Friday, April 12, 2013

Making a list, checking it twice...

Hoping to make three... count them three posts today.  One on DARK•HERITAGE, specifically the next A TO Z post, a book review of the second Fallen Blade novel, and this post--a list of hikes I'd like to start planning.  I've come to realize that my goal of hiking the Triple Crown--or even one of the full legs of it--is not only not very realistic (due to time off work considerations among other things) but probably not even really desirable.  I like to get away into the wilderness, but do I really want to spend the better part of a year and a half hiking all three major trails?  I actually think not.  If my wife was as avid about the concept of hiking, I'd be more willing, but she's 1) suffering from an old knee injury that frankly makes the concept of 20 mile, or even 15 mile, days in the mountains seem fundamentally unlikely.  Especially day after day for weeks and months at a time.  And 2) she doesn't really get it anyway.  And although she tries to be supportive, that only goes so far.  And frankly, even if I didn't have to work at all, I don't know that I want to spend that kind of time away from my family either.  In fact, I'm sure that I don't.  So, as much as the concept of hiking a combined total of some nearly 8,000 miles combined fascinates me, I've come to realize that it's an exotic fascintion rather than something that I really want to do.

That does not mean, of course, that I don't still really want to hike.  There's a lot of hikes that I want to do.  A lot of them are not necessarily named trails with associations and traditions, but hand-assembled loops that I as the hiker construct by linking various existing trails.  I can think of dozens of such hikes of a few hours worth of walking to up to a couple weeks or so that I'd love to do in the Wind River mountains, the Tetons, the Sawtooth range, and Sierra Nevada, the North Cascades, the Smokies, the San Juans, Big Bend, and various spots on the Colorado Plateau, and elsewhere.  But the list below is for named trails with a tradition and often an association that maintains them that I'd like to start making real, concrete plans to hike over the course of the next several years.  Because of the nature of these kinds of things, the hiking season is relatively short (although that can be extended somewhat by doing some southern desert hikes like Big Bend or the Guadalupe Mountains or something during the "off season") so it seems unlikely that I'd ever do more than one of these a year.

I included on the list, the "big three" trails that make up the Triple Crown, although as I said, I'm not really interested in hiking them in their entirety. I am, however, extremely interested in "section hiking" significant portions of them.
  • The Teton Crest Trail (40 miles) - I've always seen the Tetons as a kind of Holy Grail of western mountains, rather fairly or not.
  • The Wonderland Trail (93 miles) - makes a grand circuit around the flanks of Mt. Ranier near Seattle.  A portion of this trail is pictured above.
  • The Uinta Highline Trail (96 miles) --traverses the crest of the Uinta Mountains in northern Utah--a place I've actually hiked before as a teenager and quite enjoyed.
  • The Tahoe Rim Trail (165 miles) -- marking a complete circuit of this massive lake, although a bit off the beaten path from the very busy actual lakeshore.  Concurrent for about 50 miles with a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, too.
  • The John Muir Trail (210 miles) -- one of the premier backpacking experiences in the country, starting near Half Dome in Yosemite and going all the way to the peak of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48.  Although not exactly concurrent with the PCT, it travels through much of the same territory, including through many of the same basins and by many of the same lakes and peaks.  One of the most scenic trails in the country by all accounts.
  • The Colorado Trail (486 miles) from Denver to Durango, basically, through a huge swatch of the most scenic of the southern Rockies.  Combined for almost half it's length with a portion of the Continental Divide Trail.  I've also spent some time on (or at least very near) the southern terminus of this trail in and around the Needle Mountains, where I peaked (with my group) either Mt, Eolus or Windom Peak (it's a little embarrassing to admit I don't know now which it was) in the Weminuche Wilderness.  That was one of the highlights of my outdoors experiences; I'd love to expand on it, since it was now almost 25 years ago.
  • The Arizona Trail (817 miles) is one that I probably wouldn't hike the entirety of, actually.  The very southernmost portions are, in fact, not really recommended by the society that maintains the trail and publishes info about it due to our government's unwillingness to protect our border, thus making the southern hundred miles or so decidedly unsafe with a lot of criminal alien activity in the area.  Although I often talk a lot about the mountains of the west--the Rockies, the Sierras, the Cascades--I actually have an equally great love of the southwestern deserts.  There aren't a lot of named and traditional long hiking trails in places like the Grand Canyon, Arches or Canyonlands National Parks, etc.--even the desert section of the Continental Divide Trail is the least developed and complete.  The Arizona Trail is one of the few exceptions, and for that reason alone, if for no other, it is an attractive option.
  • The Appalachian Trail (2,180 miles) - Again; I'll never intend to hike the entirety of this trail.  Especially not in a single thru-hike season.  I'd love to spend much more time exploring the Blue Ridge mountains portion of this trail, which I've seen a little of in the Great Smokies National Park last year, and I'd love to hike much of the New England section of the trail someday, though.
  • The Pacific Crest Trail (2,663 miles) - Of all the long-distance trails, the one that most fascinates me.  I could actually see myself hiking most of the trail--but not all at once.  Breaking it up into manageable sections seems like a way to go that's more likely to fit my needs.  I'd love to do the Transverse ranges of southern California, skip to Walker Pass--hike all the way to Lake Tahoe (which is already covered by the Tahoe Rim Trail, see above), then do the Klamath Mountains of northern California.  I'd probably do highlights only of Oregon and Washington, but I'd love to do more hiking around Shasta, the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Crater Lake, the Three Sisters, the "Cascade Matterhorns" and probably the entire trail from Snoqualmie Pass to the northern terminus.
  • The Continental Divide Trail (c. 3,100 miles) - The longest of the legs of the Triple Crown, and the least complete.  Frankly, this trail somewhat intimidates me, and not because of it's length--because it's so isolated, so poorly developed, only about 70% complete, and is really for those who just charge off into the wilderness blazing their own way to some extent.  But many sections of the trail really appeal to me, including probably most of Colorado (much of which is on the Colorado Trail anyway), much of northern Wyoming (through the various Wind River Range wilderness areas, and the Yellowstone-Teton Wilderness/National Park complexes), and much of northern Montana (the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park.)  Portions of the northern Colorado part of the trail, southern Wyoming and southern Montana, as well as most of the New Mexico portion of the trail I could probably skip and look for higher priority hikes to do.)

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