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Planned Hike – High Country Pathway (HCP) in Michigan

As much as I’d like to get away from Michigan for a real hike, it’s not in the cards right now. However, I will have a week off and plan on hiking somewhere semi local. There is an 80 mile loop in the Pigeon River Country State Forest that is supposed to be the closest thing to wilderness in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s called the High Country Pathway. I’ve hiked a 5-6 mile section here before, but it ended up being more of a fishing trip after we found a nice spot along the Pigeon River where we pulled out several Rainbow and Brook Trout. The trail is not spectacular by any means, but it’s really close to home at only 3.5 hours. The Pigeon River Country State Forest may be best known for being home to the largest herd of free-roaming elk east of the Mississippi River. Hopefully I’m lucky enough to spot one myself.

It took a long time to find a gpx file online of the HCP. After loading the GPX into Basecamp, I saw that the total elevation gain was only 6200ft for the entire trail. Honestly, I thought it would be less. Still, that’s nothing.  I’m going to try and do this 80 mile loop in 4 days. I normally take a ton of pictures on my hikes, but that’s when there is beautiful scenery everywhere. I don’t think I will have much to photograph on this trip, so it will be interesting to see how many miles I can cover in a day.

I could only find about 3 trip reports from those who have hiked the entire HCP. Not many people hike it. I hear it’s supposed to be pretty wild, for the Lower Peninsula anyways. So, I’m gonna check it out, and I’ll get a trip report up soon enough.

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Planned Hike – Superstition Wilderness, AZ

supersition wilderness

Well, I am going on another backpacking trip in a few days. The weather sucks here in Michigan right now so my timing couldn’t be better. I guess you can’t skip winter every year. Anyways, my escape is the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona, a 160,000 acre tract of land within the 3 million acre Tonto National Forest. I’ll be hiking 6 days and have a 88 mile route planned. I will also be going solo for this trip, which I haven’t done since the Porcupine Mountains.

After experiencing some pretty painful knee pain during my last hike in Linville Gorge, NC, I started looking into reducing my pack weight. I’m going to go into more details on this in another post, but so far I’ve shaved off around 8lbs! The biggest weight savings came from a new backpack and making a lightweight tripod to replace my bulky 2lb’er.

Along with reducing my pack weight, I modified my exercise routine. I did some research on knee pain related to backpacking, and realized that I may not be working out my hamstrings enough. I do squats for my quads regularly, but seldom do deadlifts. This may cause a muscular imbalance leaving the hamstring weaker than the quads, causing knee pain going downhill. I don’t really like doing deadlifts though, especially before a backpacking trip because I can’t run for several days afterwards. My lower back is just too sore. But then I read about SLDLs (stiff leg deadlifts) and realized that these target the hamstrings much more aggressively than regular deadlifts. I’m doing much less weight but my hamstrings are still pretty sore the next day, and my lower back doesn’t hurt as much. Probably due to lifting much less weight. The consistently foul weather has prevented me from running as much as I usually do, so I’ve been doing more stair climbs instead. I loaded up my backpack with 50 pounds and do around 30 minutes up and down my basement stairs. Trust me, it’s a great workout!

I also added a joint supplement to my diet. I have been taking Osteo Bi-Flex twice a day for the last month, and will be bringing it on my trip as well. It’s 2 main ingredients, glucosamine and chondroitin, are supposed to help build and lubricate cartilage. I can’t say whether or not they work just yet. All I know is, I never though I’d be taking a pill with a name like Osteo Bi-Flex until I got my AARP card. Sure does make you feel old.

This hike is going to be about twice the length of anything I’ve done so far, but I’m excited as hell. With a lighter pack, lighter footwear (wearing my Merril Moab Ventillators instead of my Zamberlain Vioz GT boots), and an improved exercise regiment, I’m hoping to cover more ground and with less effort. Either way, it’s sure to be an adventure. I’ll get a trip report up as soon as I can!

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20 Best Backpacking Photos For 2012

I thought it would be cool to compile a list of the best pictures from all of my backpacking trips this year. It was hard to narrow it down to 20, so many good ones! From the summit of Snowmass Mountain to the Chihuahuan Desert, 2012 was one hell of a year. Many of my favorite backpacking moments are depicted in these pictures, such as overlooking the Whitewater-Baldy Fire  in the Gila Wilderness (picture 4). This fire would later grow to be the largest in New Mexico’s history at over 270,000 acres.

Enjoy the pictures, and don’t be afraid to leave comments!

1.

Snowmass Peak Reflection in Snowmass Lake

Snowmass Mountain viewed from Snowmass Lake

2.

Me enjoying Doll Sod's finest view

Fog fills the valleys of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

3.

view from trail riders pass

View from Trail Rider Pass in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO.

4.

Whitewater-Baldy Wildfire

Me overlooking the Whitewater-Baldy Wildfire in the Gila Wilderness, NM. This would later grow to become the largest wildfire in New Mexico history!!

5.

Lead King Basin in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO.

Lead King Basin in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO.

6.

Chihuahuan Desert viewed from the South Rim in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, TX

Chihuahuan Desert viewed from the South Rim in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, TX

7.

One of my favorite views of the trip. Many AWESOME campsites near here.

Linville Gorge, NC

8.

The Chimneys, Linville Gorge, NC

The Chimneys, Linville Gorge, NC

9.

Exploring a cave along Blue Creek in Big Bend National Park, TX

Exploring a cave along Blue Creek in Big Bend National Park, TX. This picture made it into the Big Bend National Park 2013 calendar!

10.

Frigid Air Pass in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO

Frigid Air Pass behind me in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO

11.

Sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert

Sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park, TX

12.

