American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

  • 04 Apr 2017 2:30 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    The “Opinion from a Member” section of the Gazette, provides a forum for members to write a letter to the editor expressing their views and opinions on topics which concern the hiking community. The views and opinions expressed are the those of the author and may not be the opinion or view of ALDHA-West. Should you have a letter you would like to submit for possible publication, please submit to:

    Letter to the Community - 

    For six years, between 2006 to 2013, I re-hiked the PCT, having first thru-hiked it in 1994 and then for the 3rd time in 2015 I re-hiked the first 800 miles. From my recent experience, I would like to start a discussion about new behaviors that I find troubling before they become entrenched in the trail culture.

    What I saw -- on the part of some hikers -- was a sort of entitlement attitude and "frat boy" drunkenness that I believe will negatively impact the trail community as the numbers grow.

    My observation: some groups of people spent their time on the trail serially binge drinking at each resupply town. I'm not the only one noticing. It has already caused neighbors of Kennedy Meadows to officially complain to the licensing authority about bad behavior including public urination. I saw and heard about publicly drunk hikers surrounded by empty beer cans lying in the street or in front of resupply stores.

    What makes anyone think the stores and towns who now help us will continue to do so if this is what they have to encounter? In fact, I had hikers tell me that they skipped miles of the trail -- not because of weather or injury but to be able to spend another day drinking.

    Years ago one hiker acting out like this would have no impact. But each year more hikers leave the border. That huge mass, plus the section hikers, makes it look like hikers are some sort of group of drunken fools. Many times, I heard from people in town that they did not want to give these "stoners and drunks" rides to the trail. There was also the hiker who left an uncovered dump in every campsite wiping his butt with a section of the map. Drunk? Stoned? Stupid?

    Being on the trail means that people are probably the most open and vulnerable emotionally since childhood. Some studies suggest that hiking can make you smarter. But not if you are drunk every five days. You are doing an activity that opens brain pathways. It literally changes you neurologically. That can cause one to use something to try to shut down. The hike can seem like too much. But, maybe, slowing down, taking a deep breath, an extra day off, finding someone to hike with, or talking about it, or crying (I did lots of that on my first thru-hike) might be a better choice than getting blind drunk in every town.

    Everyone should now understand at what level body weight-to-alcohol ratio makes you drunk. Drunk people do and say really stupid things.

    We lost a number of towns and hostels on the AT because of that sort of behavior. I don't want to see us have to hitchhike miles to some town because no one in the small stores (like Manzama campground) and small towns wants us there.

    There isn't one house angel that hasn't lost money or possessions to hiker thieves.

    It is amazing what each of us is doing, but that does not mean that we get to run roughshod over the people that help us.

    I also read sexist, racist, homophobic rants in the registers. Don't you think the public reads this stuff?

    You might think about how it looks before you go into a town with 30 percent unemployment and try to use food stamps to pay for food and lodging. Your choice, but enough people already think we are bums and parasites. In that town there may be people desperate for a job, needing food stamps to feed their family. We affectionately call ourselves "hiker trash," but I don't want us to get that reputation in the outside world.

    Also, if you are not staying at a commercial hostel, then maybe using their facilities is inappropriate. Those people give much more than they are getting back in money -- but they are not there to be taken advantage of.

    The trail has developed, at least with some hikers, a "speed is the only value" mentality. I was talking to some hikers about wishing that a temporary injury didn't slow me down and require me to carry more food. I hate extra weight on my back. A hiker countered, "You cannot compare yourself to the best." At first, I didn't know what she meant -- then I realized that she saw "best" as "fastest." Not the most skilled, not the most comfortable, not the happiest, not the most knowledgeable or any number of ways of valuing the hike, only the fastest. Often the only conversations were about how fast they hiked and how many miles hikers were doing. What a relief when someone actually talked about the flowers, trees, and views.

