This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Kristen Diers, Director of Operations for Katabatic Gear, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Kristen a few questions about Katabatic Gear so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Kristen, please leave a comment.
Brief Description of company:
Katabatic Gear is a small Colorado-based company designing and manufacturing ultralight gear with a focus on exceeding customer expectations for comfort and function. Our company began shortly after the founder, Aaron Martray, caught the UL backpacking bug. Before that, you might have seen Aaron slogging along the trail with his 80-lb. backpack, complete with a fry pan and camp chair. Like many of us, he used to think he needed to carry a lot more in his pack in order to be safe and happy in the backcountry.
A scenic detour over Hunchback Mtn, San Juan Mountains, CO.
Once he realized all the benefits of carrying lighter/less gear, he became obsessed with reducing pack weight. Sound familiar? He left certain (unused) items behind, replaced his white gas stove with an MYOG Heineken can stove, and trimmed every extra strap and clip he found. He started replacing heavier items with newly available UL products. Though Aaron loved the quality and conservative temperature rating of his Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, it was just too heavy for his newfound ultralight aspirations, so he had to find a replacement. Which ties into the next question:
Did you start as a DIYer? How did you make the leap to starting a gear business?
Aaron wanted a UL quilt style bag with the same comfort and quality of his Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. However, he felt like the quilt style sleeping bags that were available at the time didn’t hit the mark. He had tons of ideas about how to make a quilt style sleeping bag that wasn’t drafty or cold - but would they really work? There was only one way to find out, so Aaron learned how to sew. After countless iterations, Aaron decided that his DIY quilt was super cozy AND super light! He thought other UL backpackers might want a good night’s sleep, too, so decided he’d try to sell this design.
Testing temperature ratings of EARLY prototypes, sleeping out at our base camp of a canyoneering trip.
Once the decision was made, years of testing, adjusting, testing, redesigning, testing, and perfecting ensued. Everything from fabrics to attachment clips; temperature ratings to drawcords were all dialed-in after countless nights in the backcountry of Utah, Colorado, Alaska, Canada . . . He also included several human guinea pigs who gladly offered feedback. After that, it’s just your typical story of a business starting from an apartment, moving to a little shop, hiring a part-time employee, hiring a full-time employee, and so on.
Durability testing of early prototype backpack: dragging them through slot canyons in Utah to see how much they can take.
Over the years, more and more of Aaron’s ideas for UL gear have come to market, so he is still the DIYer, designing and building prototypes. We then put them through the wringer (ourselves, and other folks) in the great outdoors. This might be our favorite part of the job for obvious reasons. But in the end, our main goal is to see happy, comfortable customers on the trail, carrying gear they hardly notice. Because when it works the way you want it to, you don’t have to think about it.
Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?
We think our customers are people who want to make their outdoor endeavors more enjoyable by carrying lightweight, compact gear that exceeds their expectations.
When we started, most of our customers were UL thru-hikers, SUL gram weenies, FKT challengers, and the like. Over the years, all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts who want lightweight or compact gear have started buying from us: cyclists, climbers, runners, skiers, and weekend warriors.
Above Stevens Canyon, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument
Not only do our customers vary by favorite activity, but they also run the gamut in age, gender, and location. One of the trends we’ve been excited to see is an uptick in retirees. Retired or not, those of us with aging bodies have realized that we can spend more time on the trail, and have happy joints and muscles when we go with LW/UL gear.
So far, we’ve been graced with the pleasure of a great reputation for quality and comfort, so word of mouth has played a large role in reaching new customers. Also, social media makes it easy for us to keep in touch with the market, as well as learn what is important to potential and existing customers.
Do you see the possibility (opportunity/threat) that the big gear makers try to buy up the cottage gear makers like we see happening in the craft beer space?
We think this depends on just how “mainstream” UL gear becomes. Generally speaking, a lot of UL designs are a little too far outside the box for most backpackers or outdoor enthusiasts to embrace. [A sleeping bag without a back? Won’t I freeze to death? Why doesn’t that backpack have a place for me to hang my Bluetooth speaker?] We feel UL gear can and should appeal to a larger market than it currently does, but it can be a mental shift. When more people realize that UL gear can be even more functional and comfortable than traditional gear, our little cottage companies might start to look good to those bigger manufacturers. Unfortunately, rather than buying up the cottage companies, it is more likely that they’ll just hijack the cottage designs they think they can sell. For now, we’ll just stay focused on getting high-quality UL gear into the hands of folks who love to be outside.
