Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

X

The 12 Stereotypical Hikers You’ll Meet On the Trail

 

You know these hikers. You speed up or slow down to get away from them. They never seem to go away.

Inspired by this hilarious story from Runner’s World, I bring you 12 odd long distance hiking types.

The FKT hiker may look like he’s out to break a record, but chances are when you finally catch up, he’ll be found taking a nap.
The FKT hiker may look like he’s out to break a record, but chances are when you finally catch up, he’ll be found taking a nap.

FKT

He’s running at 4 miles per hour, taking no breaks, and traveling light and fast. You may think the FKT is out to break a record, but chances are he is just trying to impress a potential trail suitor (see Pink Blazer) and will be lounging in each trail town for a few days, hanging with the Party Animal (see below).

Pink Blazer

He may have told the folks back home that he is hiking for the adventure, but he’s really looking for some trail tail. What better time to connect with others than when you’re at your fittest, creating shared memories as you travel in a beautiful place?

 

Hiking with the Sponsored hiker isn’t all bad. He can make it rain. In Chocolate.
Hiking with the Sponsored hiker isn’t all bad. He can make it rain. In Chocolate.

Sponsored

This hiker knows every company in the industry and loves telling you how he’s sponsored. The quality of the gear he’s using doesn’t matter so much as letting everyone on trail know that he got it for free.

Party Animal

It’s this 20-somethings first time on her own and she’s going to drink like there’s no tomorrow and hike like there’s no daylight left. These work hard-play-hard hikers are out to prove there’s no time to thru like your 20s. Unless, this person happens to be in her 60s.

This instrument was really heavy to pack out.
This instrument was really heavy to pack out.

The Artist/Musician

This hiker lives for breaktime in nature. He brings a guitar and sings or spends the afternoon watercoloring. While the Artist/Musician may not be the first to finish, he has some beautiful mementos to share when he is done, and builds lovely goodwill and warm-fuzzy feelings among the hiking community.

Gearhead

A Backpacking Light regular, she knows the weights of all her gear down to the tenth of an ounce (and can even convert that number into grams…although, so can High on the Mountain).

Om.
Om.

Yogi

Hiking is all about being in nature. And getting awesome photos for Instagram included with a John Muir quote.

Blogger

He’s got a bunch of electronics and knows how to use them. He’ll stay up past midnight in town uploading photos. The blogger may be hiking in the wilderness, but somehow, that Instagram account gets updated several times a day. Often accompanied with Oversharing and Too Much Information, as well as a bunch of creepy desktop followers.

 

Fancy here is shown in a hat by Maison Michel, sunglasses by Prada, scarf by Burberry, sundress by Oscar de la Renta, shoes by Altra.
Fancy here is shown in a hat by Maison Michel, sunglasses by Prada, scarf by Burberry, sundress by Oscar de la Renta, shoes by Altra.

Mr. and Ms. Fashionable

Just because she’s living in the dirt for a few weeks doesn’t mean that she can’t wear Prada. Mr. and Ms. Fashionable were a frequent sighting last summer on the John Muir Trail, where their favorite hiking costume was Lululemon yoga pants.

High on the Mountain

It may not yet be legal on federal land, but this thruhiker is high on hiking. She doesn’t need snowshoes in early spring because she’s floating on the snow.

 

You’ll never get a Triple Crown if you yellowblaze your way across the state.
You’ll never get a Triple Crown if you yellowblaze your way across the state.

Yellowblazer

She loves the hikertrash culture, but finds the whole walking aspect of long distance hiking to be hard. This trail skipper sails his way into lies about the distance and speed he’s hiked, yet somehow manages to smell as bad as if he has just thru-ed.

The Expert

How can you tell if a long distance hiker has thru-hiked another trail? Don’t worry. He’ll tell you. Without you having to ask first, this guy will tell you every trail he’s hiked and how long it took him. Chances are, he’ll tell you a lot about the AT.

 

 

American Long Distance Hiking Association 20th Anniversary Gathering 2015

ALDHA-W attendees celebrate the 20th anniversary Gathering. Photo by Jason Waicunas from <a href="http://oviewfinder.com/">Outdoor Viewfinder</a>
ALDHA-W attendees celebrate the 20th anniversary Gathering. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder

“It was so fun, I’m having a hard time getting back to my job.”

This past weekend, the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West annual Gathering drew a record number of people to Mt. Hood, Oregon to reconnect with lost trail friends and be inspired and humbled by other’s experience and love of nature. To properly celebrate the hiking social club’s 20th anniversary, we were honored by hikers new and old, especially by the return of some “lost” members to the organization and visits by younger self-proclaimed ALDHA-W skeptics.

