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Savory Bar Review: Mediterra-Sundried Tomato-Basil Bar

With guest vlogger, Brian  Davidson (trail name: Mr. Gorbachev), we took the Mediterra Tomato-Basil bar hiking on the Colorado Trail. This bar is very new—just started its national retail launch a little more than a month ago—and we were excited to be among the first to try it.

Details:

Weight: 1.4 oz (40g) Calories: 160 Protein: 6 g

Interesting nutritional notes: The first bar to be inspired by the Mediterranean diet. High in Iron (15%), Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: Sundried tomatoes (YES! Thank you for making this bar!), pecans, cashew butter, olive oil, capers (really??? In a bar?? Awesome.), basil (what a fantastic idea!), currants (very classy)

Price: $1.99 a piece on sale at Sprouts supermarket. Foods this price go into my “treat bar” category instead of the “utility bar” category.  However, unlike the other bars we tested, the online price seems to be less expensive than the supermarket.

The Mediterra bar
The Mediterra bar

Overall thoughts: A highlight of the savory bar review, the Mediterra Tomato Basil does not hold back on flavor. It has an intense tomato-basil flavor going on and I commend them for going bold on a creative flavor that totally works. This bar has a great umami flavor going on and a nice, crisp texture. As a backpacker, I wish the bar was denser, both in its weight-to-volume ratio and calorie-to-weight ratio, but it could also work well as a lower-calorie post-gym, dayhike, or bored at the office snack. This is exactly what I want as an on-trail pick me up in a care package from my family. Great tasting luxury bar great enough to motivate me through a few extra hard miles.

Where to get: Mediterra’s website, Natural Grocer’s by Vitamin Cottage in Colorado and Arizona, select Sprout’s supermarkets

Disclaimer: Mr. G and I purchased these bars with our own money. All bars were tested on trail while hiking–so our reviews may be based on hunger rather than taste. I’m allergic to peanuts and don’t eat turkey, so not all flavors are reviewed.

Savory Bar Review: Slow Food for Fast Lives Indian savory bar

 

With guest vlogger, Brian “Mr. Gorbachev” Davidson, we took the Slow Food for Fast Lives  Indian savory bar on the Colorado Trail.

Weight: 1.4 oz (40g) Calories: 180 Protein: 5 g

Interesting nutritional notes: Very high in Vitamin C (35%), and pretty good in Iron (8%), Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: CAULIFLOWER (I’m kind of in love with this veggie and can never get it on trail), Lentils (so novel to have this in a bar), Coconut+coconut oil, Potatoes (shouldn’t more bars have potatoes?), Turmeric (good as an anti-inflammatory), Mangoes, Ginger

Price: $1.50 a piece on sale at Sprouts. Foods this price go into my “treat bar” category instead of the “utility bar” category.

Overall thoughts: Amazing—perhaps my favorite bar of all those we reviewed. Loved the density and mouthfeel and it had a fantastic Indian food flavor that I’ve never found in another trail food, including freeze dried stuff.  It could be calorie denser, but it could also work well as a lower-calorie post-gym, dayhike, or bored at the office snack. This is the perfect bar to bring on one of those multi-thousand mile trails where you don’t expect to find many Indian restaurants for the next six months, like the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, anything in the desert…etc.

Where to get: Slow Food for Fast Lives website, Amazon,  Coops and Natural Food stores in more than 20 states, and Sprouts Farmer’s market grocery stores.

Disclaimer: Mr. G and I purchased these bars with our own money. All bars were tested on trail while hiking–so our reviews may be based on hunger rather than taste. I’m allergic to peanuts and don’t eat turkey, so not all flavors are reviewed.

Review of the Gardenbar Savory Japanese Food Bar

With guest vlogger, Brian “Mr. Gorbachev” Davidson, we took the Gardenbar Japanese Savory on the Colorado Trail.

Details:

Weight: 1.76 oz (50g) Calories: 190 Protein: 5 g

Interesting nutritional notes: Very high in Vitamin A (30%) and C (35%), and pretty good in Calcium (6%) and Iron (8%), Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: Quinoa crisps, dried shiitake mushrooms, freeze dried red cabbage, sesame seeds, Freeze dried Miso, Nori Vegetarian seaweed, wasabi powder

Price: $1 a piece, so definitely on the reasonable size. Note this is the price Gardenbar charged at PCT Days , so retailers may increase the price.

