ways to handle doing resupplies in Nepal.

    Option one is not to do resupplies. Aim to stay in guest houses the majority of the time then you won’t have to worry about carrying very much food. There are regularly small village shops where you can buy supplies. However, the shops don’t stock much food beyond Ramen noodles and packaged cookies.

    At least one trip to the city will probably be necessary. Kathmandu and Pokhara (a smaller city west of Kathmandu) are the only places where you can get a new pair of trail runners or replace broken gear.

    Option two is to bring backpacking food from home, store it at your guest house in the city, and make a few trips back to resupply. My hiking partner and I got off trail four different times to do a resupply run. Each trip involved a day-long bus ride, five or six rest days, and another day-long bus ride back to the trail.

    We also organized permits during these trips back and therefore didn’t have to project permit dates for our entire thru-hike.

    The author’s hiking partner doing some bouldering along the Makalu Base Camp trek

    Budget
    Again, this depends on the hiker and the route. Generally speaking, the High Route is going to be more expensive than the Low Route. There are regions where guides are mandatory, there are more permits to acquire and pay for, and guest house prices are higher because it’s harder to get supplies there. The Low Route does not see much tourism and has better road access. Therefore prices are not inflated.

    The average cost for dinner, breakfast, and a room on the High Route is about $20, whereas it’s about $10 on the Low Route.

    My trip budget averaged $1000 a month. This covered all of my expenses while on trail, bus tickets to and from the trail, a few pricey gear replacements, permit fees, our guide in Manaslu, and splurging on my every whim during rest days in the city. This did not cover my international flights or the resupply food I brought from home.

    The Great Himalaya Trail might be for you if you’re looking to hike amongst the world’s tallest mountains, have a unique travel experience, and do a logistically and physically challenging trail.


    • Additional Resources
    • Don’t have enough time, money, or willpower to do the entire Great Himalaya Trail? Check out my list of the 5 Best Treks in Nepal.
    • I blog at Appalachian Trail Girl. Here you will find detailed personal accounts of my GHT thru-hike and informative GHT posts that help with the preparation process.

  • 05 Oct 2017 12:53 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Fastest Known Time (FKT)
    Clint “Lint” Bunting


    Fastest Known Time (FKT) record-setting attempts on the long trails have been gaining popularity lately.  Until recently, achieving an FKT was a bit of a novelty.  Mostly undertaken by ‘repeat offender’ hikers like Scott “Bink” Williamson. His FKTs weren’t noticed by many outside of the hiking community, and there was relatively little fanfare when he set these records. Ten years ago, thru-hiking the PCT in less than 80 days was considered lightning quick, a speed barely obtainable by mere mortals. Nowadays that perspective is being continually challenged and is changing fast.

    As more and more endurance athletes learn of the National Scenic Trails, they’re coming to them in droves, each seeking out a unique mental and physical challenge. Thru-hiking a trail is tough enough if you have no time restrictions, as readers of this article undoubtedly know. Hauling your filthy carcass and all the gear it needs to be warm, fed and dry for thousands of miles is an endeavor that many attempt, but few complete. Trying to best a record established by a speedy predecessor is a whole new version of challenge, and being that I’m on trail nearly every year, I often hear thru-hikers voice confusion and dismay at folks attempting an FKT. “You can’t see anything going that fast” is a popular one. “What’s the rush? Who are you trying to impress?” is another common utterance I hear. “I just don’t get it”… oh man, this one kills me.
     
    Now, I have never set an FKT on anything other than “race to the buffet restaurant”, but I understand the drive that brings people out to test their mettle and luck (never-ending pasta bowl, duh). It’s easy to understand, really. To help yourself grasp why anyone would subject themselves to 50 mile days in pursuit of a record setting pace, all the average hiker needs to do is remember how most of THEIR friends and family reacted when they informed them they were headed into the wilderness to walk a long trail. Do you remember telling your peers you were headed out to walk 2000+ miles instead of using your vacation time to relax on an ocean cruise? Do you remember how they furrowed their brow and raised eyebrows, at a loss for understanding why you didn’t want to drink Mai Thais and dip anything you could find into the chocolate fountain, while a DJ played endless dance music and everyone got tan? Remember how you tried to explain to your peers that this epic hike of yours was fulfilling a dream, a challenge to yourself, and a way to connect with a deeper, primal lifestyle?
     

    Lint, on the PCT 2009

    You remember. I know you do. It’s quite common for most people to question your sanity when you tell them of your thru-hike plans, and it’s precisely the same confusion your average thru-hiker has when confronted with someone setting an FKT. They just don’t get it.
     
    It reminds me of a bit that the late/great comedian/social commentator George Carlin used to do, observing a truth about the experience of freeway driving.
     
    “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an
    IDIOT, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
     
    That mentality permeates the opinion of most hikers when confronted with the pace of others. THEY happen to be hiking the correct amount of miles per day…THEY are correctly enjoying the wilderness at an appropriate speed. Anyone hiking slower or faster than them elicits judgment and dismissal. DO YOU SEE HOW SILLY THAT IS?! There are countless ways to enjoy our natural national treasures. Just because most thru-hikers walk 20 miles a day on average, that doesn’t make
    it right. Hike 5 miles a day and stop to spread paint across a canvas at every scenic vista, if you want. Hike 12 miles a day and sleep in late if the desire strikes. Hike 50 miles a day and test your endurance in ways that make seasoned ultra-runners cry. Hike at whatever pace you damn well please, but please consider the irony and uselessness of casting judgment on the distances covered by others.
     
    I’m not the fastest hiker, but I routinely cover 30+ miles a day with relative ease. When people say things like “you can’t be seeing anything,” I remind them that while I’m up hiking early, catching the first rays of dawn as it spreads across the horizon, they’re still slumbering away in their shelter. When they stop at dusk to pitch camp at the end of their day, I’m still moseying down the trail, watching nocturnal animals creep out of their hiding places and observing that silent, magical time when purple dusk fades slowly to inky black. By hiking longer, I see much, much more than they do. When on a hike, I want to see everything…not just the inside of my tent. In 2013, I had the good fortune to tag along with Heather “Anish” Anderson for three days while she was on her way to setting an FKT on the Pacific Crest Trail. We were both doing the exact same thing…she was just doing it for more hours each day. During those three days we spent together, she wasn’t so fast that the experience was a blur. She walked just over three mph, an average hiking pace, and was keenly aware of her surroundings. We laughed at each other's jokes, contemplated armchair philosophy, farted loudly and with relish (ok that was mainly me).  Pretty much the same thing every hiker does, but without stopping for anything other than to sleep, take a daily 20-minute break, and pee. Well, she stopped to pee, I urinate while walking. It’s an ultra-runner thing.
     
    Hiking the Colorado CDT 2015

    The point of this whole silly story is that you don’t have to understand an FKT, but you should respect it the same way you hope folks  back home can respect your hiking obsession. Just because someone is doing something different, in hopes of expanding their consciousness and facing the limits to their capabilities doesn’t mean you should look down your nose at their efforts. Fastest known time, slowest known time – it’s more important to see the similarities, the main one being that we’re all spending time, that singular most precious thing we have on this earth, doing what we love. Time spent in the wilderness is never a bad thing, regardless of speed.

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