Nathan Borchelt from Gear Institute interviewed me to discuss important topics like what’s in my pack and how much ice cream I eat. Nathan is a great interviewer who was fun to work with—he’s hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and writes for National Geographic on adventure topics.
He also gets the truth out of me as far as how much ice cream I eat on and off trail. The truth will shock you!
If you wish you could’ve made it to the Cascade Locks Ruck, don’t despair! The Colorado Ruck is happening March 14th in Golden, Colorado. Come re-experience all the fun documented below…at a higher altitude!
The long distance hiking community has always been about giving back—and in some ways, because the Ruck is centered around getting people new to long distance hiking on the trail, the Ruck was even more fun than the much-beloved ALDHA-W Gathering.
The Cascade Ruck may have even ended up being an even bigger event than the Gathering, with attendees traveling up to 15 hours from California, northern Washington, and even Colorado to make new friends and reunite with the old.
The day kicked off with bagels and lox smoked by ALDHA-W member and chef extraordinaire, Scott “Shroomer” Williams. President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa welcomed and recognized everyone in the room as an important part of our vibrant, sometimes zany, and incredibly fun trail community and encouraged everyone—no matter how many miles they had under their toes, to ask lots of questions, feel comfortable, and learn as much as possible.
A great introduction to any pre-hiking season prep is figuring out what gear to use and how to use gear that is comfortable, won’t drain your body with weight, and won’t drain your wallet with price. The Ruck was lucky enough to score as a speaker ultralight guru and founder of Gossamer Gear, Glen Van Peski. He gave an awesome presentation on what he carries in his backpack and how he is able to lighten his load with a few tips and tricks.
Glen’s talk was immediately followed by a one-on-one personal pack evaluation (aka “a shakedown”) where anyone—no matter how experienced they were—could bring their backpack and get advice on how to carry a lighter load from well-traveled long distance hikers. I noticed that some hikers who had already hiked the AT and PCT still were looking for pack shakedowns; in the sport of backpacking, the more knowledgeable a hiker is, the more likely a hiker realizes what s/he can learn from others.
During breaks and lunch, attendees were free to explore the booths of our sponsors and partner non-profits. Attendees were given a few minutes to talk about some of their gear that thru-hikers love. Because ultralight gear is usually only sold on the Internet, it was incredibly helpful for hikers and hikers-to-be to get an opportunity to see, touch, and test out hiking gear before buying it. A real treat for events like this, Montbell brought out down jackets and sleeping bags from their Portland store for hikers to try on. Because Montbell has only two US stores, this was a great opportunity for hikers to try on gear they can usually only buy online.
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Pacific Crest Trail Association manned booths and spoke to the group about importance of giving back and encouraged hikers to volunteer on the trail systems. Many new and even experienced hikers don’t yet realize all the work required to get a trail built and well-maintained, so it was great having trail organizations at the event to remind us all that trails don’t grow on trees.
The event was also filled with great nuts and bolts information about how to prepare for a thru-hike. PCT Hiker Hops spoke about the maps, apps, and other navigational tools that hikers can use on the PCT. As someone who hiked the PCT in the days before smartphones with ubiquitous, it was interesting for me to see how many more options hikers have to get into the backcountry.
In the afternoon, Drop & Roll presented on trail food, nutrition, and resupply for a long distance hike. Since food choices can be so personal, it got interesting when Triple Crowners joined in on a Q&A panel which revealed how different the eating habits of hikers can be on trail. Like an Oprah episode, all the attendees looked under their seat and received a free meal replacement bar donated by Probar. Well, actually, they came up to the front and got to choose their own flavor, but you get the idea.
After what felt like should have been a $30 lunch—complete with home-smoked pork, grilled tri-tip, and Porcini tofu made from mushrooms collected in the Wind River Range on the CDT—the attendees listened to a Leave No Trace and Trail Town Etiquette talk given by Allgood and me. With the increased numbers of people hiking, both of these issues are important to ensuring the scenic quality, ecological health, and continued services along the trails. The highlight of this event was a cathole digging contest where attendees competed in digging poop holes by using different tools—a stick, a shoe, a rock, a tent stake, a hiking pole, and a trowel. (For those wondering: the trowel worked the best, followed by hiking pole and tent stake).
The event ended with the talented speaker, Erin “Wired” Saver, who for the first time, shared her presentation about walking the Triple Crown. Her photos and candid stories of her experiences on the PCT, CDT, and AT made everyone in the room start dreaming of getting on trail.
The night concluded with social time and Q&A around a keg, donated by Thunder Island Brewing. It was so wonderful to reconnect with old hiking friends while also introducing new people into our hiking family. No matter how many miles a hiker has under his or her hipbelt, the Ruck was a great place to feel at home with other people who love trails and want to be hiking.
No matter what trail and what distance you’re planning on hiking this year, Rucks are the West Coast pre-hiking season go-to event to get stoked about (and back in the mindset for) covering some miles. If you didn’t make it out to the Cascade Locks Ruck and wish you could’ve been there, I would highly recommend coming out to the Colorado Ruck on March 14th where the fun and shenanigans will continue for ALDHA-W and CDTC’s Rocky Mountain Ruck.