Recipients of the Win a Date with Bobcat and Pepper Contest that has been runninng on the Trail Show fot the past few months. Photo by Jason Waicunas from <a href="http://oviewfinder.com/">Outdoor Viewfinder</a>
Recipients of the Win a Date with Bobcat and Pepper Contest that has been runninng on the Trail Show fot the past few months. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder

The event kicked off with a grand spectacle— a live recording of the popular Trail Show hiking podcast. For fans, this was the first time they got to see the real people behind the voices on their favorite internet radio show. As usual, the irreverent Trail Show hosts made jest of all things within our community, nicely setting up for that night’s screening of Squatch’s new movie, Flip Flop Flipped. In HD film, Squatch’s documentary recorded his travels on the northern part of the Appalachian Trail—arguably the most beautiful part of the trail. His cinematography was so beautiful I couldn’t watch too much because it made me want to return to the AT so badly…

The fun and festivities at Kiwanis Camp included a cathole digging contest as one of the challenges of Hiker Olympics. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder.
The fun and festivities at Kiwanis Camp included a cathole digging contest as one of the challenges of Hiker Olympics. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder.

Luckily, instead, I found the 8 kegs donated by Hop Valley, Base Camp, and Thunder Island Brewing. Additionally, there were two kegs of Eva’s Herbal kombucha and a 30 year supply of chocolate milk, coffee, tea, and apple cider for those seeking non-alcoholic beverages. After the day’s action-packed set-up with 15 other volunteers who came to the camp early, it was excellent to relax and spend time learning about new trails and retelling funny stories from hikes with my friends new and old.

Jeff Kish speaks on the PNT. Photo by Jason Waicunas from <a href="http://oviewfinder.com/">Outdoor Viewfinder</a>.
Jeff Kish speaks on the PNT. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder.

The next day, was a busy schedule of speakers, hiker Olympics, tie-dying ALDHA-W shirts, and the POD Memorial Soccer Game. The morning kicked off with Jeff Kish, who spoke about the Pacific Northwest Trail using photos, video, and slides in a multi-media presentation that showed a level of professionalism never before seen at the Gathering. In a talk tailored and targeted for long distance hikers, Kish considered how the PNT is even better than the much beloved PCT. For those of us who had previously written off the PNT, it was a presentation that made you want to drop next year’s plans and check out the PNT.

Bernadette Murray speaks about thru-riding the PCT as a child in 1969-1970. Photo by Jason Waicunas from <a href="http://oviewfinder.com/">Outdoor Viewfinder.</a>
Bernadette Murray speaks about thru-riding the PCT as a child in 1969-1970. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder.

The next speaker was Bernadette Murray, who thru-rode the PCT as a child with her family in 1969-1970. The family home-schooled their kids along the way, building trail and learning from nature as they headed north into uncharted territory. Her presentation included beautiful vintage photos and memories of a childhood of freedom and adventure that made many of us in the room downright jealous. As an audience, we got to experience just a snippet of Murray’s adventurous life, and hear a few stories of her other adventures as a teenager such as canoeing down the Yukon and hitchhiking across Canada to a helicopter.

For the past two years, ALDHA-W members have been anticipating Jean Ella’s much awaited presentation on her experience as the first woman to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail. Jean was on the schedule for last year’s Gathering, but injured her back in a kayak shortly before the event and was unable to travel. This year, in a presentation that brought strong men to tears, Ella’s talk exemplified the importance of planning, perseverance, and friendship on the trail. Ella showed us how different the CDT was in 1970’s and the grit, determination, skill, and true love of nature it took to complete it. She did an impeccable job of documenting her trip and shared records and journal entries from her time on the Divide. The presentation even included scans of her letters to sponsors. Her ability to secure a 6-month supply of Cadbury chocolate must have intrigued many a hiker in the audience, especially the last two speakers…

Shawn “Pepper” Forry talks about what happened when he and Trauma fell into frozen lakes last winter. Photo by Jason Waicunas from <a href="http://oviewfinder.com/">Outdoor Viewfinder</a>
Shawn “Pepper” Forry talks about what happened when he and Trauma fell into frozen lakes last winter. Photo by Jason Waicunas from Outdoor Viewfinder

For many people, the big draw of the event was Shawn “Pepper” Forry and Justin “Trauma” Lichter’s presentation about their winter PCT thru-hike. In a talk given by two shy guys who will likely never address another audience anywhere, Trauma and Pepper recounted the details of their hike in a way that was tailored to a long-distance hiking audience well-versed in the PCT: an audience who wanted to hear every gritty detail about what hiking looks like on the next level. This past winter, the trail community followed Trauma and Pepper’s journey intently and came out in droves to give them support by offering rides, local information, sending food, and securing places to stay indoors overnight. In a world and time where a trip of this nature would have likely otherwise been completed by bigtime ski athletes with big money backing, watching these humble thru-hikers speak made it clear that their success was also a success for our community, a victory for thru-hikers. The ALDHA-W audience loved their opening slide which contrasted a Reno Gazette story from early in their trip that called their endeavor a “death sentence” with one in the New York Times calling it the most “daring and foolhardy wilderness expedition since Lewis and Clark.” The presentation was followed by a Q&A, where Trauma and Pepper’s good natured sense of humor and fraternal nature in our community allowed them to play off all our jokes as well as answer the few serious questions that made it into the pile.

