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She did it again! Anish sets self-supported Appalachian Trail hiking record

HIKING — A 34-year-old Seattle woman on Thursday set a UNSUPPORTED backpacking speed record for hiking the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail through 14 states from Maine to Georgia in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes.

Heather Anderson, trail name Anish, is no fleeting moment in trail-record history.  In 2013, she set the unsupported backpacking speed record for the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes. 

Her record attempt last year on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra-Nevada Range came up short.

However, on Thursday, after averaging 42 miles a day for nearly two months, she said she walked off Springer Mountain in southern Fannin County, Georgia, the way she started the odyssey on Maine's Mount Katahdin — alone.

Anderson is the first person to hold the unsupported record on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail simultaneously.

To achieve the self-supported status, she packed her food and mailed it to food drops along the way, collected what she needed herself, and carried her own supplies, water and shelter on the trek.

Anderson announced her record setting quest on July 30 about two weeks after ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, 41, finished the Appalachian trail in a supported speed-record time of 46 days, 8 hours and 8 minutes. Jurek had a team of handlers shuttling his gear and supplies along the route.

She used a SPOT device to document her journey, but did not release the data until she had completed the trail to retain her privacy.

According to Appalachian Trails, Anderson has broken the AT unsupported record set in 2013 by Matthew Kirk in 58 days, 9 hours, and 38 minutes  (check out his book Fast, Light, and Free on the Appalachian Trail).

The previous women’s unsupported record was held by Liz ‘Snorkel’ Thomas, who hiked the trail in 80 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes.

The women's supported speed record was set in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.

Anderson's life story is compelling. Considered unathletic as a youngster, she wrestled with weight issues until she discovered her love for backpacking. She hiked the AT, the PCT and the Continental Divide Trail all at a normal backpacker's pace to rank among the elite who have bagged the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. But even after taking the leap from enjoyable hiking to the suffering of AT and PCT record-setting odysseys, she's been pestered by self doubt, and competitive doubters.

She politely asked me to be quiet and take down my post when I put up a photo in July of her bedroom stacked with food boxes ready to be mailed and leaked her intentions to attempt an AT record. 

And she had no fanfare or champagne at the end of the trail after her record mark was set.

"I may be sleeping in a bed for the first time in 54 days, but I'm still drinking from my hydration bladder!"

With minimal body fat clinging to her frame, wearing her signature feather-light sun dress and needing a long uninterrupted sleep to begin life off the trail, an exhausted Anderson posted on her Anish Hikes Facebook page the following philosophical wrap-up. It's directed to her fans and the little devils who try to haunt her:

The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask.
Those that have followed me for a while know that I have struggled with self-esteem my entire life. You would think setting the PCT speed record would change that.

Yet it only gave the negative thoughts an even more insidious way to demoralize me, especially after I failed to set the JMT record last year.

"The PCT was a fluke. You were only the benefactor of lucky circumstances. You aren't athletic. You aren't able. You're a charlatan."

On and on the whispers go.

I had to come here, to the AT, where my quest to find myself began 12 years ago and face those voices once and for all, alone.

I was too afraid to ask, but the trail knew the question in my heart:
"Was the PCT a fluke?"
The AT answered with a resounding, "NO!"

I wrestled not against the trail or external forces, but with them. If it were easy the whispers of inadequacy would continue. Instead I was challenged every single minute.

In the dark hours when I was tired, lonely, and hungry, that is when the demons came, "Why didn't you stop with the PCT record? It will be your greatest achievement in life. You won't ever do anything else. Now you're out here and you're in over your head. You will fail. You can't do this. And everyone is going to know that you are nothing."
But, every footstep I took was a choice. A choice to face my own perceived inadequacies. Every footstep was a commitment. A commitment to deny that there was any truth to the words of the internal foes.

As the miles dwindled into the double digits I became aware that I was crushing more than miles. I was crushing a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.

So now, I walk off of Springer Mountain, alone just as I came. My pack, my feet, and my heart are light, unburdened at last.

And, I am aware that the end of every journey is simply the beginning of the next and that, far from being behind me, the greatest achievements of my life lie ahead.

See Anderson "Redefining Happily Ever After" in a TEDx Talk.

New Pacific Northwest Trail Advisory Council appointed by feds

TRAILS — The east-west trail across Washington, Idaho and Western Montana has taken another step higher in stature.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently appointed 23 members to the inaugural Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council under the authority of the National Trails System Act.