Panoramic view from the top of Snowmass Mountain, 14,098ft

Panoramic view from the top of Snowmass Mountain, 14,098ft

13.

Early Mmorning in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

Early morning in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

14.

Sunrise in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

Sunrise in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

15.

Sunrise in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

16.

Big Bend National Park, TX

Big Bend National Park, TX

17.

The Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, TX

The Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, TX

18.

A very lonely stretch of road in Big Bend National Park, TX

A very lonely stretch of road in Big Bend National Park, TX

19.

Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

Table Rock in the distance. Linville Gorge Wilderness, NC

20.

Helicopter flying through the smoke of the Gila Fire

Helicopter flying through the smoke of the Whitewater-Baldy wildfire in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico

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2012 Year’s End Review

frigid air pass along the four pass loop

At the top of Frigid Air Pass in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO

Wow, 2012 was a great year! I’ve never done so much traveling in my life, and I’m not complaining. Backpacking has given me the opportunity to see some pretty amazing things across the country, and what has started as a hobby is quickly becoming an addiction!

Below is a quick rundown on some of the note worthy “stats” for my 2012 year:

I drove 30,000 miles
Visited 20 states
Hiked approx. 190 miles
Climbed my first 14er, solo
Witnessed the largest forest fire in New Mexico history while hiking in the Gila Wilderness
Went sky diving for the 3rd time in 3 different states
Went to Florida and visited 3 new springs: Troy Spring, Devil’s Den and Little River Spring
Had one of my photos make it into the Big Bend National Park 2013 Calendar (Mine is February)

You might also be interested in my 20 Best Backpacking Photos Of 2012.

Woohoo, bragging rights! Seriously though, I learned a lot this year and feel like I stepped up my hikes quite a bit. All of my backpacking trips went fairly well with only minor hiccups along the way. Most of my gear has remained the same, but I am slowly discarding things to lighten my pack. It’s just so hard to make sacrifices!

My exercise regiment may not have been as intense as it was in 2011. Last year, I had a roommate who was a very good workout partner, and we hit the weights 4 days a week for 6 months straight. I also managed to fit in 1-2 days of running per week. This year, I have had no workout partner which really sucks. No spot for the bench press and other exercises, and nobody to motivate you. I would say I averaged 2 days of weights and 1 day of running per week throughout the year. My diet has remained spot on though and I still look and feel just as good as I did last year, so no complaints!

Well, I hate to say it, but goodbye 21012… bring on the new year!! Where will I hike next? Find out in my next post: My Goals And Planned Hikes For 2012

 

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My Goals And Planned Hikes For 2013

After an amazing year of backpacking in 2012, I’m eager to keep the ball rolling in 2013. Living in Michigan makes it pretty hard to hike a lot though, and especially if I want to hike anywhere remotely worthwhile. I’ve realized that where I want to be ultimately is out West somewhere, and I’m in the process of formulating a 2-3 year plan to get the hell out of here. Right now, Denver is looking like my best option, but it’s still way too early and I have a lot to ponder. I just know that I don’t want to live here, and I do want to live closer to the things I enjoy.

As far as planned hikes go for 2013, I don’t have any set in stone yet. Of course, there’s about a million that I want to do! The reality of this year is that I probably won’t have the time to go on long trips like I did in 2012. I really hope this is not the case, but it’s looking that way. However, if I can get the time, one trail that I would really like to hike in 2013 is the John Muir Trail. Located in California, this 210 mile trail runs from Yosemite to Mt Whitney through beautiful High Sierra country. It passes through 3 National Parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. About 160 miles of this trail is also part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  The John Muir Trail is more than 4 times longer than anything I’ve hiked so far, but that’s why I want to do it.

Yosemite National Park, northern terminus of the John Muir Trail

Yosemite National Park, northern terminus of the John Muir Trail

My hikes in 2012 were a big step up from what they were in 2011. I hope to continue to push myself in the coming year by hiking longer trails and increasing my mileage per day. In 2012, I wasn’t concerned with covering a ton of miles each day, but rather to have time to explore the little things along the way. I love that stuff… the little unexpected discoveries that are everywhere just off the trail. But, I feel it’s time to push myself harder and I’d like to be able to cover around 20 miles per day. The most miles I’ve covered in one day so far is 13.8 I think. Of course, this means that I won’t be able to take any of my friends with me… everyone I’ve taken with me so far leans much more on the side of taking it easy, covering the least amount of miles per day as possible and having a lot of time to relax and explore. So clearly that’s not going to fly considering my goals. So, I might be planning my next few trips solo. Besides, I really enjoyed hiking solo when I had the opportunity to do so in the past.

This year I am going to look into lightening my back weight as well. If I want to cover more miles, this is the best place to start. I normally hike with a heavy pack, so I’m going to have to make some sacrifices. This will also lessen the stress to my knees, and in conjunction with joint supplements I hope to be done with knee problems. I also want to look into hammocks. I have been looking at the Hennessy Hammock and like what I see, but still want to do more research before buying one. I never get a good night’s sleep on the ground, so I figured I’d give hammocks a shot. They look really comfortable, especially for me since I like to lay on my back. On the ground, this isn’t comfortable at all no matter what sleeping pad I’ve used.

Skills I’d like to work on for the coming year are mainly navigation. I’d like to take an orienteering class if I can find one in my area. I want to be proficient in navigating by map and compass, without GPS. Everywhere I’ve hiked so far, there’s pretty much always been a clear path to follow, only losing it occasionally. But what about off trail navigation? I haven’t had much chance to do this yet, but am eager to leave the constrains of the trail behind.

That’s all for now. Questions? Comments?

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