Overall thoughts: Delicious—one of the best of those we reviewed as part of the series, and definitely a unique flavor! Could be denser (heavier on nuts and calories), but it tastes great and has a lot of healthy ingredients harder to find on trail. Because it isn’t as calorie dense as my go-to on-trail bar, the Probar, it could also work well as a lower-calorie post-gym, dayhike, or bored at the office snack.

Where to get: Gardenbar website, coops and grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest including (but not limited to) Portland, Ashland, Cascade Locks (right on the PCT), Corvallis, Eugene, Vancouver, and randomly . . . a tea store where I live in Denver.

Disclaimer: Mr. G and I purchased these bars with our own money. All bars were tested on trail while hiking–so our reviews may be based on hunger rather than taste. I’m allergic to peanuts and don’t eat turkey, so not all flavors are reviewed.

 

State of the Market: the Skinny on Savory Bars

A slew of new salty/savory fuel bars on the market for hikers to enjoy!
A slew of new salty/savory fuel bars on the market for hikers to enjoy!

Since I started long distance hiking almost a decade ago, I’ve been dreaming that some bar company would step up and make a completely savory snack bar. If you’ve been watching the food bar market this summer, it’d be hard not to notice a massive influx of savory snack fuels on the market. This week, I’ll be running my first vlog series ever on these savory bars. With any luck, these salty bars will be popular enough that food manufacturers will decide to keep them on the shelves.

With guest vlogger, Brian “Mr. Gorbachev” Davidson, we’ll be taking these salty bars to the trail to trail. The bars we will be reviewing will be (in alphabetic order, not order of video appearance):

 

The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art
The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Bar:

Gardenbars have 9 veggies in each bar
Gardenbars have 9 veggies in each bar

Gardenbar:

  • American
  • Indian
  • Japanese
  • Mexican Savory

 KIND Strong Bar:

The Mediterra bar
The Mediterra bar

Mediterra:

Slow Food for Fast Lives
Slow Food for Fast Lives

 Slow Food for Fast Lives:

Californian

Indian

Moroccan

Disclaimer: Mr. G and I purchased these bars with our own money. All bars were tested on trail while hiking–so our reviews may be based on hunger rather than taste. I’m allergic to peanuts and don’t eat turkey, so not all flavors are reviewed. 

Grocery store resupply like a champ

Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa resupplies at a supermarket on the Chinook Trail
Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa resupplies at a supermarket on the Chinook Trail

Long distance hikers have to go into town and get new supplies every few days, but after being in the woods, sometimes going into a grocery store can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to make the most of your town time and make the resupply process a bit easier.

  1. Plan out your attack first: I usually start planning out my resupply on trail a few days before hitting town. This not only gives me something to think about while I’m hiking, but also gives me time to be strategic about my nutrition. Walking into a grocery store from the woods can be overwhelming, so know what you’re looking for beforehand—make a shopping list. It helps qualm the surrounded-by-food-lots-of-people-and-noise anxiety that plague a just-to-town hiker.
  2. Wash your hands: You just got out of the woods. You’re gross. Go do it before you start pawing at your snack.

    Never resupply on an empty stomach
    Never resupply on an empty stomach
  3. Don’t resupply on an empty stomach: How many times have I let my starving belly dictate a resupply only to either a) end up with waaaay too much food for the next resupply b) discover on trail that my entire resupply is cookies and chocolate? A snack before you shop can calm your belly and prepare your mind for the difficult decision of what food is worth carrying on the next leg of your trip. Favorite simple satiaters are: a yogurt, a few pieces of fruit, chocolate milk, Ben & Jerry’s, a couple pieces of fried chicken, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a slice of pizza (but NOT a whole pizza!)

    Grab a drink
    Grab a drink
  4. Grab a drink: Sure, you’ve spent the last few days thinking of nothing but how you’re going to eat the entire grocery store, but unfortunately, your budget isn’t going to allow that (your stomach also will prove to have limitations). 80% of people can’t tell the difference between whether they are hungry or thirsty and I’m willing to say 80% of hikers are dehydrated coming into town. A drink will fill you and help rehydrate you for peak performance on some important decision making: what to eat!
  5. Use your time indoors to warm up/cool down: Take advantage of the heating/cooling system to get your body temps back to normal before hitting the trail again. If your rain gear needs some drying, this may be a time to get creative…
  6. Weigh your food on a produce scale: Now that you’ve loaded half the grocery store into your cart, it’s time to check whether you really need all that food to make it to the next town.Head back to the fruit and veggie area and weigh what you’ve got on a produce scale. You’ll probably want around 2 pounds of food per day until your next resupply. Account a little for the weight of the packaging, but be honest. If you carry 20 pounds of food for the two days until your next resupply, you’ll be hurting!

