A Wannabe Reflects on the Ruck
Erik Sabina, Denver, CO
I’m sorry to tell you that I first became aware of you all through watching the movie version of that book that shall not be named. At least that is how some folks seem to feel about it. Anyway, the main thing I want to say is that you all have kept me (semi-) sane these past few months, thanks to the magic of blogging. I was diagnosed with arthritic degeneration in my big toe joints in 1989, and have been fighting off the day of surgery ever since. This winter, the day came. After my January 23 surgery, I didn’t leave the house for five days. For several weeks after that, I walked with crutches and wore one of those surgical shoes that make one look like a one-legged duck. By this time I was already aware of the astonishing things you all do, seemingly acting as though anyone can do it (I’m thinking “No, really - people can do that?”). I was sitting in my family room with my foot in ice, living in that tiny indoor world, dreaming that I’d fully recover, dreaming that I could live in a big world instead.
A really big world.
I must have been randomly Googling for more through-hiking info on March 7 or so, and I ran across this organization called ALDHA-West. And by some odd piece of luck, you were holding a thing called a Ruck. The next weekend. In Golden. About 14 miles from my house. Hmm. It lasts all day. And I’ve never been on a backpacking trip longer than six days. And maybe I hiked 20 miles in a day. Once. And despite a lifetime of backpacking, one through-hike on a long trail likely adds up to more miles than I’ve done in all my trips put together. And I’m very busy, and I’m not sure how it can take all day to talk about hiking (ok, stop that laughing).
Well, then. My kind wife said, “go, have fun.” So I went.
I’ve been in more than one group in which newcomers are looked down on, held at arm’s length, treated with suspicion. Wow, you all not behave that way. People who’ve done things I can only barely conceive of, treated me like they’d known me for years. They shared stories and advice. They acted like they thought that I might be able to do what they’ve done. I loved the gear demos; I learned so much from the “what I carry” panel discussion. I enjoyed the nutrition talk. I learned techniques for crossing raging streams without drowning (probably). And of course watching Jean Ella’s presentation made me feel like anyone really could do it, with all the support tools available today (none of which she had.)
So thank you Allgood, and Snorkel, and Dirtmonger, and all the others (including lots of people who only have regular names, like me). I don’t know how much you intended to serve as inspiration for an oldish hiker trying to get over surgery and wondering how much hiking he has left in him. But anyway, you did. And of course, I still don’t know how much I’ll be able to do (surgery, and ever advancing age, and all that). I still have plenty of uncertainty to deal with, but from the sound of it, lots of you have had to deal with that too, often mid-hike. Not knowing if you can do this, not knowing if you want to when it comes to it, not knowing if you can go on in the face of adversity after adversity. But I hope this summer to make a few shakedown trips, and put one foot in front of the other and find out.
The Sub-24 Hike
A quick getaway for those who used to be able to get away more
I was a thru-hiker twelve years ago. I would quit my job, sell most of my possessions, put the rest in storage, and hike for five months. After the adventure and freedom of the thru-hike, I’d pack up my car and start a new job somewhere different. I’d repeat the process in two years. Those days were important to me. I was alive. They shaped who I am today. I remember those days fondly.
But that was then. Now I have a family with two little boys who wake up at 6:00 a.m. every day. I want the boys to go to college if they want to. I want to save some money so that when the kids leave home, my wife and I can go on some amazing adventures. And, I rather like the home improvement projects that keep me busy in-between trips to the playground.
Despite my newfound responsibilities, I’m still a hiker. The two-mile hikes we do, feeding the five-year-old chocolate, with the one-year-old on my back, are nice, but these short hikes don’t scratch the itch. So, what’s a responsible family man supposed to do?
