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Backpacker January/February 2020

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
a radical act

BACKPACKING IS AS simple as shoving a few things in a pack and putting one foot in front of the other. John Muir famously explored the Sierra bringing only tea, bread, a tin cup, and some Ralph Waldo Emerson, which he’d read by the fire. You don’t need a ton of stuff, just the itch to see what’s out there. The list of reasons I love backpacking is as long as a trekking pole,and simplicity and accessibility are at the top. Once you get out there, though, that’s when things get radical. When you backpack, you become part of something profound. For me, it was a gateway to deeper friendships through shared struggles and successes; less stress and more awe; a greater zest for fitness and concern for how I fuel my…

2 min

Searching for Closure We’ve heard a lot of different ideas for reducing the national parks’ budget deficit, from raising entrance fees to selling naming rights. But few have generated as much vitriol as Gil Lusk’s proposal to start closing less visited parks (“Less is More,” November/December 2019). “We give away millions in revenue from the parks to private concessions,” wrote Douglas Pack. “This is just a land grab.” Commenting on Facebook, Scott Plumer contrasted the NPS’s funding with our defense budget: “I could point out that a B-2 stealth bomber costs, on average, $2.1 billion, which is just under the NPS’s total budget,” he wrote. The strongest critique, however, came from former National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, who offered his own solution in an op-ed (read it at backpacker.com/keepparksopen). “The…

1 min
1. hike a grander canyon

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX Boquillas Canyon, the deepest gorge in Big Bend National Park, has 7,000 feet of vertical relief—almost 2,000 feet more than the Grand Canyon. But with only one-tenth the visitors of Arizona’s famous park, this remote retreat in the Chihuahuan Desert is a winter haven for hikers. Find this view—and some midwinter desert warmth—on the Boquillas Canyon Trail, overlooking the Rio Grande and Mexico (the border is mid-river). The trail starts from the end of the Boquillas Canyon Road and winds .7 mile along the rim and down to the river’s edge. Pass divots in the stone made by ancient inhabitants on the way to sandy slopes near the river that make for a fun slide down, then return the way you came. PERMIT park entrance fee…

3 min
2. feliz belize

ONLY SIX MILES into the 28-mile, three -day out-and-back to the spiritual high point of Belize, I spot a solitary paw print. Four oval toes above a broad base nearly 5 inches wide—could it really be the sign of a jaguar, so early in the hike? I call out to Leon Seguro, my local guide and sole companion, and with a quick glance he confirms: it’s a jaguar print. My heartbeat spikes. We’re headed into the core of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the best place in the world for spotting jaguars, and this print is a good omen. This protected forest in southeast Belize lies adjacent to Bladen Nature Reserve, which doubles the total protected area to 225,000 acres of perfect habitat for this elusive predator. Leon and I hold the season’s…

1 min
3. pct permit update

Starting in 2020, the number of Pacific Crest Trail long-distance permits will be limited to 50 per day (the day you start your hike) in order to spread traffic through the hiking season and reduce impacts on the landscape. “By spreading out the numbers of people who start each day from specific areas, the long distance permit system helps protect fragile wild areas along the trail,” the Pacific Crest Trail Association, which administers the permits, wrote in their press release. The 2020 permit season for trips starting at the southern terminus opened on October 29, and the permit season for other itineraries opens on January 14, 2020, with applications working in an online waiting room system—you get a spot in a virtual queue and wait until your application can be processed. Applications…

4 min
4. hidden wonders

FLORIDA TRAIL When most other long trail systems are in hibernation, Florida’s premier path is coming into prime time. Stretching over 1,000 miles from the cypress forests of the Everglades to the sandy Gulf Coast beaches of Pensacola, the Florida Trail runs the gamut of the Sunshine State’s diverse natural landscapes. Hit the highlights on one of these three sections. THE INSIDER On a paddling trip in 2009, Van Tran encountered heavily-loaded hikers trekking along the shore—Florida Trail thru-hikers. In shared campsites on that same trip she heard their stories of hidden wilds and vowed to see them herself. Later that year she did her first FT overnight. And in 2017, many trail miles later, she joined the Florida Trail Association, where she now works as Community Outreach Manager. 1. PINE PARADISE ST. MARKS NATIONAL…