    Eat a luxurious treat or two!
    Eat a luxurious treat or two!
  7. Grab a luxurious treat (or two!): I often do my resupply by sending boxes of pre-packaged food to myself, but when I resupply from a grocery store, I go out of my way to buy things the post office would rather not keep in the back mouldering until I pick up my box.  When resupplying, I like to grab cheese, a sandwich, baked goods (cinnamon rolls are my favorite), ice cream, or a few fresh fruits and veggies to bring on trail. Garlic is lightweight and feels like a real luxury in camp. Ice cream doesn’t pack out that well (I’ve done it before…), but man, does it feel great to eat a tub of Ben & Jerry’s a few miles in!
  8. Charge your phone quickly: This is my best discovery ever. Most supermarkets have washing-machine style plugs outside for their vending machines. You can usually find one that is unoccupied. These plugs charge super fast so you can sometimes get your phone up and running in the time it takes to eat snacks and sort food.
  9. Don’t forget water: I never leave town without getting more food, but I often forget to resupply on water, only to find the next water source is really far away. Fill up your bottles and top off your Platy, even if it means having to buy a bottle of water to do it. You’ll thank yourself several hot miles later.

    Be respectful…both to the people in town and to yourself.
    Be respectful…both to the people in town and to yourself.
  10. Be respectful: Remember: you look and smell like a hobo, so having good manners is especially important. Try to get in and out of the store quickly and to not scare the other customers. If management asks you to stop cooling yourself in the walk-in freezer, you best not argue. Your actions not only affect you, but also impact all future hikers who walk in that store for resupply. Think of yourself as an ambassador for all hikers. A really smelly, hungry ambassador.

How to Turn Holey Socks into New Socks aka the Darn Tough Warranty Works

Darn Tough socks hanging out Angel’s Rest at the eastern terminus finish of the Chinook Trail
Darn Tough socks hanging out Angel’s Rest at the eastern terminus finish of the Chinook Trail

Whenever a hiker asks we what type of socks to wear on a long distance trail, I always steer them to Vermont Darn Tough socks. First, I believe that the tightly knit weaving keeps out trail grime and leads to a better fit—which helps prevent blisters. Second, I really like that they are made in the US. Lastly (and perhaps the most important for long distance hiker) there is an unconditional LIFETIME GUARANTEE.

Wait—did you hear that right? Yes! If you get holes in your socks, Darn Tough will replace them for free. Darn Tough is so confident that the average user won’t be able to put a hole in their well-built construction, that they actually will give you a new pair if you ever manage to get holes.

4,000 miles later
4,000 miles later

I’ve talked to people who hike every weekend and have had the same pair of Darn Tough socks for 10 years without getting holes. But as a long distance hiker who is known to wear the same pair of socks everyday and as someone who puts miles into my socks that far exceed the average user, I have managed to get some holes in my Darn Toughs.

So here’s what I’ve done to get a free replacement:

  1. Wash my socks. If I’m going to return them, at least I should have the courtesy to bring them back in good shape. I’ve heard that sometimes, the Darn Tough team takes used socks to help aid in design and construction improvements. I could be helping to make a better sock!
  2. Seek out my local gear store: A lot of independent gear stores will take holey Darn Tough socks and replace them for free on the spot.
  3. Find Darn Tough at festivals and outdoor gatherings: Darn Tough booths at outdoor events like PCT Days are happy to switch out socks on the spot
  4. Mail them in!

    Packaged up and ready to go
    Packaged up and ready to go

Below is a documentation of my process of mailing in my Darn Toughs. I’ve only ever had to do it twice, but had a great response each time I did.

