Tag Archives: hiker

Volksmarching: A Sport for the People

On your mark! Get set! Go…at the pace that feels right for you! Today we’re all about a non-race where no one loses, everybody wins, and all you have to do is put your best foot forward and then the other one, and so on. Volkssporting, as the American Volkssporting Association puts it, “is an international sports phenomenon that promotes personal physical fitness and good health by providing fun-filled, safe exercise in a stress-free environment through self-paced walks and hikes, bike rides, swims, and in some regions, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.” A genuine choose-your-own-pace adventure, volkssporting’s most popular iteration is called volksmarching, where participants are tasked with hiking 6.2-miles (10km) of pre-marked paths.

[Image: www.ava.org]

A sport with no room for agism. All you need is a reasonable sense of humor and maybe a really emphatic “ta-da!” pose. [Image: www.ava.org/]

Volksmarching is characterized by flexible start times for events and lengths that can vary to accommodate participants of diverse abilities to complete the course. Hundreds of thousands of folks have participated in organized volksmarches in the last couple of years, many of them matured in years or mentality beyond the need to come in first or otherwise exert their prowess over their peers. Sounds amazing, right? Here are a few parks where the spirit of the “fun, fitness, [and] friendship” aspects of volksmarch is alive.

[Image: www.allblackhills.com]

This photo shows some of the turnout for the annual Crazy Horse Monument Volksmarch, just about 11 miles from Custer State Park. [Image: www.allblackhills.com/]

Custer State Park, South Dakota

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, the Seasonal Volksmarch Trail is open mid-May to September 30 annually. Volksmarchers at the park can register between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to hike the trail. After paying a small fee, those who complete the course are rewarded with a stamp in their distance-keeping book, called a “credit,” and for an extra dollar, a “B Award,” or a medallion from a previous year’s event. Not to mention a sense of accomplishment!

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park has 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails and hiking trails, which, you may have noticed, is precisely the length needed for volksmarching. The accessibility of the trails makes Hot Springs an exceptionally fine park to enjoy the sights that come with a good walk in the West. You can access views of the Big Horn River and accompanying mineral terrace, a side effect of the hot spring that gives the park its name. The hot spring, by the way, is accessible at the park-maintained bathhouse and soaking in its free 104 degree pool is an outstanding way to relax after your volksmarch.

Volkssporting is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org]

Volksmarching is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org/]

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida

Sebastian Inlet State Park is an exceptional park because it offers access to all the best things that Florida’s excellent state park system is known for: Watersport recreation, camping, fishing, biking with sea and sand abounding in an ecologically diverse and sensorial, vibrant setting. All this knitted in with the Volksport Trail, 6.2 miles on the park’s varying terrain and with elements of all its best scenery. Whether you’re ready to sprint the whole course or looking to take your time at it, you’ll have a great time at Sebastian Inlet.

We talk a lot about sports and activities that are geared toward individuals who maybe don’t have to wonder as often about the types of materials that make up a park’s trails or if there is an accessible restroom with transfer bars. But state and national parks (and indeed, the wonders of nature!) are for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. Volksmarching gets to the heart of the idea that it’s less about speed and competition and more about the journey and the companions we take or meet along the way.

For more on this and other activities where you might enjoy some fun, fitness, and friendship, download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and find a park to stretch your legs near you.

Death Valley National Park in a Day

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

A week is hardly enough time to truly enjoy a national park like Death Valley. I mean, you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the millions of acres there and still leave stones unturned at the end. And spending one full day in Death Valley National Park is hardly scratching the surface.

Sometimes all we have is a finite amount of time, and we have to make the best of it. That’s what I did a few weeks ago. It was an all-out blitz trying to see the desert peaks, salt flats, wildlife, craters, and everything else Death Valley has to offer all in one day. While it wasn’t easy, I left the park feeling accomplished and satisfied having seen what I saw. These are some of the best sites you need to hit at Death Valley National Park, whether you have a couple weeks to kill or just a day.