You can register for the Colorado Ruck directly here:
Yesterday wrapped up the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, an industry-exclusive 22,000 attendee gear-fest of sales, marketing, and all-night partying. This year, we saw the largest hiker contingent yet—I counted at least 17 thru-hikers (including one “Boulder-based extreme adventure athlete”)—each there to not only work sales and market products, but to help promote the word on trails.
This year was the first show with semi-live coverage from podcast superstars, the Trail Show. The podcast recoded two nights—the first night with Gossamer Gear founder and ultralight guru Glen van Peski, and the second night, with as many thru-hikers as possible and representatives from the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West and Continental Divide Trail Coalition director, Teresa Martinez. Be sure to watch out for when those episodes go live (we recorded for FOUR hours, so there are going to be at least a few). Expect crazy stories from the show, hiking, and news from your favorite hikers.
While OR has frequently been strongly focused around climbing and skiing celebrities, hikers are now getting some recognition in the industry. I can’t help but wonder if there will ever be a day when the exploits of some of my favorite hikers become as common to hear about in general media as other outdoor athletes.
In the next few days, I’ll be pumping out articles about the Outdoor Retailer show on these topics:
-Cool new items to-be-released on the market this spring
-New hiking, energy, and outdoor food to be released this year
-General trends in gear
-The role of women in the outdoor industry
Stayed tuned and check back to learn more about what happened out the Outdoor Retailer show…from a hiker’s perspective!
As we get closer to Christmas, choosing a present that is easy to get or ships-in-two-days (or is available instantly online via e-books) is important. These books are loved and used by hikers all months of the year, and won’t break the bank. Ranging from “how-to” books, to narratives, to guidebooks, to nature books, there’s something for everyone here–even if that person already has a ton of hiking books.
This is perhaps the most desirable book for a hiker to find under the tree in 2016. PCT Trail Angel Barney Mann and PCTA Communicator editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Larabee carefully researched and compiled this chock-full-of-information coffee table book. Anyone who loves the PCT (who isn’t living in a tent or van) will love this book. More than just a coffee table fluff, this book captures the history of the trail–packing the fascinating story of how the PCT came to be along with photography so beautiful it will make you ache for hiking season again.
This new book for 2016 could change the lives of the hiker in your life. It is written for hikers looking to build strength, endurance, or heal/prevent injury. It identifies common hiker injuries and shows what you can do on and off trail to prevent them. This is the book I wish I had found in 2010 (or prior) when I was struck with a hiking injury on the CDT. You can read my full review of it here.
The advice you need to figure out most backpacking problems, all in a small (4 oz) book that easily fits in a pack. It’s short enough it can easily be read on the plane to the terminus of any long hike. Great, easy-to-read, straight forward intro for newbies, and an awesome refresher for the seasoned vet to read before the beginning of a new hiking season. You can read
The classic granddaddy of outdoors skills got a facelift and update. This book is a must-have for any outdoor adventurer. While it features mountaineering skills that long distance hikers pray to never have to use (e.g., mixed rock and ice climbing, crossing crevices), it also has tons of practical skills that apply to anyone going in the outdoors. This book belongs on every outdoors person’s shelf.
Just because your friend lives in a city doesn’t mean that s/he doesn’t want to go on an adventure. These two books will get the adventure juices flowing and will encourage even the most urban dweller to go on an adventure. The urban explorations outlined in these books highlight areas of LA and SF that even seasoned natives may have never explored. History lovers will enjoy the reading the history of different neighborhoods and art and architecture lovers will adore the walking tours outlined in these books.
I bought Yogi’s handbook two years before I hiked the PCT, just because I wanted to know everything I could about the trail. Yogi’s Books are the gateway drug and the means to dream for a PCT, CDT, Colorado Trail, or John Muir Trail hike. If you know someone who wants to hike any of those trails, buying Yogi’s guide turns that wish from a dream to real. This book is a must for new thru-hikers or those who are hiking any of those trails for the first time. (Note: Yogi will probably appreciate me mentioning this book will not ship before Christmas, but if you want to give this book, give your friend/family member a nice card saying this book will arrive soon, and the hiker will have a lovely book to read all through dark and dreary January).
The recent coffee table book will wow a hiker of any skill level. This book is a great means to scout out what the next hiking season will bring. Put out by the Partnership for National Scenic Trails, this beautiful photo book features 40 long trails in 49 different states. America’s Great Hiking Trails is every hiker’s bucket list in book form.
I’ve been through that area twice—once on the Continental Divide Trail in 2010 and once on the Colorado Trail in 2012 (the CDT and CT coincide with one another here).
Right now, the CDT/CT through the Cocheptopa Hills is routed on a roadwalk—oftentimes wide enough for passenger vehicles, but sometimes designated as motorcycle routes. My guidebook refers to this section as “a maze of roads.” The route that the Indiegogo Campaign will help raise money for will build trail for non-motorized enjoyment and will move the trail up back towards the divide, not in the cow-infested lowlands.
Looking through my photos from the Colorado Trail in particular, despite the thousands of photos I have from that trip, I have very few from the Cochetopa Hills.
