American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

  • 21 Mar 2017 2:24 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Charles Baker

    This segment of the Gazette allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question or phrase. If you would like to participate, or, if you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please contact Answers must be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch...

    Today's question: "Bears poop in the woods, hikers…?"

    Steve “Twinkle” Shattuck – “Leave no trace.”

    Miguel “VirGo” Aguilar – “Clog the toilets in town.”

    Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz – “Poop in their pants.”

  • 10 Mar 2017 10:05 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Scot “So Far” Forbes

    The idea of backpacking for many conjures one of the quintessential elements of backcountry living: the campfire. Many backpackers will often say that food on the trail tastes better because of the environment, and one of the places where people geek out on the most with their gear is in their portable kitchen with everything but a standup mixer. I get it: Everyone loves a hot meal. I went to college in Ashland, where many of us know that there is a hot food tax- they know that visitors to their city expect the luxury of something prepared in the oven or on a stove to go along with their vacation. It’s nice. It’s cozy. It reminds us of home.

    Hiking stoveless is a departure from this, and it is part of a larger mindset that I have in real life as well as when hiking. For me, I am anything but what one would call a gourmand. I appreciate good food when I come across it, but I don’t by any means expect it. I am perfectly content grazing at home, and consider the distinction between a large snack and a meal to be inconsequential. The focus for most hikers, and indeed most Americans, is a large meal in the evening. The banquet or feast that we call dinner. I have found that at home as well as on trail, I have started to try to minimize that meal and focus more on eating throughout of the day.

    When on a hike, I leave the cooking to the professionals and get my cooked food in town.

    Among the miracles of the post-war, echo to the Industrial Revolution, we made great gains (some would call losses) in the ubiquity and quality of available foodstuffs. When I use the word “quality,” I am referring only to our ability to preserve these foods from spoiling. Over time, much of the processing for foods can have demonstrably detrimental effects on one’s health, but for a long hike, embrace the fats, salts, and, that are available and ready to eat in our nation’s small-town convenience stores. I am known for my famous all Cheez-It dinners. You’re on vacation!

    There is one important qualifier: Fiber. The best way to get some fiber out there is to dehydrate at home. I recommend kiwis, blueberries, red peppers, and red onions. These cover the bases as far as sweet/savory, and between them, can make any “meal” more delicious. Most people dehydrate specifically for their cooked meals, but I think it’s even better for modifying much-needed fruits and vegetables for ready-to-eat convenience.

    I am a person who doesn’t want to have to deal with much out there, and looking for fuel in small towns and having to deal with proper storage and carrying a liquid that I cannot drink are low on my list of reasons to go backpacking. Also, cooking is not part of my experience. Going stoveless helps me achieve my goal of getting to sleep early and simply look forward to another day of hiking.

    All this being said - if anyone else ever wants to cook for me. . .

  • 28 Feb 2017 5:15 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Ryan Linn, of Atlas Guides, who’s branded products include Guthook Hiking Guides, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Ryan a few questions about Atlas Guides so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Ryan, please leave a comment.

    Atlas Guides

    1. Please give a brief description of your company. What products do you sell? How did you decide in which products to specialize? How long have you been doing this?

    -We are Atlas Guides, aka Guthook's Hiking Guides, a very small (3-person) company of thru-hikers, with a combined five thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, two of the Appalachian Trail, one of the Long Trail, three of the John Muir Trail, and many other trails. We started making smartphone-based hiking trail guides to the PCT and AT in 2012 and 2013, and have since expanded our catalog to include 6 U.S. National Scenic Trails, and dozens of other long-distance and regional hiking and cycling trails in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia.

    2.  Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?

    -Our market started solely as thru-hikers, and for the first four years of our business, our apps spread almost entirely by recommendations from one hiker to another. We now try to reach more section hikers and weekenders. Over the past year, we have built up our Facebook presence ( and launched our new website (

    3.  What is your goal for your company? How big do you want to be? Are there new product lines you would like to be in?

    -We are dedicated to staying small as a company. As we expand our guides to new trails and different activities, we are working hard to streamline and automate as many processes as we can. We also prefer to work with trail organizations and guidebook authors to add new trails to our series, rather than trying to map the trails on our own.

    4.  What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product expand the US market, Europe, Asia? How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?

    -We recently added guides to bike touring in Australia, the Te Araroa in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and several trails in Great Britain. We collaborate with locals to create these apps, which helps us reach the audiences they have already created.

