Vermont’s Long Trail in Autumn

I met Alan Wechsler on the John Muir Trail this past summer. I hiked in parallel with his group, finishing the same day at Whitney Portal.

Alan convinced me to put Vermont’s Long Trail in autumn on my personal life list. He suggested I follow the changing of the leaves starting late September and hiking south.

272 miles (437 km). 70 backcountry campsites.

Details.

You can download Alan’s Long Trail booklet (PDF) for free:

 

19 Days on the JOHN MUIR TRAIL

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

INTRODUCTION

The John Muir Trail in California is our #2 hike in the world.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Though I’d hiked almost every segment over the years, this was my first time hiking over 200 miles continually.

There are hundreds of excellent JMT Trip Reports online. For example, I enjoyed Jai’s joyful photo journal from Aug 11-30, 2021.

Rather than post a detailed day-by-day account, here I’ll simply recount some of my own HIGHLIGHTS.

If this page is too long 😀 … watch highlights of my trip in less than 5 minutes.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

FIRE & DROUGHT

Jai’s group finished one day before Forest Fire closures were announced.

We were lucky too. Aug 7 – 24, 2021. No closures. Haziest day was Aug 23rd near Whitney.

Climate change will — in future — increasingly make thru hikes of the John Muir Trail more difficult.

LIGHTNING

The other big worry on the JMT is afternoon lightning. This season Nicholas Torchia, 37-years-old, died after trying to take cover by leaning against a tree while hiking close to the John Muir Trail.

FRIENDS

For this adventure, I was happy to have my old hiking buddies Brian and Rocco join me for the first week.

Hiking with friends is more fun. But logistics more complicated.

Under my failed leadership in the past, we are known as the Backcountry Bunglers. AND we managed to bungle logistics again — though the hiking itself was superb.

We had Pacific Crest Trail 500+ mile permits rather than JMT permits. PCT are much easier to get. BUT require that you start exactly the day and trailhead on the permit. Also, you have to carry a print copy. Lessons learned.

Thousand Island Lake

Near Reds Meadows we made the short detour to Rainbow Falls.

And Devil’s Postpile.

TREES

Rocco is a student of flora and fauna. He particularly enjoyed the many kinds of beautiful (and weird) trees.

FOOD

When in town we felt obliged to CARBO LOAD in advance of our freeze dried future.

One of our favourite restaurants was Breakfast Club in Mammoth.

On the trail my dinners were mostly based on ramen, instant mashed potatoes and instant stuffing. REAL bacon pieces were one of my treats as were Jelly Belly.

FEET

Critical to a successful hike is footwear and foot management.

What worked best for me in the California dry heat was trail runners and Injiji toe socks. In fact, I left my usual Merrell Moabs in Mammoth after the first 5 days.

I cleaned and cooled my feet as often as possible during the day.

Mid-day I’d stop for about an hour to use solar power to recharge my devices.

CAMPSITES

In the Sierra Nevada there are plenty of opportunities to wild camp. Set up your tent anywhere not too close to water. … Unless it’s posted.

Late afternoon we had set up our tents … before noticing this sign.

It’s EASY to find fantastic places to tent. Actually.

SIDE TRIPS

Many on the JMT stick to the trail, unwilling to miss even a single official step. Not me.

I took 4 side trips:

  • Reds – Thousand Island lake on the PCT
  • southern Red Cone from Lower Crater Meadow junction
  • Goodale Trail to Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) because the boat wasn’t running
  • Mt Whitney
southern Red Cone

VERMILLION VALLEY RESORT (VVR)

On past hikes I’d never made the famed side trip to VVR.

On arrival, the new owners welcome you warmly and offer a free cold beer.

I’m really glad I did VVR this time, taking a ZERO miles recovery day. I met more people there than the rest of the days combined. Found myself at the same table with PhD students and veteran thru hikers.

I stayed for the Saturday night all-you-can-eat barbecue. $26.

Due to drought and low snow fall the previous winter, governments had held back water from Lake Thomas Edison. When this happens, the ferry can’t shuttle hikers to VVR. It’s a half day extra walking.

For me it was well worth the side trip.

Lake Thomas Edison – DRY in 2021

I skipped the Ranch.

SUNSET, NIGHT SKY & SUNRISE

Highlights for one and all. Yet I’m disappointed I didn’t take more photos. I should have woken up more often to see the Milky Way.

PASSES

The story of the southern JMT is climbing a high pass every day.

I enjoyed it. By Seldon I was feeling fit. My feet were great. In fact, I was in the BEST physical shape for hiking at the end of 19 days. It would have seemed EASY to hike back north.

MUIR PASS

Weather was good — but cold and windy when I reached famed Muir Pass hut.

PEAKFINDER APP

Navigation is easy on the John Muir trail with most of the popular hiking apps.

I used Guthook and the free Maps.me app.

Another I really appreciated is the free PeakFinder app. You must download the regional data when online as there’s very little service on the JMT.

FIN DOME

Of many, many impressive peaks en route — including Whitney — my favourite was Fin Dome.

Fin Dome and Arrowhead lake

BOOKS & WHITNEY

The south gets higher and bleaker. I re-read DUNE on this section as it was appropriate to the environment. Hiking alone I was able to finish quite a few audio books, in fact.

Here’s the final push to the top of Whitney.

I was briefly the highest person in the lower 48.

Since the weather was good, I decided to have dinner atop the peak. Stay for sunset. It was very hazy.

A highlight, however, was walking down to Trail Camp on the far side of the mountain by headlamp and moonlight. My only night hiking of the trip.

Next morning I was up for dawn to enjoy my final morning on the John Muir Trail.

