Tim's Backpacking Page
Of all my favorite outdoor fun sports, it seems that hiking and backpacking must be my all time favorite. I've backpacked in about 20 states, a half dozen countries, and an incredible number of trails.
I've climbed up and down the 12 highest peaks in Maine, the 5 highest in Vermont, and 47 of the 48 highest in New Hampshire. (I'm saving # 48, Owl's Head, for my 48th birthday!) Someday I'll make it into the 4000 footers club.
I've hiked or backpacked in probably three dozen National Parks and National Forests. I'll provide links to some
I backpacked over 200 miles of Vermont's Long Trail in September a few years ago. The autumn foliage was spectacular. I was only 4 or 5 days away from the end in Canada when I realized that my favorite place in New England, Baxter State Park in Maine, would be closing on its traditional final day on October 15. I bushwhacked down a side trail, out to a road, and bought a hot chocolate (it was snowing at the time!), a Milky Way, and a Long Trail Ale. Then I hitch-hiked back to my car (seven different rides, about 4 hours) and headed immediately to Baxter State Park in northern Maine. I stopped at the office and got permits for ten nights, and proceeded to have two excellent weeks in the front- and backcountry. Mile high Katahdin, (also known as Baxter Peak) is the northern terminus of the 2000 mile Appalachian Trail. I climbed to the summit three times that week, from three different trails, but one was especially memorable. I made one climb up the Abol? Trail with a group of AT thru hikers, and shared their tears as they approached the end of a six month journey! We all shared champagne, smoked oysters and frozen beers on the summit!
My favorite hiking playground is just a few hours north in the magnificent
White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire. I've spent so many
nights in the backcountry up there that I would never be able to count
them all. Most of my early winter backpacks were in the Sandwich
Range with Dann. We made many mistakes in those early days, and several
times we almost paid the ultimate price. We reached the later stages of
hypothermia several times, and two occasions if we hadn't finally gotten
large campfires going, we would have surely been goners. I remember both
of those nights very well; both nights I was so cold and so sick that I
just wanted to crawl my frozen body into my (summer) sleeping bag and die!
Dann somehow forced hot food into me, and kept me alive. That first
winter, we backpacked heavily, drank heavily, and slowly learned the lessons
that have since helped keep us alive. Now we have all the right equipment,
regularly bivouac on high summits in winter, never build fires, and have
even more fun than before. Judgment is the limiting factor now; knowing
when to say when goes a long way toward spelling the difference between
danger and comfort (and stupidity too)!
The Adirondacks of New York are a favorite winter destination. The NY DEC maintains an excellent system of Adirondacks lean-tos throughout the backcountry (and frontcountry also). The beautiful Heart Lake is the starting point for most adventures. The Adirondak Mountain Club operates a small wilderness campground and Hiker info center there. Dann will recall several adventures there. One four day Easter Weekend we made the four-hour drive, and arrived about midnight. After packing, me made the treacherous hike towards the Marcy Dam lean-tos, commenting several times that we should stop and put on crampons to make the icy trail somewhat safer. Sure enough, about a hundred meters from the lake, I lost my footing and took a whipper down a short but steep hill (an ice-covered stairway actually). I wracked my ankle, and later that evening found out that it was severely sprained. It swelled up like a football! I stayed in the lean-to for the next 4 days, with my foot uncovered and suspended, while Dann did day excursions up Phelps and the other High Peaks. I finally tried to walk out on Sunday, but later that evening back at home, decided to pay the emergency room a visit.
Luckily in all our hikes we have never had serious injury, and nothing at all far out in the backcountry. Just in case, I always carry a bivouac sack now whenever I hike, even on short day hikes. A broken leg, or severely blown knee only a mile from the trailhead can spell a nasty night on the mountain if you are caught unprepared. A good flashlight also is always now on every hike; Ricky can testify to the scary winter night that found us wondering around lost on Mount Washington, trying to share a flashlight and find the trail at the same time. We almost both squeezed into his bivy sack that night, but the afternoons diet of flactulance-producing snacks kept us searching until we finally found our way down to Pinkham well after midnight!