We’re stuck on just about anything IPA. We know sours are a trend, but we haven’t quite figured those out yet. Any tips?
Favorite activity when you’re not hiking?
Mountain biking, road biking, climbing, canyoneering, skiing . . . Any of which are followed wonderfully by a nice IPA.
We also love bikepacking and road bike tours: This is Cottonwood Pass from a super fun, 9-day road bike loop around Southwestern CO.
The new book by Keith Foskett is a bit of departure from his previous books and a bit outside what you would expect for a writer known for writing about his on- trail adventures. Keith has written in the past about his hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail (The Last Englishman), the Appalachian Trail (Balancing on Blue) and the Camino De Santiago (The Journey In Between). Each of these books are well written and entertaining accounts of successful thru-hike journeys. With the usual amount of people, places, and hijinks of trail life. Keith’s style of writing is easy to read, except for bits of his English humor easy to relate too.
High and Low if different. It starts by recounting his failed attempt of a thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail, not something most people would want to admit let alone write about. However, this book is not just about the physical failure of the CDT hike; it is about the mental and emotional failure he experienced not just on the CDT, but also after returning to his home in England and attempting to then hike across Scotland. After recuperating for a bit, Keith starts with the tough Cape Wrath Trail in the Northwest of Scotland and then moving on to the West Highland Way and then eastward across Scotland. Like in all his books Keith paints a fantastic picture of the trail and the surrounding landscape, but more so here we get a daily insight into his emotional state, for you see Keith start to come to grips with the notion he might be suffering from depression. He fits the notion but can’t deny something is wrong. The outdoors that was always his refuse and the one place he could escape to when his batteries were running low, has now become his nemesis and antagonist as even the weather conspires to further his descent into the “pit” of despair. Keith’s description of this pit is truly terrifying as he describes not only the physical pain of hiking for days on end in less than ideal conditions but also with the new weight of depression building within him.
Keith has good days, as he moves across Scotland. Days described as “paths of endless Guinness” and meets some extraordinary people along the way that help shape the thoughts in his head. Does he make it across Scotland? Can you walk (hike) out of depression? I will leave you to read this tale and find out. What I can tell you is that this is a very engaging book that will make you think hard about the thoughts and struggles we all experience while on trail (and off) and in the end Keith offers some real concrete suggestions for how to spot the symptoms of depression and deal with these emotions.
A gentle reminder for those heading out this year to pay attention to your fellow hikers when you notice they are having more than just a few bad days on trail and don’t be afraid to get involved.
Find Keith’s books on his website and where online books are sold
Timber Tracking Project
Illegal logging destroys forests, disrupts ecological processes, increases CO2 in the atmosphere, and provides revenue for other illicit activities. Port officials, law enforcement officers, corporations, and everyday consumers need new tools to disrupt tainted global supply chains. Cutting-edge genetic technologies can help, but in order to do so, they will require extensive DNA reference materials from high-value timber species.
Data That Drives Change
The outdoor community is well positioned to collect tree tissue samples from far-flung locations on a large scale across a species’ geographic range. These samples will be used to build genetic reference libraries for high-value, commercial timber species across the globe. The developed libraries will enable scientists to identify the species and origin of traded wood products and aid customs officers in the forensic validation of a suspicious shipment. This will help officers enforce illegal logging legislation, empower responsible buyers, and thwart dishonest harvesters in the illegal timber trade.
Why Care About Timber Theft?
Timber theft is a pervasive global issue with grave ecological, economic, and social consequences. It is estimated that 15-30% of all wood on the international market has been illegally sourced.
When a tree is stolen, we lose far more than something nice to look at. Trees provide habitat for countless species, stabilize soil, and shade streams. They also sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Chopping them down both halts conversion of CO2 to oxygen and releases stored carbon as discarded roots and crowns decay. Together, legal and illegal deforestation account for around 10% of global carbon emissions.