Enter the sub-24 hike. On Saturday afternoon around 3:00 p.m., after putting the youngest down for his nap, I head up to a trailhead 30 miles from home that leads to the Continental Divide. By 4:00 p.m., an hour later, I’m hiking up the trail. Everyone is heading out; I’m the only one heading in. I hike until dark and set up camp alone at tree line. The people are back at the prime lakeside spots they secured early in the afternoon. The next morning I’m on the trail by 7:30 a.m. I’ve got miles to go, and I’m needed home in the afternoon. I walk along the Divide under bluebird skies with the occasional trail to connect the route. Now back on trail, it’s time to head down. Descending, I notice all the people heading up. The sub-24 hike isn’t how most people get out for the weekend. Entering the trees, a cool, shadowy walk leads me back to the car. I grab a cold beverage from the cooler. Relaxing in the parking lot before heading home, I notice how much busier it is at noon on Sunday than at 4:00 p.m. when I got on the trail yesterday. The sub-24 hike is a good way to beat the crowds.
Just under 24 hours since I left, I’m back home in time to greet the one-year-old as he wakes from his nap. I have dinner on the table at 5:00 p.m. The kids are in bed by 7:30 p.m.; I unpack and straighten up the house a bit and then it’s time to go to sleep. The next day is a work day. I’m grateful for this quick adventure, a little taste of freedom, a little taste of wilderness. It may be short, but the sub-24 hike is a great way for those who can’t get away as much anymore, to get away for just long enough.
Mike "d-low" Dilorenzo
Snowed in, iced in? Dreaming of warmer hikes ahead? Here is an article that will help when you turn those daydreams into reality.
5 Tips for Hot Weather Backpacking
By: Sirena “desertsirena” Dufault
Here are some tips for beating the heat while backpacking:
Drink Water and Eat Food
Seems obvious enough, right? But in hot weather it can be a challenge to find the right balance. It’s not just enough to chug water all day long while backpacking in the heat- in fact, it can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. The body loses salts when sweating, it’s what causes white rings on clothing after a hot day on the trail. Replacing these salts while rehydrating is extremely important, either by eating salty snacks or by using electrolyte replacement drinks, chews, or gels. Feeling like the trail sucks and your hiking partners are a bunch of jerks? One of the first signs of dehydration is irritability. Take a moment to drink and eat, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make.
Long sleeves and pants might look hot in the sun, but they provide shade, protect from UV rays, and when wet with sweat, provide evaporative cooling. Make sure to protect the back of your neck and ears from sunburn with a hat with a wide brim, a neck flap or a lightweight hoody with a baseball cap or visor.
Shade Up with an Umbrella
My number one piece of hot weather backpacking gear is a trekking umbrella. Shade is at a premium in the heat, so why not carry your own? A regular umbrella will do in a pinch, but most are not made to withstand high winds without turning inside out. Trekking umbrellas with a silver reflective surface made from carbon fiber are light, sturdy and can either be carried in your hand or attached to your pack. It can also be used to set up some shade while taking a break. No need to wear a hat and umbrella at the same time, so there’s lots of ventilation. Put a wet bandanna on your head and you’ve got a great way to provide evaporative cooling.
We have a saying in the desert- “If you’re hot and near water, you’re stupid!” Wet your head, soak your shirt, get in the water to cool your core temperature. At the very least, wet a bandanna and tie it around your neck. This fools the body into thinking it is cooler than it is because it gets the temperature cues from the blood flowing through the carotid artery in the neck. Note: DO NOT use precious water from caches for this purpose.
Take a cue from the wildlife and many hot weather cultures and split your day into early morning and afternoon hiking with a nap in between. Temperatures are usually hottest between 10am - 4pm. Find yourself some shade or use an umbrella to make your own and settle in to wait it out. If you can siesta near water, all the better. Getting a sunrise start will give you several hours to hike in more comfortable weather. Night hiking is also an option to beat the heat.
Sirena “desertsirena” Dufault
This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Glen Van Peski, of Gossamer Gear, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Glen a few questions about Gossamer Gear so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Glen, please leave a comment.