Zabreski Point

Zabreski Point at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

A major tourist point is Zabreski Point. The ease of access up to the top with its stunning views of the surrounding park and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range out in the distance make this place a go-to spot for anyone who visits the park. Hit it early in the morning for a glorious sunrise or even go there real late and watch the stars twinkle high above the sky with virtually no one around.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High points are always most talked about, but no one ever mentions the low points. The lowest point in North America is right here in Death Valley National Park! It’s a salt flat that you can walk on and even lick the salt if you want.

Everyone parks at the parking lot, and to get away from the crowds, drive past the parking lot, coming from Furnace Creek, and park alongside the road. It’s also a shorter walk out to the salt flat.

Dante’s View

Daunte's View at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High above Badwater Basin is where you’ll see what Dante saw. No one knows who Dante is, but what he saw is amazing here. Grab a postcard from the visitor center and snap a photo of where the photographer who snapped that postcard view was standing. Make sure you look down to the road to see the cars driving by the salt flat. They’re so tiny they look like little ants running around!

Artist’s Palette

Death Valley National Park at Artist's Palette

Image: Justin Fricke

Ever see a color palette that painters use to create something remarkable? That’s what the rock features look like here. The desert is full of beige and orange colored rocks, but come here to see rocks that are purple, turquoise, and loads of other colors you wouldn’t expect to find in the desert.

Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

Clean canyon lines and steep vertical features all over—that’s what you go to see at Mosaic Canyon. The road in is a bit of a bear and people flock to this place, but hike in a little further for some secluded areas that are completely worth it. Hey, the best things are worth fighting for, right?

If you only had one day to visit Death Valley National Park, where would you go? What would you try?

Hike Like a Girl: Amazing Record-Smashing Female Hikers

Anyone who says the great outdoors is a man’s world hasn’t seen some of these kick ass female hikers in action on the trails. And what better time to give them the credit they’re undoubtedly due than during Women’s History Month? The days of expecting little girls to place house rather than play in the woods are long past, and we’re thrilled to shine the spotlight on just a few of these awesome ladies.

Girl hiking.

Lace up those boots, and take a hike! [Image: http://www.imagebase.net/]

Emma Rowena “Grandma” Gatewood

Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (2,168 miles) by herself in one season. She began her journey at Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia and ended at Mount  Katahdin, Maine in 1955 after telling her children she was going for a walk. For her first trek, she wore Keds and brought an Army blanket, raincoat, and plastic shower curtain in a homemade shoulder bag. Along the way, she caught the attention of “Sports Illustrated” and the “Associated Press,” which led many to send her food and tips on places to sleep. In 1960, Gatewood hiked the trail again, and then did it in sections a third time at the age of 75 in 1963. So not only was she the first woman to hike the entire trail, but she was the first person to hike the trail three times and was also honored as the oldest female thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail. Boom, boom, and boom.

Grandma Gatewood.

Taking on the trails, one pair of Keds and shoulder pack at a time. [Image: http://www.vagobond.com/]

Cheryl Strayed

You probably know Strayed from her novel or the adapted film, “Wild,” where Reese Witherspoon plays the role of the adventurous hiker. After facing the death of her mother, a deteriorating marriage, and other personal stresses, she took to the mountains. With no training, Strayed embarked on the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. Nothing helps clear your head more than some fresh mountain air, after all, which is apparent through her novel and the film. Although she didn’t finish the entire 2,663 miles of the PCT, she made it 1,100 miles, which is still an insane accomplishment.

Cheryl Strayed.

What you’re looking at is the face of a girl who can make it on her own. [Image: http://www.cherylstrayed.com/]

Fay Fuller

From the early age of 12, Fay Fuller spent a lot of her childhood exploring outdoors after moving to Tacoma, Washington. While teaching a few years later, she met P.B. Van Trump, who was one of the first people to climb Mount Rainier and who she quickly befriended. Fuller attempted hiking up Mount Rainier in 1887 and made it about 8,600 feet. She promised that she’d eventually reach the highest peak, and did so when Van Trump invited her to summit the peak in 1890. She remained an instrumental part of the outdoor community and was a featured writer for mountaineering and hiking after her trip up Rainier.

