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Will Reese Witherspoon spur a backpacking boom?

HIKING — Industry insiders are wondering whether the soon-to-be-released movie “Wild” featuring Reese Witherspoon will provide the boost for backpacking that A River Runs Through It, featuring Brad Pitt, bestowed on fly fishing.

The buzz is already buzzing.

“The movie follows the book by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who traversed more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself.

Media outlets already are hyping backpacking destinations as they spin-off news about the book and movie.

Pacific Northwest writer Craig Romano, my co-author for the guidebook Day Hiking Eastern Washington, is quoted in a Fox News piece on hiking along with a list of “best hikes”  most of which I agree with, except I hate “best hikes” lists.

Here are Romano's recommendations for top North American hikes to add to your bucket list.

1. The John Muir Trail - Pacific Crest Loop
This 211 mile long section of Pacific Crest Trail features stunning cliffs, lakes, granite peaks and canyons. The trails pass through some of America's most stunning backdrops, including Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Hikers can take the trail going North or South but travel during the winter months is not advised.

2. Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park
Described as one of the most beautiful and “most dangerous” hikes in the country by the National Park Service, this nine-mile loop contains many rocky paths and a significant change in elevation. For this reason, the park discourages young children and shorter adults from attempting the seven to eight hour trek. Despite the difficult terrain, this trail can be very crowded on weekends so if you have some free time during the week, head over the Shenandoah and be the king or queen or your own mountain for the day.

3. Lincoln Woods Trail - New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest is home to over 1,200 miles of non-motorized trails for all levels of hikers. But for novice hikers, Lincoln Woods Trail affords great views on a popular route with relatively stable terrain. Summer hikers can take bait and tackle gar along to fish in the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. In the Fall, enjoy spectacular Northeastern leaf foliage colors, a favorite time of year for Romano.

4.Devils Garden Primitive Loop - Arches National Park

This difficult trek traverses over seven miles of rocky terrain but hikers are sure to witness some of the most breathtaking views Arches has to offer. The National Park Service estimates this hike will take between three to five hours to bring plenty of water. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy.

5. Florida National Scenic Trail
While hiking usually brings to mind mountainous terrain, Romano says there are great hikes to be find anywhere nature exists. “The Florida Trail is almost 1,400 miles and it has great sections for long distance hikers.” If you're just starting, it might be better to stay out of the Everglades unless you're with an experienced hiker. Whether you're looking for wildlife, interesting marine species or a better understanding of the Florida ecosystem, the Florida Trail has something for everyone.

6. Forest Park - Portland
“People living in urban area have great hiking networks right in their backyards. Especially Portland,” says Romano. He recommends Forest Park with its more than 80 miles of scenic Northwest wildlife. For hikers young and old, Forest Park Conservancy even has its own app with maps of hiking trails, weather updates and other details.

7. Mount Rainier National Park - Washington

“I've hiked all over the U.S. but some of my all time favorite trails are in Washington— I just love the diversity of mountains, wildlife, forested scenery and even wildflowers,” says Romano. Among his favorites in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. All National Parks are popular tourist destinations. Rainier is the smallest of three making it a great destination for new hikers; Olympic is the largest and features more diverse terrain.

8. Porcupine Mountain State Park - Michigan

While most hikers tend to gravitate to the East or West Coasts, great trails can be found everywhere. On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, take a walk along Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain State Park. This scenic trail has high peaks, sparkling rivers, waterfalls and more. Campers will also find a fully loaded RV amenities area for over night adventures.

9. Appalachian Trail - Fitzgerald Falls near Greenwood Lake, NY

This scenic section of the Appalachian Trail is a perfect spot for city-dwellers. Just an hour and a half from New York City, Greenwood Lake is known for its pristine waters and summer aquatic activities. This 4.6 mile loop involves moderate climbing ability to reach the summit of Mombasha High Point. History buffs will enjoy exploring an abandoned settlement along the trail and on a clear day, views of New York City can be seen on the Southern horizon.

Read more of the buzz about the movie Wild:
 
—“Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who takes on an arduous solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail
—Reese Witherspoon Sounds Like A Feminist In 'Wild' Because She Is One

—'Wild' writer says actress Reese Witherspoon 'honored' her story

—Behind the scenes of Wild

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.

QUIZ:

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.

PCT trail record setter checks out Sandpoint

HIKING — The woman who set the 60-day, self-supported, speed-hiking record for the 2700-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 was in Sandpoint Wednesday to give a presentation for the annual meeting of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

The crowd that came for the show was not disappointed — especially with her animated description of an 11 p.m. on-the-trail. face-to-face encounter with a cougar. (Anish dominated!)

But Heather “Anish” Anderson needed to stretch her legs, before the program.  After an early morning radio interview, she headed out on the Gold Hill Trail with her boyfriend, Kevin Douglas, and Phil Hough of the FSPW.

“I don't walk fast,” she said. “I'm a 3 mph hiker. What set me apart on the PCT was that I could do it all day, day after day, for 60 days without a rest day averaging only 5 hours of sleep a night.”

Girl, 13, youngest to complete triple crown of long-distance hiking

HIKING – Reed “Sunshine” Gjonnes, 13, hiking with her father, Eric “Balls” Gjonnes, has become the youngest person to complete the triple crown of long-distance hiking.

The pair from Salem, Ore., through-hiked the 2,652 mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail in 2012, and this month they finished the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail.

Sunshine turned 13 years old one month into this year’s trek.

They finished the CDT on Sept. 6 with what Sunshine blogged was “an easy” 27 miles” in Glacier National Park to the U.S.-Canada border at Waterton Lakes National Park.

She said their pace picked up a bit with the sight of a grizzly bear, and she mentioned that:

“Our tent smelled so bad last night from three days of wet socks (mostly Dad's). I could hardly breathe it was so bad.