    I heard many hikers just complaining about being out there. They just wanted it to be over and were miserable. Maybe that was because I was in the first few hundred hikers and attitudes were different back in the pack. Of course, some people are forced to hike fast because they only have so much time off. We don't have to hike the trail the same way. I just would like people to think about how they might be hurting themselves, other hikers, and the trail.

    Another thing to think about: never using natural water sources because "angels" have brought the faucet to you -- just like you have in town. I know we have been in a drought. Sometimes the only water is from Angels. I'm not referring to that. Originally "angels" brought out water to help hikers who were really in stress. But now there are so many hikers who don't even bother filtering. How long do you think those angels will continue before you burn them out? Topping up, finding yourself short because you were too hot all makes sense -- but never taking water from a stream because you know there are jugs of H20 out there? I would suggest that is something to ponder. "Trail Magic" usually means a surprise, not something that you expect and then become irritated that you don't get it.

    When 2,000 hikers leave the border do you really want it to be like back in the days when we had to carry 2 gallons of water to get through the desert because the "angels" have quit?

    Just so there is no confusion, no one is talking about having a couple of beers when you get to town. I'm talking about passed out drunken fools in every town. I'm tired of hearing "I've never seen this.” I saw it over and over. The trail is not the inconvenience that you have to put up with between towns. Hiking the trail is the point. Give yourself the chance to experience it.

    Each year there are hikers out there doing what my father used to call "poor mouthing.” They mooch meals in town from other hikers but seem to have plenty of money to buy booze and dope.

    Hiking is the most joyful thing I do. I love being out there. I met hundreds of wonderful hikers including some of those, when they weren't drunk, that I have been referring to in this letter. I struggled for a long time before writing this. I fully expect some angry response to this letter. No one likes their painkillers to be challenged. Let's talk about this.


    Note from ALDHA-West: We encourage you to take a look at our "10 Commandments" of good hiker etiquette!

  • 24 Mar 2017 1:35 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    During this year's annual Board Retreat, we talked a lot about how to address conflicts between hikers and trail towns business owners, which is becoming more frequent as the numbers of hikers on long distance trails grows.  One thing that came out of this discussion was the idea to create a set of guidelines for how to behave in town.  While most of these behaviors may seem like obvious common courtesy, some things may be easy to forget when you're a weary hiker walking into town.  So let's all do our best to be good ambassadors of the hiking community and maintain positive relationships with trail towns!

    "Just because you live in the woods doesn't mean you have to act like an animal"

    The Ten Commandments for Hikers in Town

    1. Ask permission before filling water bottles, charging electronics, drying gear, dumping trash, hanging out in business space, using restrooms, drinking alcohol on premises, tying up your dog, and setting up your tent.
    2. Find a place out of public eye and out of the way to take care of resupply (opening and sorting packages, repackaging resupply).
    3. Refrain from personal grooming in a public spaces.
    4. Honor common dress decorum by refraining from walking around without shirt/pants (when washing clothes, change into your rainwear out of public eye and wear it until your hiking clothes are ready)
    5. When someone offers a ride or any services, remember that you are on THEIR schedule.
    6. Tip 20% in restaurants.
    7. Offer to pay for any services being offered.
    8. Talk to other hikers when you see behaviors that are detrimental to the hiking community as a whole.
    9. Everything you do in town represents the hiking community as a whole.
    10. Say please and thank you for EVERYTHING.

  • 21 Mar 2017 2:24 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Charles Baker

    This segment of the Gazette allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question or phrase. If you would like to participate, or, if you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please contact Answers must be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch...

    Today's question: "Bears poop in the woods, hikers…?"

    Steve “Twinkle” Shattuck – “Leave no trace.”

    Miguel “VirGo” Aguilar – “Clog the toilets in town.”

    Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz – “Poop in their pants.”