That night, we welcomed 27 new Triple Crowners to the family and I realized that one of them was my friend Eric, who I had not seen or heard from in 4 years. Eric was the one person I hiked with for multiple days during my AT speed hike and when I took a zero and he went ahead, catching up to him became a huge motivator for me. That night, I got to sit and discuss trails until the wee hours with Eric and my friends Whynot and Shroomer—who hiked with him for half the CDT. A friends who had all hiked together, at different times and places, I couldn’t help but feel like we were family, all of us cut from the same cloth.

ALDHA-W also honored Nita Larronde, the trail angel of Pie Town, NM as this year’s recipient of the Martin D. Papendick Award. As the first CDT trail angel to receive the award, the kind lady from the Toaster House shared her photos of hikers and trail registers dating decades back. Thanks to the Wolverines of the PCT, hikers this year were able to donate to bring Nita and her daughter to receive the award. Joe “Tatujo” Kisner presented the award and read a tear-jerking letter from her daughter, Autumn. Nita is truly an angel in our community and her recognition was long-awaited and well-deserved.

The 1994 Triple Crowners were frosted onto a birthday cake for ALDHA-W. Photo courtesy Steve Queen.
The 1994 Triple Crowners were frosted onto a birthday cake for ALDHA-W. Photo courtesy Steve Queen.

After Saturday’s dinner, to celebrate ALDHA-W’s 20th anniversary, ALDHA-W President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa called up Steve Queen, Brice Hammack, Roger Carpenter, and Alice Gmuer (the first woman to solo the Triple Crown). These four people attended the first ALDHA-W Gathering 20 years before. Allgood asked them as a special honor to blow out the candles on the ALDHA-W birthday cake. When they looked at the cake, they were shocked: printed on the frosting was a photo of Steve, Brice, and Alice taken in 1994 as they received their Triple Crown plaques. Our founding members were thrilled.

Poster by designed by Bernadette Murray. Main photo by Dean Krakel.
Poster by designed by Bernadette Murray. Main photo by Dean Krakel.

Within the hiking community, I have heard rumors that ALHDA-W is an organization for washed up retired hikers or that it is an elitist organization. After the Gathering, some of these skeptics—many at the Gathering for the first time—apologized for having their doubts. ALDHA-W is back from the ashes and while there were many “hiking celebrities” present, you would have never known it from the way people at the Gathering act. The ALDHA-W Gathering is the family reunion you look forward to, where everyone “gets” what your passion is in life, and everyone wants to help you succeed in your dreams, no matter your level of expertise.

 

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

186 pages by Justin Lichter Publishing. <a href="http://amzn.to/1KgUXiC">Short Stories from Long Trails is available on Amazon</a> or Trauma’s website at <a href="http://www.justinlichter.com">www.justinlichter.com. </a>
186 pages by Justin Lichter Publishing. Short Stories from Long Trails is available on Amazon or Trauma’s website at www.justinlichter.com.

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 www.justinlichter.com. Rumor has it that if you order through his site, he’ll sign it and maybe his double-Triple Crowning dog Yoni may, too.

 

 

Sneak Preview of the PCT Classs of 2014 video

The PCT Class of 2014 film is being shown at ADZPCTKO in Lake Morena at 8 PM on Saturday. It runs 1 hour, 8 minutes, edited by Wesley “Crusher” Trimble.

I may not have been able to attend this year’s Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off event in Lake Morena, CA, but I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the PCT Class of 2014 video put together by my Colorado-based friend, Wesley “Crusher” Trimble.

This week, I met up with Crusher—who was unable to attend PCT Kick Off to watch the premiere of his film last night—and he shared about his experience putting together the PCT Class video. “It was another chance to hone my skills,” but he admitted, “putting this thing together has been eating up all my free time for the past few weeks.”

Crusher is known for his viral short on hiking the PCT with Cerebral Palsy and is an amazing inspiration to all hikers.

As expected, watching the Class of 2014 Film gave me a deep yearning in my legs to hit the trail again. There’s a power to the PCT that a past hiker can be given a photo taken somewhere on the trail without any context and will know exactly where it is. The quality of the stills in the film is “coffee-table book” class. Despite having hiked the PCT 1.5 times myself, I had never seen the trail as beautiful as it was depicted by some of the hikers who submitted photos. My favorite scenes were upclose wildflower shots, night time star timelapses, and videos of rare wildlife including pine martens.

 

Still from the PCT Class film
Still from the PCT Class film

One of the challenges of making the PCT Class film vs. his short, “PCT and CP” is that the class film “can only be as good as the material people submit.” Of the more than 1,000 people that attempted the PCT last year, 80 hikers submitted photos or video clips. Crusher noted that in 2012 and 2013, hikers submitted more video to the class film editors. This year, Crusher was working with many stills, which gives his video a different—but strangely more reverent—feel than the last few years.