Governments and responsible timber producers lose tens of billions of dollars of revenue annually to the illegal timber trade. Timber theft has been tied to organized crime, corrupt military actions, and the violation of indigenous rights.
What We're Doing About It
In partnership with the World Resources Institute, Adventure Scientists is headed into the field to gather tree tissue samples which geneticists from DNA4 Technologies and New Mexico State University will use to develop the genetic reference libraries.
The first phase of this project will focus on the bigleaf maple, a towering hardwood that grows along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada. Because about one in 20 bigleaf maples possesses an incredibly beautiful wood pattern, these trees are targeted by timber thieves for their high value in the guitar and furniture trade.
In spring of 2018, we will be calling hikers, backpackers, and sea kayakers to action. After training, volunteers will collect bigleaf maple samples such as leaves, seeds, or tree cores from select sites in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
After establishing the reference library for bigleaf maple, we will then expand to other species around the world.
What You Can Do Next
APPLY TO VOLUNTEER
Illegal logging erodes biodiversity, exacerbates climate change, and bankrolls political corruption. Law enforcement officers, corporations, and consumers require new tools to trace wood products back to their points of origin. Cutting-edge genetic technologies can help, but in order to do so, they will require extensive reference materials from high-value timber species.
As an Adventure Scientists volunteer, you can provide these currently unavailable samples and help unlock the potential of DNA-based technologies to combat illegal logging.
2018 Field Season:
Bigleaf Maple in Pacific North America
The first season of this project is focused solely on collecting samples from bigleaf maple trees along the Pacific coast of North America. We are seeking two tiers of volunteers: leaf crew and wood crew. Both crews require dedication and attention to detail, but because wood crew volunteers will collect several types of tree samples (as opposed to only leaves), these volunteers will need to commit more time to training and sampling over the spring/summer season.
To volunteer for either crew, you will need to:
Be at least 18 years old.
Live in or be traveling extensively within California, Oregon, Washington, or British Columbia in Spring-Summer 2018.
Own or have access to an iPhone 6 or Android equivalent (or later generation smartphone) for data collection.
Complete online training and pass a quiz to demonstrate mastery of the protocols.
Embark on quick roadside jaunts or multi-day expeditions, depending on your location within the range of bigleaf maple.
Collect a target number of samples across a specific geographic zone and mail these samples to Adventure Scientists.
Follow all safety, permitting, and scientific protocols.
Timing and Locations
The field season is now active in all regions:
Washington & British Columbia
We are actively seeking motivated volunteers in all zones outlined in red on this map.
Updated Map Link
Grey zones are those in which a volunteer for the Leaf Crew has been accepted and completed training. (You may still apply as a back-up volunteer in a grey zone.)
Project end dates will vary according to local conditions, but you can expect that sampling in all zones will wrap up in September.
APPLY FOR LEAF CREW
APPLY FOR WOOD CREW
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
INFOGRAPHIC: HOW IT WORKS
PO Box 1834, Bozeman, MT 59771
American Long-Distance Hiking Association-West
Our Mission: To inspire, educate and promote fellowship among long distance hikers and those who support long distance hiking.
Support ALDHA-West with AmazonSmile
Is Your Head in the Clouds?
by Charles Baker
“These fleeting sky mountains are as substantial and significant as the more lasting upheavals of granite beneath them. Both alike are built up and die, and in God’s calendar, difference in duration is nothing.” John Muir
In the morning you break camp, perhaps check your map, don your pack and adjust your straps, then down the trail you go. A few miles into the day you notice the wind picking up a little and the temperature dropping. Looking up to the sky, you notice clouds moving in.
“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” goes an old saying. While we may not be able to change the weather, we can certainly be aware of it, when it is changing, and take appropriate action. Do I need more sunscreen, or do I dive into my tent? Is my wet-weather gear handy? Will today’s umbrella be for sun or rain?
The weather you are experiencing on the trail is part of that magnificent worldwide weather machine affecting every place on the globe. Being fueled by that massive energy source in the sky we call the sun, it follows somewhat predictable patterns. Warm tropical air is pulled north by the cold arctic air that is dropping to the south. The tug of the Earth as it spins around, pulls on that belt of air current, causing many prevailing weather patterns to move across the US from west to east.