The council will advise the Secretary, through the Chief of the Forest Service, on managing the route from the Pacific Ocean to Glacier National Park.

 Designated as one of America’s 11 National Scenic Trails in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Trail is the second such trail – along with the Pacific Crest Trail – to traverse Washington State.

The council is composed of citizens, county commissioners and land managers with diverse backgrounds chosen for their expertise in recreation-related issues, and ability to represent a balance of stakeholder perspectives and geographic areas. The council also includes representatives of the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, which manage sections of the trail.

First proposed in 1970, the 1,200-mile route runs from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava in the Olympic National Park, connecting spectacular natural features as well as communities. 

Establishing the council is a major milestone in the trail’s short history. The Forest Service is cooperating with many other federal, state, and local agencies as well as private landowners to develop a trail-wide comprehensive plan. Over the next three years, the council will provide recommendations on trail uses, signage, establishing a trail corridor, and prioritizing projects.

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council Members

  • State of Montana: Pete Brown, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, MT
  • State of Idaho: Dan Dinning, Boundary County Board of Commissioners, Bonners Ferry, ID
  • State of Washington: Brock Milliern, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA
  • Tribes: Vacant – ongoing recruitment for one or more members
  • National trails organizations: Almer Casile, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • Mike Dawson, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Vashon, WA
  • Teresa Martinez, Partnership for the National Trails System, Pine, CO
  • Regional trails organizations: Jon B. Knechtel, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Sedro-Woolley, WA
  • Outdoor recreation (hiking): Wayne Hare, Grand Junction, CO
  • Jeff Kish, Portland, OR
  • Outdoor recreation (pack & saddle): James R. Michaud, Sagle, ID
  • Environmental organizations: Jessie Grossman, Yaak Valley Forest Council, Troy, MT
  • Archaeology and history: David M. Kennedy, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford U., Stanford, CA
  • Adam M. Sowards, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
  • Wildlife organizations: Brad Smith, Idaho Conservation League, Sandpoint, ID
  • Timber industry: Randall S. Hansen, Hansen Woodland Farm, Kettle Falls, WA
  • Tourism and commercial outfitters: Diane Brockway, Dover City Council, Dover, ID
  • Katie LeBlanc, Cabela’s Outpost, Kalispell, MT
  • Mike Lithgow, Pend Oreille County, Newport, WA
  • Clea Rome, WSU Clallam County Extension, Port Angeles, WA
  • Environmental education: Wendy C. Walker, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
  • Youth engagement and employment: Steve Quick, Oroville School District, Oroville, WA
  • Raynelle Rino-Southon, Urban Sprouts SF, San Francisco, CA
  • Private landowners: Jeff Chapman, Port Townsend, WA
  • Forest Service: Brad Cownover, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR
  • National Park Service: Rosemary Seifried, North Cascades National Park, Marblemount, WA
  • Bureau of Land Management: Diane Priebe, Spokane District, Wenatchee, WA

Video captures 2,600-mile hike of PCT in 4 minutes

TRAILS — Andy Davidhazy hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 and 2014 and snapped a selfie every mile to document the route.

He's compiled the images into a four-minute time-lapse video (below) that flies viewers ground-level from Mexico through Callifornia, Oregon and Washington to the trail's northern terminus near the U.S.-Canada border.

"The end of the trail is just the beginning of the story," says Davidhazy, who's producing a short film, Lost or Found: Life after 2600 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, due for release this spring.

Here are more details about the time-lapse video (above) from Davidhazy:

The Pacific Crest Trail travels 2660 miles through the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington, starting at the Mexico border fence near the small town of Campo, CA, and finishing just across the Canadian border in Manning Park, British Columbia. It took about 5 months to complete and I lost 50 pounds in process. Total elevation change was about 450,000 feet, with the high point being 13,200 feet at Forester Pass in the High Sierras. I documented the physical transformation of the environment and myself by taking a selfie on trail every single mile of the hike.

The process of stopping to take a picture every mile had a big impact on my actual experience of doing the hike. I had to be well aware of where I was at all times, which was quite annoying in that it made it difficult to get in a zone and maintain good momentum. That said, I am happy to have done it, and it provided a good conversation starter with so many hikers that I would meet along the way. I love seeing so many wonderful faces popping up in pictures in unexpected places.