    5.  What do you think was the smartest move you have made? Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?

    -The best move we ever made was to start reaching out to various guidebook authors and trail organizations to create partnerships where they can benefit from our app framework, and we can benefit from their local knowledge of the trails. While we haven't made any truly boneheaded mistakes, we often miscalculate the level of interest in a given trail and the amount of time and effort it takes to keep our guides up-to-date. The number of people who hike a trail doesn't always correspond to how many people will buy an app for that trail.

    6.  Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?

    -One of our top priorities is a responsibility to trails and the people that use them. We partner directly with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Arizona Trail Association, Ice Age Trail Alliance, and Great Divide Trail Association to produce the official apps for their trails. We work closely with many other trail organizations to make sure our guides send the messages that are consistent with what those organizations want hikers to see. We also support the Center for Biological Diversity due to theirexcellent Public Lands protection program. Beyond our business relationships, we are members of several trail organizations, and Ryan is a trail adopter for a section of trail in Maine.

    Ryan Linn
    Atlas Guides
    Lead iOS Developer & East-Coast Trails Specialist

  • 23 Feb 2017 3:10 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    2016 Colorado Ruck
    by Jenny Gaeng

    The 2016 Colorado Ruck helped me plan my CDT hike, but more importantly, it gave me the chance to meet other hikers. I had never done a thru-hike before. I had just made the decision. I was nervous.

    I expected that a lot of others would be in the same boat: shy, clutching a shining new Gossamer Gear backpack and their very first pair of Altras. Instead, I encountered mostly veterans: those who has hiked the CDT or another trail in a previous year and returned to the Ruck to share their advice and relive the culmination of their beautiful dream.

    2016 Rockies Ruck

    Anyone who has ever thru-hiked for the first time knows how much you rely on your fellow hikers. They teach you trail slang, give you a trail name, and tell you to cut your toothbrush in half. They tell you the truth about chafing and poop. They show you how to thread your blisters. And when you're worried or scared about something, they assure you that you can do it.

    I found the panel discussions most helpful. They focused on ultralight hiking, safety concerns, food, and more. Hearing different hikers share their opinions, I realized something crucial: there is not one right way to hike the CDT. You have many options and many choices to make. “Should I buy snowshoes and prepare to brave June in the San Juans”? (I did, and it was amazing.) “Is it even worth it to try and pack out healthy food”? (I brought kale a couple of times in New Mexico.)

    Panel discussions

    I also had my first, but not last, pack shakedown at the Ruck. During a shakedown, an experienced hiker combs through all your gear. They shake their heads bemusedly and explain that your stove doesn't need a case, no matter how light the plastic. It also gives you the chance to have a one-on-one gear discussion with an experienced hiker - and ask them any other questions you have about the trail.

    I spent most of Shawn "Pepper" Forry's keynote presentation about his winter PCT thru-hike thinking, “that looks miserable, I would never, ever, do that.” But it was still thrilling to hear the story.

    Pepper talks about his winter thru hike of the PCT.

    And then, of course, there is the gear raffle. If there's one thing to know about hiker gatherings, it's that hikers love a good gear raffle. There were also vendors peddling everything from socks to intriguing, locally-made, hiking skirts.

    It's not an ALDHA-West event without a raffle!

    Hiking a long-distance trail brings you friends that change your life, whether-or-not you ever see them again. Head to your local Ruck - you'll meet the first ones there.


    Editor's Note: We have 3 more Rucks coming up in 2017. Hope to see you there!
    February 25 - Cascade Locks, OR
    March 4 - Santa Cruz, CA
    March 11 - Golden, CO

  • 17 Feb 2017 11:30 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Report from the 2017 ALDHA-West Board Retreat
    By Drop-N-Roll

    Top row: VirGo, Allgood, POD, Drop-N-Roll, Charles Baker
    Bottom row: SoFar, Snorkel, Twinkle, Naomi, Story

    Over the weekend of January 20-22, the board, along with a few key members in appointed positions gathered in the winter wonderland of Trout Lake, WA. The annual retreat has become an important opportunity for us to focus on all things ALDHA-West, face-to-face without distraction.


    While we worked on knocking out some organizational tasks, such as nailing down details for the upcoming Rucks, we also focused a lot of our energy on longer term goals and needs of the organization. We used the “SWOT” technique for analyzing ALDHA-West’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From this activity, we found three areas of focus for the weekend:

    1. Marketing:

    ALDHA-West isn’t exactly a catchy, easy to remember name, and it’s a bit of a challenge to articulate just what we do when meeting new faces. Our approach to increasing engagement of membership will include going back to having printed brochures and merch available for events, particularly PCT Days, and mailing welcome packets to new members.