The big killer up on the summits is sometimes nearly impossible to prevent; lightning! We are always pretty careful not to get caught above treeline when storms are approaching or imminent, but sometimes "stuff happens". One time on Pamola our hair was standing up! An overnight bivouac on Mount Haystack in the Adirondacks almost got me good. Right after the second round of bolts all around me at 4 a.m., I grabbed everything and went running down toward treeline in the rain and hail. Summer bivouacs are much more limited now (and highly illegal too,,,, don't get caught!).
No trace camping is the only way to go.
The Randolph Mountain Club is absolutely the best place to spend $20 in the White Mountains. Their backcountry high cabins are run the way that AMC and others should imitate.
The Alpine Club of Canada has lots of cool backcountry facilities....
The Grand Teton National Park; my favorite western Park!
The Wilderness Coast on Olympic National Park is one of my favorite trails. It runs about 20 miles along a totally deserted part of the outer ip of the Olympic Peninsula. You can basically camp wherever you like along the beach, and there is unlimited dry driftwood available for nightly bonfires. Some of my best bonfires have happened there.
The West Coast Trail is an awesome trek through the rainforest of the the coastal Vancouver Island. The 100 mile trail takes about 5 nights if done end-to-end. I started with a german woman named Anna and some Canadian folks, but we all sort of did our own thing. The week we had was utterly surrealistic, and can never be accurately described. Half or the trail was along the rocky coast, and half of the head??? were tidebound and impassible except during certain hours of low tide. Our campsites were the most incredibly beautiful spots to be found on earth!
The Grand Canyon is a backpackers paradise during parts of the year (non-summer)! I've done multi-day backpacks down to the river a couple of times, and both were excellent.
As far as National Parks go, New England has one of the best!
In fact, my favorite place in the northeast is Acadia National Park.
The place is packed during the busy summer months, and its difficult to
get a campsite at one of the two campsites. Blackwoods is always
full, and the prettier and more remote Seawall has a waiting line most
mornings. No backcountry camping is allowed anywhere in the park,
and for good reason. The place is very overrun with "tourons', and
if those folks were let out overnight in the backcountry, the place would
be mobbed. Luckily the trendy and popular town of Bar Harbor has
much to attract the crowds during the evening hours and during bad weather
days. I know of and have used about a dozen great bivy spots in the
park, but almost never recommend them. If you get caught here, you
pay heavily. The obvious constraints are the same for all bivys,
and are tough for most folks; set up after dark, pack up before sunrise,
no tent, obviously no fire, leave no trace, keep your stove low and
hidden, be very quiet, leave your wheels in town, and tell no one.
If you can do all these successfully, you can spend excellent nights in
the backcountry of Acadia!
National Forests are an excellent alternative to the often overcrowded situation often found in the popular National Parks
An eight day backpack in the wild and beautiful Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica was one of my best weeks living out of a backpack. The whole Osa Peninsula is a huge virgin tropical rainforest, and one must hike along the coast for about seven hours just to get to the first legal overnight camping spot in the park (Ranger Outposts).
A couple years ago I did an incredible 4 day backpack in Cordillera Blanca of Peru. We were up at altitude the whole time, so the altitude sickness and fatigue were constant. The local diet of Coca tea was the only relief; nothing else even helped.
The Bugaboos was a great backpack trip in southwestern Canada, although
most of the days were spent on alpine climbs. We had met a couple
of cool Aussies a few days earlier, and somehow convinced one of them to
carry an extra case of beer with him up to the Conrad Cain Alpine hut.
The drive to the trailhead was about 50 km up a rough dirt logging road,
and a moose chased us about half of the way up. Porcupine nawings were
a major problem at the parking lot, so everyone's vehicle was tightly wrapped
in "chicken wire". We hooked up with Jan and climbed Bugaboo Spire
one day, but the snowbridge that we crossed collapsed overnight!
Reviews by The Lightweight Backpacker:
Outdoor Research (gear)
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Page created and updated by Tim Driskell; January 1999 (page me here; ICQ# 20756120)