  1. After washing my socks, I packaged them up in a manila envelope. They’re plenty safe in there and it weighs less than a padded envelope or box (less expensive for shipping)
  2. Fill out this simple Warranty Form, print it out, and sign it.
  3. Mail it all off to:

DARN TOUGH VERMONT

Warranties Department

364 Whetstone Drive

Northfield, VT 05663

  1. I used first class mail instead of priority mail to ship out the envelope. It cost me $2.50 to mail three pairs of socks from California to Vermont. For new socks, that seems like a deal to me!
  2. Wait about 10 days and you’ll get some brand new socks mailed to your door with Priority shipping in a padded envelope. Hooray!

 

The lifetime warranty actually works!!!

Brand new socks arrived in the mail!
Brand new socks arrived in the mail!

Hikers hang with Jennifer Pharr Davis

The Portland long distance hiking community showed up for Jennifer Pharr Davis’s talk at Next Adventure last week
The Portland long distance hiking community showed up for Jennifer Pharr Davis’s talk at Next Adventure last week

The highlight of my week (if not month) was meeting Jennifer Pharr Davis aka “Odyssa”, Fastest Known Time (FKT) record holder for a supported Appalachian Trail hike. Over the past three years, meeting up with Jen has been a cross-country game of missed connections and phone tag. I was so stoked to finally meet her, her husband, Brew, and their new daughter, Charlie, this week in Portland, and to have the opportunity to spend time with her and the Portland thru-hiking community. 

 Jen and I both hiked the AT in 2011, but I missed seeing her by minutes. I was taking a shower at Pinkham Notch in New Hampshire and met Brew there. Her support system was so fast that she was ready to get back on trail in the time it took me to bathe! Brew and I exchanged numbers hoping to catch up later. Much to my surprise, after I finished the AT, Brew asked me to pace Jen towards the end of her hike: “Her pacers right now are men and she really wants to hike with a woman!” Unfortunately, I was already back in Colorado by then so missed out on the chance of a lifetime! That summer, Jen, Brew, and I were hoping to meet at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City. I came to the show later in the week, but it was too late! Jen and Brew were already headed to the airport on their way out of town.

 

Meeting with Brew and Jen’s support crew during my AT 2011 hike.
Meeting with Brew and Jen’s support crew during my AT 2011 hike.

Two weeks ago, I heard JPD was speaking in Portland, OR, where I was headed after finishing the Wonderland Trail. On the day of the event, American Long Distance Hiking Association-West President, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, and Board Members at large Scotland “SoFar” Forbes and Christopher “Freefall” Sanderson and I gathered beforehand at Basecamp Brewery—which has quickly become the default spot for hikers to grab a drink and hit up the food trucks before outdoor presentations in Portland. At Basecamp, we met Jeff “Siddhartha” Kish and “Roni from Israel.” As a troop, we walked the few blocks over to Next Adventure, Portland’s independent gear store and generous employer of thru-hikers in the off-season.

I finally get to meet Jen!
I finally get to meet Jen!

 The entire Portland thru-hiking community—known fondly as the “Portland Mafia”—showed up for JPD’s talk. Next Adventure offered attendees two kegs, a whole spread of food, and a free raffle—not bad for a free event! Almost as soon as I walked into the room, Jen and Brew came up to me. What??!!! I was fully expecting to awkwardly come up to her after the talk and gawkily introduce myself, but there was no pretention or hierarchy of speed or fame going on at this presentation. It was clear that in JPD’s mind, everyone in that room was of the same cloth—we were all at that event because we love hiking.

 Just like JPD’s hike of the AT was very different than the usual thru-hiker’s journey, her talk was not just another AT talk, either. Allgood put it best then he explained that many people in that audience had hiked the AT, but none could explain the experience as eloquently or beautifully as JPD. She was able to verbalize so many of emotions of love and respect that hikers have for the AT, but that most of us haven’t yet been able to find the right words to describe. While many in the long distance hiking community are suspicious of supported hikes, after listening to JPD’s talk, her speech heartened these skeptics to see beauty in a supported hiking experience. The long distance hiking community is lucky to have such an eloquent and non-controversial face to be the “mainstream” voice for our activity.

