Winter has transformed the landscape into beautiful new forms. Here are a few pictures from our recent wanderings around Fort Collins, Colorado. Happy holidays, and stay warm!
Happy Holidays! Our Pacific Crest Trail coffee table book is now on sale for 20% off. The book makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys hiking, nature, or art. Click the “Buy Now” button above to purchase, or visit our book page to learn more.
Sale ends December 18th
The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) publishes a magazine with a circulation of 70,000. We’re happy to share that our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike story graces the cover of the Fall 2013 issue. The issue also contains a glowing review of our PCT photography book.
Read the cover article (pages 16-19) and book review (page 21) by clicking below:
A PDF of the entire issue is also available.
We rarely hike a trail more than once. We only make an exception to this rule if the trail is either near our home or extra spectacular. Glacier National Park’s Hidden Lake Trail is definitely the latter. We first hiked the trail in 2010. It was the dream day hike: epic views, short mileage, and lots of wildlife. We decided it was time to relive that experience this year, and we’re glad we did.
The trail begins at Logan Pass, behind the visitor center. The amazing views start immediately. Clements Mountain with glaciers at its base dominates the scene. Alpine meadows spread out on either side of the boardwalk path.
We scanned the cliffs looking for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. No luck there. Instead we spotted a weasel dashing under the boardwalk and into its hole 20 feet away. You never know what you’ll find!
After a short one-and-a-half mile walk, the trail reached the Hidden Lake Overlook. The lake and surrounding peaks were unbelievably beautiful.
Glacier National Park’s Hidden Meadow Trail lived up to its name. The trailhead was about 3 miles south of the Polebridge ranger station on a small dirt road. It was so well hidden that we drove right past it. After backtracking, we discovered that that when heading south, the only sign was blocked by trees.
Evidently nobody else found the trailhead, as we didn’t encounter anyone on the hike. We had heard this trail offered good wildlife viewing opportunities. It was especially promising that no one was around to scare off the local creatures.
The trail led us through a forest which had burned about 25 years ago. The burn had destroyed almost all the old trees, but new trees were growing dense and strong in their place. Everything seemed quite dry, which made us think about how enticing the moist meadow would be to the wildlife.
This is a short trail, only 1.2 miles each direction, and we soon reached the grassy meadow. In the clearing, we were delighted to find a large pond with swans paddling about.
In addition to the backpacking trip in Glacier National Park on which we got engaged, we went on several day hikes in the area. Wedding planning temporarily delayed our posts, but now we plan to catch the blog up on all the cool stuff we saw in Montana.
On an afternoon in mid-September, we headed out on the Trail of the Cedars, a flat boardwalk and paved path through beautiful old cedars and hemlocks. Walking a foot or two off the ground on the boardwalk paths was fun, and offered a slightly different perspective than we typically experience walking through the forest. The trunks were huge and the canopy towered far above. The trees were so massive they had created their own ecosystem, much more moist and shaded than other areas in the park. Ferns fanned out over the forest floor.
Near the Avalanche Gorge Bridge, we turned off onto the smaller Avalanche Lake Trail. After a short climb up, we peered down into the narrow Avalanche Gorge. Fast-flowing water had sculpted the rock walls into all kinds of beautiful shapes.
As we continued the trees grew smaller and denser. Green moss carpeted everything.
Glacier National Park is one of our favorite places on the planet. It had been three years since our last trip to the park and we decided it was time to visit again. Apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because even in mid-September, we found backcountry campsites were popular and permits were sparse. Fortunately we managed to reserve campsites for a 4 day trip starting at Kintla Lake and heading up to Boulder Pass, then back down to the lake. The trip ended up being a very memorable one!
Day 1: Kintla Lake Trailhead to Upper Kintla Lake Backcountry Camp (11.6 miles)
We began our journey walking around the edge of Kintla Lake. The trail followed the shoreline at first, then broke away, climbing uphill. When the trail rejoined the lake, we gawked at the dramatic peaks surrounding us. It was a gorgeous day. The sharp laughs of loons echoed across the calm lake.
After a few miles of walking we reached the end of the lake. The trail continued through a burned area. Most of the pines had been killed by the flames, but many of these dead trees were still standing. To our left loomed the Boundary Mountains, so named because they sit on the border with Canada.
Eventually the burned area ended and we reached Upper Kintla Lake. This pristine lake is contained by massive peaks towering thousands of feet above.
For our first trip back into the wilderness, we drove up Poudre Canyon, then set up a base camp just off Pingree Park Road. Dispersed car camping is allowed in that area, which meant we could choose the spot that suited us best, no permit required.
After erecting the tent, we marveled at the starry night sky. Bright city skies make it easy to forget the enormous quantity of stars floating up there all the time. The sounds and smells of the forest enveloped us, simple but rich. The experience reminded us why visiting wild places is so important.
The next morning, sunlight peeked through the trees and gradually woke us up. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching squirrels play and chatter.
We drove a short ways to the Emmaline Lake trailhead and headed up the trail with small daypacks. We were in great spirits, happy to be back in the mountains.
A week from today we’ll be giving a Lightweight Backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail presentation in Anna’s hometown, Cincinnati. Here’s the blurb about the event:
Date: Sunday, August 18, 6 PM
Location: Roads Rivers and Trails, 118 Main Street, Milford, OH 45150
Anna Sofranko and Chris Alexander hiked the entire 2600-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. They walked across deserts, over snow covered mountains, and through old growth forests. In order to complete the trail before heavy snow fell in Canada they had to hike about 20 miles each day for 5 months. Dramatically reducing their gear weight allowed them to cover such long daily mileages enjoyably and free of injury. In this presentation they’ll share stories from the adventure, lightweight backpacking tips, and beautiful photos from their book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs - http://wanderingthewild.com/book Come join us for an exciting evening!
Please Join and Share this event with your Facebook friends via https://www.facebook.com/events/606869279333432/
We’ll hang around after the presentation to answer questions about the PCT, the John Muir Trail (which overlaps with the PCT), lightweight backpacking, or whatever else you’ve been curious about as you read this blog.
Hope to see you there!
This isn’t the summer we had envisioned, but we’ll roll with it. Shingles ended our Appalachian Trail thru hike in April. Now, months later, North Star is still under the weather. Regaining her full health remains our number one goal. With our short-term sublet coming to an end, we decided to settle down in Fort Collins, Colorado, sign a longer term lease, and make this our home.
We began by moving our possessions out of a 5 x 10 ft storage unit in California and into our Colorado sublet. Fifty square feet of storage for two people’s possessions seemed small when we left to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but the trail changed our perspective. We realized one backpack was enough for each of us. Soon after completing the PCT, we wrote a blog post titled “Five Lessons from the Trail”. One lesson, quoted below, is especially relevant to our current situation:
Fewer possessions is freeing. We found that the less we had, the happier we were. Each possession was not only physical weight to carry, but also mental weight. Carrying just one set of clothes meant no decisions about what to wear in the morning. Instead of carrying chairs, which could break or get left behind, we sat on the ground or on logs. Taking only the food we needed made meal choices simple. We didn’t bring bowls and plates, all of which we’d have to clean. Rather we ate right from our pot. With less items to think and fret about, our minds could relax and be open to all the beauty around us. The simple lifestyle is truly freeing.
Moving was a great opportunity to put that lesson into practice.