We’re planning a hiking vacation whenever this damn virus has run its course! Personally, I am totally and completely fed up with this and am so willing for life to get back to normal. But we can use whatever time left on all these STUPID restrictions – a hopefully short time – to plan our hiking expedition and glory in the joy of it, even if we can’t go quite yet. The first decision, obviously, is where to go and we’re narrowed it down to three spots.
PART ONE: WHERE TO HIKE
Hiking In Alaska
Alaska means that means that we are now in prime backpacking and hiking territory. Even in the winter, Alaska has terrific trails open for hiking in the Glacier Bay National Park (above) and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Here are some more specific locations that we’re considering, based on recommendations we’ve researched:
>> Anchorage Area: Caines Head Alpine Trail
Probably the most underappreciated hiking trail in the entire Anchorage area, the Caines head Alpine Trail begins at a sign-marked kiosk one-quarter of a mile from North Beach, towards Derby Cove. The trails beginnings are deceptively uninteresting, but as you make your slow way up its incline, you will begin to appreciate why it is one of the most undeservedly overlooked hiking trails on the Anchorage peninsula.
You’ll find yourself meandering through unspoiled Alpine forest groves, over crystal clear streams, and even past a very impressive waterfall. And if you stop to after about a mile-and-a- half, to catch your breath, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular vistas of Resurrection bay and the Kenai Mountains.
Youll get neither physically nor visually bored in tackling the Caines head Alpine trail. Its many switchbacks, forest groves, and panoramic views of the scenery at your feet will keep you satisfied. Bring along a camera; Callisto Canyon and Peak, the Spruce and Porcupine Glaciers, the islands at the mouth of Resurrection Bay, and Caines Head itself are waiting to be captured on film.
>> Chugach National Forest: Devils Pass
In 2000, Devils Pass had become nearly impassible, thanks to tits overgrown condition. But in 2004, thanks to a cleanup effort and a thorough revamping of the trail, it again became deserving of consideration as one of Alaska’s best hiking trails. So forget what you may have heard about its condition and give it a look.
The very name Devils Pass may be intimidating to less experienced hikers, who question whether they are in good enough shape to tackle the trail. Not to worry.
Devils pass is an ideal Alaska hike for both novice and young hikers. Broad and even, it allows you to take your eyes off you feet and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings. It is, however, ten miles from start to finish, so you can count on a five to six hour hike if you choose to go the distance.
But Devils Pass has the advantage, unlike many of the trails in the Chugash National forest, of hiking above the treeline for most of its length. So you’ll be treated to continuing views of forested mountains, lakes and streams, and alpine meadows covered, in the milder seasons, with wildflowers.
>> Denali State Park: Upper Troublesome Creek Trail
If the name Devils Pass didn’t scare you, this one just might. Perhaps this trail was named by people who, for good reason, wanted to keep it to themselves.
But Upper Troublesome Creek, meandering between and around massive boulders, is nothing of the kind.
And the initial three miles of the Upper Troublesome Creek Trail follow the Creek before beginning an easy incline which eventually leads you to intermittent views of it. The trail passes by many rock cairns created by wind erosion, and several small ponds as well.
The trail is somewhat overgrown after the first five miles, but still navigable, and eventually summits at Tam Point and descends to Byers Lake. Its about 15 miles from start to finish.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon
From the time John Wesley Powell first conquered (ha! conquered the Colorado river? get real!) the raging rapids of the Colorado River as it powered its way past its canyon walls, the Grand Canyon has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
And wonder it is. There are no words or photographs or even films which can adequately capture the awesome spectacle of this canyon. Only seeing it in person–and you can only see it in sections – will begin to let you comprehend the sheer scales of time and erosion that had a hand in creating this masterpiece of Nature. It will, if you let it, astonish and awe you.
And every year over five million visitors pay homage to the Grand Canyon. The may be seen staring into its depths, or atop the back of sure-footed mules wending their way downward, or pursuing the legend of John Wesley Powell for themselves by taking a whitewater rafting trip beneath its walls. And anyone who is not content to merely stand and contemplate the Canyon has only to look around and find plenty of opportunities to embark on a Grand Canyon hiking trip.
And the best of these Grand Canyon hiking trips will offer you a hike down into the canyon depths where you will hook up with a rafting tour and spend the next few days on a schizophrenic journey through the alternately church-silent pools and House of Horrors thrilling rapids of the Colorado.
