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My Book is Finally Out! Best Dayhikes and Overnighters on the Continental Divide Trail

The Best Hikes on the Continental Divide Trial: Colorado by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Liz Thomas, Colorado Mountain Press, 147 pages
The Best Hikes on the Continental Divide Trial: Colorado by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Liz Thomas, Colorado Mountain Press, 147 pages

After 1.5 years of work, my book, The Best Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail: Colorado by Colorado Mountain Press is out!

This book highlights 20 dayhikes and overnight trips on the CDT in Colorado. Hikes range from 2 miles to 30 miles with family friendly strolls to Colorado-style extreme trips.

Hike #13 Cottonwood Pass to Tin Cup Pass. photo by Johnny Carr.
Hike #13 Cottonwood Pass to Tin Cup Pass. photo by Johnny Carr.

To decide what hikes to include, I interviewed dozens of former CDT thru-hikers and asked them what were the most memorable and scenic spots on the CDT–the type if spots you would want to take your friends or family on a dayhike to show them what the CDT is all about. These are the spots where hikers felt alive, where wildflowers were out of control, where elk viewing is primo–the exact image of what you expect to see when you’re on the CDT.

Family friendly hike #5 Arapaho Bay to Knight Ridge. Photo by Johnny Carr.
Family friendly hike #5 Arapaho Bay to Knight Ridge. Photo by Johnny Carr.

While thru-hikers may be big on remembering the big, scenic spots, they aren’t always great on details like “where is the turn?” or “is there any water on this stretch?” and most importantly, “how do I drive a car to get here?” Detailed route descriptions, water and trailhead camping info, and driving and parking directions are included. For hikes over 10 miles, I include camping info for those who want to turn the trip into a overnighter, or even a 3 day adventure.

Hike #3: Parkview Mountain offers some of the most epic views in the area. Photo by Johnny Carr.
Hike #3: Parkview Mountain offers some of the most epic views in the area. Photo by Johnny Carr.

The book also features great photography by CDT thru-hikers. Collecting so many photos, stories, and route descriptions from current hikers makes this book a shared work of many hikers’ ideas, brought together b a love of the trail.

The Best Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail: Colorado goal is to open the CDT to a whole set of people who haven’t before had a chance to explore it. Until now, data for the CDT has been very thru-hiker focused. With this book, the CDT is meant for everyone to explore and experience–from the Boy Scout Troop (check out hike #20, Cumbres Pass to Blue Lake), to the family visiting from out of state (Herman Gulch or Stanley Mountain), to the extreme Colorodan looking for a new test piece (#18, the Knife Edge).

Hike #15: Snow Mesa, is relatively flat and feels like walking on another planet. Photo by Steven Shattuck.
Hike #15: Snow Mesa, is relatively flat and feels like walking on another planet. Photo by Steven Shattuck.

As many of you know, I thru-hiked the CDT in 2010 from Canada to Mexico. In the process of writing this book, I was able to re-visit the CDT in bite-size chunks as a dayhiker. For anyone who has thru-hiked, I can not recommend revisiting the trail as dayhiker enough. There are things you miss as a thru-hiker because you are busy thinking about food or the next shower. Even the grandest scenery can lose a little spark after you’ve seen it day after day. When you revisit the CDT as a dayhiker, you come to it with new eyes, fresh legs, and an open mind.

Hike #8: Herman Gulch is just a 45 minute drive from Denver
Hike #8: Herman Gulch is just a 45 minute drive from Denver

Whether you’re just getting into hiking, looking for a new place to explore, or dreaming of the day you can thru-hike, there is something for everyone in the book. I encourage you to tackle hikes way beyond your ability (worse case scenario: turn around very early) and to explore hikes that may seem too easy for you (worse case scenario: you’ve got extra time to hang out at the restaurant afterwards). All the hikes in this will inspire you and give you something to dream about.

