Category Archives: Trails

Book Review: “Walks of a Lifetime: Extraordinary Hikes From Around the World”

Book Review: Walks of a Lifetime: Extraordinary Hikes From Around the World

by Robert and Martha Manning, Falcon Press, 2017.

Hurrah! Another elegant invitation from the Mannings to ordinary folks to try long distance walking!

Martha and Robert Manning on the Kumado Kodo Pilgrimage Walk, Japan, Courtesy Robert Manning

Walks of a Lifetime (2017), like the Manning’s first guidebook, Walking Distance (2013), alternates compelling descriptions of 30 exceptional walks around the world with brief essays on aspects of walking. With these intelligent companion volumes, Robert and Martha Manning are now firmly established as discerning and trusted guides to some of the world’s best walks.  Their approach goes way beyond your typical “trail guide”.

Essays in Walks of a Lifetime delightfully amplify themes in the walk chapters, connect the reader to the larger world of long distance walking, and inspire closer attention to the world we walk.  The 30 topics include trail angels, pilgrimage, urban walking, philanthropic walking, place, and the philosophy and ethics of walking.  The authors celebrate the joys of advance research, discuss how to prepare and how to enjoy serendipitous “misadventures” along the way, and offer advice on answering the inevitable question, “how long will it take?”.  Further, they explore the expanded field around walking by musing on ecotourism, health, walking as political statement, walking as art, and they contemplate the existential conundrum of journey vs. the destination.

Each walk portrait presents the sort of information that never goes out of date, for example natural and cultural history, land management context, weather and terrain.  Descriptions are useful, satisfying, but hardly exhaustive.  Instead, the reader will be stimulated toward further research, and to embrace walking as a process of life-long learning. Robert contributes knowledges honed by decades of research and teaching on national parks around the world, and he also provides hundreds of high quality photos.  Martha, an artist, speaks and writes as an astute observer full of practical advice.  Both husband and wife have an eye for natural beauty, topography, and unique landscape features.  They also share their infectious enjoyment of people, culture and cuisine.   Specifically, the walk descriptions include:

  • Orientation to the landscape and its natural history, including geology, wildlife, botany, weather, soils, bodies of water, etc.;
  • Cultural highlights of each area, including history, archaeology, museums, culinary traditions, agriculture, architecture, language, thermal baths, and local lore;
  • The context of the trail/traverse: how the trail came to be, how it operates, nearby and connecting trails, the challenges and unique features of the parks and natural areas it traverses, the broader trail system and walking culture of the nation/region in which it exists; and
  • Photographs that visually define each experience.

And, of course, practical information and advice is included:

  • Getting to the trail head and back, getting around in the region;
  • Availability of food, water, accommodations, bathrooms, campsites, etc.;
  • How to hike the trail in sections, other possible modifications, and adjacent trails;
  • Level of difficulty, type of terrain, safety considerations, and tips about gear;
  • Trail protocols (important do’s and don’ts) and environmental ethics.

In Walks of a Lifetime the authors expand our concept of long distance walking beyond hiking remote woods and tramping distant fields to include sauntering through some of the world’s most populous cities (Sydney, New York, Paris and San Francisco).  They also include a range of bucolic to backcountry walks in places like Arizona, Hawaii, Georgia, Utah, Colorado, Maine, N.H., China, France, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Scotland, England and Wales.  And they take us on treks in some of the most isolated locations in the USA such as Denali in Alaska, Havasu Canyon and Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness in Arizona, and Popo Agie Wilderness in Wyoming.

The Manning’s continued emphasis on long distance walks for ordinary people is a refreshing corrective to the current craze for “through hiking” on such trails as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail.  Such hikes, requiring months of time and almost superhuman effort, are not for ordinary people. This book is a tonic for the rest of us.  In fact, in Walks of a Lifetime, the Mannings offer even gentler and more accessible walks than in their previous guide.  They include four urban saunters, and also describe a higher proportion of domestic (U.S.) walks (seventeen) than in the 2013 volume (twelve).  As to level of difficulty, this latest guide includes seven walks of low challenge (compared with two in the previous book) and eight that are categorized as high challenge (compared with twelve in the previous book).

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, an Urban Walk, Courtesy Robert Manning

The latest volume is published by Falcon Press, a specialist in trail guides.  The earlier guide, published by Oregon State University Press includes an index, further reading suggestions at the end of each chapter, a bibliography, and a sprinkling of sparkling quotations throughout.  The Falcon Press publication omits these extras.  I missed these.

