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Backpacker November/December 2019

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

2 min
my favorite season

CARIBOU LAKE, A STUNNER in California’s Trinity Alps, sits in a granite bowl with a steep cirque on one side and smooth slabs on the other. A few bed-flat pieces of granite invite you to lay out a sleeping bag and stay up half the night watching the magic of starlight on water and rock. Despite the 9-mile hike to reach Caribou, it attracts a stream of visitors all summer long. But the last time I was at the lake, I didn’t see another soul. That’s because I went in late fall, the hiking world’s best-kept secret. I discovered the glories of this season—from mid-October to the end of November—while researching a guidebook on the Trinity Alps. A looming deadline forced me to squeeze in as much hiking as possible before…

5 min
paper problems

Paper Problems When we published a list of backpacking skills fixes in our July/August issue (“You’re Doing it Wrong”), a few readers wrote in to say that one particular piece of advice smelled a little funny. “Your endorsement for burying toilet paper…is misleading,” wrote Vaughn Hadenfeldt. “As a backpacking guide for more than 40 years, I know that packing out TP is a much better solution. This eliminates the white flags that often reappear in well-visited campsites and desert soil.” Wayne Hancock was more blunt: “Your article has undone years of re-educating hikers.” They have a point—but times are changing. For years, Leave No Trace recommended packing out TP, and in fragile environments like the desert or alpine, it’s still the only good solution. But recent research, which shows that toilet paper…

4 min
2. where darkness reigns

WHENEVER WE STOP for a break and turn off our headlamps, the darkness swarms in. My imagination takes over and I see blotches of color despite the blackness, as if my sense of sight is trying to fight back, to prove it’s still worth something. I wave my hand in front of my face. The physical act of moving your muscles can prompt your brain to manifest a hand. You think you see it, waving back and forth in front of you. But you can’t. You can’t see anything. It’s just a temporary illusion, a diversion from your vulnerability. I’m in the depths of the Chorreadero cave system in Chiapas, Mexico, about 100 miles from Guatemala, looking for an anchor against sensory deprivation amid the region’s mountainous interior. Waving my hand…

1 min
3. the last great migration

For thousands of years, the only things that reliably crossed the 100 million acres of tundra and mountain in northern Alaska were the quarter-million members of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd on Alaska’s North Slope. But now they might need a stoplight. The BLM is currently reviewing a proposal to build a mining road through the area. The so-called Ambler Road (critics call it the Road to Ruin) bisects the southern third of the herd’s migration path, drawing an eastwest line below the base of the Brooks Range. Studies suggest the road will disrupt this great migration, forcing the herd onto new lands away from the Alaska Native communities who depend on them. All that for a little oil and ore. Sound like a dead-end plan? Add your name to…

1 min
4. hiker forecast

33°/14° IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MT* Rockies Snowstorms begin to sweep through the mountains as temps drop and bears typically enter hibernation in November. See Glacier National Park without risking a gizzly run-in on Going to the Sun Road, open to snowshoers and skiers all winter. 49°/20° IN THE CATSKILLS, NY Appalachians The leaves are gone and the days are short. Winter brings sleet and snow to the mountains of the Northeast, but it also brings hero ice to dedicated climbers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and leafless views for hikers and Nordic skiers. 55°/20° IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UT Desert Southwest Temperatures drop below freezing most nights, but climb to the mid-50s while the sun is out. Sounds balmy, says no one. And that’s who you’ll find here. Head to Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district for views of the…

3 min
5. deep woods

Having spent most of his life in either Charlotte or the deep-mountain trail town of Brevard, North Carolina, Adam DeWitte has a wealth of knowledge about the Shining Rock Wilderness and larger Blue Ridge Mountains region. But for him, that’s not enough. As the director of the Pisgah Field School and Director of Education for the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association, DeWitte has dedicated himself to sharing his backyard, either by teaching at summer camps or by leading groups of kids and adults on guided hikes, waterfall tours, and other interpretive expeditions. DAYHIKE Get Shining Rock’s best views right off the bat with this 5.2-mile loop over Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain to Ivestor Gap. From the top of either peak, wide, grassy ridgelines offer unobstructed views east down…