By Clay "Woodward" Jacobson
Idaho is made up of approximately 60 percent public lands, consisting of some of the deepest, most remote wilderness areas in the lower-48. This makes the Idaho Centennial Trail a great case study for the state of our nation’s trail system, rich with opportunities and challenges.
The National Forest Service was created to manage and maintain our public lands for recreational and commercial use in order to offset the wholesale liquidation of natural resources by large corporations. Access to these lands was preserved for future generations by leaders with admirable foresight. However, the Forest Service has been subject to changing political climates, bureaucratic overload, and financial responsibility for a constantly growing firefighting industry. This has stretched available resources for trail maintenance to the breaking point.
The days of paid, professional trail crews with years of experience are largely a thing of the past. Across the country, a new model of volunteer trail organizations has stepped forward to fill the role of trail stewards. Groups like the PCTA and Washington Trails Association have tapped into local interest to keep trails open—utilizing grants, donations, and volunteer labor. In Idaho, the Idaho Trails Association (ITA) had 200 individual volunteers donate 3,600 hours in the field this year. Four of ITA’s 17 work projects were on the Idaho Centennial Trail.
As long-distance hikers, we are all familiar with the benefits of being out on the trail. Most of us have passed many hours contemplating the monumental efforts involved in keeping thousands of miles of trails open. Facing the short fall of federal trail maintenance, the trail community has ample opportunities to get involved in the preservation and improvement of the trails we enjoy. The weeks I have spent on trail with the ITA have been just as valuable and rewarding as my thru-hikes. ITA’s focus on traditional skills, tools, and horse packing has taught me volumes about the history of our public lands. It has allowed me to reconnect with places I discovered on the ICT, returning to clear the very same logs I had to climb over while I was hiking.
It’s about more than just taking pride in our trails. It’s about taking ownership. These are our public lands and our trails. Without the efforts and voices of the trail community, no long distance hike in America would be open for us to enjoy. The members of the trail community play a vital role, logging more miles than most people would hike in several life times. We are the eyes, ears and boots (or trail runners) on the ground. But we can also be the cross-cut in the deadfall, the loppers in the over-brush, and the shovel in the slough. We have the chance to be more than trail users; we can be trail stewards who give back to the trails and the community we love.
Photo credit; Travis Olson
by Kate "Drop-N-Roll" Hoch
The L2H route, developed by Brett Tucker, is a backcountry analog of the infamous Badwater ultramarathon race, starting at Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 below sea level and ending ~130 miles later at 14,505' atop Mt Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48.
Though relatively short, the route requires a high level of physical fitness and ability to navigate off trail. After crossing the Badwater playa, we immediately gained over 10,000’ in just 13 miles to reach Telescope ridge. Weighed down with 5-6L of water each, that monster climb took us nearly all day. Overall, we lucked out with fairly mild weather, which, combined with finding some seasonal water and our supplemental caches, kept our water hauling to a minimum.
The delights of this short trip through the desert were many: some of the darkest skies I’ve ever seen, bristlecone pines, a hidden 50ft waterfall, wild burros, Joshua Tree forests, incredible sunsets, and an extensive craft beer selection at Panamint Springs Resort. We also saw plenty of evidence of Death Valley’s mining history. Following a slight detour route, we visited the ghost town of Cerro Gordo, high in the Inyos. The mining town was once home to 2000 people. Though on private property, we were able to get permission from the caretaker to visit, and he gave us a little tour of the old hotel. We also passed the Swansea salt tram, which transported salt from the Saline Valley up and over the Inyo mountains and down the other side into the Owens Valley. Crazy!
After chores and resupplying in the town of Lone Pine, we headed up the Whitney Portal road for the final leg of our hike: climbing Mt Whitney! Naomi opted for the classic Mt Whitney Trail while Snorkel and I took the Mountaineers route. I love a good scramble, and this certainly was one! Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite the summit celebration we’d hoped for. Naomi was struck with altitude sickness and had to turn back at ~14,000’. She was so close! We reunited just before reaching the Whitney Portal parking lot, feeling exhausted, but immensely satisfied. Back to work I go.
For more route info: www.lowesttohighest.com
The Board and staff of ALDHAWest would like to welcome you to our inaugural launch of our online rendition of the Gazette.
The “Distance Hiker’s Gazette” was first published in the winter of ’95. Over the years, and various editors, the paper version of the Gazette grew from black and white copy to a more appealing and professional looking color publication. One of the features of many Gazette issues was the “The Mailbag” where AW members responded to a specific topic. However, it usually would be months before they could be published.
In recent years, to curb rising costs of mailing and printing, we moved the Gazette to pdf format. The pdf format allowed the reader to access URLs while reading online and for us to post more pertinent images with the articles. But, again, member interaction was slow to non existent and only published every three months.
Now we launch our active online publication of the Gazette. Here we hope to have the new Gazette be an active forum, full of engaging articles and information, buoyed by our memberships’ collective experience, insights and comments.
One of our goals is to post new items every week. To accomplish this we need material, ideas and writers. No matter that you don’t think you can write, neither can I. I am at best a pitiful hack, not a writer. It’s the job of the editor to make a writer look good and our editor, Charles, is incredible!
ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.