  • 10 Mar 2017 10:05 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Scot “So Far” Forbes

    The idea of backpacking for many conjures one of the quintessential elements of backcountry living: the campfire. Many backpackers will often say that food on the trail tastes better because of the environment, and one of the places where people geek out on the most with their gear is in their portable kitchen with everything but a standup mixer. I get it: Everyone loves a hot meal. I went to college in Ashland, where many of us know that there is a hot food tax- they know that visitors to their city expect the luxury of something prepared in the oven or on a stove to go along with their vacation. It’s nice. It’s cozy. It reminds us of home.

    Hiking stoveless is a departure from this, and it is part of a larger mindset that I have in real life as well as when hiking. For me, I am anything but what one would call a gourmand. I appreciate good food when I come across it, but I don’t by any means expect it. I am perfectly content grazing at home, and consider the distinction between a large snack and a meal to be inconsequential. The focus for most hikers, and indeed most Americans, is a large meal in the evening. The banquet or feast that we call dinner. I have found that at home as well as on trail, I have started to try to minimize that meal and focus more on eating throughout of the day.

    When on a hike, I leave the cooking to the professionals and get my cooked food in town.

    Among the miracles of the post-war, echo to the Industrial Revolution, we made great gains (some would call losses) in the ubiquity and quality of available foodstuffs. When I use the word “quality,” I am referring only to our ability to preserve these foods from spoiling. Over time, much of the processing for foods can have demonstrably detrimental effects on one’s health, but for a long hike, embrace the fats, salts, and, that are available and ready to eat in our nation’s small-town convenience stores. I am known for my famous all Cheez-It dinners. You’re on vacation!

    There is one important qualifier: Fiber. The best way to get some fiber out there is to dehydrate at home. I recommend kiwis, blueberries, red peppers, and red onions. These cover the bases as far as sweet/savory, and between them, can make any “meal” more delicious. Most people dehydrate specifically for their cooked meals, but I think it’s even better for modifying much-needed fruits and vegetables for ready-to-eat convenience.

    I am a person who doesn’t want to have to deal with much out there, and looking for fuel in small towns and having to deal with proper storage and carrying a liquid that I cannot drink are low on my list of reasons to go backpacking. Also, cooking is not part of my experience. Going stoveless helps me achieve my goal of getting to sleep early and simply look forward to another day of hiking.

    All this being said - if anyone else ever wants to cook for me. . .

  • 28 Feb 2017 5:15 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Ryan Linn, of Atlas Guides, who’s branded products include Guthook Hiking Guides, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Ryan a few questions about Atlas Guides so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Ryan, please leave a comment.

    Atlas Guides

    1. Please give a brief description of your company. What products do you sell? How did you decide in which products to specialize? How long have you been doing this?

    -We are Atlas Guides, aka Guthook's Hiking Guides, a very small (3-person) company of thru-hikers, with a combined five thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, two of the Appalachian Trail, one of the Long Trail, three of the John Muir Trail, and many other trails. We started making smartphone-based hiking trail guides to the PCT and AT in 2012 and 2013, and have since expanded our catalog to include 6 U.S. National Scenic Trails, and dozens of other long-distance and regional hiking and cycling trails in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia.

    2.  Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?

    -Our market started solely as thru-hikers, and for the first four years of our business, our apps spread almost entirely by recommendations from one hiker to another. We now try to reach more section hikers and weekenders. Over the past year, we have built up our Facebook presence ( and launched our new website (

    3.  What is your goal for your company? How big do you want to be? Are there new product lines you would like to be in?

    -We are dedicated to staying small as a company. As we expand our guides to new trails and different activities, we are working hard to streamline and automate as many processes as we can. We also prefer to work with trail organizations and guidebook authors to add new trails to our series, rather than trying to map the trails on our own.

    4.  What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product expand the US market, Europe, Asia? How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?

    -We recently added guides to bike touring in Australia, the Te Araroa in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and several trails in Great Britain. We collaborate with locals to create these apps, which helps us reach the audiences they have already created.