    Of course, social media is a driving force in today’s world. Unfortunately, our board is all older than the millennial generation, and we struggle to keep up! However, we are very fortunate to have a talented video editor on our board, VirGo, and he’s already made some awesome promo videos for us! We are also focusing on some new avenues of event advertisement, especially partnering with local hiking clubs, trail and conservation organizations to reach a new audiences.

    2. Trail Town Engagement:

    With increasing numbers of thru-hikers inevitably comes increasing conflicts with trail towns and business owners. We feel a critical need that ALDHA-West can fill is supporting and educating hikers and trail communities about appropriate behavior and expectations. Reaching out to trail towns to understand their issues is critical to maintaining good relationships and ensuring continued availability of services. We also came up with the “10 Commandments” for hikers to follow to be good citizens and minimize conflict. Look for more on this in an upcoming Gazette article!

    3. Approachability:

    Unfortunately, ALDHA-West has an image of being elitist and unapproachable to newer hikers, or even experienced hikers who may not fall under a “typical thru hiker”. If you’ve been to our events, we hope you feel otherwise! Going forward, we will be sure to explain and encourage the “Hike Your Own Hike” ethic when we speak at events. We also will have designated “Trail Guides” (welcome wagon) at events to orient new attendees and help them feel welcome.

    We also enjoyed getting to know each other better and a little time playing in the snow!

  • 09 Feb 2017 10:12 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Paul Magnanti

    Many experienced three-season backpackers tend to hibernate in the winter. They’ll buy new gear, tweak their Excel spreadsheet, discuss which backpacking stove or wind shirt is the best, and upload to Instagram all the photos from earlier outings. But there is something better than buying gear and talking about it.

    The something better? Getting out into the backcountry and embracing the fourth season. Go winter backpacking. Hike those paths. Snowshoe among the trees, and glide through a blanket of snow while on skis. Winter is not a time to stay inside and talk about things you have done. Winter is a time to have new backcountry experiences. Going out into the backcountry, seeing the mountains covered in snow and feeling the cold, bracing air is sublime. Get out there. And enjoy.

    Why Winter Backpack? 

    Besides the beauty that is found in winter, there are many reasons to backpack in the fourth season.

    Fewer people.
    No insects.
    Food does not go bad.
    The everyday trail you’ve hiked many times becomes magical and new.
    It will keep you in shape for three-season backpacking.
    Because life is too short to give up a quarter or more of the calendar year

    Gear for winter backpacking

    It is a bit of a misnomer that specialized gear and clothing are needed for winter backpacking, at least for initial forays. Stay below tree-line in lower elevation areas with a lesser amount of snow for your first outings.

    Some of your three-season gear that can do double duty in winter:

    Those old leather boots you may only use for trail work now? Treat with SnoSeal or similar, wear with some wool socks, bread bags, and liner socks, and you have some surprisingly effective winter footwear for an overnight trip.

    Couple a twenty-degree quilt with your forty-degree summer quilt and combine a NeoAir or similar with a closed cell foam such as a RidgeRest and you have a sleeping system that can go down to zero degrees or so Fahrenheit.

    A shelter with steeper walls can shed light snow. Save the four season shelters for higher elevation jaunts or more inclement weather when you gain some experience.

    A simple balaclava and a fleece beanie covers a wide range of cold weather conditions

    Thermals, wind pants, and a wind shirt do very well in cold weather when moving. A rain jacket is fine for when a hardshell is needed.

    An alcohol stove works well enough for a quick overnighter when there is no snowmelt needed. Keep the fuel warm in your sleeping bag. Mushers use alcohol stoves on the Iditarod after all.

    Don’t have a true winter down coat (five ounces or more of down fill)? Your three-season puffy with a 200 and 100 weight fleece will be a little heavier and bulky, but you will be able to get out there and stay warm!

    As you start to enjoy more winter backpacking, you can purchase more winter specific gear such as a four-season tent, a winter weight down parka, skis or snowshoes, a white gas stove, etc.

    Want to learn more? I have a more thorough primer on winter backpacking at my website.

    The main point is to get out there first and enjoy, however. Much how you probably started backpacking in the first place!