I will giving a presentation and signing books on Tuesday, May 24th at 7 Pm at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO. The event is free. More info here:

You can buy Best Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail: Colorado on Amazon here.


A Thru-Hiker’s Review of the Walk in the Woods Movie

A Walk in the Woods poster from the first public screening of the movie at <a href="">Outdoor Retailer 2015</a>
A Walk in the Woods poster from the first public screening of the movie at Outdoor Retailer 2015

15 years ago, Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods became the biggest story about (ish) long distance hiking the publishing world has seen.

10 years ago, Robert Redford dreamed of turning the book into a movie.

Now, A Walk in the Woods will come out in movie theaters on September 2nd and hiking enthusiasts everywhere are wondering “Should I go see this?” As one of the lucky few who got to see the first public screening of AWITW at Outdoor Retailer, here are a few thoughts on the movie (minimal spoilers ahead):

AWITW as a movie is something like the masculine antithesis to Wild. The movie is definitely a comedy—in some cases coming across as slapstick as a Laurel and Hardy skit. It’s not often we get humor like that in movies these days and it speaks well to the sheer joy and silliness of hiking. Sure, AWITW covers some heavy topics: getting older, death, alcoholism, loneliness, place, belonging, the very meaning of life—but in a very masculine way, it never comes across as heavy handed and remains lighthearted throughout the film.

The movie doesn’t stick closely to the book, but in some cases, that’s a good thing. Before anything was even projected on the screen, hecklers (some sitting very close to me…) starting yelling “I stopped reading when Bryson stopped hiking!” The movie only shows Bryson hiking (in addition to the bit of prep work he did beforehand).

The Appalachian Trail’s Conservancy influence on the directors and the way hikers are portrayed is strongly evident throughout the film. The ATC is fully aware how the film may impact use numbers on trail—in fact ATC Executive Director and CEO Ron Tipton gave a speech beforehand imploring outdoor gear companies (representatives of which made up the audience) to donate money with largesse to combat post AWITW trail damage.

Some of the ways the ATC’s hand showed through the film included the constant and frequent sight of a potty trowel on the screen. I think it’s wonderful that the idea of responsibly taking care of solid waste can be normalized on the big screen. However, the much more impact-creating and highly illegal driving of an ATV cruising right on the AT was also in the movie. Hopefully, that won’t be normalized, too.

Certainly some events in the AWITW never occurred in the book—and one long scene in particular occurs in a place that I don’t even believe is anywhere on the AT (but what do I know? I’ve only hiked it twice). Purists who are going to be bothered this and by the fact that he doesn’t finish the trail are better spending their time elsewhere. Nonetheless, I especially enjoyed how some of Bryson’s commentary of ecology, conservation, and natural history was preserved in the movie—a difficult feat for any director.

The highlight of the movie was really the quality of the acting (the cast includes four Academy Award winner/nominees). Nick Nolte was a wonderful Katz, admittedly different than I imagined him, and yet in some ways, a stronger and more complex character because of it. I was stoked that one of my favorite actors, Emma Thompson, plays Bryson’s wife. The rest of the actors have small roles, many incredibly memorable. Nick Offerman’s short role as an REI employee (I believe the character is named “Dave” in the book) left the audience wanting more. Kristin Schaal plays an annoying thru-hiker with the convincing-ness of nails on chalkboard. I wanted to start hiking faster away from her. And Mary Steenburgen as a hotel owner was a welcome familiar face.

AWITW is a feel good movie. It’s not a movie that may attract many people outside of outdoor enthusiasts, Bryson fans, and Redford swooners, but it’s definitely worth seeing. Even my hiking friends who aren’t shy to say the AWITW book makes them angry were pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable watching Wild with my family, but very much look forward to taking my folks to see A Walk in the Woods. So if you’re not hiking this weekend, now you’ve got something to do.