For the purposes of showing the Pacific Crest Trail in it's entirety, this video is actually a combination of two hikes. Mile 0 through 2424 was done in 2013, before an early snow storm dumped more than six feet of snow on the trail north of Snoqualmie Pass, WA making it impassable at the time. So I road walked the rest of the way to Canada along the Iron Horse Trail and Highway 97 north to Osoyoos, British Columbia. I went back in 2014 to hike the missed portion of the PCT from 2424 to the trail's Northern Terminus at mile 2660. The snow storm and road walk will feature in the upcoming short film, Lost or Found: Life after 2600 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Duo completes first winter thru-hike of Pacific Crest Trail

TRAILS — Two California men on Monday, March 2, completed the first winter thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail after 132 days of walking, skiing and snowshoeing along the 2,650-mile route from Canada to their finish at the Mexico border.

Never mind that they took time off the trail at Christmas and were blessed with an extremely low snowpack in the Cascades and Sierras this season: Shawn Forry, 33, of Midpines, Calif., and Justin Lichter, 34, of Truckee, Calif., still had to slog through snow and slush, skirt cornices and avalanche danger and endure bitter cold and frostbite in their carefully chosen ultra-light clothing and gear totaling about 18 pounds apiece.

The trek wasn't a lark. Before setting out on the PCT on Oct. 21, the two men had combined had more than 55,000 miles of trail hiking experience in seven different countries. They knew the PCT would be brutal in winter and set their goal on finishing in April.

Lichter, a ski patroller, had more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world before this trek and Forry, trail name "Pepper," is an instructor with with Outward Bound California who'd logged more than 15,000 miles. The two also had completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.

Roughly 1,300 to 1,500 hikers attempt to thru-hike the PCT each year, and just more than half of them finish even though most of them travel south to north beginning in late April so they can finish in September or October and avoid the additional challenges of winter.

“When he told me it has never been done before I kind of said ‘you know there is probably a reason,”’ Forry's father, Randy Forry, told the Reno-Gazette-Journal.  The risk associated with the winter trek was such that before Lichter and Forry decided to attempt it, many within the hiking community would have considered it foolhardy.  

The Pacific Crest Trail's popularity has boomed since 2012 after the release of Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild and has received another big boost from the recent film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon. In February, the Pacific Crest Trail Association announced a new permit system to limit the number of hikers who can start from the trail’s southern terminus to 50 people a day starting this spring.

But unlike summer hikers, Forry and Lichter had to be prepared to deal with issues on their own.

“Generally you’re around enough people that if something happened to you, someone would come along in 24 hours at the latest,”  Whitney LaRuffa says in a wrap-up report posted today by Outside Magazine online. LaRuffa, an experienced thru-hiker and the President of the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West, had high regard for the two winter trekkers who, during a 1,700-mile stretch from Snoqualmie Pass in Washington to north of Walker Pass in California, didn’t see another soul.

One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates. But there's no softening the nights on the trail.

“What Shawn and Justin have done is really remarkable,” said Jack Haskel, who kept track of the effort in his blog as trail information specialist for the PCTA.

“For them to be able to plan a hike that completely goes against that norm and faces all those challenges, rather than structuring their hike to avoid them, makes what they’ve done unique and exceptionally challenging,” Heather Anderson told Outside. Anderson set the self-supported speed record on the PCT in 2013.

Hikers halfway on winter thru-hike of PCT

HIKING — Shawn Forry if Midpines, Calif., and Justin Lichter of Truckee, Calif., are attempting to be the first to complete a documented thru-hike of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail during winter.

Having started in Canada in late October, they're near Lake Tahoe this week, more than halfway toward their destination at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Pacific Crest Trail Association blogger Jack "Found" Haskel. They hope to finish in April.

"They’ve walked so far that the metal on their snowshoes is wearing thin," Haskel reports. "Soon, they’ll switch to skis."

From frostbite and drenching rain to friendships and stunning and quiet landscapes, their journey is remarkable. The feat requires skill, experience in snow-camping and winter travel plus avalanche awareness, and some luck. Many experts say it's crazy and dangerous.

Lichter, a ski patroller, has more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world and Forry more than 15,000 miles, according to the  Reno Gazette-Journal. The two also completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.

The light snowfall that plagued the region's ski areas in the early season was a boon to the PCT hikers, who've been snowshoeing 20-mile days since Christmas.

One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates.

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.


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.