As air rises, it pulls moisture into the sky where clouds are formed. When clouds are white, they generally aren’t carrying enough moisture to dump rain or snow on us. But as more moisture collects, the clouds begin to change in color and take on a grey cast. These clouds are weighted with moisture and can drop rain, snow, or sleet on that head of yours as you wander down the trail. If those clouds are fast moving and have a tinge of green around the edges, look out for possible hail and the threat of severe storms such as tornadoes.
Mountain, lakes, coastlines, prairies – all can affect the weather as well. The well-prepared hiker studies the weather patterns in the areas they will be hiking. Checking the most recent weather forecast is not only advisable but prudent. We may not be able to change the weather, but we can be prepared for it.
Weather lore has been around for – well, a long time. People have been observing the weather and have become more efficient at recognizing emerging patterns. Sailors and farmers have added to the collection of lore that has become part of our vocabulary – “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” for instance. Outdoor adventurers too have added to this knowledge base; many believing that smoke going straight up from the campfire guarantees stable conditions.
Understanding weather patterns can help you stay safe and possibly more comfortable on your hike. While “The Weather Channel” and other online sources are great to reference, on the trail we may not have such luxury, and, like basic navigation skills, we need to have enough knowledge to see us safely through.
The international system of cloud classification has ten principal cloud types. If you can identify all ten, that is great; however, in this article, I will mention just three as a basis for building a hiker’s weather skills.
Cirrus – these are the wispy white clouds moving high overhead. They are an indicator to alert you that good conditions may last a while longer, but something is changing in the weather system.
Cirrus CloudsPhoto by – University of Illinois Extension
Cumulus – these are the big cotton-ball like clouds that I like to watch with my grandchildren and try to pick out shapes of animals, faces, or whatever our imaginations conjure. I like them too because they usually signal fair weather. However, keep an eye out. As warm weather pulls moisture into the sky, these can darken and billow into thunderheads. That fair weather may then turn into lightning, hard rain, or possible hail.
Photo by – University of Illinois Extension
Stratus – these clouds are heavy with moisture, lower, and have less shape. Their coverage of the sky is usually complete, and they often bring with them rain or snow that can last for hours. They may be bringing Mother Earth needed moisture, but they have caused many “zero days.”
Stratus CloudsPhoto by – OU School of Meteorology
Understanding weather takes time, effort, and practice. However, over time it can become one of the most valuable and useful tools in your hiker toolbox.
Stay safe out there!
Contributor: Melissa “Treehugger” Spencer
HummusAt home, hummus is one of our go-to snacks. You buy dried hummus, but the quality and calories are lacking. On a whim, I tried drying it myself, and I was surprised how easy it was and how good the finished product was! I only list this as a “gourmet” recipe because it does require a food dehydrator or an oven. Pita chips or tortillas pack nicely and, in combination with the hummus, make a great standalone snack or meal.
IngredientsAll you need is your favorite homemade or store-bought hummus!
At-Home PreparationTake your favorite 10 oz. Hummus and stir it up well (especially if it has a topping). If you like, stir in extras. I like to add Tapatio to spice up the red pepper flavored ones, or lime juice to sweeten the plain ones. Divide the hummus in three and spread it with a knife or spatula on three fruit leather trays in your food dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can spread the hummus on parchment paper or directly on a cookie sheet for drying in the oven. Either way, try and spread it evenly so that it is uniformly thin across the surface.
If you are using a dehydrator, set it to about 100F. If you are using an oven, set it on the lowest possible setting, preferably 180F or below.
In the dehydrator, the hummus will take about 8-10 hours to dry. When it is done, it will crack and easily flake off the trays. In the oven, it will only take about 1 hour, so keep your eye on it. You don’t want to cook or burn it.
Hummus spread on fruit leather tray in dehydrator
Divide into three small Ziploc baggies. Since hummus is oily, I recommend you store it in the freezer to prevent it from going rancid. However, I have had it out of the freezer for up to 2 months with no problems.
On-Trail PreparationAbout 5 minutes before you want to eat, pour just enough (cold) water onto the dry hummus to cover it. Do not add too much water; you can always add more, but it’s hard to take out. Let it sit 5 min. Stir again. If it is not creamy enough, add a tiny bit more water or up to 1 T. olive oil. That’s it!
