The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 2: ALDHA West

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Some people enjoy walking thousands of miles. Listen next, as we visit their gathering, on the WildeBeat.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number two.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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SERGEANT: Imagine... Taking a half year off to walk thousands of miles on trails connecting wilderness areas. That's the focus of the West Coast chapter of the American Long Distance Hiking Association, known as ALDHA-West. They held their annual gathering in October at the Clair Tappaan Lodge, near Donner Pass in California.

This rustic Sierra Club lodge was built in the nineteen thirties by volunteers. It's less than a mile from the Pacific Crest Trail.

Well over a hundred long-distance hikers attended.

Monte Dodge, is the president of ALDHA-West. He explains the group's origins.

DODGE: ALDHA-West was actually founded by Ray Jardine, as kind of an organization that mostly dealt with triple crown hikers, and that's hikers that have hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide.

SERGEANT: The gathering's program included workshops, travelogs, and exhibits by gear vendors.

In one workshop, Paul Griffith, of Bainbridge Island Washington, explained his system for ultralight backpacking.

GRIFFITH: gear weight, which is, you know, everything that goes in my pack except for food and water and fuel, down to about six pounds. One of the main things I do to achieve that, is to use a down quilt, instead of a full sleeping bag, because really the only place where the insulation does any good is on top of you. Lying on top of down or synthetic is kind of pointless, why bring it along. And I've also made a poncho that can zip up into a little bivuoac sack. So between your quilt and your protection, you've got about two pounds of gear, and if you can get the rest of your gear down to about three pounds in a one-pound pack, you're now a six-pound, ultra-light hiker!

SERGEANT: Later, Roberta Cobb from Portland Oregon, gave a workshop on packaging your own trail food.

COBB: Today we demonstrated a cold lunch, that's cold Chinese-style noodles with toppings. It had carrots and celery and peas and pasta in it, and then it had some soy sauce and ginger and that kind of flavoring on it, and topped with almonds and sesame seeds.

SERGEANT: So you started out with fresh ingredients, and then what happened?

COBB: Yeah, we started out with fresh ingredients, raw carrots and raw everything, and cooked-up the pasta and mixed-up the dressing, and mixed it all together and then we dehydrated it. It took about four hours to dehydrate, and then we sealed it up in vacuum seal packages, ready to go on the trail.

SERGEANT: Roberta also demonstrated making a hot almond smoothie, and her chocolate biscotti, which disappeared quickly.

Roy Robinson of Los Altos California, known to the group as "Trail Dad", demonstrated how to make his famous, ultralight cook stove.

ROBINSON: It's called the Cat Stove, because it's made out of cat food cans. It won a home-made alcohol stove contest put on by Backpacker Magazine a couple of years ago. It will boil a pint of water in about four minutes, so it's a hot stove. The one I have on the table here has carried me through the Appalachian Trail, and it did the John Muir Trail with me. So it's got about twenty-five hundred miles on it, and it's still good for another hike.

SERGEANT: Roy Robinson publishes plans to make his stove at ROYROBINSON dot HOMESTEAD dot COM.

Marion Davison of Apple Valley California, talked about hiking long distances, assisted by llamas.

DAVISON: We have been using llamas for about eight years, mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail. We hike about three hundred miles in one continuous trip each August. And the llamas make it possible for us to do that in real comfort and style. We start out with about 20 days of supplies, and about three hundred pounds of stuff, on five llamas. Llamas are very intelligent and alert, when they see wildlife, they freeze and stare at it. So you can look where their looking, and you'll see a lot more wildlife that way. They're great problem-solvers, they can handle a lot of problems on the trail that would be difficult for a horse, they're much more agile than a horse. But of course you can't ride them. They're only an animal that you pack and lead.

SERGEANT: The evening programs were slide shows, and travel logs.

Larry Hillberg, of Colfax California, gave a talk and slide show titled, "Make Your Own Long Distance Trail."

HILLBERG: In the year two thousand, I was trying to decide between hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and going to my fortieth high school reunion. And I compromised by hiking from New Mexico to my high school reunion in Munising, Michigan. Basically in the tradition of the hobos. Guided everyday by the unexpected, every night a mystery as to where my tent would be, and I just picked my way across the country going here and there using only triple-A maps.

SERGEANT: You did traverse some wilderness areas on your trip, what can you say about those?

HILLBERG: I think that on two occasions, once along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, and also along the North Country Trail in northern Michigan I traversed what was most definitely wilderness.

I had partridges fly up at my feet. I saw bears crash away from me. I saw hawks. I saw an osprey emerge with a fish having been completely under water.

And that, and another visit later with place in upper Michigan near my home, that had, when I was a child, been just a woodsy path to a waterfall, and now is a National Scenic Site. It just taught me that, people, in fact, are unintentionally are destroying the very places that brought us there in the first place. We are loosing them.

SERGEANT: On Sunday, Liz Bergeron, the Executive Director of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, spoke about protecting the trail and the wilderness along it.

I asked how ALDHA-West supports the Association's efforts.

BERGERON: It's the people out there using the trail who realize what a great resource it is, and they're the ones who want to help protect it, and preserve it.

SERGEANT: The main event of the gathering was the awards ceremony. This year, four hikers were awarded the triple crown. They earned it for having walked almost eight thousand miles.

Gary Lindberg, from Minneapolis Minnesota, is the awards coordinator for ALDHA-West.

LINDBERG: This year's triple crown winers is a married couple, Ken Powers and Marsha Powers, she goes by "Gotta Walk." And they hiked the P-C in two thousand two thousand two, and the A-T in two thousand three.

Then the other one is Jane "Lucky Star" Powell, and Kathy "Wandering Star" Faulks.

SERGEANT: Congratulations, to these long distance hikers. They're the latest four, out of fewer than forty, who can claim this achievement.

Mingling with this group, I got a sense of the camaraderie that develops among long-distance hikers. Even though they sometimes rarely meet on the trail, they seem to feel as bonded as any family. And it's a special bond — one that only forms through shared adversity.

You can find out more about the American Long Distance Hiking Association West, on the web at A-L-D-H-A-west dot O-R-G.

Reporting from Norden California, this is Steve Sergeant on The Wildebeat.

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In the next show — I'll introduce our series of gear reviews.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Future editions of The Wildebeat depend on your contributions, both for funding and for content. Please see our website for details.

This has been The Wildebeat, program number two. Thank you for listening.

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