Fay Fuller.

Not only did she summit Mount Rainier, but she did it wearing a dress! Get it, girl. [Image: http://mtn.tpl.lib.wa.us/]

Ruth Dyar Mendenhall

Back in the days when hiking and mountaineering were strictly pastimes for men, Ruth Dyar Mendenhall came along and shattered that stereotype. She began her 50-year career in 1937 when she joined the Sierra Club, becoming the first woman mountain climber in California. She went on to mother two daughters, but continued climbing and hiking alongside her husband.

Ruth Dyar Mendenhall.

Probably pausing to think, “Damn, I’m killing it.” [Image: https://www.spotteddogpress.com/]

Heather “Anish” Anderson

Now here is a more modern woman who just broke two records within the last five years. Heather Anderson’s accomplishments center on completing both the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail in record times. In 2013, she knocked four days off the previous record, completing the entire Pacific Crest Trail in 60 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes. Then in 2015, she went on to break the record for completing the Appalachian Trail as well, finishing it in 54 days, 7 hours, and 48 minutes. On both of these thru-hike adventures, Anderson completed the trails by herself and without any outside assistance. At only 33 years old, there’s no telling what else the future holds for this inspired hiker!

Heather "Anish" Anderson.

Her smile says it all. [Image: http://kiroradio.com/]

After that, there’s no doubt you’re craving the crunch of dirt under your hiking boots—and who could blame you? Make sure you have our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps downloaded to help aid in your explorations.

Hiking Lost Mine Peak in Big Bend National Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

View of Big Bend National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

Texas is a wild place, and Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas is no different. Situated in the desert away from everything, Big Bend National Park has tons of things to do, whether you decide to hike in the mountains, soak in the hot springs, or watch the sun set as it puts on a light show over the desert. Choosing something to do will be tough, but one thing is for certain—if you’re up for a challenge, you need to hike up to Lost Mine Peak.

How to Get There

There are two ways into Big Bend National Park: From San Antonio you’ll come in off Highway 385, and from El Paso will bring you down Highway 118. Coming from San Antonio, turn right when you get to the Panther Junction Visitor Center and follow signs to Chisos Mountain Campground. On the left, about five miles down the road, will be a marked parking lot. Coming from El Paso, turn left onto the park’s main highway and then turn right, following signs to Chisos Mountain Campground.

When to Hike

The best times of the year to hike up to Lost Mine Peak are late fall, all winter, and early spring. The rest of the year is way too hot and miserable to hike to the peak. And anywhere in Big Bend National Park for that matter. It is a desert, after all.

Hiking to Lost Mine Peak is going to be brutal during the day. The desert sun’s going to beat you down and sap all your energy. There isn’t much shade on the trail to take cover from the sun either. An evening hike can work. A lot of the surrounding mountains will provide some shade, and the cooler air of the evening will certainly help you and your energy.

Sunrise is where it’s at! A sunrise hike up to Lost Mine Peak is just what the doctor ordered. If the moon’s out, you won’t even need a very bright headlamp because the moon will light your path most of the way. Plan to get to the trailhead about an hour and a half before sunrise. It’ll take about an hour to get to the summit, and right before the sun rises is when the real light show begins. The surrounding mountains, including Casa Grande, turn colors that are out of this world. Chances are you’ll also have the whole peak to yourself.

Sunrise over Big Bend National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

The Hike

Guidebooks label the hike as moderate, and that’s a fair statement. The whole trail’s uphill, gaining about 500 feet per mile. The trail’s well-maintained and is easy to navigate. Ever feel like the trail’s never going to end? You don’t have to feel that way on this hike. Along the trail are 24 trail markers numbered one through 24, with number 24 at the summit. Keep an eye out for the trail markers, and you’ll know about how much farther you have to go.

After the Hike

Assuming you made the “best” decision and went for a sunrise hike, head over to Chisos Mountain Lodge. They serve great food, and the entire restaurant overlooks the Chisos Mountains.

Now if you’re hiking on a budget, you can always whip something up at the trailhead or head back to camp and whip something up.