  • 31 Jan 2017 10:10 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    How to Meet Your Next (Hiking) Partner/ A Love Note to My Hiking Partner

    by Liz “Snorkel” Thomas

    Last winter, I had a dream of hiking the Great Divide Trail through Canada but was not interested in going alone. On a trail riddled with grizzlies, glacial fords, and extensive bushwhacking, I wanted a partner to laugh through the good times and cry through the bad. The problem was, who could I sign up to seriously consider doing a trip like this? How would I find someone with the skills and experience necessary for such a hard hike?

    The short answer was I found the perfect hiking partner at the ALDHA-West Ruck. At ALDHA-West events, there are plenty of folks from all over the region and country who “get” long distance hiking. They’re dedicated to long trails. Unlike your flaky non-hiker friends, ALDHA-West event attendees make hiking happen—not just talk about it. ALDHA-West event attendees know what it means to save money and make time for walking.

    I’d met Naomi a few times before but didn’t really know her that well before the 2016’s ALDHA-West Rucking season. After bringing the idea up to her at the Cascade Ruck (admittedly, over many beers), I brought it up again a month later when I saw her at the Colorado Ruck (admittedly, over many glasses of wine).

    The GDT had been on Naomi’s list, but like me, she didn’t want to go alone. Despite living in the hiker-filled Pacific Northwest, hunting down someone willing to commit to the GDT isn’t easy. Instead, she found a partner in someone who lives 1,000 miles away: me. The Rucks were a great opportunity to talk trail, logistics, and feel each other out as hiking partners before committing. I like to compare it to taking your pooch to a dog park. We sniffed each other out and got a feel for the other’s hiking style. I must have passed the sniff test because several weeks later, she sent me an email saying she was in.

    Naomi and I held several planning meetings on the phone, got together maps, figured out resupply, gear lists, and booked our transportation. We agreed to meet in Kalispell, Montana and take care of our last-minute logistics the day before. She picked me up with my 40-pound box of hiker food. The next day, we went to an Office Max to buy boxes to ship our resupplies. And then, I knew I had made the best choice ever.

    As our Altras hit the linoleum of that Big Box store, it was as if we were a marching band. The click of our footsteps on the ground was timed perfectly. Our pace was identical.

    Despite the weather, grizzly, and bushwhacking the trail threw at us, the trip was a complete success. I learned we share a foodie’s love for fine dining while hiking and a fondness for nice soap. I always had faith in her ability, strength, and skill.

    If you’re looking for the perfect hiking partner, the ALDHA-W Rucks are a great way to gather with your local hiking community, meet people from afar, and talk trail. Who knows? Maybe you’ll strike gold and find someone worth spending a hundred miles with.

  • 24 Jan 2017 3:36 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Hiker Talk

    This segment of the Gazette, allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question which they are presented. Answers should be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch... If you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please send it to:


    Today's question:  "What aspect of being outdoors or hiking are you still afraid of?"  


    Jan "Pooh-Bear" Barlow:  Leaving the trail and going back to reality.

    Todd Blackley:  Weather

    Linda "Blue Butterfly" Bakkar:  Hitching to town.  

    Felicia "Princess of Darkness" Hermosillo: Grizzlies 


  • 19 Jan 2017 10:03 AM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    by Charles Baker

    The Ozarks are a beautiful and rugged region, known for mountain vistas, folk culture and running streams. The vast and rugged slopes and tributaries of the Ozarks are home to many legends. The forests are mainly hardwood with stands of pine – Spring hiking delivers serviceberry, redbuds and dogwoods painting the landscape in pinks and whites. Fall hiking offers up color and much beauty. If you enjoy photographing wildflowers and wildlife, the variety of both will provide hours of entertainment. Of the animals which call this area home, there are about 320 species of birds, 75 species of mammals and 125 species of amphibians and reptiles. Some may think they need to go to the ends of the earth to see wondrous, exotic landscapes, but they are here in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. It contains the Earth’s largest collection of giant springs, each with a daily flow of more than 65 million gallons of water. If you camp along the Current River, you may catch sight of wild horses descending from the forest for a morning drink. After dark, expect a coyote chorus and the “who cooks for you” hoot of barred owls.

    Glade Coneflower

    Rather than having section numbers or point-to-point names, the Ozark Trail utilizes section names. Multiple land managers originally formed the Ozark Trail Council, each having responsibility for a section of the trail. In some cases, they used existing trails, so the existing trail names became the section names. The popular Karkaghne section, with a difficulty rating of “moderate,” is a 29-mile-long, mainly side-slope trail, running just below the ridge-tops and named from a mythical creature in forest folklore – “The Ozark Howler.”