1. Did you start as a DIYer? How did you make the leap to starting a gear business?
My mom thought that every kid should leave home knowing how to cook, bake, and sew, and we all did. I sewed the early Frostline and Holubar kits for down clothing and sleeping bags. When I graduated from high school in 1976 I rode my bicycle across the country, which got me thinking about, ironically, ultralight travel and making my own gear. I had sketches of bike panniers based on having pedaled 4,200 miles thinking about it. It wasn’t until years later when our oldest son Brian got into Boy Scouts that I got back into making my own gear. We joined a backpacking troop, and the Scoutmaster, a good friend of mine, had just read Ray Jardine’s original book. He was enthusiastic and enrolled me in getting lighter. For our first Sierra trek with the Scouts, I had gone down to REI, and they had loaded me up, starting with an internal frame backpack that weighed 7 lbs. empty. It’s hard to imagine now, with all my gear weighing less than 5 lbs. After reading Jardine’s book, I figured the pack represented a great opportunity to start lightening up, so I got a pattern, heavily modified it, and sewed my first pack… the G1 as it were. I kept at it until the fourth one seemed to be what I needed. This was the early days of the internet, and I put together the G4 plans and put them online for people. I never really intended to get into business, but people kept bugging me because they didn’t know how to sew. So I figured out how to have a few made, figuring that would be the end of it. But instead, it was the start of quite an adventure, leading to the creation of GVP Gear, now Gossamer Gear.
2. What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product…expand the US market, Europe, Asia? How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?
Our vision is to inspire and equip everyone to get outside, by providing thoughtful, functional solutions to simplify their outside adventures. We see a trend with younger people to care less about accumulating possessions and more about having experiences. Our commitment to “take less. do more.” is right in line with caring less about how much you have, and more about what it allows you to do. After many years out of the shelter market, we finally had a satisfactory material designed for us, and brought back “The One.” In the future we plan to expand that segment, with a 2-person model, a minimalist version and possibly a ‘mid offering. In the past we’ve carried a sleeping bag with some unique features, so we might decide to bring those back in the future. We already have some fairly robust dealers overseas, but that’s certainly an area that could be explored further. There are a lot of great European manufacturers already, but the market seems to have some room for our offerings. We are planning on traveling to the European outdoor show this year and do a hike there, to meet some dealers and customers.
3. What do you think was the smartest move you have made? Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?
Hmmm, probably the smartest move was selling 75% of the company to someone who would put in the funds and staff to run it so I didn’t have to, when I was ready to close it down. Biggest mistake? Oh, there have been plenty along the way, as we lurched along between sewing operations. Our foray into affiliate marketing would have to be right up there. Most mistakes seemed like a reasonable decision at the time, but ended up having bad impacts. Luckily for us, having quality, innovative products and dedicated customer service have kept us growing.
4. Have you found that customers outside the US are skeptical of ultralight/lightweight clothing/gear? If so, how do you turn skeptics into believers?
We have a solid customer base outside of the U.S., so there’s obviously interest in lightening up their gear. Certainly it’s always important to take into account local conditions when planning for a trip, no matter where in the world you are headed. Underestimating conditions is a good way to veer into “stupid light”. As far as turning skeptics into believers, showing them is the best way. There’s nothing quite as effective as taking a trip with someone, with half the base weight they are carrying, and them seeing that I’m perfectly comfortable; in fact more comfortable because I’m carrying less weight. Even after going on a trip with someone to show them what ultralight looks like in practice, they still may not be willing to make the choices I make to get there. Ultimately it’s generally about two tradeoffs; first, trading off some comfort in camp for comfort (through carrying less weight) on the trail. Secondly, being willing to acquire greater knowledge in some areas (for instance the knowledge to effectively use a tarp for shelter). There’s still ways to trim weight without those two tradeoffs, but to get to ultralight, you ultimately end up bumping up against those two tradeoffs. People have varying willingness to make two tradeoffs, so we’re committed to making gear at different points along the spectrum, that allow them to reduce their pack weight while minimizing the amount of camp comfort and skill level decisions they are forced to make.