    5.  What do you think was the smartest move you have made? Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?

    -The best move we ever made was to start reaching out to various guidebook authors and trail organizations to create partnerships where they can benefit from our app framework, and we can benefit from their local knowledge of the trails. While we haven't made any truly boneheaded mistakes, we often miscalculate the level of interest in a given trail and the amount of time and effort it takes to keep our guides up-to-date. The number of people who hike a trail doesn't always correspond to how many people will buy an app for that trail.

    6.  Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?

    -One of our top priorities is a responsibility to trails and the people that use them. We partner directly with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Arizona Trail Association, Ice Age Trail Alliance, and Great Divide Trail Association to produce the official apps for their trails. We work closely with many other trail organizations to make sure our guides send the messages that are consistent with what those organizations want hikers to see. We also support the Center for Biological Diversity due to theirexcellent Public Lands protection program. Beyond our business relationships, we are members of several trail organizations, and Ryan is a trail adopter for a section of trail in Maine.

    Ryan Linn
    Atlas Guides
    Lead iOS Developer & East-Coast Trails Specialist

  • 23 Feb 2017 3:10 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    2016 Colorado Ruck
    by Jenny Gaeng

    The 2016 Colorado Ruck helped me plan my CDT hike, but more importantly, it gave me the chance to meet other hikers. I had never done a thru-hike before. I had just made the decision. I was nervous.

    I expected that a lot of others would be in the same boat: shy, clutching a shining new Gossamer Gear backpack and their very first pair of Altras. Instead, I encountered mostly veterans: those who has hiked the CDT or another trail in a previous year and returned to the Ruck to share their advice and relive the culmination of their beautiful dream.

    2016 Rockies Ruck

    Anyone who has ever thru-hiked for the first time knows how much you rely on your fellow hikers. They teach you trail slang, give you a trail name, and tell you to cut your toothbrush in half. They tell you the truth about chafing and poop. They show you how to thread your blisters. And when you're worried or scared about something, they assure you that you can do it.

    I found the panel discussions most helpful. They focused on ultralight hiking, safety concerns, food, and more. Hearing different hikers share their opinions, I realized something crucial: there is not one right way to hike the CDT. You have many options and many choices to make. “Should I buy snowshoes and prepare to brave June in the San Juans”? (I did, and it was amazing.) “Is it even worth it to try and pack out healthy food”? (I brought kale a couple of times in New Mexico.)

    Panel discussions

    I also had my first, but not last, pack shakedown at the Ruck. During a shakedown, an experienced hiker combs through all your gear. They shake their heads bemusedly and explain that your stove doesn't need a case, no matter how light the plastic. It also gives you the chance to have a one-on-one gear discussion with an experienced hiker - and ask them any other questions you have about the trail.

    I spent most of Shawn "Pepper" Forry's keynote presentation about his winter PCT thru-hike thinking, “that looks miserable, I would never, ever, do that.” But it was still thrilling to hear the story.

    Pepper talks about his winter thru hike of the PCT.

    And then, of course, there is the gear raffle. If there's one thing to know about hiker gatherings, it's that hikers love a good gear raffle. There were also vendors peddling everything from socks to intriguing, locally-made, hiking skirts.

    It's not an ALDHA-West event without a raffle!

    Hiking a long-distance trail brings you friends that change your life, whether-or-not you ever see them again. Head to your local Ruck - you'll meet the first ones there.


    Editor's Note: We have 3 more Rucks coming up in 2017. Hope to see you there!
    February 25 - Cascade Locks, OR
    March 4 - Santa Cruz, CA
    March 11 - Golden, CO

  • 17 Feb 2017 11:30 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Report from the 2017 ALDHA-West Board Retreat
    By Drop-N-Roll

    Top row: VirGo, Allgood, POD, Drop-N-Roll, Charles Baker
    Bottom row: SoFar, Snorkel, Twinkle, Naomi, Story

    Over the weekend of January 20-22, the board, along with a few key members in appointed positions gathered in the winter wonderland of Trout Lake, WA. The annual retreat has become an important opportunity for us to focus on all things ALDHA-West, face-to-face without distraction.