Man with camera atop Big Ben National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

Where to Stay

You have two options nearby: Chisos Mountain Lodge or the Chisos Mountain Campground. The Chisos Mountain Lodge is quaint and gorgeous. It’s a great place to come back to and relax after a big hike up to Lost Mine Peak, but it’s also more expensive—about 10 times more expensive than the campground.

The Chisos Mountain Campground is another great option for those on a budget. $14 per night (or $7 per night if you have a Golden Access Pass) will get you a campsite with a food locker and a picnic table. It’s right next to the trailhead and is a great place to get some shut-eye before your big hike.

Now get out there, and enjoy the views from over 7,300 feet atop the Lost Mine Peak!

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Trail Etiquette

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

We’re getting closer and closer to spring hiking season, and as the weather gets nicer, more outdoor enthusiasts will take advantage of warmer temperatures to get outside. Trail etiquette is important no matter the time of year, but when trails get crowded, it’s essential to observe a few key unwritten and written rules to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for you and other hikers.

Hikers Observing Trail Etiquette

Image: Katie Levy

What you take into the woods with you comes out with you.

It should go without saying, but somehow I still frequently see items like water bottles and granola bar wrappers left behind. Even on the most well-used trails, the “pack it in, pack it out” concept is still crucial to the protection of the landscape and to the enjoyment of others using the trail, including organic matter. Things like orange peels and apple cores take time to decompose, and if they’re not native to the area, tossing them into the brush is even worse.

Be courteous with technology on the trail.

Hiker a trail with heavy backpack

Image: Katie Levy

As ubiquitous as smartphones and other gadgets are these days and as useful as they can be in emergencies, most of us are familiar with seeing them in use on the trails. But that doesn’t mean everyone around us wants to hear our text message alerts, ringtones, and favorite music or bump into us because we’re not paying attention to where we’re walking.

Keep your phones on silent unless it’s essential you hear alerts, and if you do stop to use your phone, make sure you’re not blocking other trail users. Also consider leaving your headphones at home. Listening to music makes it tougher to hear what’s going on around you, including other trail users and wildlife.

Know who has the right of way.

During peak hiking season (and even during non-peak hiking season), you’re bound to run into other people making good use of the trails. But what happens if you run into someone on a mountain bike or on a horse?

As a rule of thumb, no matter what method of transportation you’re using—two wheels or two feet—horses have the right of way. Step in the downhill direction from the horse when you’re yielding to avoid spooking them. As another rule of thumb, mountain bikers should yield to hikers. As always, let common sense guide you. If it’s easier for you as a hiker to yield to an oncoming cyclist flying down a hill, step aside to help keep everyone safe. Know what direction has the right of way.

Two hikers on a summit

Image: Katie Levy

In addition to the hierarchy of who yields to who, it’s important to remember that if you run into another hiker or hiking party coming uphill toward you, they have the right of way. As much fun as it can be to run downhill, going uphill is a lot of work. Interrupting the pace of an upward-bound hiker is a no no, unless they let you know it’s OK. I know I’m often grateful for an opportunity to step aside and take a break! Offer to yield first, then let that upward-bound hiker make the call.

Do your business far, far off trail, and clean up afterward.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is pretty specific around how to relieve yourself in the woods with minimal impact on the environment and other outdoor enthusiasts. Specifically, “Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.”

And even if you’re not depositing solid human waste, ultimately getting yourself far away from trails and being picky about where you do your business makes it less likely that someone else will stumble upon your temporary bathroom spot. Try bringing a sandwich bag with you to pack toilet paper and hygiene products in, too. There’s not much worse than seeing a pile of used TP in the woods.

What other rules do you think we should add to the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Hiking To Twin Falls in a Torrential Downpour

Contributed by Grant Thomas

A few days ago, my friend Andrew and I set out to explore Olallie State Park in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. We planned on hiking to Talapus and Olallie Lakes, located off Exit 48 on Highway I-90, but as we got closer to the trailhead, we quickly realized we would need to come up with a new plan—the snowstorm that was passing throughout Snoqualmie Pass and most of Western Washington hit harder than expected. We briefly pulled over to assess the situation, and as we watched the snow continue to come down harder and harder, we decided to turn around. Not wanting to get snowed in, Andrew and I opted for a lower elevation hike at Twin Falls in order to escape the foot of snow that was predicted to fall within the next few hours. Fortunately, Twin Falls is also located in Olallie State Park, and the trailhead was just a few miles away off Exit 38.