Check out more at

New Book Review: Short Stories from Long Trails by Justin “Trauma” Lichter

186 pages by Justin Lichter Publishing. <a href="">Short Stories from Long Trails is available on Amazon</a> or Trauma’s website at <a href=""> </a>
186 pages by Justin Lichter Publishing. Short Stories from Long Trails is available on Amazon or Trauma’s website at

In his first narrative book ever, long distance hiker extraordinaire Justin “Trauma” Lichter, most recently of Winter PCT Thru-hike fame, tells the standout stories from his experiences on 40,000 miles of hiking trails. Sharing stories from Africa to Iceland, New Zealand to Nepal, and numerous stories from his Triple Crown hikes, Trauma’s new book is a quick and fun read that gives readers a glimpse into the elite thru-hiking world.

Short Stories from Long Trails is split into 6 chapters (plus an afterword) focusing on different themes including Weather & Terrain, Losing the Way, and Animal Encounters. It is almost as if Trauma, ever the instructor, wants to make sure that even though the reader has picked up his book for entertainment, that s/he is still going to walk away having learned something about safety in the outdoors, too.

The first section focuses on tales from Trauma’s childhood, a rare glimpse into the making of a machine. A quote from Outside Magazine on the back of the book calls Trauma “humble and understated” and for a man that in the hiking community that has a reputation as being quiet and shy, the book gives an interesting look into what his hikes have been like.

In the Afterword, Trauma gives one of the longest accounts I’ve seen anywhere of what actually happened on that PCT Winter Thru-Hike. For those of us in the thru-hiking community who followed their hike this past winter with excitement, the 24-page story of the Winter PCT hike is a reason in itself to read the book.

Each section has 3-5 short stories in it, none of the stories coming in at more than 5 pages and most of the stories only 3 pages in length. It’s the perfect book to get a taste of the trail when you’re taking a bus ride or using the bathroom. Never wordy and always to the point, Trauma’s stories drop you right into wherever he is hiking taking the reader to places we can all only dream of going, and places most of us would actually be pretty OK with skipping.

The best part is that in the last chapter, the reader gets to learn the answer to the question everyone has been asking Trauma: What’s next? What is your dream hike? I’m not going to divulge any spoilers here, so you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Short Stories from Long Trails is available on Amazon or Trauma’s website at Rumor has it that if you order through his site, he’ll sign it and maybe his double-Triple Crowning dog Yoni may, too.



Interview with Adventure Sports Podcast

The Adventure Sports Podcast interviews all sorts of outdoor adventurers.
The Adventure Sports Podcast interviews all sorts of outdoor adventurers.

The Adventure Sports Podcast is an interview-based hour long, Colorado-based podcast that tells stories about all sorts of outdoor adventures. I had a lot of fun taking a break from my Denver-Colfax urban thru-hike to sit down with Travis from the podcast and talk about hikes, projects I’m working on, and why I love hiking.

Download the episode for free here:

Outdoor Book Review: Lying on the Trail

Lying on the Trail by Just Bill is a new book about the joys and lessons of spending time outdoors


I recently finished reading Lying on the Trail, a series of vignettes and tall tales by Just Bill. It was inscribed with the words “Page Numbers were invented to keep down the man” which went along well with the back cover material “Why waste your time reading some silly blurb on the butt of a book when you could be looking it square in the eye, and reading the words straight in the mouth?”

Sometimes irreverent, often snarky, and with a sort of honesty that can only come with exaggerated stories, Lying On the Trail is an outdoor book that reads like a campfire story. The starting chapters even set up the campfire scene and the end winds the fire down, letting the narrator go along his way with tales from trails and places around the country, infused with humor and lessons.

By taking the strategy that Lawton “Disco” Grinter’s I Hike takes—to tell single stories instead of taking on one thru-hike chronologically—the material in Lying on the Trail stays fresh and takes the reader to new and exciting places and situations. I love that Just Bill’s book doesn’t even pretend to be always truthful. I frequently think about how a small change in a story could make it even better.

From the reader’s perspective—the truth is less important than an entertaining tale—especially when the tale comes with a wise lesson.