    While we worked on knocking out some organizational tasks, such as nailing down details for the upcoming Rucks, we also focused a lot of our energy on longer term goals and needs of the organization. We used the “SWOT” technique for analyzing ALDHA-West’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From this activity, we found three areas of focus for the weekend:

    1. Marketing:

    ALDHA-West isn’t exactly a catchy, easy to remember name, and it’s a bit of a challenge to articulate just what we do when meeting new faces. Our approach to increasing engagement of membership will include going back to having printed brochures and merch available for events, particularly PCT Days, and mailing welcome packets to new members.

    Of course, social media is a driving force in today’s world. Unfortunately, our board is all older than the millennial generation, and we struggle to keep up! However, we are very fortunate to have a talented video editor on our board, VirGo, and he’s already made some awesome promo videos for us! We are also focusing on some new avenues of event advertisement, especially partnering with local hiking clubs, trail and conservation organizations to reach a new audiences.

    2. Trail Town Engagement:

    With increasing numbers of thru-hikers inevitably comes increasing conflicts with trail towns and business owners. We feel a critical need that ALDHA-West can fill is supporting and educating hikers and trail communities about appropriate behavior and expectations. Reaching out to trail towns to understand their issues is critical to maintaining good relationships and ensuring continued availability of services. We also came up with the “10 Commandments” for hikers to follow to be good citizens and minimize conflict. Look for more on this in an upcoming Gazette article!

    3. Approachability:

    Unfortunately, ALDHA-West has an image of being elitist and unapproachable to newer hikers, or even experienced hikers who may not fall under a “typical thru hiker”. If you’ve been to our events, we hope you feel otherwise! Going forward, we will be sure to explain and encourage the “Hike Your Own Hike” ethic when we speak at events. We also will have designated “Trail Guides” (welcome wagon) at events to orient new attendees and help them feel welcome.

    We also enjoyed getting to know each other better and a little time playing in the snow!

  • 09 Feb 2017 10:12 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Paul Magnanti

    Many experienced three-season backpackers tend to hibernate in the winter. They’ll buy new gear, tweak their Excel spreadsheet, discuss which backpacking stove or wind shirt is the best, and upload to Instagram all the photos from earlier outings. But there is something better than buying gear and talking about it.

    The something better? Getting out into the backcountry and embracing the fourth season. Go winter backpacking. Hike those paths. Snowshoe among the trees, and glide through a blanket of snow while on skis. Winter is not a time to stay inside and talk about things you have done. Winter is a time to have new backcountry experiences. Going out into the backcountry, seeing the mountains covered in snow and feeling the cold, bracing air is sublime. Get out there. And enjoy.

    Why Winter Backpack? 

    Besides the beauty that is found in winter, there are many reasons to backpack in the fourth season.

    Fewer people.
    No insects.
    Food does not go bad.
    The everyday trail you’ve hiked many times becomes magical and new.
    It will keep you in shape for three-season backpacking.
    Because life is too short to give up a quarter or more of the calendar year

    Gear for winter backpacking

    It is a bit of a misnomer that specialized gear and clothing are needed for winter backpacking, at least for initial forays. Stay below tree-line in lower elevation areas with a lesser amount of snow for your first outings.

    Some of your three-season gear that can do double duty in winter:

    Those old leather boots you may only use for trail work now? Treat with SnoSeal or similar, wear with some wool socks, bread bags, and liner socks, and you have some surprisingly effective winter footwear for an overnight trip.

    Couple a twenty-degree quilt with your forty-degree summer quilt and combine a NeoAir or similar with a closed cell foam such as a RidgeRest and you have a sleeping system that can go down to zero degrees or so Fahrenheit.

    A shelter with steeper walls can shed light snow. Save the four season shelters for higher elevation jaunts or more inclement weather when you gain some experience.

    A simple balaclava and a fleece beanie covers a wide range of cold weather conditions

    Thermals, wind pants, and a wind shirt do very well in cold weather when moving. A rain jacket is fine for when a hardshell is needed.

