Go Take a Hike! – NYTimes.com

Go Take a Hike! – NYTimes.com.<  Enjoy the hope.

Every once in a while, Nick Kristof, prizewinning journalist takes a long hike, and it’s national news. This time it’s 145 miles in Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Kristof’s article calls to mind one of the most piercing quotes of all time, from the Grand Wanderer.

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It looks poorest when you are richest.  The fault finder will find faults even in paradise.  Love your life, poor as it is.  You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse.  The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. ”                                                                     -Thoreau

In 2010, on this exact date, I was 1544 miles into hiking the PCT, and in Etna California, about 100 miles south of entering Oregon.

Me entering the Trinity Alps

Me entering the Trinity Alps

Read my Trailjournal entry from that day, echoing my own renewed appreciation for hiking this particular National Scenic Trail.

When General Lee Saved Dreams – Pacific Crest Trail Journal

Axilla helping Train exit South Fork of the King River in June 1010

Axilla helping Train exit South Fork of the King River in June 1010

I just received a repost of a June 24, 2010 Trail Journal entry from Dreams.  Dreams hooked up with MeGaTex for a few days as we all were backpacking through the  Sierra on our 2010 Pacific Crest Trail thru hikes.  This part of the PCT is not much for solo travel, and is where even seasoned hikers who prefer to walk the trail alone often find themselves teaming up with other hikers for situations just like this one!

I agree that this was the scariest and most dangerous water crossing on the whole PCT. I still have mild PTSD that lingers on, still triggered by the unique deep bass roar of these overflowing streams and watercourses.

So, enjoy the following report from a day way back back in 2010.  Thanks, Dreams !

Click here—>>>Dreams – Pacific Crest Trail Journal – 2010.

Day 4: wherein the desert becomes desert-like again | CARROT QUINN

Day 4: wherein the desert becomes desert-like again | CARROT QUINN.<—

The best writing about long-distance hiking is coming right at you from Carrot Quinn.  She’s back at it again this season a fresh new attempt at completing the Pacific Crest Trail.

I laughed out loud at the first line of this post.

I encourage you to follow her.  630 other readers are already enjoying this ride, which will be exciting, funny, and shocking.  She’s posting daily pics on Instagram this time, accessed at the bottom of her blog posts.

Rescue at Hauser Canyon

While re-reading my Trailjournal from my 2010 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, I started looking around the Web for anyone starting out early this year. Blondie’s all set to go, and is posting on |Blondie Hikes.   I stumbled upon her remarkable post about a unprepared hiker-wannabee who might have died if not for Blondie’s help.

Hauser Canyon is a location that one passes through on the PCT .  It is located at about the 15 miles north from the US/Mexico border in California.

Hauser Canyon coming up

Hauser Canyon coming up

Apparently Blondie was day hiking the 21 mile segment that most hikers complete on their first day on the PCT.  Hikers try to make the 21 in a day because there is so little water in that section, punctuated with heavy border patrol that would invite a look-see wakeup from Agents if they detected a tent up in that section. If you make the 21 miles you arrive at Lake Morena State Park, a safe haven.

My campsite and tent- NIght #2 PCT

My campsite and tent- Night #2 on PCT

Knowledgeable trail angels have suggested that this will be a record year for PCT thru hiker attempts. “1,000 people on the trail this year” is popping up. Hopefully there is some sense out there,  Some say it’s the Wild effect, thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s best selling book about hiking a portion of the PCT in 1995.   Here’s my review of the book.

Check out the full story here–>  Rescue at Hauser Canyon.  Sheesh!

Be sure to read the comments, too.  Feel free to leave your own comments here and I’ll join in the discussion.


PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People

I’m reblogging a “report” of what appears to have taken considerable time and has good data. I was surprised that the completion numbers were this low, and like the concept of the composite “typical hiker”.  This is interesting for any long distance hiker.

PCT Hiker Survey: Meaningless Numbers From Meaningful People | Halfway Anywhere.

I liked this DVD- “Mile, Mile and a Half”-my review

Three long-distance backpacking DVD projects were released in 2013 while I was away thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail: “Mile, Mile and a Half”, “Embrace the Brutality”, and “Tell It On the Mountain”.  I’ve secured all three, watched them, and will review each on separate blog entries.