Lying On the Trail is a quick read (I read it on a plane ride) but comes with a profundity that exceeds its brevity. Every hiking book talks a little about how the trail heals, how the trail teaches us that people are good, etc. etc. but some of the lessons in Lying on the Trail have the kind of wisdom that you can only get after thinking and walking on a topic for a long, long time. Despite the exaggeration of his stories, it rings with clarity that usually takes a lot of visits to a therapists’ chair to come to grips with.

Just Bill winds Native American tales and spirituality into the book, at times seeming slightly strange, and at times, insightful. The thing is, he knows that it’s weird and he admits he’s “just a white fella who grew up in the ‘burbs.” He knows that sometimes the words and concepts we use in English just don’t cut it, and can’t really be used to get across an idea that you only get from a lot of reflection.

As with any book of this kind, some of the vignettes were better than others, some of the quotes at the beginning of chapters were better than others. But my favorite vignettes were so good, that I had to take out my pencil and underline the words. And some of the quotes he uses at the beginning of chapters, I am going to steal and use as quotes in the beginning of my chapters. His most profound points in the book dealt with time and attitude and staying present—ideas that are enormously important to hikers, but are so, so hard to learn, even for those of us who have hiked a lot. His vignette about speed hiking and records especially struck me. And his Leave No Trace story was done so logically, so gently, so humanly, that it took a whole different approach to an ethic that can sometimes seem preachy and legalistic.

I’ve never met Just Bill, though I understand from his book that he is quite active on Yet, I feel like I have an idea of his spirit and values from this book, and hope that one day, I can honestly say I understand the deeper message behind his book of lies.

Review: Finding Los Angeles by Foot

Finding Los Angeles by Foot: Stairstreet, bridge, pathway, and lane by Bob Inman. 279 pages. Available in <a href="">paperback and e-book</a>.
Finding Los Angeles by Foot: Stairstreet, bridge, pathway, and lane by Bob Inman. 279 pages. Available in paperback and e-book.

In honor of my near-anniversary of hiking the Inman 300—the world’s first urban thru-hike across Los Angeles—I am thrilled to read the newest city walking guidebook: Finding Los Angeles By Foot: Stairstreet, bridge, pathway and lane by LA stairway guru and inventor of my route, Bob Inman.

In the aptly named Finding Los Angeles, Bob takes a much maligned city and unearths its treasures, novelties, and uniqueness, making a powerful case for his belief that LA is one of the greatest cities in the world. For my generation, with its recent emphasis on community, neighborhoods, and local-everything, Bob’s book captures the zeitgeist with a love that has spanned decades.

Finding Los Angeles presents 23 loop hikes–all tested during Bob’s famous free almost-weekly community walks–that combine physical challenges with natural, historical, and cultural treasures of the city. As I can testify from my own hike in LA, many of these treasures are not noted on maps and smartphones. Bob’s book explains what maps cannot: how to find a staircase hidden behind a bush, where the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded their albums, and the best view spot to have lunch on a stairwalking date.

Like a traditional hiking book, for each of the 23 hikes, Bob’s book includes extensive maps, information on how to get to “trailheads” via public transit, and the best time to hit up each trail. It also includes step-by-step instructions on the route, including addresses for the top and bottom of stairways and the number of steps in each stairway. Along with photos of parks and natural areas, Bob’s photos of cultural icons such as churches, mosaics, and gardens remind me why LA is a special place to hike. I especially enjoy the book’s historic photos of LA, taken in the 1950s by Bob’s father, a prominent photographer. Remarkably, Finding Los Angeles also has a index, making it easy to find where Frank Gehry’s beach house or a WPA mural may appear in the book.