We arrived at the trailhead a little after 10:00 a.m. With the torrential downpour that was taking place (the snow had turned to rain now that we were no longer in Snoqualmie Pass), it wasn’t a surprise to us that there was only one other car in the parking lot. I placed my Discover Pass (if you do not already have one, you can pay the $10 fee for a single day pass) on my dash, and we set off.

The trail started out with very little elevation gain as it meandered along the South Fork Snoqualmie River. Oftentimes you can find people fishing this river during the spring and summer months, but being that it was winter, the river was empty. After hiking alongside the river for about a half mile, we began to gain some elevation. After another half mile of hiking, we reached a viewpoint of the falls. There are two benches where you can sit and rest your legs while taking in the beautiful waterfall.

Lower Twin Falls

Lower Twin Falls as viewed from the second viewing area. [Image: Grant Thomas]

After a brief rest on the benches, Andrew and I ventured the last half mile to the second viewing area of the Lower Twin Falls. This section of the trail is much steeper than the first, and one should take caution as it can be slippery during the rainy season.

Lower Twin Falls and the pool the waterfall feeds into

Lower Twin Falls and the pool the waterfall feeds into. [Image: Grant Thomas]

The second viewing area can be accessed via steps that lead down to a platform. This is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the incredible 150-foot waterfall and take pictures before hiking to the Upper Twin Falls. After taking a few shots of our own, Andrew and I walked a few hundred yards to a wooden footbridge that was perfect for viewing the Upper Twin Falls.

Upper Twin Falls as viewed from the bridge above the Lower Twin Falls

Upper Twin Falls as viewed from the bridge above the Lower Twin Falls. [Image: Grant Thomas]

After Andrew and I took in the sights and sounds of both the upper and lower falls, we began our descent back to the car. We proceeded carefully and made sure not to slip on roots and rocks along the trail. We only passed two groups of hikers on our way back.

Overall, despite the weather that caused us to change our plans at the last minute, we had a fantastic morning exploring Twin Falls and the South Fork Snoqualmie River. Hopefully I will be able to get to Olallie and Talapus Lakes in the next couple of weeks once the snow has melted and the road to the trailhead is clear.

That Hiking Guy

That Hiking Guy, Chris Colbert, in the woods.

Image: Chris Colbert

Whether you are stuck in the office or ready to take on the wilderness, the Pocket Ranger® video channel is your one-stop shop for entertainment. Spanning across the United States, the video channel captures some of the most pristine views in the country and some of the best terrain for your next adventure—but wait, there’s more! Filled with loads of excitement, education, and even some laughter, hiking videos like this one from contributor That Hiking Guy are well worth the watch:

That Hiking Guy demonstrates that to maintain health and wellness, you have to start somewhere—so why not make it an adventure? Narrated by Chris Colbert, “an average middle-aged male in Indiana who recently discovered the joy that comes with getting outdoors,” viewers get a firsthand view of the fun that can be had in their own backyards. His videos of the forest trails, sloping mountain crests, and winding rivers put Indiana on the map for fun in the outdoors. Subscribe to his YouTube channel to watch his hikes, like this one of the Birdseye Trail:

Want to make your memories last? That Hiking Guy reviews the latest and greatest in video and camera gear to make your outing one you will remember for years. Follow That Hiking Guy on Instagram, Twitter, and Google+ for details on what to pack and where to go. Don’t forget to stay connect through Facebook as well to get updates and tips on how to shoot videos like this one:

Fully loaded with what you need to get psyched, watch the Pocket Ranger® video channel today! Packed up and ready to explore? Download the FREE Pocket Ranger® mobile app for full access to everything you need to know about where you’re going. Happy trails!