Simply said: a roadwalk doesn’t make a great photo and isn’t a memory that needs to be kept forever and shared all over the internet. A roadwalk is just a way of getting from point A to B.
From the looks of my Colorado Trail trip diary, re-routing the Cochetopa Hills section may just save hikers a bunch of heartache. As it stands, that section is not the most straightforward section on the CDT. I hiked the Colorado Trail with Mr. Gorbachev, and we rarely squabble. The Cochetopa Hills was the only place where our Colorado Trail trip was anything but fun. Going through that roadwalk, we temporarily got lost. Only half a jar of cookie butter was enough to assuage a bad-tempered Liz and get her mind straightened out and back on-trail.
I feel good donating to this campaign and knowing that I was contributing to: 32 new miles of trail, giving kids an excuse to spend time in the woods as Youth Corps, giving volunteers the support they need to build trail, and making the trail more accessible (with three new trailheads).
Plus, each donation comes with cool CDT gear. I’m particularly stoked about my new Brave the CDT Shirt made by the best source of on and off trail fashion, Hikertrash.
So, if you’re a long distance hiker, thinking about becoming a long distance hiker, know a long distance hiker, or just like knowing that long trails exist, I highly recommend donating to this campaign or at least sharing the link.
Getting out into the backcountry is not always as easy as it sounds. Between finding enough vacation time, getting permits, and bringing together the resources necessary for a trip, most hikers view each destination they visit as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It is a rare surprise, then, to have an opportunity to repeat a long outing. This June, I was fortunate enough to do the 165-(ish) mile long Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) for the second time. In 2007, this loop hike around Lake Tahoe was my first end-to-end long hike ever. It was the trail that inspired me to live the hiking life. Yet my first trip on the TRT was also a blistered and painful introduction to long distance backpacking. This year, my goal in re-doing the TRT was one of personal growth—I wanted to use the trail as a gauge to discover how much I have learned in eight seasons of long distance adventuring and to see if I could hike it better.
I set off on the TRT to beat my personal record. By “personal record,” though, I had more in mind than what could be measured by a stopwatch. I wanted to hike faster, but also more comfortably. While I was on trail, I developed this spreadsheet to consciously measure my development as a long distance hiker and to evaluate how much I have learned.
Although I had improved skills and better preparation working in my favor for my 2014 hike, this year I also faced several disadvantages. In 2007, I was living and working in the High Sierra directly prior to my hike, so was well-acclimated to physical activity above 8,000 feet. This year, I was coming from a lower elevation and hadn’t been able to put in as many training miles. To add to my challenges, since 2007, the TRT had become even longer, gaining almost 10 miles of trail in order to keep hikers and bikers off of roadways. The distance I would need to trek to complete the loop hike was now even further.
I started the TRT feeling optimistic and making great time. My body felt strong. Unlike my hike in 2007, the campsite I chose for the first night was flat and I slept well knowing that the way I hung my food to keep it away from bears was actually secure (unlike all my bear hangs in 2007). Yet by my second day, although my body felt comfortable, I knew I was slowing down. The altitude was getting to me. Yet I pushed on, confident that I could work through it and excited to see what else the trail had to show me.
On the last day, I knew I would have to hike at night to make my time goal. However, unlike in 2007, the night and all of its unknowns did not scare me. I was energized by how beautiful and enjoyable my trip had been so far. In fact, hiking 20 hours straight became a highlight of my trip. For a few hours, time and space disappeared and I felt one with the mountain, the cliff drop-off on one side not intimidating me, but powering me on.
My preparation paid off and I beat my old time by almost 1/3rd, finishing the trail in sub-100 hours. I ended the trip not only feeling good about my finish time, but also with how I had experienced the trail. By breaking down what skills and knowledge I needed to achieve my goal, and then reflecting on what I’ve learned from other hikes, I created a worksheet to beat my old personal record.
The outdoors is a classroom and every trip you take has something to teach you. Even if you don’t retrace the exact same path, as I did on the TRT, each hike is an opportunity to reflect on what you have learned.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week, I’ll be headed to the High Sierra to enjoy some end-of-the-season hiking. Temperatures in the day will in the 60s and 70s with a predicted low at night in the 20’s and 30’s. There’s a 20% chance of rain, wind, and thunderstorms for the next week, so I’m bringing lots of good coverage and cold weather gear.
I’ll be camping at the trailhead tonight, so will possibly switch in a full length inflatable pad or an inflatable torso pad+full length Thinlight Insulation pad depending on how cold or warm I am tonight.
This is my first time using the new Gossamer Gear Gorilla, which, unlike my Kumo, will fit a bear can. I’m using the Bearikade, because, although bear cans aren’t required in this area, hanging is required and I passionately dislike the process of hanging food in the cold, dark, and rain. I borrowed the bear can from a friend for a Yosemite trip that didn’t end up happening due to wildfires, so want to try it out on this trip, instead.
We’ll be out for 4 days and then I’m going to add on another trip afterwards for another 2 nights, 3 days if the weather holds. I’m excited to be getting back to one of my favorite hiking places ever.