Urban hiking can happen in the least expected places. Photo by © Kevin Steele / <a href=""></a>
Urban hiking can happen in the least expected places. Photo by © Kevin Steele /

Unlike other urban hiking” books, Finding Los Angeles provides a much needed service by sharing routes for hikers.  Inman’s routes take 3-7 hours and utilize LA’s public stairways. Far from a stroll or city saunter, Bob has created 23 routes that make exercise and adventure possible for free without a car or commute.  As Bob writes, by walking in your own neighborhood, you maximize the time available for adventuring while minimizing your environmental footprint.

His language is infused with buzz terms of land use planning’s new urbanism, but the ideas came to Inman naturally over many years of walking the city.

“This book is about making the world’s 13th most populous metropolitan area seem smaller and more approachable on foot. Use of this book should assist a foot traveler find bridges between neighborhoods while promoting an understanding of what makes those neighborhoods unique.”

For most people, myself included, it’s not simply enough for public space—even a trail system or national park—to exist.  Before heading out, people are comforted by reading a guidebook and consulting maps. Finding Los Angeles provides the details of the 300+ stairways that made up my Inman 300 hike featured in Backpacker. Because the route to the 300 has yet to be perfected, Finding Los Angeles is perhaps the best resource available for recreating the route and making it better.

As a long distance hiker, and therefore, a big fan of public space wherever I may find It, Bob exposed me to new ways of walking on public areas in an unconventional landscape: the city.  I hope that this book will encourage my readers, and all hikers—whether those out for a dayhike or those attempting the Inman 300—to sample new ways of walking.

Worried Hiker Moms: Get your kid Justin Lichter’s new book

Justin Lichter’s new book <a href="<a href="">"><em>Ultralight Survival Kit.</em></a> 106 pgs, Falcon Guides. Available in<a href="<a href="">"> paperback</a> and <a href="<a href="">">e-book format.</a>
Justin Lichter’s new book Ultralight Survival Kit. 106 pgs, Falcon Guides. Available in paperback and e-book format.

Justin Lichter, aka Trauma, is well respected within the hiking community for doing some crazy things and not dying. In his second book, Ultralight Survival Kit (Falcon Guide), he condenses down 35,000 miles worth of hike-and-learn knowledge into a pocket-sized 4 oz book. Jam packed with useful information and no fluff, this mini-manual is a perfect gift to give your son/friend/niece/co-worker/hiking buddy who just decided to go hike a long trail for the first time (and doesn’t really know what he/she is getting into).

Every year, tons of people hit the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail with little knowledge of how to deal with problems in the outdoors (even if they think they are prepared). Having once counted myself among these yahoos, by the time the situation gets severe, the internet or heavy survival guidebooks that would have been really useful are hundreds of miles away on a bookshelf. Lichter’s book offers an ultralight alternative to carrying that heavy book or finding onself totally SOL in a sorry situation.

Lichter’s book has a nice combination of everyday problems all hikers experience—dealing with blisters, scaring off bears, tying knots—down to the type of experiences one hopes to never have in life: dealing with big scary attacking animals,  making your own sunglasses, and running from dueling banjos. The book’s hand-drawn diagrams, step-by-step knot instructions, and plant ID make it a useful on-trail companion to read in-sleeping bag by headlamp each night—even if you aren’t in a fix. Although I would strongly recommend reading Lichter’s first book, Trail Tested: A Thru-hiker’s Guide to Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking, before starting a thru-hike for the first time, his new book is a short and sweet reference that every worried mom sending her kid off to hike the AT should slip in his/her pack at the top of Springer.

Trauma loves chocolate milk!
Trauma loves chocolate milk!

More experienced hikers might also appreciate Lichter’s book as a sneak peak into the hiking style that has served him well for so many miles. Hiking skill has a learning curve, and most “experienced” hikers might be familiar with 80% of the stuff in Ultralight Survival Kit, but will find some surprises. As a three-season hiker, I appreciated Lichter’s extensive sections on winter camping and winter layering systems.