5. Favorite hike?
Wow, I just like to be out, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I’m not a fan of day hikes, in fact I seldom engage in them. For me, the staying overnight, carrying everything I need on my back, and having the ability to keep going instead of turning back, is a huge factor. While I love to be anywhere outside, above tree line in the mountains is definitely my favorite, especially off trail. I’ve taken to getting extra permits for hikes I’m planning, and then sending out an invite blast to a list of people I know are 1) fit, 2) have their gear together and most importantly 3) are good company in the backcountry. I get to introduce people to some of my favorite areas, and since it’s different people on every trip, they get to meet others with similar interests. The Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon trip is in danger of becoming an annual tradition at this point, it’s just so beautiful and unique. Humphreys Basin, in the John Muir Wilderness out of North Lake is also a perennial favorite, because it’s easy to get to, and easy to put together off-trail loops to explore the area (and it’s an area where bear canisters are not required). My favorite hike in 2016 was 6 days off trail in the Weminuche Wilderness with Will Rietveld and a buddy of his; 60 miles and 42,000 vertical feet chasing a couple of guys in their 70’s; good times.
6. Where will you go on your next vacation?
As I’m writing this, I actually don’t have a trip on the books, which always makes me a little jumpy. Come January, I’ll get permits for another trip down Buckskin Gulch in April and start getting a group together for that. I’ll probably end up getting a trip together in the Sierra again. We’re building a house in Bend, Oregon so we have a couple of trips planned up there. I’m not much of a beach guy, but we spent a week at the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas after Thanksgiving with my dad and stepmom, and it was pretty nice; we’re talking about doing it again in 2017. Some trips are related to ultramarathons, so it depends on what I sign up for in 2017. I’m looking at the Ruston and Elkhorn 50-mile races, but haven’t made a final decision.
7. Is there anything about your company that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered yet?
Not really. It’s interesting to me that when I started GVP Gear, there were only a couple of us doing that. Now there are SO MANY cool cottage manufacturers, I can’t begin to keep up with all of them. It’s great to see the creativity and commitment to finding innovative new approaches to gear.
Glen Van Peski
Our thanks to Glen for answering our questions and giving us an insight to Gossamer Gear. If you would like to join in the fun and submit questions we can ask our great sponsors, please send them to - email@example.com.
The “Opinion from a Member” section of the Gazette, provides a forum for members to write a letter to the editor expressing their views and opinions on topics which concern the hiking community. The views and opinions expressed are the those of the author and may not be the opinion or view of ALDHA-West. Should you have a letter you would like to submit for possible publication, please submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter to the Community -
For six years, between 2006 to 2013, I re-hiked the PCT, having first thru-hiked it in 1994 and then for the 3rd time in 2015 I re-hiked the first 800 miles. From my recent experience, I would like to start a discussion about new behaviors that I find troubling before they become entrenched in the trail culture.
What I saw -- on the part of some hikers -- was a sort of entitlement attitude and "frat boy" drunkenness that I believe will negatively impact the trail community as the numbers grow.
My observation: some groups of people spent their time on the trail serially binge drinking at each resupply town. I'm not the only one noticing. It has already caused neighbors of Kennedy Meadows to officially complain to the licensing authority about bad behavior including public urination. I saw and heard about publicly drunk hikers surrounded by empty beer cans lying in the street or in front of resupply stores.
What makes anyone think the stores and towns who now help us will continue to do so if this is what they have to encounter? In fact, I had hikers tell me that they skipped miles of the trail -- not because of weather or injury but to be able to spend another day drinking.
Years ago one hiker acting out like this would have no impact. But each year more hikers leave the border. That huge mass, plus the section hikers, makes it look like hikers are some sort of group of drunken fools. Many times, I heard from people in town that they did not want to give these "stoners and drunks" rides to the trail. There was also the hiker who left an uncovered dump in every campsite wiping his butt with a section of the map. Drunk? Stoned? Stupid?
Being on the trail means that people are probably the most open and vulnerable emotionally since childhood. Some studies suggest that hiking can make you smarter. But not if you are drunk every five days. You are doing an activity that opens brain pathways. It literally changes you neurologically. That can cause one to use something to try to shut down. The hike can seem like too much. But, maybe, slowing down, taking a deep breath, an extra day off, finding someone to hike with, or talking about it, or crying (I did lots of that on my first thru-hike) might be a better choice than getting blind drunk in every town.