The first-  “Mile, Mile and a Half”,  is a gorgeous production by the Muir Project.

DVD cover

DVD cover

It’s their collective record of a 25 day thru-hike of the 219 mile John Muir Trail, in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Lest one think that this  8.75 mile per day schedule was chicken feed, it’s important to consider that these individuals not only carried their own backpacking gear and food, but also their respective artictic tools. Some of these folks were packing weights up to 75 pounds. No joke.

Here is the trailer for the video.

The John Muir Trail is considered to be the premier hiking trail in the United States. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft. ( from http://johnmuirtrail.org/). With the exception of the first 9 miles at the northern end climbing out of Yosemite Valley, the elevation of the JMT seldom dips below 8,000 feet. The trail crosses seven mountain passes in excess of 11,000 feet; from north to south, they are: Donohue Pass, Muir Pass, Mather Pass, Pinchot Pass, Glen Pass, Forester Pass and Trail Crest. At 13,153 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point along the Pacific Crest Trail and the second-highest pass along the JMT ( -from WiKiPedia).
It is estimated that, when hiking north to south, the amount of ascent of the JMT is just over 46,000 feet and the total descent is over 38,000 feet, for a total of about 84,000 feet, or almost 16 miles.
I pledged financial support of this product as a Kickstarter project when it was in the formative stages, allowing me to receive my “Special Edition DVD”, as well as a drink flask and sticker for my bear canister.

Five hikers, who were also accomplished artists in their own disciplines, were inspired to carry additional video and audio recording devices, still photography tools, musical instruments, and graphic materials for the purpose of producing a multimedia production of their journey.

I have watched it twice to date.
The second viewing revealed details I didn’t recall from the first viewing- a pleasant surprise that is not often the case with lower budget productions of this nature.
These are not accomplished backpackers- all these individuals are primarily artists, who happen to be backpacking in order to carry out this unique task.  For some individuals, it was their first time walking at elevations over 10,000 feet, or walking on snow.
These folks suffered- you will see the standard “horror-show-of-my-feet” images of tumescent toe blisters and gushers from strategically lanced areas of the foot with subsequent audience groans guaranteed.
There was one drop out- it was that tough.  We see the punishing ascents, post holing parties, and experience the unique frosted terrain that greeted these hikers in 2011, where the snow pack was off the charts.
I hiked 160 miles on the JMT in 2010, where it shares the path with the Pacific Crest Trail.
The segments that show the group getting up over the high passes were definitely thrilling and possibly scary, especially my personal horror show at Mather Pass, the site of my most terrifying traverse.
The footage of the notorious Bear Creek ford will put a lump in your throat.

This is a five star production that will be interesting to both hikers and non-hikers alike.

Carey Kish: “His toughest trek beckons”

In Maine’s Sunday Telegram.

Carey Kish: His toughest trek beckons | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Tiki-man survives near drowning

Dateline: Spring Brook, Camden Hills State Park, Camden, ME

The normally staid water bottle, AKA Tiki- Man, barely survived a harrowing fall into the rushing, frigid  Class V rapids along Spring Brook on March 16, 2013, in Midcoast Maine.

Tiki-man taking well-earned rest on  Vermont's Long Trail

Tiki-man taking well-earned rest on Vermont’s Long Trail

When Tenzing was getting refills for multiple water bottles near the bloated culvert containing Spring Brook, Tiki-man  leapt from his hand into the raging torrent.
While Tiki-man remained  collected, Tenzing became gravely distraught about the situation.Tiki-man was engulfed by the torrent that quickly propelled  him under the multi-purpose road above.  In panic mode, Tenzing scrambled up the embankment, only to become further frantic as he realized that the revered, purple, and ( at times) luminescent head was no where to be seen.

Glancing straight down the side of the road to the surface of the maelstrom below, Tiki-man was sighted, in an  immobilized state  within the backwaters of an eddy, but beyond human  reach.  Stuck inside backwash Tenzing leaped into rescue mode, and quickly fashioned a three-pronged branch,  that he used to dislodge and release Tiki man, only to realize that the valiant water bottle was facing yet another harrowing scoot down the icy water.
Tiki-man courageously traversed at a diagonal across the channel, where he eventually struggled to maintain a tentative hold on the far-side shore.

Gripping on for dear life!