Each serving is 200-370 calories, depending on the brand and whether or not you added oil. (Ex. Sabra hummus with no oil comes out to 235 calories.) Each baggie will make about 7 T. hummus and weighs about 1.5 oz.
If you liked this idea, check out Treehugger’s other Gourmet Trail Recipes on her blog!
The Discreet Dirtbag
By: Felicia “Princess of Darkness” Hermosillo
The spring equinox has come and gone. Some folks have already begun long hikes while others make final preparations. Whenever you start, and wherever your adventure takes place this summer, you’ll likely walk into a town at some point...dirty, bedraggled, with gear to dry and a belly to fill. As more and more of us spend time in the outdoors, and then require rejuvenation in town, our interactions with business owners and their patrons become more important than ever. ALDHA-West has been adding a “Hiker Town Etiquette” section to their “Leave No Trace” presentation, and it is worth revisiting before the season gets fully underway. Here are some of the basic suggestions that have come from numerous conversations with business owners and hikers:
"I asked for and received permission before spreading out my gear out.”Photo by: Liz “Snorkel” Thomas
Being a good ambassador is a responsibility that belongs to all of us, and, along with those lines, I would like to add one more suggestion:
I know that is not going to be a popular item to add to the list of suggestions, but it is important. People don’t often change until they are called out by their peers. For those of you who are unsure how to do this I have a few suggestions:
Being a good ambassador and helping each other to leave a great impression is all of our responsibility and it will foster a great relationship between the towns we need and the trails we love.
by Charles Baker – Editor
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir
Sunset along the West Rim of Zion
As hikers, and specifically as ALDHA-West members, we love the outdoors and have an interest in preserving and maintaining the great wilderness areas of our nation. As Kate “Drop-n-Roll” Hoch declared; “It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.” “Continue to make your voice heard.” (Gazette, December 7, 2017, “I Continue to Stand for Public Lands).
Recently, I ran across a notice by the National Park Service regarding a proposal to redesign the Zion National Park South Entrance Fee Station. As an advocate for this beautiful national treasure, my interest was peaked. Here is another opportunity for me, as a long-distance hiker, to voice my opinion and respond to a request for input from those managing this project.
There are a few questions you may ask yourself as you formulate a response to this type project:
It is always best to research these issues for yourself and develop your thoughts, opinions, and recommendations. The following background information may help as a starting point in your analysis.
Hiker taking in the view near the east entrance of Zion
Visitation to Zion National Park has increased significantly and is straining the existing infrastructure and has resulted in longer wait times to enter the park, specifically at the South Entrance Station. During 2016, the tenth busiest day of that year had a 324 vehicle/hour demand on the gate. The fee station has a capacity of only 194 vehicles/hour. The traffic congestion at this gate is frequently one-quarter to one-half mile in length. On busy days, the traffic line can backup all the way to the neighboring town of Springdale, UT. Visitors to the park can wait in this traffic line for up to an hour just to enter the park! As a visitor to the park, think how frustrating this could be; and the exhaust emissions have got to be horrible! Also, park fee rangers try to expedite the process by “roving” this queue, putting themselves in danger.
The Utah Department of Transportation analyzed this situation in 2016 and summarized that an additional entry lane could increase the number of vehicles processed/hour by 50%, fully accommodating current park entry demands. As such, the National Park Service is proposing a redesign of the Entrance Station and the roadway. The proposal recommends adding additional traffic lanes leading into and out of the park, increasing the number and size of the fee booths, traffic islands, an employee parking lot, a shade structure to cover the fee booths – complete with solar panels, and two culverts for stormwater runoff.
Hiking the east rim in Zion
You are invited, even encouraged, to review this project and submit your thoughts, ideas, and comments regarding its purpose and scope by the deadline of March 1, 2018. The National Park Service website is a great place to start your research, but other resources may be found through a simple web search.
Comments may be submitted in writing, before the March 1, 2018, deadline, to the project Superintendent, or, easily entered on the following website:
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey
Editor's Note: With the majority of our members living in the West, we tend to get more information and articles written about trails in that region. However, this week’s trail specific article and photos came to us from Jerry Barker, Board Member, Friends of the MST (Mountain-to-Sea Trail), MST in a Day Coordinator, North Carolina.