Everyone should now understand at what level body weight-to-alcohol ratio makes you drunk. Drunk people do and say really stupid things.
We lost a number of towns and hostels on the AT because of that sort of behavior. I don't want to see us have to hitchhike miles to some town because no one in the small stores (like Manzama campground) and small towns wants us there.
There isn't one house angel that hasn't lost money or possessions to hiker thieves.
It is amazing what each of us is doing, but that does not mean that we get to run roughshod over the people that help us.
I also read sexist, racist, homophobic rants in the registers. Don't you think the public reads this stuff?
You might think about how it looks before you go into a town with 30 percent unemployment and try to use food stamps to pay for food and lodging. Your choice, but enough people already think we are bums and parasites. In that town there may be people desperate for a job, needing food stamps to feed their family. We affectionately call ourselves "hiker trash," but I don't want us to get that reputation in the outside world.
Also, if you are not staying at a commercial hostel, then maybe using their facilities is inappropriate. Those people give much more than they are getting back in money -- but they are not there to be taken advantage of.
The trail has developed, at least with some hikers, a "speed is the only value" mentality. I was talking to some hikers about wishing that a temporary injury didn't slow me down and require me to carry more food. I hate extra weight on my back. A hiker countered, "You cannot compare yourself to the best." At first, I didn't know what she meant -- then I realized that she saw "best" as "fastest." Not the most skilled, not the most comfortable, not the happiest, not the most knowledgeable or any number of ways of valuing the hike, only the fastest. Often the only conversations were about how fast they hiked and how many miles hikers were doing. What a relief when someone actually talked about the flowers, trees, and views.
I heard many hikers just complaining about being out there. They just wanted it to be over and were miserable. Maybe that was because I was in the first few hundred hikers and attitudes were different back in the pack. Of course, some people are forced to hike fast because they only have so much time off. We don't have to hike the trail the same way. I just would like people to think about how they might be hurting themselves, other hikers, and the trail.
Another thing to think about: never using natural water sources because "angels" have brought the faucet to you -- just like you have in town. I know we have been in a drought. Sometimes the only water is from Angels. I'm not referring to that. Originally "angels" brought out water to help hikers who were really in stress. But now there are so many hikers who don't even bother filtering. How long do you think those angels will continue before you burn them out? Topping up, finding yourself short because you were too hot all makes sense -- but never taking water from a stream because you know there are jugs of H20 out there? I would suggest that is something to ponder. "Trail Magic" usually means a surprise, not something that you expect and then become irritated that you don't get it.
When 2,000 hikers leave the border do you really want it to be like back in the days when we had to carry 2 gallons of water to get through the desert because the "angels" have quit?
Just so there is no confusion, no one is talking about having a couple of beers when you get to town. I'm talking about passed out drunken fools in every town. I'm tired of hearing "I've never seen this.” I saw it over and over. The trail is not the inconvenience that you have to put up with between towns. Hiking the trail is the point. Give yourself the chance to experience it.
Each year there are hikers out there doing what my father used to call "poor mouthing.” They mooch meals in town from other hikers but seem to have plenty of money to buy booze and dope.
Hiking is the most joyful thing I do. I love being out there. I met hundreds of wonderful hikers including some of those, when they weren't drunk, that I have been referring to in this letter. I struggled for a long time before writing this. I fully expect some angry response to this letter. No one likes their painkillers to be challenged. Let's talk about this.
Note from ALDHA-West: We encourage you to take a look at our "10 Commandments" of good hiker etiquette!
During this year's annual Board Retreat, we talked a lot about how to address conflicts between hikers and trail towns business owners, which is becoming more frequent as the numbers of hikers on long distance trails grows. One thing that came out of this discussion was the idea to create a set of guidelines for how to behave in town. While most of these behaviors may seem like obvious common courtesy, some things may be easy to forget when you're a weary hiker walking into town. So let's all do our best to be good ambassadors of the hiking community and maintain positive relationships with trail towns!