Whitney massif at dawn from Trail Camp

Finally down at Portal, we celebrated with the traditional burger and fries. Relived highlights with hikers whom I’d been walking with in parallel for many days.

A wonderful trip.

Arctic Circle Trail, Greenland

… At just over 100 miles long, and taking 7 to 10 days to complete, the Arctic Circle Trail crosses the largest ice-free patch of West Greenland.

This splendid backpacking route, lying 25-30 miles north of the Arctic Circle runs from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut – both with airport access.

a summer walk, ideally from mid-June to mid-September, when the tundra is bursting with life; during the long winter, snow and ice, short days and bitter cold are the norm …

Cicerone

Bo Normander posted an excellent trip report from 2017:

GUIDE TO THE ARCTIC CIRCLE TRAIL IN GREENLAND

Lisa Germany (from Australia) posted her trip report.

Or you can listen to an interview where she describes Greenland and the ACT in detail.

The Best Treks in Northern Peru: Cordillera Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca The 10Adventures Podcast

On this episode we dive head first into the incredible trekking regions known as the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash in Northern Peru. Our guest Christian Alvarado, owner of Huaraz-based adventure tour operator Go2Andes shares his expertise on these 2 incredible mountain ranges and the 3 main treks offered here.  If you’re a lover of high altitude trekking, you don't want to miss this in depth look at the 3 most popular treks here, the Alpamayo Trek, the Santa Cruz Trek and Huayhuash Treks. Find out what goes into preparing for these types of high adrenaline adventures as Christian shares everything from acclimatization plans, transporting gear, and best times to travel.    Check out a full list of Go2Andes incredible trekking tours on 10Adventures or going to https://www.10adventures.com/tour-operator/go-2-andes/
  1. The Best Treks in Northern Peru: Cordillera Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca
  2. Adventuring in Europe Now: What‘s it like to travel right now
  3. The GR5: Trekking from the Alps to the Mediterranean with 10Adventures founder Richard
  4. Cycling from Brighton to Budapest with Ryan
  5. Cycling and wild camping 5,000 km around Europe with Jens

documentary – Surviving the Outback

Michael Atkinson places himself in the historic predicament of two stranded German aviators in 1932 to see if the his skills as a survival instructor, pilot and adventurer will allow him to escape to the nearest civilization.

It is a gripping film.

I learned a lot about surviving in the harsh Australian coastal wilderness.

The most remarkable feature of this documentary is its mode of filming. It is not performed by any film crew that follows his journey. It is single-handedly managed by Mike through drones and cameras so it preserves the natural element. The breathtaking pictures of the ocean, varied shades of the waters, flora and fauna of marine sea and the natural cliffs along the coast paint an excellent landscape for the viewers. It manages to take one to an unexplored world …

 Watch the hour long documentary FREE on TubiTV.

Documentary – Into the Canyon

Premiered February 2019.

VERY entertaining.

You might be able to find it on the National Geographic Channel.

In 2016 filmmaker/photographer Pete McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko set out on a 750-mile journey on foot through the entire length of the Grand Canyon.

From the outset, the challenge was far more than they bargained for. More people have stood on the moon than have completed a continuous through hike of the Canyon.

… But their quest was more than just an endurance test – it was also a way to draw attention to the unprecedented threats facing one of our most revered landscapes. …

Uranium mines, tourist development, maintaining indigenous flora and fauna. Native peoples are interviewed thoughout.

Click PLAY or watch the trailer on YouTube.

EVERYONE should support planting more TREES

No matter what your opinion on CO2 levels higher than they  been for at least the past three million years, you can support planting more trees.

Trees are good in MANY ways, including pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, some guy who got popular on YouTube, started a campaign that raised enough money for more than 20 million trees to be planted across the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, and the United Kingdom.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Secondly, we should STOP subsidizing fossil fuel industries. One study calculated $5 trillion / year in subsidy worldwide.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of students to become environmental activists for climate change.

I love to see how some previously unknown teenager scares so many of the rich and powerful worldwide.

She’s the youngest individual Time Person of the Year.

Thunberg was also nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Washington Park, Portland OR

One of the best urban hiking areas in the USA.

Washington Park is the #1 TripAdvisor attraction in Portland.

It includes a zooforestry museumarboretumchildren’s museumrose gardenJapanese gardenamphitheatrememorialsarchery range, tennis courts, soccer field, picnic areas, playgrounds, public art and many acres of wild forest with miles of trails.

I walked from my hostel and then did about 10km of run / walk between some of the attractions.

The trails are excellent. No bikes allowed.

Early April blossoms are the highlight. There were plenty of cameras out.

The Oregon Holocaust Memorial was dedicated in 2004.

It’s very well maintained. Public picnic spaces superb.

Giant Sequoias.

Don’t miss this park if you get to Portland.

cycling Vegas to Red Rock Canyon

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

My favourite destination in Vegas is Red Rock Canyon.

It was Alistair Humphreys who first got me thinking about microadventures.

… short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding. …

Visiting friends in west Vegas it was only about 10 miles to the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center on excellent dedicated cycling lanes.

I cycled from their house short of the Conservation Area, turning one street early into the Calico Basin (no fees).

You can access similar gorgeous wilderness while avoiding crowds, parking hassles and entrance fee.

For the first time ever I cycled out onto the Kraft Mountain trails.

It was busy with locals climbing the Kraft Boulders.

Aside from April wildflowers, it was typical Nevada desert.

I did see one large desert tortoise, Nevada’s State Reptile.

At dusk I set up my tent in a quiet, hidden spot.

Next morning starting at 5am I began hearing voices.

As it turned out I’d accidentally set-up close to an unmarked but popular local trail.

Oops.