Two aspects that make this PCT film unlike the other PCT Class films are the digital maps and mile/elevation gain counter for each region of the trail as well as the great soundtrack, available on Spotify (“PCT Class 2014 Video Soundtrack”–it’s actually so good that I signed up for Spotify just to get his playlist). Another great innovation is how Crusher worked with phone-quality film shorts—often vertical instead of landscape—to still create a fun and engaging story.

Still from the PCT Class Film. Spoiler alert: these people made it!
Still from the PCT Class Film. Spoiler alert: these people made it!

The most striking part of the Class of 2014 film is that it documents the sheer elation that people get from hiking. People in this film are at their absolute happiest. These people aren’t wearing make up. They aren’t acting. They glow in the joy that hiking and the hiking life can bring. For those who never may hike the PCT, or those who hope one day to hike it, Crusher’s film brings us as close as we can to hiking the trail without leaving the couch.

The PCT Class video goes live this Sunday at: https://vimeo.com/125031618

Thru-hike in a Weekend: Denver urban hiking the Highline Canal Trail

 

Urban hiking: the new frontier. Photo courtesy <a href="https://instagram.com/thejcarr/">Johnny Carr</a> (instagram: @thejcarr)
Urban hiking: the new frontier. Photo courtesy Johnny Carr (instagram: @thejcarr)

Despite my declarations that the Selma to Montgomery Hike took me over my Pavement Walking Quota for the year, this past weekend, I headed off again on another hardpacked adventure. This time, I completed my first significant urban hike in the town where I live, Denver. I’ve done a fair amount of walking in Denver before, but nothing to this scale and magnitude.

Highline Canal Trail sign in Aurora.
Highline Canal Trail sign in Aurora.

My long distance hiker friends Steven “Twinkle” Shattuck, John “Cactus” McKinney, Johnny “Bigfoot” Carr, Samantaha “Aroo,” and Nathan “Cookie” Harry, Swami and I started off on a two day, 66-71 mile long hike from Waterton Canyon—the start of the Colorado Trail—to near Denver International Airport.

The canal/trail starts in Waterton Canyon. Photo courtesy Steven Shattuck
The canal/trail starts in Waterton Canyon. Photo courtesy Steven Shattuck

The Highline Canal was created more than a century ago to bring water from the South Platte River to settlers and farmers. Now owned and operated by Denver Water (who even puts out the guidebook for the trail), it is now open to hikers, cyclists, runners, and equestrians. Because the irrigation ditch was leaky, an entire ecosystem sprung up around it.

On trail shenanigans. This rope swing that Aroo is playing on goes over the canal.
On trail shenanigans. This rope swing that Aroo is playing on goes over the canal.

Until 40 years ago, there was no public access to the canal—even as it remained a skinny natural park in the middle of the city. With the hard work of residents who lived anywhere near the 71 miles of trail, the canal opened to the public and is now listed as a National Landmark Trail. Now the trail is protected by the Highline Canal Trail Preservation Association.

Large cottonwood trees more than 100 years old line the canal. Photo courtesy <a href="https://instagram.com/thejcarr/">Johnny Carr</a> instagram: @thejcarr
Large cottonwood trees more than 100 years old line the canal. Photo courtesy Johnny Carr instagram: @thejcarr

Although this is an urban hike, the Highline Canal Trail ecosystem boasts 199 species of birds, 28 mammals, and 15 reptiles. I was expecting the trail to be mostly paved or gravel, but a majority of the miles were on dirt or had a dirt path next to it.

Although the route is mostly straightforward, many intersections require a map and guidebook. Photo courtesy <a href="https://instagram.com/thejcarr/">Johnny Carr. </a>instagram: @thejcarr
Although the route is mostly straightforward, many intersections require a map and guidebook. Photo courtesy Johnny Carr. instagram: @thejcarr

Our wildlife highlights included seeing a bobcat (a first for me and many of the other serial hikers with us!), great horned owls, two types of snakes, numerous deer, squirrels, praririe dogs, and rabbits. The HCLT underscored that though humans have claimed significant land from animals, that we don’t own it completely. Our habitats coexist.

Much of the trail is very pedestrian friendly. This crosswalk even had a two buttons to stop traffic–one for pedestrians to press and one higher up for equestrians to press!
Much of the trail is very pedestrian friendly. This crosswalk even had a two buttons to stop traffic–one for pedestrians to press and one higher up for equestrians to press!

The HCLT was such a cool way to see the city and general metro area of the place that I’ve called home for the past few years. We ventured through neighborhoods I didn’t even know existed, and places I had never been before. The route finding was not as straightforward as one would think for a bike path in the city.