    An alcohol stove works well enough for a quick overnighter when there is no snowmelt needed. Keep the fuel warm in your sleeping bag. Mushers use alcohol stoves on the Iditarod after all.

    Don’t have a true winter down coat (five ounces or more of down fill)? Your three-season puffy with a 200 and 100 weight fleece will be a little heavier and bulky, but you will be able to get out there and stay warm!

    As you start to enjoy more winter backpacking, you can purchase more winter specific gear such as a four-season tent, a winter weight down parka, skis or snowshoes, a white gas stove, etc.

    Want to learn more? I have a more thorough primer on winter backpacking at my website.

    The main point is to get out there first and enjoy, however. Much how you probably started backpacking in the first place!

  • 31 Jan 2017 10:10 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    How to Meet Your Next (Hiking) Partner/ A Love Note to My Hiking Partner

    by Liz “Snorkel” Thomas

    Last winter, I had a dream of hiking the Great Divide Trail through Canada but was not interested in going alone. On a trail riddled with grizzlies, glacial fords, and extensive bushwhacking, I wanted a partner to laugh through the good times and cry through the bad. The problem was, who could I sign up to seriously consider doing a trip like this? How would I find someone with the skills and experience necessary for such a hard hike?

    The short answer was I found the perfect hiking partner at the ALDHA-West Ruck. At ALDHA-West events, there are plenty of folks from all over the region and country who “get” long distance hiking. They’re dedicated to long trails. Unlike your flaky non-hiker friends, ALDHA-West event attendees make hiking happen—not just talk about it. ALDHA-West event attendees know what it means to save money and make time for walking.

    I’d met Naomi a few times before but didn’t really know her that well before the 2016’s ALDHA-West Rucking season. After bringing the idea up to her at the Cascade Ruck (admittedly, over many beers), I brought it up again a month later when I saw her at the Colorado Ruck (admittedly, over many glasses of wine).

    The GDT had been on Naomi’s list, but like me, she didn’t want to go alone. Despite living in the hiker-filled Pacific Northwest, hunting down someone willing to commit to the GDT isn’t easy. Instead, she found a partner in someone who lives 1,000 miles away: me. The Rucks were a great opportunity to talk trail, logistics, and feel each other out as hiking partners before committing. I like to compare it to taking your pooch to a dog park. We sniffed each other out and got a feel for the other’s hiking style. I must have passed the sniff test because several weeks later, she sent me an email saying she was in.

    Naomi and I held several planning meetings on the phone, got together maps, figured out resupply, gear lists, and booked our transportation. We agreed to meet in Kalispell, Montana and take care of our last-minute logistics the day before. She picked me up with my 40-pound box of hiker food. The next day, we went to an Office Max to buy boxes to ship our resupplies. And then, I knew I had made the best choice ever.

    As our Altras hit the linoleum of that Big Box store, it was as if we were a marching band. The click of our footsteps on the ground was timed perfectly. Our pace was identical.

    Despite the weather, grizzly, and bushwhacking the trail threw at us, the trip was a complete success. I learned we share a foodie’s love for fine dining while hiking and a fondness for nice soap. I always had faith in her ability, strength, and skill.

    If you’re looking for the perfect hiking partner, the ALDHA-W Rucks are a great way to gather with your local hiking community, meet people from afar, and talk trail. Who knows? Maybe you’ll strike gold and find someone worth spending a hundred miles with.

  • 24 Jan 2017 3:36 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Hiker Talk

    This segment of the Gazette, allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question which they are presented. Answers should be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch... If you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please send it to:


    Today's question:  "What aspect of being outdoors or hiking are you still afraid of?"  


    Jan "Pooh-Bear" Barlow:  Leaving the trail and going back to reality.

    Todd Blackley:  Weather

    Linda "Blue Butterfly" Bakkar:  Hitching to town.  

    Felicia "Princess of Darkness" Hermosillo: Grizzlies 


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