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Backpacker August 2016

Published nine times a year, Backpacker is a magazine of wilderness travel, offering practical, "you can do it, here's how" advice to help you enjoy every trip. Filled with the best places, gear, and information for all kinds of hiking and camping trips, each issue delivers foldout maps and stunning color photography.

United States
Pocket Outdoor Media, LLC

in this issue

3 min
school of national parks

THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE turns 100 on August 25. We’ve been celebrating the Centennial all year, culminating with this special issue devoted to the people and places that make America’s national park system more than the sum of its parts. The more of it you see, the more you understand that pretty views are just the start. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Look Close I used to get obsessed with seeing as much of a park as I could in whatever time I had. Who knew when I’d be back? But then I went to Redwood National Park and took all day to hike about 2 miles. I wasn’t lost or injured. I simply got absorbed in the micro-ecosystem at the base of the big…

2 min

Inspiration Tracy Ross’s story about trying to overcome her phobia of high places (“Fear Less,” May 2016) resonated with Greg Borchert. He wrote in to thank her for sharing her experience—and let her know that she’s not the only one. “I have battled a fear of heights for a long time. . . I’ve tried various approaches and while some have helped, I’m far from cured,” he writes. “My biggest challenges have come along ridges on hut trips and while mountain biking. . . I very much appreciated your honesty.” Solo Drinking Our dismissal of drinking alone on the trail (“Stay Sane Solo,” May 2016) didn’t sit well with reader Adam Dresser. “One of the nice things about being alone in the wilderness is you do what you want, when you want,” he…

1 min
the parks are for everyone

THE NATIONAL PARKS SHOULDN’T EXIST. It’s nearly incomprehensible that they have endured for so long, that they are permanent fixtures of summer vacations and dreams. They could have been chopped, drilled, and sold at market before we ever knew how good we had it. But they weren’t. That’s because of you. You and everyone like you who came before or is still to come. The parks are possible only because they have done the impossible: They have unified Americans around a constant, delivered a shared experience in a country full of differences. As the writer Wallace Stegner said in 1983, “The National Parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” An idea this good deserves a centennial celebration…

1 min
100 years in the m aking

1872 After Ferdinand Hayden’s geological survey, the government establishes Yellowstone as the first national park. 1890 John Muir successfully lobbies for the creation of Yosemite National Park. His vivid accounts of his time in Sierra Nevada give rise to the first wave of the publicconservation movement, influencing the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Joseph LeConte. 1903 Col. Charles Young serves as the first African-American superintendent of a national park at Sequoia. NPS VISITORS *Note: Not all units report their attendance. 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt accepts the Yosemite Valley Grant and Mariposa Big Tree Grove into federal control, completing the park. 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signs the Organic Act, creating the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE as a new federal bureau of the Department of the Interior. 1917 Stephen Mather becomes the first director of the NPS. 1940 Ansel Adams’s photos of Kings Canyon are…

4 min
the lady and the bear

IT LOOKS FOR ALL THE world like the lady and the bear are dancing. In the famous photograph, sepiatoned and marbled with age, she has her arms tucked behind her, knees bent, and legs frozen in a jig. The bear, tall as she is on its hind legs, reaches an arm forward as though about to bow and offer the lady a paw. There’s an easiness to the scene, a looseness you can read in her posture. It is the look of a woman comfortable in her surroundings, which was Yosemite National Park circa 1920. The lady is Enid Michael, the park system’s first female ranger-naturalist, who, through charisma, passion, and a formidable will, helped define the early years of Yosemite. SHE WAS NEARLY 40 BY THE TIME SHE DISCOVERED THIS FREEDOM.…

3 min
the right stuff

FOR MOST PEOPLE , the task would’ve been impossible: protect the wildlife in Yellowstone’s vast backcountry from poachers. Alone. Harry Yount wasn’t most people. In the 1880s, the proto-ranger dedicated himself to his job, showing strength of character that’s still a model for today’s rangers. We looked to winners of the award named for Yount—ranger’s rangers—to find the five qualities that set the best apart. DOGGEDNESS Tom Bettsof Bandelier National Monument 2013 recipient When the Las Conchas Fire (at the time, the largest in New Mexico’s history) ripped through in 2011, it set off a wild chain of events. Chief Ranger Tom Betts evacuated visitors and staff until the all-clear, then immediately focused on keeping park facilities operational. Days later, the rains came, building into flash floods. Betts was in the helicopter scanning for…