Utilizing a beaver dam during a cross country route. Photo by Johnny Carr. instagram: @thejcarr
Utilizing a beaver dam during a cross country route. Photo by Johnny Carr. instagram: @thejcarr

There were intersections that required navigating, and we were happy to have our map and guidebook. Additionally, certain sections went through private property, and we had to navigate—sometimes even cross country through fords and swamps—in order to keep the route on open land.

Fording a creek during the cross country part.
Fording a creek during the cross country part.

The HCLT ended up being not just educational, but a lot of fun, providing some clear bonuses, especially compared to most other thru-hikes. We had pizza delivered on trail and actually had to pass up many restaurants and convenience stores because we were too full.

On trail pizza delivery! PC: S. Shattuck
On trail pizza delivery! PC: S. Shattuck

It was easy for friends to join in for a few miles and Twinkle even met a friend randomly who was going for his morning run right on our trail. Because we could take advantage of the limited amount of gear required for an urban hike, we packed heavy food and beverages and ridiculous luxuries like Frisbees. Traditional trail towns rarely have ethnic food, but on the HLCT, Cactus and I had Pho for lunch—a first for both of us on a long distance trail.

Time for frisbee on trail. PC: J. Carr.
Time for frisbee on trail. PC: J. Carr.

Much like my Selma to Montgomery hike last weekend, I was struck by the level of economic inequality the trail highlights. In the Cherry Creek Village area, we woke to houses that I didn’t even know existed in Denver—Hollywood-esque mansions, castles, villas. By the end of the day, we were walking through immigrant neighborhoods in Aurora and Section 8 housing in Green Valley Ranch.

Easy resupply along the HLCT. PC: J. Carr
Easy resupply along the HLCT. PC: J. Carr

 

In my everyday life, I would never visit either of those neighborhoods, and yet the HLCT brought me through both. No matter how much our modern society tries to insulate social classes from one another, that such disparate places are close enough to walk from one to the other underlined for me that Denver is one community and not just a collection of rich and poor neighborhoods.

Walking for hours with friends. PC: J. Carr
Walking for hours with friends. PC: J. Carr

The best part of the Highline Canal Trail was the opportunity to have 48 hours to talk with, laugh, joke, and accomplish something cool with friends. For two days, we set aside the distractions of the modern world and just lived. I’ve enjoyed urban hiking for a couple years now, and it was so cool to expose the idea to some of my thru-hiker friends. I was so touched that they not only took it seriously, but had a great time. At a time of the year when long mile days and thrus aren’t as possible, we got to feel like we were back on the PCT again—if only for a weekend. On Monday, we all woke up and went back to our spreadsheets, but even as we squirmed in our desk chairs, relished the memories of a weekend well spent.

For more info on the High Line Canal Trail, check out these links:

Twinkle (Steven Shattuck)’s write-up about our hike

Denver Water’s High Line Canal page

Highline Canal Trail mapped in Googlemaps

Walkride Colorado Interactive Map of the Highline Canal Trail

Highline Canal Trail Guidebook (this is available at multiple locations of the independent Tattered Cover Book in Denver Metro)

Highly informative Wikipedia Page

Greenwood Village’s Trails Map

Douglas County’s Highline Canal Map

 

Rocky Mountain Ruck

ALDHA-W and the CDTC held the Rocky Mountain Ruck on March 14th at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO
ALDHA-W and the CDTC held the Rocky Mountain Ruck on March 14th at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO

Get to the hills! The Colorado hikers are in Ruck! This past weekend, ALDHA-W and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) completed their first Rocky Mountain Ruck attracting 85 people from as far away as Salida, Vail, Portland, and even LA! This all-day event attracted hikers in all stages of experience—from dayhikers to seasoned veterans to the long trails. No matter what level of expertise, everyone walked away having learned a trick or two, and the fellowship, fun, and beer made the event the closest Colorado has gotten to a Gathering yet (besides maybe Lawton “Disco” Grinter and Felicia “POD” Hermosillo’s wedding).

Outside demo
Outside demo

Held at the historic American Mountaineering Center in historic downtown Golden, CO, the event kicked off with speeches by CDTC Executive Director Teresa Martinez and ALDHA-W President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa. To acquaint everyone to the terms, quirks, and nuts and bolts mechanics of a thru-hike, Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva and ALDHA-W Secretary April “Bearclaw” Sylva presented a funny and lighthearted intro to What is a Thru-Hike.

Pack shake down with Allgood and Annie
Pack shake down with Allgood and Annie

After a break with food and snacks provided by Great Harvest Bakery and Whole Foods Golden, the event jumped into the ever-important ‘Everything that Can Go Wrong on the CDT’—with applications for the Colorado Trail, PCT, and pretty much every other trail. Disco and POD used their humor and wide breadth of hiking experience to present a spectrum of safety techniques for various tribulations of the trail—from grizzlies to giardia.