Grand Canyon hiking will offer new experiences to even the most seasoned hikers. And because the Canyon will be such a departure from any previous places you have hiked, you will almost certainly have one of two reactions. Youll be counting the days until your next Grand Canyon hiking adventure, or you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you made it back to civilization, and promise them that you will never tempt fate the same way again.
No matter what, it is likely to be an experience you’ll never forget.
If you decide you are ready for a Grand Canyon hiking trip, prepare for it the way you would prepare for any desert excursion. If you are going to make it through your Grand Canyon hiking trip in comfort, you’ll need to educate yourself about where to find both water and shelter from the elements.
And believe it or not, you’ll start you Grand Canyon hiking trip from an elevation considerably higher than the Mile-High City of Denver. Your hike will begin with a descent of between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, so make sure your backpack is of a manageable weight, and evenly balanced. And pace yourself. Every downward step will be repeated as an upward step on your return trip. You’ll need to conserve your energy wherever you can.
The South Rim offers three choices of trips, and the easiest trails from which to begin your Grand Canyon hiking.
Trip A: Bright Angel Camp, Night 1; Indian Garden Camp, Night 2: Hike Out, Night 3.
Trip B: Bright Angel camp, Night 1; Bright Angel camp, Night 2; Hike Out, Night 3.
Trip C: Indian Garden Camp, Night 1; Indian garden camp, Night 2; Hike Out, Night 3.
While hikes beginning at the North Rim are also available, the roads accessing them are closed in the winter. The hikes from the North Rim can last as long as five days. And if you are really serious about your Grand Canyon hiking, consider tackling the Corridor Trails. They will let you experience Grand Canyon hiking at its most challenging!
Hiking in Canada
A quarter of a million lakes. That’s nearly one lake for every fifty people who inhabit its vast expanse. And they are fed by its hundreds of rivers tumbling through deep chasms and cascading in torrential waterfalls over glacier-scarred granite cliffs.
The northern walleye, lake trout, and pike in those lakes will give game fishermen all they can handle, and whitewater enthusiasts can follow the same river routes used by fur trappers when the Hudson Bay Company was young. Ontario is a place where the True North lives up to its name.
And a Canada hiking trip to Ontario would be incomplete if it did not include a trek along the North Shore of Lake Superior, which is bounded by six hundred miles of sub-arctic evergreen forests.
You can begin your Canada hiking trip to northwest Ontario by heading for Thunder Bay. Travel there via Canadian Highway 11/17, and follow the Lake Superior Circle tour to the Canada hiking trailhead.
The Circle Tour will route you along the coast of Lake Superior, and you will have ample opportunities to photograph its scenic waters, and the surrounding stands of maple, pine, birch, and spruce, before you set out on your Canada hiking adventure.
Canada hiking trails are easily accessible from the main highways, so you are given unlimited options when it comes to the distance and duration of your Canada hiking trips. There are parks throughout northwestern Ontario which can provide you with all the best attractions of the Canadian wilderness, and a Canada hiking trip which takes you to more than one will give you a taste of all it has to offer.
A great way to initiate yourself into Canada hiking is by visiting all of Ontarios three provincial parks Sleeping Giant, Ouimet Canyon, and Rainbow Falls. These three parks will provide you with the most spectacular inland and shoreline attractions of both Thunder Bay and Lake Superior.
The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park received its somewhat whimsical name from a series of sedimentary rock mesas which, over eons, were covered with layers of igneous rock which have come to resemble a sprawling giant at rest.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers Canada hiking for hikers of every level of experience, from the gentle inclines of its eastern lowlands to the cliff trails which will take you to the top of the Giant himself. If you are up to it, the climb will reward you with unparalleled views of Lake Superior.
If you tackle the parks woodland Canada hiking trails, expect to see deer, moose, and other wildlife looking back at you. They are the successors of the huge caribou herds which once roamed the areas forest.
When the logging industry began harvesting the northwest Ontario forests in the early 1900’s, the caribou were driven out. But they have been replaced not only with deer and moose, but with black bears, timber wolves, and lynx; and red fox and porcupines are commonly seen by those who enjoy Canada hiking trips to the park.
And birdwatchers will be treated to glimpses of some of the Parks one hundred and ninety species of birds at the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory at the tip of the Sibley Peninsula.
Whether you like to fish, whitewater, climb, or just take strolls down lush woodland trails in the hope of seeing a forest animal, a Canada hiking trip to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park will not leave you disappointed!
PART 2: BEING SMART ON OUR HIKING TRIP, ALIAS EQUIPMENT
It seems that at least once a year the news will publish stories of hiking vacations which have taken a tragic turn. Even the most experienced hikers and climbers, it seems, can find themselves plunged without warning into survival situations.