Allgood, Purple Rain, JPD and I show off our Purple Rain Skirts
Allgood, Purple Rain, JPD and I show off our Purple Rain Skirts

 

Jen told us after the talk that she enjoyed the Next Adventure event particularly because so many experienced long distance hikers had shown up. “You all get it,” she told us later, and the energy and excitement of people in the room was palpable. JPD and the Portland hiking community hung around the gear store until the employees insisted they needed to go home. We invited JPD and Brew to a barbeque at Allgood’s house the next day and thru-hikers Mandy “Purple Rain” Bland of Purple Rain Skirts, my Oregon PCT hiking partner Tiffany “Miss Info” Searsdodd, and Naomi, a Triple Crowner and ALDHA-W member, were able to attend. For those in the hiking community, and those just getting into hiking, I highly recommend attending Jen’s talk. You’ll find her earnest and approachable and the way she describes the trail will cause you to love hiking even more.

 

Ultralight Gear list: late season Wonderland Trail

 

The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mt. Rainier
The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mt. Rainier

After the ALDHA-W Gathering, I was lucky enough to hike the 93 mile long Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier with Swami, Malto, and Bobcat.

I was expecting some colder temperatures in bad weather because: 1) we were hiking late season 2) Mt. Rainier is high altitude 3) Mt. Rainier is relatively north 4) it’s Mt. Rainier.

On the other hand, I was trying to keep my pack as light as possible because 1) my three hiking partners are really strong, world class hikers and I had to be able to relatively keep up 2) I knew their packs would be very light 3) the Wonderland Trail has a good deal of elevation change and I wanted to make going uphill as easy as possible.

With these concerns in mind, here is the gear list I put together for a late season Wonderland Trail trip.

Download the PDF file .

How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

The chickens guard my drying sleeping bag.
The chickens guard my drying sleeping bag.

It is a great time of year to wash your sleeping bag. If you’ve just finished a thru-hike or are putting your summer bag away from the season, taking the time to clean out some of the dirt, oils, and smells can extend the life of your bag. Washing your bag can also restore loft and add warmth to your sleep system if you’re still planning to hit the trails in the fall. Do not dry clean your down sleeping bag! Some companies, like Feathered Friends, offer downwashing services (which I’ve never used) or you can go to a laundry mat and use a clean and nick-free front loading washer and dryer. Handwashing is the least expensive route (which is good, since a summer of thru-hiking is known to wipe out bank accounts). I also find it a cathartic exercise way to commune with my sleeping bag one last time after a thru-hike. Washing a bag is easy to do, but can be a bit intimidating at first. You will see your precious bag looking sloppy and soaking, which can be a bit like seeing a loved one down in the dumps. But don’t worry! Your bag will be better than new with a little care and these easy steps! Step by Step Instructions for Handwashing Your Sleeping Bag: Note this process can easily take 5 hours so if you are using a Laundromat, make sure that it is not near closing hours. Bring a book and expect to hang out for a while. Always use a down-specific wash. I like Nikwax Downwash or McNett Revivex Down Cleaner. Check your bag before hand for nicks and tears. If there are any, use Gear Aid Tenacious Tape or duct tape to seal up holes. Most sleeping bag companies like Western Mountaineering *require* you to wash a bag before sending it in for repairs.

Spot clean stains beforehand
Spot clean stains beforehand
  1. Spot clean stains from your bag by first nudging down away from the area you need to clean so you are only treating the shell.  Use a few drops of your down wash and a clean towel to gently scrub away the stain. Wipe away residual soap with a moist towel.
  2. Put about 5 inches of warm but not hot water into a bathtub.
  3. Add about 3 oz of downwash to the tub.

    The stuff sack is the secret to keeping air out of your bag when washing
    The stuff sack is the secret to keeping air out of your bag when washing
  4. Put your sleeping bag in a stuffsack (non-waterproof works better) and submerge the stuffed sleeping bag into the water. This takes the air out of your bag and prevents inflated baffles from making your bag float.

    Put the whole stuff sack straight into the water
    Put the whole stuff sack straight into the water
  5. Slowly pull the bag from the stuff sack. Bit by bit, knead the soapy water through each portion you remove before pulling out another section.

    Slowly pull out sections of the bag from the stuff sack, working the soapy water through each new section
    Slowly pull out sections of the bag from the stuff sack, working the soapy water through each new section
  6. Be careful when kneading and work slowly when baffles fill with air. If a baffle becomes inflated, be mindful that quick movement can pop your bag, either in the internal baffles or the external shell.

