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Sometimes You Just Need to See a Long Trail
Plus, National Public Lands Day events, a Strange Visitor to a Wildlife Cam, Death in the Grand Canyon, AI Guidebook Danger, and pizza!
Last week, fueled by the drive to see lots of big mountains and an effort to hold tightly on to the last shreds of summer, I took a few days off and drove up to Mount Rainier National Park for my first visit and a few nights of solo camping.
If you’ve been reading these newsletters, you know that since moving up to the Pacific Northwest from Southern California, I’ve had a bit of trouble getting into my full hiking groove. After a while, I figured out one of the aspects that was leading to this was the different aesthetics of hiking in this wetter, more forested region. Here, I was often able to see beautiful waterfalls and have welcome shade, but also spent most of the hike walking through indistinct green tunnels.
So, I figured I needed to get somewhere with a mountain range and an area that had some terrain above a tree line so I could get some of those epic panoramas and vanishing points that I’d gotten so used to seeing in the sage scrub and chaparral. And it turned out I was right.
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On my first day in the park, the clouds lingered in low elevations, obscuring the peak of its namesake mountain. But I did enjoy the rugged glacial scenery, wild White River, and yes, even the dense tree cover and countless waterfalls and streams—especially the stream that bubbled right next to my campsite.
A friend of mine happened to be volunteering in the park that week, and I met up with him to hear his self-described “most epic hike” in the park’s Sunrise region—a 10-ish mile affair that promised a variety of views and jaw-dropping vistas for pretty much the entire route.
The next morning, the clouds lifted, the mountain was out, and the route was indeed exceptionally epic … even if it was a bit longer than my friend had estimated (I’ll be posting it to the site soon). And though I had a feeling I needed to be in this kind of landscape, I truly did not expect to feel as fulfilled as I did just by being able to see an uninterrupted trail that rolled over several mountains or disappeared in the distance.
Especially when I was first learning how to hike, one of the most rewarding parts was standing on top of a peak and being able to trace the long, winding path back down to the trailhead. For me, there’s a true sense of accomplishment in being able to see exactly how far you’ve come and how high you’ve climbed—and the unbelievable alpine scenery was a nice bonus, too.
Now I’m back to my forested trails and learning to appreciate and enjoy them for what they are … and, of course, even though I’m still hoping to squeeze a few more summer days out of the season, I’m starting to look forward to when these green tunnels get a bit more colorful with fall foliage.
Also, cider donuts.
Good stuff from the Modern Hiker site
It’s been a bit of a light week on the site, as I was traveling and camping. But we did get a great new addition to the San Gabriel Mountains from Andrew Shults—the aptly named Teepee Trail. This one starts inside the National Forest boundaries but mostly winds outside of the federal lands, and is a great option for a quick hike that’s big on views and light on crowds.
I also added a trail guide for Rattlesnake Ledge in the central Cascades, which is going to be a beautiful fall hike option for the next few weeks.
Look for some new trail guides for Mount Rainier National Park soon, too—just need to clear off some looming deadline writing first!
Welcome New Subscribers!
Hello and welcome to the 28 new free subscribers to the Modern Hiker Newsletter! It’s looking like we are now officially at an all-time high number of subscribers here—8,585 at the time of writing. Wow! So nice to have y’all here.
We also had one new paid subscriber since the last newsletter, so thank you! And thank you to @tri3geek for chipping in with a few coffees to keep me going. You officially bought me my first pumpkin spiced bevvie of the season, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Feel free to pitch in for coffee if you can spare a few bucks—and remember that paid subscribers are the folks who keep this project going.
Prep for National Public Lands Day
Saturday, September 23 is the 30th annual National Public Lands Day, which means entry fees will be waived at national parks and lots of other kinds of federal lands like national monuments, national forests, national recreation areas, and pretty much any park or open space with the word “national” in front of it.
In addition to dropping those financial barriers to entry, National Public Lands Day is a great way to give back to these special places with volunteer events. Find an already organized event all across the country with this map feature. Restore trails and meadows at Mount Rainier, help with site improvements for endangered condors in Arizona. Join in on the park-wide Facelift cleanup at Yosemite. Haul trash out of San Gabriel Canyon. So many options!
Ninth Person Dies in Grand Canyon This Year
Over the weekend, 55-year-old Ranjith Varma from Virginia died while attempting to hike the 18 mile Rim to Rim hike with a group of six. He became unresponsive in the lowest part of the hike, where temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Rangers in the park have stepped up their efforts for heat awareness and relief in the park in recent years, as temperatures have continued to steadily rise. In a piece in Scientific American last month, a park spokesperson said that summer temperatures in the lower canyon regularly reach 120 degrees, but because of the dark stones that absorb heat, the air can sometimes feel as hot as 130 or 140 degrees.
Related: This essay by Terry Tempest Williams on long-term extreme heat in the Southwest is a terrific read. (via New York Times)
Gadgets, Technology, and Hype
Hiker Saved by Bear Cam
Usually we love wildlife cams for, you know, the views of wildlife. But one camera in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska caught an unusual sight recently: a soaked hiker who waved to the camera and mouthed the word “help.”
The camera was perched on Dumpling Mountain, a relatively remote area of the park. The trail the hiker was on was a short but steep and strenuous route and the weather on the mountain became extremely poor with strong wind and rain and visibility under 50 feet.
Cam viewers on Explore.org alerted the moderator of a livestream, who immediately alerted park officials. A search party was sent out within minutes and the unidentified hiker made it safely out afterward.
Beware the Rise of AI Guidebooks
This is the time of year when people may start to go mushroom hunting, but if you’re new to this you definitely don’t want to just, like, wander around the woods putting random things in your mouth, right? So maybe you’ll head to Amazon to find a guidebook on mycology. And if you did, there’s a chance you may run into an AI-generated title with incorrect and potentially deadly advice.
404 Media picked up on a post from the New York Mycological Society warning about the books, which some journalists have been tracking on Amazon for a few months. The page used a tool called ZeroGPT, which claims to be able to spot AI-generated text (although it’s not 100% accurate). They also looked at the purported author information, including one alleged author who managed to publish 19 different titles within two months. Nothing suspicious about that!
Of course, you could solve this issue by just going to your local bookstore and asking around there.
One More Thing
Oh yeah, before I go …
If you’re like me, then one of your favorite parts of any kind of exercise is the meal you get to justify eating afterward. And I’m betting one of those meals for you is pizza. The Washington Post recently engaged in the sort of in-depth, quality journalism that justifies my monthly subscription by mining the data cesspool of Yelp to find the most popular pizza style in every single state in the United States.
It is an incredible deep dive into pizza, with each state broken down into seven different types of pizza, including my home state’s unique New Haven style.
Aside: In Los Angeles, my favorite pizza was a tie between the thin Neapolitan style slices at DeSano Pizzeria and the huge honkin’ bombs from Masa of Echo Park. Portland was recently named the best pizza city in America (which INFURATED everyone in New York City), and here my favs are New Haven style Dimo’s Apizza and the wood-fired Ken’s Artisan Pizza. You’re welcome.
Until next time, happy trails.