"Just because you live in the woods doesn't mean you have to act like an animal"
The Ten Commandments for Hikers in Town
by Charles Baker
This segment of the Gazette allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question or phrase. If you would like to participate, or, if you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please contact email@example.com. Answers must be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch...
Today's question: "Bears poop in the woods, hikers…?"
Steve “Twinkle” Shattuck – “Leave no trace.”
Miguel “VirGo” Aguilar – “Clog the toilets in town.”
Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz – “Poop in their pants.”
by Scot “So Far” Forbes
The idea of backpacking for many conjures one of the quintessential elements of backcountry living: the campfire. Many backpackers will often say that food on the trail tastes better because of the environment, and one of the places where people geek out on the most with their gear is in their portable kitchen with everything but a standup mixer. I get it: Everyone loves a hot meal. I went to college in Ashland, where many of us know that there is a hot food tax- they know that visitors to their city expect the luxury of something prepared in the oven or on a stove to go along with their vacation. It’s nice. It’s cozy. It reminds us of home.
Hiking stoveless is a departure from this, and it is part of a larger mindset that I have in real life as well as when hiking. For me, I am anything but what one would call a gourmand. I appreciate good food when I come across it, but I don’t by any means expect it. I am perfectly content grazing at home, and consider the distinction between a large snack and a meal to be inconsequential. The focus for most hikers, and indeed most Americans, is a large meal in the evening. The banquet or feast that we call dinner. I have found that at home as well as on trail, I have started to try to minimize that meal and focus more on eating throughout of the day.
When on a hike, I leave the cooking to the professionals and get my cooked food in town.
Among the miracles of the post-war, echo to the Industrial Revolution, we made great gains (some would call losses) in the ubiquity and quality of available foodstuffs. When I use the word “quality,” I am referring only to our ability to preserve these foods from spoiling. Over time, much of the processing for foods can have demonstrably detrimental effects on one’s health, but for a long hike, embrace the fats, salts, and, that are available and ready to eat in our nation’s small-town convenience stores. I am known for my famous all Cheez-It dinners. You’re on vacation!
There is one important qualifier: Fiber. The best way to get some fiber out there is to dehydrate at home. I recommend kiwis, blueberries, red peppers, and red onions. These cover the bases as far as sweet/savory, and between them, can make any “meal” more delicious. Most people dehydrate specifically for their cooked meals, but I think it’s even better for modifying much-needed fruits and vegetables for ready-to-eat convenience.
I am a person who doesn’t want to have to deal with much out there, and looking for fuel in small towns and having to deal with proper storage and carrying a liquid that I cannot drink are low on my list of reasons to go backpacking. Also, cooking is not part of my experience. Going stoveless helps me achieve my goal of getting to sleep early and simply look forward to another day of hiking.
All this being said - if anyone else ever wants to cook for me. . .
This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Ryan Linn, of Atlas Guides, who’s branded products include Guthook Hiking Guides, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Ryan a few questions about Atlas Guides so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Ryan, please leave a comment.
1. Please give a brief description of your company. What products do you sell? How did you decide in which products to specialize? How long have you been doing this?
-We are Atlas Guides, aka Guthook's Hiking Guides, a very small (3-person) company of thru-hikers, with a combined five thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, two of the Appalachian Trail, one of the Long Trail, three of the John Muir Trail, and many other trails. We started making smartphone-based hiking trail guides to the PCT and AT in 2012 and 2013, and have since expanded our catalog to include 6 U.S. National Scenic Trails, and dozens of other long-distance and regional hiking and cycling trails in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia.
2. Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?
-Our market started solely as thru-hikers, and for the first four years of our business, our apps spread almost entirely by recommendations from one hiker to another. We now try to reach more section hikers and weekenders. Over the past year, we have built up our Facebook presence (www.facebook.com/guthookhikes) and launched our new website (www.atlasguides.com).