The book also dispels some “old wives’ tales” that get passed down in the hiking community, such as how to deal with poison oak, properly ford rivers, or not to follow waterways when lost.  Long distance hikers should make an effort to refresh outdoors skills every year, and this is an easy 106-page way to do it. When the weather is too gross outside to hike for everyone except Justin, reading Ultralight Survival Kit is a nice way to get the mind in the hiking spot without getting wet.


Book Review: I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail

<a href="<a href="">"><i>I Promise Not to Suffer </i></a> by Gail D. Storey. 244 pages, paperback and <a href="<a href="">">e-book format</a> by Mountaineers Books
I Promise Not to Suffer by Gail D. Storey. 244 pages, paperback and e-book format by Mountaineers Books

While I was busy failing to break the women’s speed record on the PCT this year, my boyfriend back in Denver attended a book signing at our favorite independent bookstore to see Gail D. Storey, who had just come out with I Promise Not to Suffer, her memoir of walking the PCT with her husband, Porter. When I came home from the PCT, tail between my legs, her book was taunting me on the shelf, yet another reminder of my Did Not Finish. As part of my healing, I picked up our signed copy and dug in, hoping, at least in book form, to continue on my journey.

As I read Gail’s story—a rare description of the thru-hiking experience from the perspective of an older woman—it was hard to imagine a narrator more different than me. Gail lists her reasons for hiking as being closer to her husband, whereas I hike solo, partially, as a feminist counter to myths of the outdoors as “male space.” Gail’s slight figure and abundant chest are impediments to her hiking, whereas hiking is the only place where I find my own body issues to be an asset. Although her life has not been easy, Storey depicts herself departing on the PCT almost as a princess girlie-girl—an idea reinforced by the lace-trimmed dress illustrating the book’s cover. Even Cheryl Strayed in her clueless wander of the PCT depicted in Wild seems to have more in common with my experience on the PCT—or at least of my first thru-hike. Yet Gail’s writing is so heartfelt that as a reader, I was eager to walk in her boots and to understand a hike I felt I knew so well through another’s eyes.

Enchanted by Gail’s PCT world, I retraced the steps I walked earlier this year. She and her husband save a dog, traverse steep snow on Fuller Ridge, and have a run-in with a mountain lion. When I reached the halfway point in the book, though, I couldn’t help but feel a pain as I watched her continue where I dropped off–a feeling that will resonate with other readers torn from the trail. Ever reflective and perceptive, Gail’s anecdotes reveal the lessons we as hikers are supposed to take away from a long walk with astuteness a hiker of my age and life inexperience does not have.

I Promise Not to Suffer gives the reader plenty of the hilarious quirky moments that have become a staple of trail writing. As Porter attempts to set himself up for a new career from the trail, he writes his job mission statement on a Tyvek ground sheet. In almost slapstick style, Porter manages to spill his alcohol stove multiple times. Through sleight of hand, Porter manages to tactfully help some hikers in need of cash.

Much like Wild, I Promise Not to Suffer intertwines trail stories with tales of the narrator’s relationship with her mother and death. These narratives further add depth beyond the usual hiker story. Porter’s career as a palliative and hospice care doctor complement themes of suffering and death throughout the book, while not being overbearing. Gail’s most poignant theme is the difference between pain and suffering, a notion explored in anecdotes that happen on and off trail.

Spoiler Alert: The Washington-like forest on the cover duped me into thinking Gail made it all the way to Canada. As she leaves the trail, I felt her pain at doing so with an intensity far greater than her few words. Yet Gail, in all her insight, owns up to her failure, “was in love with failure” (179) in a way that I, in the past 5 months, have yet again, failed to do.

A hiker mantra states that one hikes until one has learned what the trail has to teach. Thru-hikers love to give authors like Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed a hard time for writing best-sellers without even finishing a long hike. Reading I Promise Not to Suffer, it is clear Gail Storey hiked as far as she needed to go to gain the trail’s wisdom. In fact, she has imparted her wisdom to at least one hiker who has walked much farther, but has yet to learn the lesson.