Gripping on for dear life!

At this point, Tiki-man was clearly up against very thin ice.

The three-pronged stick guided Tiki-man past this last challenge into a still pool, where he was airlifted to safety by the selfsame stick.
Most importantly, Tiki-Man lived to tell the tale. He described his dunking as the most harrowing experience that he has ever been through.

Tiki-man is a seasoned, 6 year old water bottle. Tiki-Man has recently become  increasingly despondent at his persistent failure to lose enough weight to qualify him as an ultralight backpacking accessory. He occasionally mumbles about being teased as “a bloated relic” by Platypi and even the young upstart plastic soda bottles.
The colorful character has risen through the ranks of backpacking water bottles through his persistent dedication to thru-hiker hydration.

A veteran of three National Scenic Trails, Tiki man has endured unparalleled adventures on the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and  Vermont’s Long Trails.

The closest the battered water bottle had come to the slag heap of also-ran hiker gear was in 2007, when he was dropped from a day pack on the AT and left for dead in a crevice between a rock and a hard place. Extracted from his impending tomb by a hiker named Big Sky,  the revived Tiki-Man survived a dark passage through the US Postal Service, adorned with a mere one dollar and thirty-two cent stamp and a tattered Uncle Tom address label.

Undaunted by his early morning sub-freezing soak today, Tiki- man bucked up, and settled into place in the backpack, where the wizened vessel  supplied his human partner, Uncle Tom, with hydration on a  long winter day hike in the Camden Hills.

Where the Wild Things are – Adam Bradley goes 4700 miles!

From time to time I post from other peoples’ blogs related to hiking, biking, and the outdoor experience.  Here’s one with content that stands out above and beyond what you’d expect.

On October 5, I posted an entry about my disappointment with Fatbiking the Arctic- to date, an apparently failed Kickstarter project which I funded.  This was in response to  Outside Magazine’s Oct. 4,  update on the project, which appears to have been halted in the town of Pink Mountain, somewhere near the southern start point of the Alaska Highway.  That article is here- Fatbike Expedition Comes to a Quiet Halt.

Today I will highlight an hour long interview with another Yukon/Alaskan adventurer, but this trip was a resounding success.

Krudmeister is one of my online friends, and I know that I’ll  meet him in person someday.  This April, Krud completed a 4,700 mile human powered trip on bike, foot, and canoe.

Here’s the lead-in, from Trail Runner Nation-    “Our second interview with Adam Bradley, aka Krudmeister, a record-holding long-distance trekker!  The last time we talked to him he had just set a world record for a self supported Pacific Crest Trail trek. This summer Adam did a self-supported, human-powered trek over 4700 miles from Reno, NV to the Bearing Sea in Alaska. This is an amazing story of endurance. We talk “Krudmeister” about his 2 1/2 month journey through some of the American Continents most beautiful country, the wildlife he encountered, and his determination to keep going day after day.”

Krudmeister rode his bike from his doorway in Reno, NV up through Glacier National Park into British Columbia, Jasper, the Icefields Parkway, then Alaska’s Cassiar/Stewart Highways, all the way up to Skagway, Alaska, completing that segment of 2,847 miles ( in just 31 days).

Chilkoot Pass photo by Adam Bradley

Then he backpacked his gear up the historic Chilkoot Pass, where he reached Lake Bennet.

Lake Bennnet photo by Adam Bradley

Here, at the headwaters of the Yukon River, he assembled a packable canoe,  and successfully navigated all 1,858 miles of  the Yukon River, where he reached the end point at the Bering Sea.

He used a small wood stove for cooking, kept his supply packages to two only, and also managed to send himself a shotgun, which him behind a couple of days due to a regulatory hassle.

Here’s the link for the podcast .

Here’s the link to his entire trip.

Enjoy.  What really impresses me is that he did this solo.  Krud not only put it out there, he delivered.   If Andrew Skurka gets on the March 2011 cover of National Geographic for 4,679 human powered miles through Alaska and the  Yukon territory, don’t you think Adam Bradley deserves increased national exposure?

Outside Magazine, HELLO ?

Moving Out, Again !

The following article was just published in the Oct. 2012 issue of the Communiqué, the newspaper of the National Association of School Psychologists. Online access is limited to members, so I have listed the full article here.