    Be careful not to pop your baffles as air bubbles can form
    Be careful not to pop your baffles as air bubbles can form
  7. If you flip the bag over at any time, use both hands and be aware that your bag will be much heavier than usual because it is filled with water. If done incorrectly, you may tear your bag’s liner. Use both hands. Note that newer bags, bags treated recently with DWR (Durable Water Resistant), or bags filled with DryDown may require a little extra effort to become thoroughly worked into your bag.

    Change the soapy water multiple times.
    Change the soapy water multiple times.
  8. Change the soapy water five or more times until the water is no longer brown or bubbly.
  9. When the water runs clean, drain the tub with your bag still in it. Then roll your bag slowly to drain water. Do not ring your bag as it can cause down clumps, which are hard to dry.
  10. Lift your bag using both hands and carry to a dryer. I use a laundry bucket in between to reduce stress on the fabric.

Drying your sleeping bag in a dryer

Put your wet, sopping, and pathetic looking down into a FRONT LOADING dryer
Put your wet, sopping, and pathetic looking down into a FRONT LOADING dryer
  1. Find the biggest front loading dryer you can. The dryer should have heat control and a no heat setting. Check the dryer for nicks and burrs or sharp objects using both your eyes and hands.
  2. Throw some tennis balls in the dryer to break up down clumps. If you’re in a small trail town and are looking for tennis balls to dry your bag, note that some grocery stores, like the City Market in Pagosa Springs, CO, sell tennis balls.
  3. Set the temperature for the dryer for very low or air dry. Excessive heat can melt the shell’s bag.
  4. When your bag looks dry, pull it out and manually break up any down clumps you still feel in the bag. Then put it back in the dryer for even more time.
  5. When the bag looks really dry, check for down clumps again. Still there? Just a small one is there? Keep drying! Dry that bag until there is not a single down clump left.

Note: As a baseline, My Western Mountaineering Ultralite (3 season, 29 oz bag) takes about 3.5 hours to dry. My Brooks Range 15 degree Cloak (3 season, 20 oz quilt) takes about 3 hours to dry. <

  1. When it is done, find a dry place to airloft the bag. I like to put mine in the California sun for half a day for lofting in dry heat, but if you live someplace humid or the sun isn’t available to you, indoors should work OK.
  2. Store your bag in a large, loose fitting cotton bag until your next adventure!

ALDHA-W Gathering 2014

ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.
ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.

Once again, the most fun weekend of the year was the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West Gathering. Held at Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass—just a few miles from the PCT—the Gathering attracted 150 people from across the country and a few globetrotters. Hikers enjoyed great activities, stories, presentations, and comradery around the keg. With each hour of the Gathering, attendees became more and more fueled to get back on the trail with their friends.

What makes the Gathering unlike any event is the passion and diversity of the attendees. This year in particular, I met and had meaningful conversations with people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and political beliefs. In a world so fragmented and stratified, it is so easy to just hang out with our own demographic, but at the Gathering, I was stoked that there was such a good spread of so many different people there, especially older folk (because anyone who hiked the PCT or CDT in the 90s or earlier is a badass and I want to hear how they did it). The Gathering felt like a family reunion except that we are brought together by a love of hiking that, for some of us, feels stronger than ties of blood.

ALDHA-W President <a href="http://www.allgoodsk9adventures.com/">Allgood Whitney LaRuffa</a> and Keynote Speaker <a href="http://www.thehikinglife.com/">Cam Honan Swami </a>demonstrate how beer is now allowed at the Gathering
ALDHA-W President Allgood Whitney LaRuffa and Keynote Speaker Cam Honan Swami demonstrate how beer is now allowed at the Gathering

I had the honor of giving the first presentation of the Gathering about the Inman 300, an urban thru-hike of LA. Since the room was filled with nature-loving hikers, I was concerned that the audience would scoff at my tales from the asphalt. Instead, I was overwhelmed by how supportive and interested everyone was in the hike. I was especially touched to hear how some of ALDHA-W’s longest standing members have used the stairways of LA as training grounds for decades.