For more information:
Kate Dixon, Executive Director
North Carolina’s 1175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail hiked on “MST in a Day”
On the exact 40th birthday of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), more than 1700 people working together completed 100% of the 1175-mile MST hiking route, from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. (Three legs of an alternate paddle route were not completed due to paddlers being called away to prepare for Hurricane Irma.)
Mt Mitchell Lands Hiking Group
Although not officially confirmed, it is thought that North Carolina, known as the First in Flight state, can add another first to its list -- the only state where hikers have collaborated to complete a long-distance trail in one day.
Mountain-to-Sea, Segment 24
The average segment was three to five miles with the longest of 21.5 miles. A group of seventeen hikers started a minute after midnight; one hiked from dusk to dawn; one hiked over 25 miles from dawn to dusk; a dozen hiked in memory of a family member. Others were so deep in the woods that it took a couple of days to confirm their completion. Overall enthusiasm for the event resulted in more than 7,300 miles being hiked.
The Parks Family Hikers
The non-profit Friends created MST in a Day to raise awareness of the trail and help celebrate the 40th anniversary of a speech by Howard Lee on September 9, 1977, to a National Trails Conference in North Carolina. Lee, then NC Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, said North Carolina should create a “state trail from the mountains to the coast leading through communities as well as natural areas.”
Now nearly 700 miles have been built. Rural roads connect the completed sections for a total of 1,175 miles. The General Assembly designated the MST as a state park in 2000. Each year Friends’ volunteers work more than 30,000 hours on the MST.
The MST runs through 37 counties from the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail connects two National Parks, two national wildlife refuges, ten state parks and three national forests, historical sites, and the highest point in the eastern United States. Unlike most other long-distance trails, the MST occasionally goes through communities, as Lee proposed.
Over 80 people have completed the entire trail with thousands using the trail annually for day hikes and overnight excursions.
For additional information and a video of the day: mountainstoseatrail.org/mstinaday/
I Continue to Stand for Public Lands
by Kate "Drop-N-Roll" Hoch
Bubbles in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
In the spring of 2016, I walked 1000 miles through southern Utah and Northern Arizona roughly along a route called the Hayduke Trail. I say roughly because, for the most part, there is no actual trail. The route was conceived by 2 guys who just like exploring the desert and happened to write a guidebook about it. This is no “National Scenic Trail”, there is no trail agency or organization overseeing anything about it. Without such official oversight, the route is free to be whatever one walking it chooses. We chose dozens of alternate routes during our hike, using beta cobbled together from the internet, maps and other guidebooks. In the end, we were able to string together about 1000 continuous miles of travel over public lands. To me, this was the greatest joy of the hike – the ability to choose almost any direction and travel freely.
Hiking in the Grand Staircase-Escalante
Today, these lands are threatened. On December 4, President Trump announced a reduction of about 85% of the Bears Ears National Monument and 50% of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The intention is clear: open the areas to mining and gas extraction. Having spent weeks walking through these lands, I feel deeply connected to them. Bears Ears was not yet a National Monument at the time I hiked the Hayduke, yet I understood the impact and rejoiced when President Obama declared the protections in late 2016. I had experienced not only the vast beauty of the land, but saw evidence of native people’s history with the lands. I can only imagine the devastation they now feel, after having fought so hard to protect lands uniquely special to them.
My 2016 Hayduke Trail route through the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments before their reduction.
My time in the Grand Staircase-Escalante was some of the best of my entire hike. The area is (was) so expansive and continuous, I felt I was in truly remote terrain. Though even in the most seemingly rugged and wild areas, human impact was evident: so many cow pies and fouled water sources; old rutted roads crisscrossing the fragile crytobiotic soil; mining debris; cowboy trash. It’s not all a pristine landscape, but I don’t believe that doesn’t mean it’s not worth protecting. Rather, a call to be better stewards of the land, make the changes now to preserve and protect the land for future generations.