I failed math but excel at backpacking.

Uncle Tom minus 33 pounds

While sitting in a presentation at the National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention in Philadelphia last week, I learned that the foundation skills needed for student mathematics proficiency are “conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition”. Hold on there!  Those skills that are critical to long-distance backpacking, not math!
I have been an active communicant of the “Church of Two Heels” since 2007, when I completed my 2,160 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, where I acquired my alter of Uncle Tom. Since “A Trail of a Lifetime: Getting a Midlife Jump-Start From the AT” was published in Volume 36, #8 of the NASP Communiqué, I have been back at it again.
In 2010 I spent 5 months completing another continuous hike, this time over the Pacific Crest Trail, where I left the Mexican border in April and walked some 2,650 miles thru California, Oregon, and Washington, eventually reaching Canada in mid-September just before the early snows. Luck, my own “productive disposition”, and“Polish Power”, got me there.
In August, I spent another month thru-hiking the 272 mile Long Trail in Vermont, where I dealt with the devastation of Hurricane Irene before I was able to again reach Canada.
Why would someone subject themselves to such madness?
I treasure the stripped-down experience of walking north, where I trade in my school psychology routines for unexpected adventures. In thru-hiking speak, I do enjoy my periodic lapses into the “hiker-trash” lifestyle.  Long-distance backpacking embraces the best that America has to offer: freedom, initiative, creative planning, challenge, and total immersion in the healing powers of the natural world for vastly extended periods of time.
Walking forward happens within a framework of much simpler goals, framed by more expansive views (“ I have to get way up on that ridge today, then see where I might end up tonight”.). So much happens in a day when you wake up with the first light and move though the woods, desert, or fields and come across animals, insects, plant life, as well as others who are also moving about the countryside.
Long-distance backpacking demands a conceptual understanding of an array of survival skills. Life on the trail is easy when it’s pleasant and sunny out, but what about when things get downright dangerous? In the desert, it can range from a broiling 110 degrees to below freezing on the same day. How do you stay warm and what is more important not skid off a 13,000 foot ridge while walking over 400 hundred miles of continuous snow and ice in the High Sierra? How do you even find a trail when it is buried under 20 feet of snow, where you might be post-holing to your mustache in the melting afternoon footpath? How about avoiding hypothermia when you are walking in the Northern Cascades of Washington and it’s 40 degrees out, on the fifth day of continuous chilling rain, with a sodden taco of a sleeping bag to look forward to?
There is often no time in a thru-hike to adopt a reasonable, sloping learning curve.  Procedural fluency is essential, so that daily tasks are completed promptly. Walking on unknown paths is a primal, universal experience that ties the ordinary adventurer to Odysseus, Daniel Boone, Shackleton, and other explorers who inspire us to go places. I consider myself fortunate to be on the short list of individuals who seek encounters with nature on a twenty-four hour-a-day, all-day, months-at-a-time period. Cooking meals, setting up a tent, avoiding bears, getting out of bed, and walking all day, day after day, is only possible when these actions are competed efficiently so that the 24 hours that are allotted each day are not squandered.
I learned to deal with adversity thru adaptive reasoning to move ahead, even if it sometimes meant walking in circles or even backwards. I strive to reduce the time I spend in tension, indecision, and even pain, all of which sap energy and diminish one’s capacity to fully embrace the astounding panoramic beauty that one meets with on these National Scenic Trails.
Here’s an example of an adaptive skill, termed the “Daily Inventory of Pain”, which has yet to appear on the VIneland-II, that I learned from “The Burglar”, my Canadian hiking pal. Backpackers generally wake up either at first light or even just before sunrise, climb out of their sleeping bags, unzip the mosquito netting on their tents, and eventually right themselves to standing. Every long distance hiker engages in some degree, conscious or not, of becoming aware of body pain centers. For me it was generally a some combination of sore lower left back, forefoot numbness, fissured heels, tenderness or actual sprain of one or both ankles, tender shins, inflammation of one or both shoulders, a dull head, thirst, digestive distress, chapped lips, minor lacerations, sore or cracked fingers, and downright fatigue. The Daily Inventory of Pain would be a conscious accounting of the cumulative effects of all these sensations, which may be unconsciously endorsed on a Likert Scale, and assigned a General Suffering Quotient which might be framed in the following manner: “I feel like crap.  I am not going to be able to hike 30 miles over what’s coming, I‘ll cut it to 20, and pray for that.”  I might add that it would be an additional advantage to foster some measure of a “productive disposition” at this later stage of a thru-hike.