One quibble: the maps in Walks of a Lifetime are extremely rudimentary.  While providing the highly detailed topo maps necessary for walking the walk is clearly not within the scope of this guide, better maps would definitely aid in amplifying the author’s text and in supporting the walker’s planning.  Falcon Press is capable of doing better by its authors and readers.

Readers new to long distance walking will find themselves in good hands as they select a walk and plan for their first trip.  Experienced walkers will enjoy perusing the options shared by the well-travelled and insightful authors. Written with intelligence, grace and gentle humor, the Manning’s two guides are perfect gifts for friends and family.  Each volume effectively encourages new readers to get off the chair, take a long walk, and savor the wonders of nature and culture at a slow pace.  Both guides are also highly recommended for libraries serving communities with interest in outdoor recreation.

Sam Demas, October 2017

Public Access to Private Land: gratitude for the kindness of strangers

Public access to private land is taken for granted. For several days along the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota prompted a strong sensation of enjoying the kindness of strangers.  Trail signs reminded me to respect the property rights of those permitting the trail corridor to traverse their land, and other signs clearly marked the NO TRESPASSING boundaries. With one exception this permissive access was granted anonymously.  The land owners likely live nearby, but we walkers don’t know who the are.  The one exception was a tribute to landowner Sarah Ellen Jaeger, who not only granted permissive access, but put her land in a trust.

While we in the USA are blessed with lots of public lands for trails, we are also often dependent on the kindness of private land owners who grant rights of way for trails.  Musing on this, Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor came to mind:

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. 

As I reflected on our founding father’s notions about sharing intellectual property, I also realized the limits of the metaphor.  When a few hikers or bikers damage a trail, access to private land is compromised by their offensive footprints.

 

When landowners get fed up with ongoing disrespectful behaviors on the trail (e.g. littering, trespassing, camping, and lighting fires), they sometimes rescind the permissive access to the  trail corridor.

As a result, trails must be re-routed at great effort and expense.  Fortunately rescinding of access happens very infrequently.

In the USA under “permissive access” to private property: all the private land owner has to do to bar others is to post a NO TRESPASSING sign.  In some other nations traditional rights of way across private land are protected and “right to roam” legislation guarantees free trail access for the public.

It is easy to bemoan what we don’t have in terms of access rights to private land, and I agree with these arguments.  But as I walked the SHT I was overcome with gratitude for what we do have: thousands of anonymous land owners who willingly grant public access to their land because they believe in the importance of trails and in sharing their woods, rocks, trees and vistas.

It was a special pleasure to see one special land owner memorialized on the trail.  Thank you Sarah Ellen Jaeger and all the other generous owners of private land who allow us to walk.

 

Ray Zillmer: Ice Age Trail Founder

 

By Drew Hanson, http://pedestrianview.blogspot.com/

Ray Zillmer left for posterity Wisconsin’s greatest trail, the organization that promotes and protects it, the Badger State’s first and still only backcountry huts and a backpack full of conservation and exploration accomplishments.

Born in Milwaukee, WI in 1887, Zillmer attended Harvard Law School and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1914-1960, he practiced law in Milwaukee.

Ray Zillmer in Canadian Rockies

During the 1930s–1940s, Zillmer became an accomplished and respected explorer and mountaineer. In 1934 Zillmer was part of a team of five mountaineers who completed the first ascent of Anchorite Peak, British Columbia, Canada. He would go on to summit many other peaks and describe previously uncharted lands.

In the summer of 1938, he and a companion retraced the steps of Alexander MacKenzie’s 1793 expedition between the Fraser and Bella Coola rivers, through part of what is today Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park. He described the adventure in detail in his first of four articles published in the Canadian Alpine Journal.

The American Alpine Journal also published several of his exploration and mountaineering articles, including:

“The Exploration of the Source of the Thompson River in British Columbia”, 1940;

“Exploration of the Northern Monashee Range”, 1942;

“The Location of Mt. Milton and the Restoration of the Names ‘Mt. Milton’ and ‘Mt.Cheadle'”, 1943;

“The Exploration of the Cariboo Range from the East”, 1944;

“The Exploration of the Sources of the McLennan River”, 1946.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Mount Zillmer, Zillmer Creek and Zillmer Glacier in British Columbia’s Cariboo Range were all named in his honor.