“Dirtmonger” Ryan Sylva gave the second presentation on his Vagabond Loop, a 3,000 mile southwest connection of the Arizona, Hayduke, and Grand Enchantment Trails. More than any ALDHA-W presentation I’ve seen, Dirtmonger’s speech appeared as if he was telling not just the story of a trail, but the story of a man. The talk paralleled Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, beginning with Dirtmonger’s call to adventure and a poem by the inspiration for his trip, Everett Russ. Aided by helpers and mentors including Blister, Brett Tucker, the friendly people of the San Juan Hut System, and others, Dirtmonger fought through the challenges of navigating the canyons, drinking alkaline water, and resupplying in backwater towns full of unfriendly locals—ever driven to continue on. After Dirtmonger made it to Durango, CO, he wasn’t sure how to get to Albuquerque to connect to the GET. Here, Dirtmonger walked into the abyss—a fire-worn northern New Mexico—where he reconciled some of his beliefs about hiking “purism”, private property, and the nature of vagabondism. Dirtmonger finished his hiking loop, but his quest continues. If a man could be captured in a trail, the Vagabond Loop is the walkable manifestation of Dirtmonger’s soul.

Teresa Martinez from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition gave a lunchtime presentation about the organization that was recently designated as the official partner with the Forest Service as steward of the CDT. The CDTC is undertaking a revolutionary model for trail management and conservation based on collaborating with community members. In an empowering call to action, Teresa advised hikers that since the CDT is such a young and malleable trail, it can become the trail we want it to be. No longer just passive recipients of land managers’ decisions, on the CDT, hikers can make the change we want to see.

Following lunch, ALDHA-W President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I gave a last minute presentation on our pioneering journey of the Chinook Trail, a 300 mile horseshoe traversing the Columbia River Gorge. Jean Ella, the first woman to hike the CDT, was scheduled to appear during that timeslot, but an incident in her kayak resulted in her inability to attend. I look forward to her talk next year, but was pleased to share the Chinook Trail to an audience complete with many locals to the trail who were excited about replicating our journey.

Hands down the most popular shoe at the ALDHA-W Gathering this year was the <a href="goo.gl/8j11yr">Altra Lone Peaks.</a>
Hands down the most popular shoe at the ALDHA-W Gathering this year was the Altra Lone Peaks.

The presentations ended with “Swami” Cam Honan’s story of the world’s first traverse of the lawless Mexican Copper Canyon that he undertook with “Trauma” Justin Lichter. Swami’s description of the trip aptly captured its difficulty, even for two of the top long distance hikers in the world. Having heard bits and pieces of Swami’s journey already, it was a pleasure to see the trip tied together. Yet his presentation left me with a pang of regret and sadness for all that drugs, roads, and cartels have taken from the canyon and its people. Although his photos were stunning, I couldn’t help but wonder if Swami and Trauma would be the last non-locals to see those sights for a long time.

A highlight of the Gathering was watching hikers make fools of themselves in the Hiker Olympics. This year, there were a few new events to add to the ridiculousness. First, contestants were asked to identify photos of famous long distance hikers. Surprisingly, many people had trouble identifying Earl Schaffer, the first thru-hiker. Another joke-worthy challenge for competitors was the ‘Dig a Cathole’ contest where hikers gave impassioned speeches about how their cathole was more suited for the job that their neighbor’s. The last new event was hiker trivia, where challengers answered 20 questions ranging from trail history and management to identifying geographical or historical features along hikes. Shockingly, long distance hikers apparently need to work a bit on their Leave No Trace ethics as almost all of the contenders incorrectly guessed the distance suggested to camp from water sources (the answer is 200 feet)!

Congratulations to the 2014 class of Triple Crowners!
Congratulations to the 2014 class of Triple Crowners!

While hikers tie-dyed their ALDHA-W t-shirts or went for a run in the perfect weather, volunteers decorated the Triple Crown ceremony room with streamers, tablecloths, candles, and centerpieces. During a delicious and suitably fancy dinner of Pacific Northwest salmon, Phil “Nowhereman” Hough, in conjunction with his work with the Scotchman Peak Wilderness, held a trivia contest honoring the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. In addition to the Triple Crown plaques, this year Yogi and Worldwide made beautiful posters personalized for each new Triple Crowner to commemorate their accomplishment using quotes from each hiker’s application. Gossamer Gear gave each Triple Crowner a hat with a Triple Crown logo.

The most touching of all the speeches was made by Scott “Shroomer” Williams who read from “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman. I can’t recall for sure which stanzas he recited—the whole poem itself is too long to have read for the Triple Crown Ceremony—but two lines stuck with me for how well they sum up the people at this year’s Gathering:

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,

It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.