3. What is your goal for your company? How big do you want to be? Are there new product lines you would like to be in?
-We are dedicated to staying small as a company. As we expand our guides to new trails and different activities, we are working hard to streamline and automate as many processes as we can. We also prefer to work with trail organizations and guidebook authors to add new trails to our series, rather than trying to map the trails on our own.
4. What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product expand the US market, Europe, Asia? How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?
-We recently added guides to bike touring in Australia, the Te Araroa in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and several trails in Great Britain. We collaborate with locals to create these apps, which helps us reach the audiences they have already created.
5. What do you think was the smartest move you have made? Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?
-The best move we ever made was to start reaching out to various guidebook authors and trail organizations to create partnerships where they can benefit from our app framework, and we can benefit from their local knowledge of the trails. While we haven't made any truly boneheaded mistakes, we often miscalculate the level of interest in a given trail and the amount of time and effort it takes to keep our guides up-to-date. The number of people who hike a trail doesn't always correspond to how many people will buy an app for that trail.
6. Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?
-One of our top priorities is a responsibility to trails and the people that use them. We partner directly with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Arizona Trail Association, Ice Age Trail Alliance, and Great Divide Trail Association to produce the official apps for their trails. We work closely with many other trail organizations to make sure our guides send the messages that are consistent with what those organizations want hikers to see. We also support the Center for Biological Diversity due to theirexcellent Public Lands protection program. Beyond our business relationships, we are members of several trail organizations, and Ryan is a trail adopter for a section of trail in Maine.
Lead iOS Developer & East-Coast Trails Specialist
2016 Colorado Ruck
by Jenny Gaeng
The 2016 Colorado Ruck helped me plan my CDT hike, but more importantly, it gave me the chance to meet other hikers. I had never done a thru-hike before. I had just made the decision. I was nervous.
I expected that a lot of others would be in the same boat: shy, clutching a shining new Gossamer Gear backpack and their very first pair of Altras. Instead, I encountered mostly veterans: those who has hiked the CDT or another trail in a previous year and returned to the Ruck to share their advice and relive the culmination of their beautiful dream.
2016 Rockies Ruck
Anyone who has ever thru-hiked for the first time knows how much you rely on your fellow hikers. They teach you trail slang, give you a trail name, and tell you to cut your toothbrush in half. They tell you the truth about chafing and poop. They show you how to thread your blisters. And when you're worried or scared about something, they assure you that you can do it.
I found the panel discussions most helpful. They focused on ultralight hiking, safety concerns, food, and more. Hearing different hikers share their opinions, I realized something crucial: there is not one right way to hike the CDT. You have many options and many choices to make. “Should I buy snowshoes and prepare to brave June in the San Juans”? (I did, and it was amazing.) “Is it even worth it to try and pack out healthy food”? (I brought kale a couple of times in New Mexico.)
I also had my first, but not last, pack shakedown at the Ruck. During a shakedown, an experienced hiker combs through all your gear. They shake their heads bemusedly and explain that your stove doesn't need a case, no matter how light the plastic. It also gives you the chance to have a one-on-one gear discussion with an experienced hiker - and ask them any other questions you have about the trail.
I spent most of Shawn "Pepper" Forry's keynote presentation about his winter PCT thru-hike thinking, “that looks miserable, I would never, ever, do that.” But it was still thrilling to hear the story.
Pepper talks about his winter thru hike of the PCT.
And then, of course, there is the gear raffle. If there's one thing to know about hiker gatherings, it's that hikers love a good gear raffle. There were also vendors peddling everything from socks to intriguing, locally-made, hiking skirts.
It's not an ALDHA-West event without a raffle!
Hiking a long-distance trail brings you friends that change your life, whether-or-not you ever see them again. Head to your local Ruck - you'll meet the first ones there.
Editor's Note: We have 3 more Rucks coming up in 2017. Hope to see you there!February 25 - Cascade Locks, OR
March 4 - Santa Cruz, CAMarch 11 - Golden, CO
ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.