Back in his home state of Wisconsin, in addition to being an accomplished attorney at law, Zillmer had a keen interest in natural history. He was well aware of Wisconsin’s rich array of landforms created during the Pleistocene. Indeed, North American geologists refer to the last phase of the recent ice age as the Wisconsin Glaciation. During this by-gone epoch, vast oceans of ice that covered northern latitudes would make today’s disappearing alpine glaciers seem like mere creeks of ice.

One of the unique areas of Wisconsin is the Kettle Moraine, a belt of ridges and depressions created by the combined action of two lobes of a Pleistocene ice sheet. It is the place where geologists first determined that Pleistocene ice sheets had lobes and that interlobate regions had their own set of landforms. Through the Izaak Walton League, Ray Zillmer was a leading advocate for the acquisition of land for the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which today covers 55,000 acres within a hundred-mile corridor.

For many years Zillmer led weekend hikes to explore the Kettle Moraine during fall, winter and spring. The hikes were memorable for the miles covered as well as the lunch which consisted of various cans of soup brought by fellow hikers, all combined into a single pot.

In the 1950s he worked closely with the Wisconsin Conservation Department (precursor to the DNR) to design backcountry huts for hikers in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. He then donated thousands of dollars to their construction. These nine shelters remain the only set of backcountry huts in Wisconsin.

Ice Age Trail map

Ice Age Trail map

In 1958 he established the Ice Age National Park Citizens Committee and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, later renamed the Ice Age Trail Alliance. His articles proposing an Ice Age National Park in Wisconsin were published in 1958 by the Milwaukee Public Museum and in 1959 by Wisconsin Alumnus magazine. The proposed park and a long-distance hiking trail through it would follow the Kettle Moraine of eastern Wisconsin and continue west along the terminal moraine to the state’s western boundary. Bills were introduced in Congress to create an Ice Age National Park in Wisconsin.

Zillmer’s insistence that long, narrow corridors of public land serve greater numbers of outdoor recreationists than the big national parks of his day and his proposal for a long-distance hiking trail in Wisconsin made an impression on Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson. Armed with this appreciation and later as a U.S. Senator, Nelson introduced legislation to designate the Appalachian Trail the first National Scenic Trail and introduced the National Trails System Act of 1968. Congress finally designated the thousand-mile Ice Age Trail a National Scenic Trail in 1980.

In 1933 the Wisconsin Izaak Walton League named Zillmer “Man of the Year” for his work on the Kettle Moraine State Forest. In 1959 he was presented a plaque by the National Campers and Hikers Association for his efforts to preserve natural areas for public use. A trail system in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest is named the Zillmer Trails and a park in St. Croix Falls is named Ray Zillmer Park, both in his honor. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 1993. Today the highest award of achievement given by the Ice Age Trail Alliance is the Ray Zillmer Award.

Following his death in December, 1960 the Milwaukee Journal opined, “…the people of Milwaukee and of Wisconsin and the conservation movement nationally are deeply indebted to Mr. Zillmer. His vision, his boundless energy and his dogged determination in behalf of worthy causes to which he was devoted became legend . . . No community and no state ever has enough of men like Raymond T. Zillmer. And the loss of even one, inevitable as it may be, is cause for deep regret.”

 

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Sources:

“Our Greatest Trail”, Erik Ness, Wisconsin Trails magazine, April 2002, Vol. 43, No. 2

“Climb Anchorite Peak”, The Montreal Gazette, July 23, 1934.

Along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, page 8.

“Scorning A Glacial Gift”, The Milwaukee Journal, August 21, 1988.

“Origins of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail”, Sarah Mittlefeldht, Wisconsin Magazine of History: Volume 90, number 3, spring 2007, page 7.

These American Lands, Dyan Zaslowsky and T.H. Watkins, Island Press, 1994, pages 258-259.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, http://www.iceagetrail.org/iata/history/

“The Wisconsin Glacial Moraines”, Milwaukee Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, 1942.

“The Wisconsin Glacier National Forest Park”, Lore, Milwaukee Public Museum, vol 8, edition 2, 1958.

“Wisconsin’s Proposed Ice Age National Park”, Wisconsin Alumnus, March, 1959

American Alpine Club, http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12196134700/print

 

Drew Hanson blogs at pedestrianview.blogspot.com

 

Huts & Trails: Programs at the International Trails Symposium

You can’t have huts without trails.  Surprisingly there is no communication at a national level in USA between the huts and trails communities.   Next month a conversation will begin at the International Trails Symposium (ITS).

The ITS is a rich mix of hikers, operators of many of the major trail systems in the world, federal and state land managers, and people interested in all aspects of trail planning, building, and operations. It turns out most of these folks don’t know much about hut systems, but they are curious to learn more about accommodation systems for long-distance human-powered travelers.

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Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts: book review part 1

Book Review by Sam Demas:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part one of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

With its highly-organized system of 1,000 backcountry huts New Zealand (NZ) — about the same size (area and population) as Oregon — is the hut capital of the world.  By comparison, the USA has about 110 huts operating within 17 different hut-to-hut systems; Switzerland and Norway each have about 500 huts.  Every nation’s approach to outdoor recreation — including how its citizens organize overnight stays in the wild — is based on local causes and conditions such as geography, size of the country, climate, terrain, history, economics, politics, and cultural values.  Shelter from the Storm is a richly illustrated, well-researched history of the causes and conditions that created NZ’s unique hut culture, and a beautiful tribute to the huts themselves.

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Shelter from the Storm: book review part two

Book review continued:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part two of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

For part one of this review click here.  Following are some fascinating themes and stories that are skillfully elaborated in Shelter from the Storm, about New Zealand Backcountry Huts.

This book tells the story of how a geographically remote island nation came to create a robust international outdoor culture, and how a disparate collection of huts built for other purposes – I like the phrase infrastructure lying in wait — came to form the backbone of the world’s largest hut system. Continue reading

“On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor

On Trails: an exploration by Robert Moor, Simon and Schuster, 2016

Book Review by Sam Demas

Robert Moor is intellectually intrepid in his exploration — as a writer and a walker – of the genesis, meaning and wonder of trails.  Trails of all kinds.  He writes in the spirit of intellectual adventure represented by authors like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Robert Macfarlane, Annie Dillard, Jared Diamond, and Bruce Chatwin.  Through fluid writing, artful character sketches, long walks, and deep research, he opens our eyes to the fact that trails are everywhere one goes in the world, and that they all have stories to tell and wisdom to impart.  As Moor says, his book is a trail whose destination is a quest for the wisdom of trails. I’ve read (or listened to) this book several times in the past year and am finally sharing my enthusiasm with the readers of hut2hut.info. Continue reading

AMC Huts & Unification of White Mountain Trails

See Introduction below.  The primary content of this post is this link to a reprint of Chapter 36 “Unification of the White Mountain trails” from the book Forest and Crag (AMC Books, 1989) by  Laura and Guy Waterman.  This chapter is reprinted with kind permission of Laura Waterman and AMC Books.  Forest and Crag is the Waterman’s magesterial history of hiking and trailblazing in the Northeastern US.  Chapter 36 is preceded by a chapter on the Long Trail and followed by a chapter on the Adirondacks region.

 

Introduction to Chapter 36 reprint

by Sam Demas

Huts and trails:  you can’t have huts without trails, hut building usually follows trail building, and the presence of huts inevitably shapes patterns of hiking in a region.  How does this work?  The AMC’s system of eight huts and the network of trails in White Mountains of N.H. were developed concurrently.  Chapter 36 of Forest and Crag (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 1989) offers a fascinating look at how a cohesive regional trail system evolved over a period of about 20 years, 1910 – 1930 along with the AMC huts, the first in the USA.

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Alta Via 1 (Italy) Trip Report

ALTA VIA 1

The route I’m about to describe is not the full Alta Via 1, but an adaptation to fit it in one full week. This route is also known by the name Alte Via Dell Adamello. It is a 8 day hike and 1 resting day, 9 days in total. It is possible to skip the resting day if you are fit.The route starts out easy and gets tougher every passing day. This helps the participants that aren’t that experienced in this terrain to prepare before getting into the heavy stuff. It is possible to do the route the other way around, although it might get a bit boring at the end. If I have to repeat the route I would do it again south to north. I walked this route in 2016 and it might not all be the same in a year’s time. Also a different time of year or different weather might make that you will experience this route completely different.  

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Island Trek in the Azores & Eco-Cottages

ISLAND TREK IN THE AZORES

“To awaken in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world” — Freya Stark

Island Trek in the AzoresI wake up to the sound of the surf — waves crashing on rocks somewhere outside my window.  As I come out of my dreamstate I remember that today is a day for walking.  Not just any walk at that — the Grand Route of Santa Maria Island in the Azores is in my sights for the next five days.  The “Grande Trilho Santa Maria” is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) of walking around the circumference of the island with a hike up over the highest peak on the island, Pico Alto, thrown in for good measure.

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