Outdoor fording demo
Outdoor fording demo

From here, it transitioned to winter hiking teacher Pete “Czech” Sustr’s hands-on (read: powerpointless) clinic on fords and snow travel. The troop of hikers traveled outside to a park outside to enjoy the four surrounding mountains of Golden, the 70 degree temps, and a little lightning safety position practice.

Czech demonstrated walking on a not-snow-covered hill and then gathered everyone to Clear Creek where he and a lone brave volunteer forded the creek. Passerbys from downtown Golden stopped to witness the crazy.

The view of the ford from the bridge over Clear Creek. The downtown passerbys were gathered on the bridge watching these two.
The view of the ford from the bridge over Clear Creek. The downtown passerbys were gathered on the bridge watching these two.

The morning concluded with backpacking gear presentation by expert and ultralight guru Glen van Peski. Throughout the day, hikers had the opportunity to explore manned booths and touch, try on, and otherwise drool over gear from Montbell, Gossamer Gear, Katabatic Quilts, and the CDTC. Lunch outside transitioned into pack shakedowns with experienced hikers and trail Q&A in breakout groups. Those who brought their backpacking gear for one-on-one consultations were stoked at the level of attention, helpfulness, and insight the hour of gearheading provided.

Dirtmonger heading up a pack shakedown. What a nerd!
Dirtmonger heading up a pack shakedown. What a nerd!

Corralling people back to the classroom on such a sunny day was a chore, but well worth it. Paul “Mags” Magnanti gave a highly informative presentation on navigation on the CDT with a robust Q&A. Mags proved a hard act to follow, but Allgood and I came on stage to discuss serious business: pooping in the woods. We discussed Leave No Trace trail ethics and Trail Town Etiquette—two very important topics that to-be hikers need to know before stepping foot on trail. The session concluded with a cathole digging competition with participants using their shoe, hiking poles, sticks, tent stakes, rocks and potty trowel to dig the best hole they could in 45 seconds. Needless to say, the trowel got the job done.

Cathole digging competition
Cathole digging competition

The evening ended with a killer presentation by Junaid Dawud, who thru-hiked all the Colorado 14ers as a continuous hike. A minor Front Range celebrity, as well as a seasoned thru-hiked himself, Junaid’s photos were jaw dropping and his description of pioneering a trail and the suffering that actually doing it entailed somehow just made me want to hike it even more. Junaid told us during Happy Hour that it was the first time he had given a talk about the 14ers Thru-Hike. Everyone who heard that could not believe it—his talk was so well-polished that we had all assumed he had given it to numerous clubs around the Front Range. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Junaid has an opportunity to give his talk again sometime soon.

Cathole competitors put on their game face.
Cathole competitors put on their game face.

The night ended with a raffle of gear valuing thousands of dollars including backpacks from Gossamer Gear and others, numerous pairs of Altra Zero Drop shoes, DVDs of the Walkumentary and Embrace the Brutality, downloads of Guthook’s trail guide apps, Sawyer filter, a Montbell jacket, Katabatic gear bivy, a Hennessey Hammock, and much more. Nearly everyone walked away with some schwag (and everyone who came to the event walked away loaded down with giveaways from Probar, Whole Foods, Tecnu, and Dr. Bronner’s). We all gathered for a Social Hour and Q&A with beer provided by Colorado Native Lager.

The Gathering is about food, fun, and fellowship.
The Gathering is about food, fun, and fellowship.

It’s the end of Ruckin’ Season. Soon, hikers will hit the trail. But with the help of the Rocky Mountain Ruck, we hope that everyone will set foot on trail—whatever that trail may be—feeling more prepared for the journey ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Timer’s Guide to Outdoor Retailer

 

Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)
Continental Divide Trail Coalition volunteers running a booth at Outdoor Retailer. (The CDT Woolrich blanket is visible in the background)

As we speak, the long distance hiking community is taking over the Outdoor Winter Retailer Show. Many of us are working with trail non-profits and companies like Woolrich, Point6, and Mountainsmith that are sponsoring long National Scenic Trail-centric gear. Others are representatives of outdoor stores and are busy buying gear as part of their job.

I’ve been going to OR back in the days when Trauma was the only other long distance hiker coming. Although I’m far from a veteran at this event, here are a few tips I wish I had known the first time I’d walked in here:

1)      The show is huge! There are 21,000 people coming to Winter OR, and Summer OR can get to be as 40,000.

The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear
The crowds flock to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City to see the newest gear

2)      But everyone here is here for a purpose greater than just getting free schwag. You have to apply months in advance, and they review to make sure the only attendees are here for business.

3)      So if you’re looking to create a sponsorship or help a non-profit, unless you’ve set up a meeting, to expect to stay out of the way until the end of the show when exhibitors have already made their sales.

4)      Since business comes first, there’s a hierarchy of badges here. Exhibitors (gear companies) are here to make money, so retailers (gear stores) are getting first dibs for their attention. Media is the next desirable badge, and non-profits are towards the bottom.