You have an adventurous spirit, or would like to find out if you do, so you are looking at spending your next vacation exploring the great outdoors. And to maximize your outdoor time, you are thinking of seeing a new part of world under your very own leg power.
You, in other words, want to take up the hiking thing. Call it bushwhacking, bushbashing, or trampling; an outdoor excursion done on two legs by any other name will still be hiking. The open road, or trail, or path, or faint indentation in the prairie will be your guide to adventure. It will transport you along bottomless canyons and rolling hills, past sparkling streams or thundering rapids, and through the deepest forests. Pick your favorite kind of scenery, and therell be a hiking vacation to accommodate you.
The U-turn from exhilarating outdoor adventure to a fight for ones life can be a swift and sudden one, and will have no regard for your past success. So before you embark on your next hiking vacation, make note of the following suggestions, and then be on you way with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve done what you can to ensure your trip is a happy and safe one.
But your hiking vacation will only be as enjoyable as your equipment allows. Once you are out in the wilderness, therell be no turning back for the forgotten canteen or bedroll or insect repellent. A well-equipped hiker is a happy hiker, so here is a checklist of hiking musts:
The single most important piece of equipment in the smart hikers arsenal is a high-quality, comfortable backpack. Its going to safely protect all your other essentials, and you are going to lug it just about everywhere you go, so put some thought into its purchase.
Some pointers: backpacks with wide shoulder straps are much more comfortable than those with narrow ones. Your hiking vacation will require you to carry large loads over long distances, and if you stop and think about narrow straps digging into your shoulder and back, you may want to scrap the whole idea before you get started.
A backpack with wide straps will do a much better job of spreading the weight you are carrying, giving your shoulders some relief.
And make sure your backpack has not only wide shoulder straps, but also extra padding. If you can find one which also has a waist belt to support its weight, youll be even happier.
There are two rules regarding the size of the backpack you should buy.
#1: First, make sure it can comfortably hold everything you need to bring along.
#2: Second, bring along as little as you can possibly manage with.
And, if you are going on a tour-guided hiking vacation, your heavier bags will be transported for you, so you only need a backpack large enough to get you through each days excursion.
You mean theres not enough water out in the wilderness?
Well, even though your hiking vacation may take you through some of the worlds great waterways, you will still need something to sip on.
First, you won’t always be near water, even when you are hiking a river trail; and second, the sad reality of life in the 21st century is that even the most pristine-looking bodies of water can be home to who-knows-what chemicals and toxic organisms.
Bottled water, or a water purifying kit, is a must-have for any hiking vacation.
If you’ve chosen a guided hiking vacation, food will be regular and plentiful. But even so, you may feel more secure with a couple of packaged meals and some high-energy snacks in you backpack. Even the best-laid plans of the best touring companies can go astray, and unless you are well-versed in living off the land, the trail mix and jerky might be more valuable than you ever anticipated.
>> Give your travel plan to someone, and stick to it
Make sure someone staying behind at home has a list of all the places your hiking vacation will be taking you, and the order in which you will be visiting them. A map marked with you destinations will be very helpful, should potential searchers need some help in pinpointing where you would have last been.
>> Have overnight basics with you
Your backpack, even if you think your days hike will return you to camp by nightfall, should contain a whistle, knife, full water bottle, lighter, woolen cap, and garbage bag. Those six items will provide you with the rudiments of survival from warmth to shelter to water.
A hiking vacation can be saved by your knowing how to transform an ordinary plastic garbage bag into a shelter. Just use your knife to cut an opening in its sealed end, put it over your head, and you have an instant waterproof poncho.
If the temperature falls below fifty degrees, you are in danger of hypothermia, so use your wool cap to hold in the 80% of your body heat which will otherwise escape.
>> Fire means survival
You’ve already committed to having a lighter with you at all times during your hiking vacation. But one source of fire is always susceptible to being damaged or lost. You should not be happy with less than three. A spark rod and a pack of windproof matches, tucked way in your pocket or backpack, will be tremendous backups.
A hiking vacation at any time of year can bring wet or windy weather, so you need to be up to the task of building a fire under those conditions. Your best bet is to use kindling made from dead branches of pines, spruces, and firs. Because of their high resin content, they will ignite much more easily than wood from deciduous trees.
Your hiking vacation survival techniques don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but they do have to be there when you need them. And since its impossible to know just when that will be, get in the habit of not unpacking them when you return to your camp each evening. It may one day be the habit that saves your life!