    “Purported to live,” was enough motivation for my clan to hit the trails and search for this beast. Commonly described as being bear sized with a thick body, stocky legs, black shaggy hair, glowing eyes, and sometimes having horns. The description of its cry is said to be a combination of a wolf’s howl and an elk’s bugle. For parts of the OT, you are trekking through the Mark Twain National Forest, not far from our home. So off we went in search of Ozark Howler sign.

    Day hiking with a purpose 

     Big dog recommended for “Howler” hunting

    The OT has over 390 miles of trails plus numerous spurs. Link up with its cousin, the Ozark Highland Trail, in Arkansas, and you have a 700-mile trek. The OT has thirteen, mostly joined sections. The Ozark Trail Council makes the determination of the trail route. The Council consists of seven agencies – the National Forest Service, the Missouri State Parks Department, the Missouri Conservation Commission, plus several environmental groups and one (large) private land owner. In 2008, the OT received the designation of a National Recreation Trail.

    The creation of the Ozark Trail Association happened in 2002. As the trail advocate, the OTA has service projects and events almost year-round. They are planning an event, May 6, 2017, “The Ozark Trail Challenge Hike,” which sounds like a blast. For more information, please visit their website: The site is very active and offers trail and planning support.

    A "Howler” den – we think…

    Space alien bones! A “Howler” den for sure.

    Whether looking for a day, section, through hike, or maybe a 100-Mile point to point endurance run, the OT provides plenty of diversity and challenge. The trail crosses parts of these public lands:

    * Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River

    * Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park

    * Mark Twain National Forest

    * Onondaga Cave State Park

    * Ozark National Scenic Riverways

    * Roger Prior Pioneer Backcountry

    * Sam A. Baker State Park

    * Taum Sauk Mountain State Park

    Just look for the green and white trail signs.

    And always remember, the OT may have its own brand of “trail magic.”

  • 10 Jan 2017 11:27 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Renee “She-ra” Patrick, co-owner of hikertrash, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Renee a few questions about hikertrash so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Renee, please leave a comment.

     1.  Please give a brief description of your company.  What products do you sell?  How did you decide which products to specialize in?  How long have you been doing this?

    "Hikertrash began in the trashiest way possible, no really! Back in 2009, I decided to teach myself how to screenprint. So I went to Goodwill and found an old picture frame and sheer curtain that I could make into a cheap, homemade screen. I got some emulsion from Michaels, and using my boyfriend's bathroom, coated and cured my first screen, which I then set in the sun to burn the image of a tall bike I had created in the photo-sensitive screen. It didn't work.

    From there I bought professional screens and had more success with the next set of bike designs, and the first version of hikertrash.

    "I would find clothing at thrift stores to print on and primarily made things for my thru-hiker friends. When friend and fellow thru-hiker, Brian Frankle, suggested we see if other people wanted to buy hikertrash items, we started the company in early 2014.

    "Fast forward almost three years, and we sell a variety of shirts, hats and other items. I also like to take my screenprinting press (handmade from 95% recycled materials) to events like PCT Days to do some live screen printing for those hikers passing through.

    "I don't print everything myself anymore, but have a couple of local print shops help us create our items."

    2.  If you were to play "futurist" in your industry, what would

    you predict?  Materials, design, market, etc.

    "The future of thru-hiking related companies will probably only grow. With the recent increase in popularity in long distance hiking, thanks to those movies (you know which ones), more people are hitting the trails, and other larger gear companies are starting to react to the trend. Once just a fringe sport, thru-hiking is now getting recognized as a way to inspire people, and sell products. While I think our hikertrash community will grow, it's now more crucial than ever to support the trails that made us, so it's important to us to give back. Five percent of our online sales go back to the customer's choice of triple crown long distance trail organizations (and the Oregon Desert Trail cause that's my job!)."

    3. Favorite beer?

    "Trail magic beer."

    4. Favorite hike?

    "The one I haven't done yet."

    Renee “She-ra” Patrick


    Thank-you Renee “She-ra” Patrick, from hikertrash for answering our questions and thanks also go out to members Lawton “Disco” Grinter and Mike Unger for the great interview questions.

    If you would like to join in the fun and submit questions we can ask our great sponsors, please send them to -

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