Outside OR
Outside OR

5)      But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun early in the show. Be sure to use Wednesday to get the lay of the land.

6)      It’s a maze in here, so be sure to get your hiking map or to download the app.

7)      But all that hiking around the show floor will get up your hunger and thirst. So be sure to stay hydrated.

Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough’s booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.
Maple Bacon soft serve from Vermont Darn Tough’s booth. Photos thanks to Renee Patrick.

8)      Luckily, there’s lots of food and drink around. Just check the back of the OR Daily magazine for locations. You can usually get a meal for the cost of a donation to a good outdoor cause.

9)      Or, if you’re here as media, a sales rep, or a retailer, food and drink can be found in the Press Room, Rep room, or Boy Scout Room.

10)   But if you can wait until 4 pm, there’s plenty of drinks to be had a dozens of Happy Hours. We hikers usually like to visit Happy Hours that support the trails.

11)   If you’re trying to find your friends at the end of the day, know that running the OR app and just being in the conference center can really drain your phone battery. Bring your charger!

12)   And then head out to the infamous Outdoor Retailer parties.

 

Congratulations! You’ve survived Day One of the four day event. It’s going to be a wild ride!

 

Do you have any tips for going to big conferences?

Pioneering the Chinook Trail

 

Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I at Rowena Point looking out over the Columbia River Gorge
Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I at Rowena Point looking out over the Columbia River Gorge

This full version of this story originally appeared in the ALDHA-W Gazette Winter 2015 issue

This summer, I joined with ALDHA-W President Allgood Whitney LaRuffa, his hiking dog, Karluk, and Triple Crowner Tomato Brian Boshart to pioneer the Chinook Trail, a 300-mile horseshoe traverse of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Oregon.

The Chinook Trail was dreamed up in the 1980s by Ed Robertson and Don Cannard, but until now, no one had ever hiked it. The route connects National Recreation Trails, National Historic Trails, and a National Scenic Trail (the PCT) to provide hikers with a trail that incorporates some of the CDT’s route finding challenges in a Pacific Northwest setting. The two termini are just 45 minutes from a major airport and a city jam-packed with ALDHA-W members (Portland), making transit to and from the trail simple and trail magic from friends quite likely.

I found one of the joys of the Chinook Trail to be experiencing abrupt ecosystem changes—within 150 miles, we went from temperate rainforests to dry grasslands to 5,000 foot tall alpine peaks to nearly sea level at the Columbia River. The four of us explored forest, ranchland, a Native American reservation, the dry and tumbleweeded Oregon Trail, and the fertile Hood River Valley, which abounded with wineries and pick-your-own apricot, cherry, and blueberry farms.

With a never-before-done route, what looks fun on a map doesn’t always translate to a pleasant-to-walk adventure. Now, having completed the trip, Allgood, Tomato, and I are eager to gush about the good times we had together and encourage others to walk the Chinook Trail.

This story continues in the ALDHA-W Gazette Winter 2015 issue…

 

2015 Year In Review

 

From desert, to rain forest, to alpine, to rock, 2014 brought me to familiar, beloved landscapes and new territories. This year challenged me and gave me new skills. Here are some photo highlights of my year.

January: Moab Canyonlands and Arches Trip, Utah
January: Moab Canyonlands and Arches Trip, Utah
Almost Feb: Outdoor Retailer Winter 2014 with beloved hikers, Salt Lake City, UT
Almost Feb: Outdoor Retailer Winter 2014 with beloved hikers, Salt Lake City, UT
March: Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. AZ and UT. Photo by Rob Kelly of <a href="http://qiwiz.net/">QiWhiz</a>
March: Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. AZ and UT. Photo by Rob Kelly of QiWhiz
April: Trans Adirondack Route, Upstate New York.
April: Trans Adirondack Route, Upstate New York.
May: Volunteering with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition on the Southern Terminus shuttle to bring 100 hikers, including the Warrior Hikers shown here, to the CDT. Silver City, NM
May: Volunteering with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition on the Southern Terminus shuttle to bring 100 hikers, including the Warrior Hikers shown here, to the CDT. Silver City, NM
Desolation Wilderness/Crystal Range Traverse with Sierra Club Fastpackers. California. Photo by Brian Gunney.
Desolation Wilderness/Crystal Range Traverse with Sierra Club Fastpackers. California. Photo by Brian Gunney.
June: Tahoe Rim Trail Personal Record, California
June: Tahoe Rim Trail Personal Record, California
June/July: Pioneered the Chinook Trail horseshoe traverse of the Columbia River Gorge, OR/WA with Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and Brian “Tomato” Boshart.
June/July: Pioneered the Chinook Trail horseshoe traverse of the Columbia River Gorge, OR/WA with Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and Brian “Tomato” Boshart.
June/July: Urban Thru-hike of San Francisco
June/July: Urban Thru-hike of San Francisco
August/September: Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade Locks, OR to Canadian Border
August/September: Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade Locks, OR to Canadian Border
September: Humphrey’s Basin Loop, Eastern Sierras, and White Mountains trip. Photo by Alejandro Pinnick.
September: Humphrey’s Basin Loop, Eastern Sierras, and White Mountains trip. Photo by Alejandro Pinnick.