Hiking in Bears Ears
The threat to our public lands is real, and it’s easy to feel defeated. During the review of the National Monuments by Ryan Zinke, I dutifully called and wrote my representatives, submitted official comments to the review. So did millions of other Americans. Despite the overwhelming support of the Monuments by the people, we were ignored.
I expressed my grief and feeling of powerlessness with my fellow ALDHA-West board members. They reminded me of the importance of continuing to fight to make our voices heard. It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.
What can you do? Continue to make your voice heard. Contact your Congressional representatives to start (find them here: https://whoismyrepresentative.com).
ALDHA-West is the voice of the long-distance hiker and as such, we feel this new direction the current administration and Department of the Interior are taking undermines any federally protected lands that our members utilize - whether as federally designated trails or cross country routes, and sets a dangerous precedent that at any given moment (even with overwhelming public support), we could lose these valuable resources. With the ever-increasing popularity of hiking and use of the trail systems, we the long distance hiker personally understand the relationship people have with the land, and also the benefits connecting users to regions can have. Anyone who has walked a long distance trail or route has certainly passed through small rural towns, many of which welcome us and the economic shot in the arm to their communities. Further many of us understand that long distance hiking not only provides mental and physical health benefits but also allows the user to connect to unique wilderness environments and engage with various cultural and historical sites along the way. We hope you our members will use your time to help speak up for the lands and places we all enjoy to preserve them for future generations of long-distance hikers.
At the 2017 Gathering in Keystone, Colorado, two new Board Officers at large were elected. We are excited for the passion and insight Jeff "Siddhartha" Kish and Craig "Skygzr" Gulley will bring to ALDHA-West!
Jeff "Siddhartha" Kish
Jeff’s first taste of long distance hiking came when he left behind a comfortable life in Portland, Oregon and hitched a ride to the Mexican border to thru-hike the PCT in 2012. Five months later, he stood in Manning Park. Hooked.
Upon returning to Portland, he decided to keep on living “outside,” bought an old van, and converted it into a stealth RV, where he split his time living between the city streets and the wild wide open spaces of the Pacific Northwest.
For most of the summer of 2013, Jeff parked in Cascade Locks, grilled tri-tip dinners and breakfast scrambles for every hiker who came through, and toted hikers all around Oregon and Washington in his big red home on wheels.
After a year of giving back to the trail that had given so much to him, it was time to get back to hiking. In 2014, Jeff found his way to Glacier National Park to begin a thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Along the way, he shared his experiences with an international audience as a contributing editor at gearjunkie.com.
In 2015, Jeff was appointed to the United States Forest Service administered Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Committee. That fall he was honored to speak at the 20th Anniversary Gathering about his adventure on the PNT.
In 2016, Jeff accepted his dream job as Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.
In addition to long distance hiking, Jeff enjoys mountaineering. Along his PCT thru-hike, he climbed 10 major adjacent summits. In the time since, he’s climbed most of the major volcanoes in the Northwest, including an untethered winter summit of Mount Rainier.
Jeff currently resides near the Pacific Northwest Trail, under the shadow of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, Washington with his partner and their son (in a real house!)
Craig "Skygzr" Gulley
As the newest board member and the one with the least amount of actual long trail experience, I am thrilled to be able to serve the long-distance hiker community through Aldha-West. While my thru hike adventures have been limited to the two-week variety; Ozark Trail, Superior Hiking trail, TGO Challenge Scotland, Foothills Trail, Maah Daah Hey, Zion Traverse, etc. I have been hiking these types of trails for decades with almost 5,000 miles behind me. I have been a trail volunteer in Smoky Mountain National Park and worked with College kids on leadership team building in the Grand Canyon. I also have a degree in Astro-physics from University of Missouri-St.Louis.
I have admired for decades the toughness both mental and physical of the long trail thru hiker. I have followed along the trail, either via book, blog, or journal, the adventures of many in the long-distance hiking community. I hope to be able to represent and reach out to hikers like myself that may have thousands of miles of trail beneath their feet, but haven’t experienced a truly long trail, but still feel like they are part a community the cares and supports the hiker and bring them into the Aldha-West family. I believe that Aldha-West is the organization that first and foremost represents the hiker and is devoted to their needs. I am looking forward to my time on the board and I am eager to help in any way I can.
ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.