Cognitive flexibility and shifting mindset allow the thru-hiker to reap benefits from the unexpected “open doors” that present themselves at intervals during a hike. It’s has been said that the weight of an individual hiker’s pack reflects their personal fears.  I used to be a hiker who was locked into over preparation due to expecting a cascade of worst case scenarios, but have relaxed a great deal in my fretting about what could go wrong.  See that bunch of local campers off the trail over there who might be having a good time? I used to put my head down and avoid them. I now walk over to them, smile, and ask, “Hey, what’s up, what’s going on?” When people learn that you have just spent several months walking thousands of miles from Mexico, most instantly warm up, and often become a welcoming committee. Good things can happen. I have reaped many a hamburger, hot dog, cold drink, and more from these encounters.
There are two major approaches to dealing with a long distance backpacking trip.  The “be prepared” school of thought is exemplified by hikers like Terrapin Flyer and Granite, whom I consider paragons of executive functioning. They possessed the energy and forethought to cook, dehydrate, and pack 30 boxes of nutritious food for 175 days of walking, that were shipped to themselves along the Pacific Crest Trail.   While I wouldn’t go so far to consider it strategic incompetence, a differing approach is one taken by Richard Wizard, who shuns mailing himself food and supplies, and instead prefers the challenge of making do with what he can sift thru along the way. His choice is one that requires cognitive flexibility, making do with what he can find in gas stations and out of the way, understocked convenience stores. One of Wizard’s most creative food adaptations was first observed along the western edge of the Mojave Desert, where he transferred canned chili to a used paper coffee cup that placed on the outside mesh pocket of his backpack where the sun’s intensity cooked his meals to perfection. No water to wash out the cup?  No big deal, that sun will fry those germs!
Hiking is a hardware and software reset that restores my health and vitality.  Most of America is on some sort of weight loss program, with over 50% of Americans now considered obese or overweight..Losing weight is easy if you backpack enough.  A thru-hiker program is unique in that weight continues to drop despite consumption of vast volumes of food, up to some 6,000 calories a day. I have lost as little as 17 and as many as 33 pounds on my long hikes. I can remember times when I have felt like a superhuman, throwing down marathon length distances on a daily basis for weeks at a time. It just doesn’t seem like it could happen, but it does.
When we were in northern California and General Lee told Axilla, Wizard and I that we would not complete our hike unless we increased our daily average to 25 miles a day. I was crushed. I never conceived that I would eventually backpack thirty plus and more miles a day, on repeated days. It happened.  Lee and I even teamed up around Mt. Hood to walk 41miles in one 24 hour period.
Lessons learned on the trail extend to life off the beaten path.  Sayings that may ring hollow chime brilliant when you are walking all day long.  “Momentum helps”, “Just get moving”, “Stop and smell the roses”, “Share”, “Hike your own hike”, “Early to bed and early to rise”- the list is endless.  All of these aphorisms have deeper truths that reveal themselves with increased visibility under travel conditions. Every one of them also applies when off the trail.
People make the trail. I started the Appalachian Trail alone, on my birthday, on March 27. That night, at a campsite, I met several other hikers who eventually became my best friends. We reached the terminus of the AT on the Mt. Katahdin summit together on September 16, 2007.  Three years later, General Lee, Richard Wizard, and I walked together to complete the 2,760 mile PCT.  General Lee and I thru-hiked Vermont’s Long Trail this past August. My deepest memories are replays of scenes where there are other people present. My favorite AT photo is a blurry one taken into the setting sun in Virginia, with two men and a dog hiking in formation up a lushly planted hill. MeGaTex is what we  call ourselves, and we are planning another big one for 2013.  My conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition will accompany me, along with my iPod and a bottle of Advil.
I continue to blog about the outdoors on http://tjamrog.wordpress.com/ .
Uncle Tom’s complete daily PCT Trail Journal can be accessed on the web at http://www.trailjournals.com/tjamrog/ .

-Tom has been the Maine Delegate to NASP, and is past President of the Maine Association of School Psychology.