 

September: A wonderful opportunity to speak to my peers at the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West Annual Gathering at Stampede Pass, WA. Photo by Jeff Kish.
September: A wonderful opportunity to speak to my peers at the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West Annual Gathering at Stampede Pass, WA. Photo by Jeff Kish.

 

October: Wonderland Trail with Malto, Bobcat, and Swami. Photo by Cam “Swami Honan.
October: Wonderland Trail with Malto, Bobcat, and Swami. Photo by Cam “Swami Honan.
November: Colorado Trail is still clear of snow!
November: Colorado Trail is still clear of snow!
December: The Denver-area thru-hikers reconnected with each other to put together weekly hikes.
December: The Denver-area thru-hikers reconnected with each other to put together weekly hikes.

15 Hiking Stocking Stuffers under $15 (and most under $10)

Cheap presents that will be appreciated by the hiker(s) in your life.
Cheap presents that will be appreciated by the hiker(s) in your life.

Got someone on your list who is a hiker? These are 10 simple, practical, and useful items that are bound to get used by anyone who is thinking about going on a long backpacking trip. I’ve used everything here and keep buying them over and over again because they really spruce up a backpacking trip. Many of these items are things that hikers have to buy anyway (like hand sanitizer), but for gift giving, these particular items add a special touch that will help your loved ones remember you when they’re hundreds of miles away from home. Throw a couple of these goodies into a stocking with some chocolate, and you’ll literally have a happy camper.

1)  Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lavender hand sanitizer: I am a STRONG advocate for using hand sanitizer during backpacking trips and believe it can significantly reduce trail-borne illnesses like Norovirus and Giardia. The Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Hand Sani smells so good that I use it on trail during the tough part of the day just to boost my mood. Now that’s a multi-use item everyone can love.

2)      Mini dice: If you’ve got a lot of hikers to give presents to this year, dice makes a great cheap novelty gift for hikers. Five mini-dice weigh in at grams and provide hours of entertainment for hikers trapped in a tent or shelter on a rainy or snowy day. Good for Yahtzee, Farkel, and anything else you can make up. Weighing in at 2 g, I can count the times I wish I had this in my pack and never am sad to have carried them.

3)      Wet Ones Single Packs: Nothing will elicit a cry like “Thank you!!” than a stinky hiker opening a resupply package and finding some Wet Ones singles. Weighing in at less than 0.5 oz, one of these can really spruce up a hiker’s mood (and smell) at the end of a backpacking day. I like the singles since they maintain their moisture until I need them. With a box of the singles (as in the link), I can put a few in every resupply box or have a fresh one every day at less weight than the bigger packs.

4)      Photon Freedom: The lightest light on the market, this version of the Freedom can be attached to your hat to use as a headlamp or be worn around your neck for easy-to-find-at-night convenience or as a backup light to use in camp. I use the Photon exclusively on trips where I won’t be doing a lot of nighthiking, but I have friends who have nighthiked hundreds of miles with nothing but the Photon. It can also be used as a keychain so is a great backup light when I head out into the woods and realize at the last minute that I forgot to pack a headlamp.

5)      Rite in the Rain Waterproof Notebooks: Some of my most treasured memories in my life were hiking journals written in these notebooks. Give the hiker in your life a private place to write about his or her adventures

6)      Mini bottles: Hikers can never have enough of mini-bottles and it is HARD to find the really tiny ones. In the past, I’ve used these bottles for Dr. Bronner’s soaps, toothpowder, Aqua Mira, and have hiked with people that use them for contact lens solution. I love the bottles sold at Gossamer Gear and Mountain Laurel Designs online stores.

7)      Animal-Shaped Gear Aid Patches! After piercing a down jacket and lancing a cuben fiber tent

in the field, I never go on a trip without Gear Aid patches. These badboys have saved me in the woods multiple times. With these insta-fixes, I patched my holes and spent the rest of the day focusing on my hike instead of worrying about my gear. They stick better than duct tape and look a lot cooler, too.

8)      WetFire: Every backpacker has had a night where she really wants a fire…NOW. Wetfire won’t let wind or water prevent you from making your fire. This works great for making campfires and for making sure that your fuel to cook dinner doesn’t go out.

9)   Down cleaner: There’s a lot of power behind a present that is actually a backhanded commentary on a person’s odor. If you’ve ever asked to borrow a friend’s sleeping bag, and then immediately regretted it, Nikwax Downwash or Gearaid Down Cleaner will make a perfect gift for that friend. That hiker should get the message.

10) Food items! Anything from this list of best treat food stocking stuffers for hikers and backpackers

Anything I missed? What would you include?