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It’s Ruckin’ Season!

 

The Ruck was a great chance to reunite with old friends and make new friends. Photo by She-Ra
The Ruck was a great chance to reunite with old friends and make new friends. Photo by She-Ra

If you wish you could’ve made it to the Cascade Locks Ruck, don’t despair! The Colorado Ruck is happening March 14th in Golden, Colorado. Come re-experience all the fun documented below…at a higher altitude!

This past weekend, ALDHA-W ran the Second Annual Cascade Ruck in the beautiful PCT Trail Town, Cascade Locks, right in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The long distance hiking community has always been about giving back—and in some ways, because the Ruck is centered around getting people new to long distance hiking on the trail, the Ruck was even more fun than the much-beloved ALDHA-W Gathering.

The formal photo of attendees of the ALDHA-W Ruck. Photo by Nabor J.
The formal photo of attendees of the ALDHA-W Ruck. Photo by Nabor J.

The Cascade Ruck may have even ended up being an even bigger event than the Gathering, with attendees traveling up to 15 hours from California, northern Washington, and even Colorado to make new friends and reunite with the old.

The day kicked off with bagels and lox smoked by ALDHA-W member and chef extraordinaire, Scott “Shroomer” Williams. President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa welcomed and recognized everyone in the room as an important part of our vibrant, sometimes zany, and incredibly fun trail community and encouraged everyone—no matter how many miles they had under their toes, to ask lots of questions, feel comfortable, and learn as much as possible.

Pack shakedown and gear demos
Pack shakedown and gear demos

A great introduction to any pre-hiking season prep is figuring out what gear to use and how to use gear that is comfortable, won’t drain your body with weight, and won’t drain your wallet with price. The Ruck was lucky enough to score as a speaker ultralight guru and founder of Gossamer Gear, Glen Van Peski. He gave an awesome presentation on what he carries in his backpack and how he is able to lighten his load with a few tips and tricks.

Glen’s talk was immediately followed by a one-on-one personal pack evaluation (aka “a shakedown”) where anyone—no matter how experienced they were—could bring their backpack and get advice on how to carry a lighter load from well-traveled long distance hikers. I noticed that some hikers who had already hiked the AT and PCT still were looking for pack shakedowns; in the sport of backpacking, the more knowledgeable a hiker is, the more likely a hiker realizes what s/he can learn from others.

Allgood and I bought an insane amount of food for this trip, and that was supplemented by what Shroomer purchased. Photo by Allgood.
Allgood and I bought an insane amount of food for this trip, and that was supplemented by what Shroomer purchased. Photo by Allgood.

During breaks and lunch, attendees were free to explore the booths of our sponsors and partner non-profits. Attendees were given a few minutes to talk about some of their gear that thru-hikers love. Because ultralight gear is usually only sold on the Internet, it was incredibly helpful for hikers and hikers-to-be to get an opportunity to see, touch, and test out hiking gear before buying it. A real treat for events like this, Montbell brought out down jackets and sleeping bags from their Portland store for hikers to try on. Because Montbell has only two US stores, this was a great opportunity for hikers to try on gear they can usually only buy online.

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Pacific Crest Trail Association manned booths and spoke to the group about importance of giving back and encouraged hikers to volunteer on the trail systems. Many new and even experienced hikers don’t yet realize all the work required to get a trail built and well-maintained, so it was great having trail organizations at the event to remind us all that trails don’t grow on trees.

So Far trying out some gear he never even considered before. Hikertrash enjoying the reunion in the back of Nabor J’s truck.
So Far trying out some gear he never even considered before. Hikertrash enjoying the reunion in the back of Nabor J’s truck.

The event was also filled with great nuts and bolts information about how to prepare for a thru-hike. PCT Hiker Hops spoke about the maps, apps, and other navigational tools that hikers can use on the PCT. As someone who hiked the PCT in the days before smartphones with ubiquitous, it was interesting for me to see how many more options hikers have to get into the backcountry.

In the afternoon, Drop & Roll presented on trail food, nutrition, and resupply for a long distance hike. Since food choices can be so personal, it got interesting when Triple Crowners joined in on a Q&A panel which revealed how different the eating habits of hikers can be on trail. Like an Oprah episode, all the attendees looked under their seat and received a free meal replacement bar donated by Probar. Well, actually, they came up to the front and got to choose their own flavor, but you get the idea.

More fun with the Hikertrash girls. Photo by She-Ra.
More fun with the Hikertrash girls. Photo by She-Ra.

After what felt like should have been a $30 lunch—complete with home-smoked pork, grilled tri-tip, and Porcini tofu made from mushrooms collected in the Wind River Range on the CDT—the attendees listened to a Leave No Trace and Trail Town Etiquette talk given by Allgood and me. With the increased numbers of people hiking, both of these issues are important to ensuring the scenic quality, ecological health, and continued services along the trails. The highlight of this event was a cathole digging contest where attendees competed in digging poop holes by using different tools—a stick, a shoe, a rock, a tent stake, a hiking pole, and a trowel. (For those wondering: the trowel worked the best, followed by hiking pole and tent stake).

The event ended with the talented speaker, Erin “Wired” Saver, who for the first time, shared her presentation about walking the Triple Crown. Her photos and candid stories of her experiences on the PCT, CDT, and AT made everyone in the room start dreaming of getting on trail.

Drop & Roll was ecstatic to win a Montbell Therawrap vest in the gear raffle. Photo by Drop & Roll
Drop & Roll was ecstatic to win a Montbell Therawrap vest in the gear raffle. Photo by Drop & Roll

The event ended with a raffle that featured many big ticket items including down jackets and windshirts from Montbell, backpacks from Gossamer Gear and Six Moon Designs, Altra Zero Drop trail running shoes, a Purple Rain Adventure Skirt, a brandnew Hyperlight Hennessey Hammock, a Stumptown Kilt, Guthook app download for guidebooks for any trail, copies of Hikertrash: Life on the Pacific Crest Trail by Erin Miller, shirts by Hikertrash, and gift certificates and goodies from local gear stores.

The night concluded with social time and Q&A around a keg, donated by Thunder Island Brewing.  It was so wonderful to reconnect with old hiking friends while also introducing new people into our hiking family. No matter how many miles a hiker has under his or her hipbelt, the Ruck was a great place to feel at home with other people who love trails and want to be hiking.

Friends She-Ra, Lint, and Luigi reunite during the Q&A after the event.
Friends She-Ra, Lint, and Luigi reunite during the Q&A after the event.

No matter what trail and what distance you’re planning on hiking this year, Rucks are the West Coast pre-hiking season go-to event to get stoked about (and back in the mindset for) covering some miles. If you didn’t make it out to the Cascade Locks Ruck and wish you could’ve been there, I would highly recommend coming out to the Colorado Ruck on March 14th where the fun and shenanigans will continue for ALDHA-W and CDTC’s Rocky Mountain Ruck.

You can register for the Colorado Ruck directly here: