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Long-distance hikers gathering at Stampede Pass

HIKING — Backpackers who've walked the walk are giving programs of enduring value this weekend during the 21st annual gathering of the American Long-Distance Hiking Association-West at Stampede Pass, Wash.

Openings are still available for the Saturday programs by hikers who've accomplished incredible “feets”  and possibly for the full Friday-Sunday event to be held at The Mountaineers Meany Lodge

The site is a unique ski lodge on a private ski mountain. Camping is available as well as a main lodge that sleeps 90 people, a great room that can fit 130 people for the presentations, forums, meals and awards. 

The is the group that presents the Triple Crown Awards to hikers who have completed the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails.


Runner sets supported speed record on Pacific Crest Trail

TRAILS — A 23-year-old Seattle man has set speed record for running the length of the Pacific Crest Trail supported by a team of helpers.

Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday, 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes after leaving the U.S-Mexico border on the 2,660-mile trail through California, Oregon and Washington, according to his fund-raising website and a report on the Northwest News Network.

  • The video above features McConaughy halfway through his trek
  • Also read this story by the Bend Bulletin, by reporters who caught the former collegiate runner as he was averaging 55 miles a day through Oregon.
  • In the end, he averaged just over 50 miles a day through desert and then the highest and some of the most rugged mountains in the West.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has not yet acknowledged the record, but there is no official time keeper for long distance trail records.

McConaughy followed protocol with other record-setting attempts by using a satellite tracking beacon to verify his route and time. He says he ran the downhill and flat sections and generally hiked the uphills.

The Seattle native completed the trail six days faster than the accepted record time for a supported end-to-end Pacific Crest Trail hike set last summer by a Santa Monica College track coach and exercise physiology instructor:

  • Last summer, Josh Garrett, who emphasized his vegan diet – set the supported PCT speed record of 59 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes..

From a backpacker's standpoint, McConaughy's supported running record isn't even in the same league as the separate record for trekking border to border alone, without an accompanying support team.

McConaughy had three buddies who leap-frogged his itinerary and met up with him almost daily with supplies and camping gear. That meant he could run most days with just an ultralight day pack.

McConaughy used his speed trek to raise money for cancer support services in honor of his late cousin, Colin McConaughy. The fundraising total was near $27,000 earlier today.

McConaughy, who went by the trail name String Bean, says he lost 18 pounds off an already lean frame.

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

50 years after Wilderness Act: still much to discover

PUBLIC LANDS — Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act of 1964 is full of eye-opening insights.


The Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico border through California, Oregon and Washington to the Canada border passes through how many official wilderness areas?

  • Three
  • Nine
  • 12
  • 48

The answer is at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, most people associate wilderness areas with national forests.  But the Forest Service isn't the only federal agency that manages officials wilderness, which can be in national parks as well as lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the  U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM manages 245 million acres in the U.S., primarily in the West (in addition to administering 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate). Of that land, 27 million acres are managed as national conservation lands including National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic RiversNational Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert. 

BLM manages 8.7 million acres in 221 units as wilderness, with no roads and no motorized vehicles or mechanized equipment allowed.

Check out the video below featuring BLM staffers explaining the basic question:  “What's Wilderness?” See more videos of young BLM staffers exploring Utah wilderness here

Answer: 48.

Slow & Steady = Trail Record

Heather “Anish” Anderson smells the flowers on a North Idaho hike last week, a pleasure she forfeited during her speed-record trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. (SR photo: Rich Landers)

“I ’m not a particularly fast walker,”  Heather Anderson said – much to the relief of  her interviewer – as she hiked a North Idaho trail last week. “The difference between me and the thru-hikers who have a fast pace is that I walked 3 mph all day and into every night, averaging 5 hours of sleep, without a rest day.” For two months! That’s how Anderson, 32, beat the unsupported backpacking speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail by four days. Starting June 8, 2013, at the U.S-Mexico border, the Bellingham hiker averaged nearly 44 miles a day gobbling up nearly 2,700 miles along the PCT to arrive at the Canada border in 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes. “Once I realized this was not a backpacking trip – that it was all about pain and suffering – it was easier to cope,” she said/Rich Landers, SR. More here.

Question: How far is the longest hike that you've ever taken?

Pacific Crest Trail speed-record holder to address Scotchman Peaks group

WILDERNESS — Heather “Anish” Anderson, who set the speed record for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last summer, will keynote the annual meeting of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness on Wednesday, May 14, in Sandpoint.

The 2014 State of the Scotchmans event will start at 6 p.m. at Forrest M. Bird Charter Middle School auditorium, 621 Madison St. 

Anderson will speak at 7 p.m.

The program deals with her mind- and body-challenging trek — 2,655-miles from Mexico to Canada in 60 days — to set a PCT record for self-supported through-hiking.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness advocates will present a progress report of their 10-year-effort in getting an 88,000-acre roadless area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille considered for wilderness designation. 

The group also will announce summer events including work parties and guided treks open to the public in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and proposed Scotchman Peak Wilderness area.


Forrest M. Bird Charter Middle School auditorium, 621 Madison in Sandpoint.

  • From U.S. Highway 2, turn south on Division  (marked by the big Mountain West Bank at the west edge of Sandpoint).
  • Go past the first stop sign and look for a sign on the right pointing the way to the Charter School.
  • A sign marking the entrance to the auditorium building. 

PCT hikers wasn’t lost, ‘just stuck’ in storm

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.

IKING — A 23-year-old woman reported missing for six days while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington was found safe this weekend.

Alejandra Wilson was located Saturday afternoon, authorities told the Associated Press. She was cold and tired but otherwise OK.


A search team spotted the Oregon woman walking in the Crest trail area as she started hiking out. She was reported missing after becoming overdue for a trail check Sept. 30.

Sgt. George Town of the Yakima County sheriff’s office said Wilson reported that she got stranded by a snow storm about a week ago and waited until conditions improved before walking out.

“She said the snow was almost waist deep and she was pretty well stuck. She wasn’t lost, she was just stuck,” Town said in an interview Sunday.

Wilson told authorities she hunkered down and set up camp under some trees to wait out the storm, he said. From there, she said she spotted the Coast Guard helicopters that went up in search of her. The helicopters flew overhead but she wasn’t able to flag them down in time, Town said.

“The Coast Guard guys were right on track. They did a good job. She wasn’t able to make herself visible,” but their presence “gave her real confidence,” Town said.

He noted that she still had food when she was located Saturday. She was reunited with her dad, grandparents and friends Saturday.

Some of the volunteer searchers included hiking companions who had been on the trail with her earlier in her trip, Town said Sunday. 

The Oregonian caught up to Wilson for a first-hand account and the “chilling” details. Click “continue reading” to read the account from the AP Wire.

PCT speed-hiking record setter was overweight girl

UPDATE at Aug. 8, 10:30 a.m. — Unconfirmed reports have Heather “Anish” Anderson finishing the Pacific Crest Trail at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2013. That would break the speed record of 64 days by 3-4 days. Reports from Josh Garrett’s friends indicate he will finish this afternoon in a time that would break Anderson’s new record by about two days.

HIKING — Heather “Anish” Anderson is likely to inspire people, including bookworms, daydreamers and overweight people.  Today she is likely to set the world record for through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail unsupported.

SIDE ISSUE: The debate is likely to continue on whether a record-breaking trek can be called “unsupported” when a hiker posts progress updates on social media and draws a following that shows up at trailheads to offer food and encouragement.   Here's an observation by Karen Dawn, who resents my description of Josh Garrett's record PCT trek as “supported.”

Jennifer Phar Davis does not have the “supported” record for the Appalachian Trail.

When Heather/Anish reached Rainy Pass, 60 miles from the finish, she was greeted by throngs, who knew from her facebook updates that she was coming, and was photographed eating pizza. When Josh got to Rainy Pass, after hiking

120 miles utterly alone, his single support person Tish, who had not had reception, had gone into town to check messages. So Josh stood there all alone, no people, no food. Compare that to Anish's “unsupported” experience….

 I am sorry you chose to propogate the unsupported myth — a hike is not unsupported when you are blogging your location and people are showering you with food. She didn't even have to go pick up her last resupply package. 


Meanwhile, here's Heather Anderson's background in an inspiring vignette from a Facebook entry she posted on Aug. 2 before virtually disappearing in her final push through the north Cascades to end her 2,655-mile odyssey at the U.S.-Canada border: 

I imagine people may think I am a natural athlete, the girl who played sports all through school. The exact opposite is true. I was an overweight child, a bookworm who sat with her nose in an adventure book and daydreamed. I never exercised and couldn't make it around the track without walking. When I graduated high school I weighed 200lbs.

I daydreamed of adventure, but the thing I daydreamed the most was that I would someday set a record. Not just any record though, an athletic record. I wanted so desperately to not be what I was. I hated my body and myself. I consoled myself by eating a bowls full of oreos and milk as though they were cereal. But somewhere deep inside I knew I was capable of doing something more.

When I was 20 I met something that would forever change my life. A Trail. Though my first few hikes were miserable as I forced my body to work, I was enthralled. Trails took me on the adventures I craved and to beautiful, wondrous, wild places. I lost my heart and soul…and eventually 70 lbs…to the trails.

Now, I am a few short days away from fulfilling my oldest daydream: setting an athletic record. I cry when I think about all the things I have overcome to get here, both on this hike and off. It makes me ever so grateful to that chubby girl who dared to dream big, audacious dreams. I am even more thankful that she grew up to be a woman courageous enough to make those dreams reality.

Local woman hiking PCT; slower pace but worthy cause

HIKING — Regarding my story today about record-setting hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, I've received several notes regarding the other hikers on the trail.  For example:

Laura Talaga, and assistant veterinarian from Chewelah, started in at
Campo on April 23rd.  She's doing it for the adventure and the beauty,
not records, though she's also raising money for the Colville Valley
Animal Sanctuary, which she works with.  Her support is resupply boxes
mailed to strategic locations along the trail.  She's north of Bend at
last report on her blog http://www.traildog4cvas.blogspot.com/.

Not all hikers do it for publicity.

Happy Trails.

Eric Johnson, Spokane

La Sportiva Wildcats a hit with Pacific Crest Trail through hikers

BACKPACKING — Ultra light, ultra functional and ultra durable — those are the keys to gear that causes a buzz among through hikers on long-distance trails.

One group of hikers most of the way through their month's long,  2,650-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, recently were comparing notes on their shoes at Washington's Chinook Pass. The durability winner in this group was the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoe, a Backpacker  Editor’s Choice item in the magazine’s 2010 gear review.

One hiker had 1,000 miles on his pair and they were still going strong.

While trail running shoes may be perfect for PCT through hikers, who are focused on speed and staying on the trail, they may not be the best for everyday hikers who may not be so trail hardened or who do more off-trail exploration.

Pacific Crest Trail to be closed briefly north of I-90

HIKING — From Sept. 19-22, hikers on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail No. 2000 just north of I-90 can expect delays of one or two hours while crews work to remove a large log jam and reconstruct the trail. 

The project area is 3½ miles north of Snoqualmie Pass.

The trail crew will post details at the trailhead be on the trail to prevent hikers from entering the project area while work is in progress, Forest Service officials say.

Info: Cle Elum Ranger Station, (509) 852 1100.

Pacific Crest Trail stretch to be closed next week

BACKPACKING — The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail No. 2000 will be closed to all users at the I-90 North Trailhead from Monday July 25 through Thursday July 28 to allow trail crew members to remove a large “log jam” from the trail.

The area of trail blocked by the downed trees is ¼ mile long and is extremely difficult for hikers to pass through, according to Cle Elum Ranger District officials.

“It is a very complex pile of blowdown and will require a variety of removal methods” said Deb Davis, veteran trail crew member.

The trailhead will be posted with closure information and trail crew members will be on the trail to prevent hikers from entering the project area while work is in progress.

Info: Cle Elum Ranger Station, (509) 852-1100.