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Backpacker May - June 2021

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
Back issues only

in this issue

3 min
editor’s note

Some of Backpacker’s best-selling issues and most-clicked stories have been about the scary stuff: how to survive when our worst backcountry fears—rockfall! grizzly attack! losing your way!—become reality. Armchair reads about daunting places like America’s most dangerous and deadly peaks are also pretty popular. We gravitate to stories like that because getting out of our comfort zones and hiking closer to the edge of the unknown are some of the reasons we willingly, gleefully even, walk into the wilderness. But, after the year we’ve had, what we want in an outdoor experience this summer is something a little different. How about some off-the-beaten-path strolls through blooming wildflowers? Smell that? Maybe a dreamy nook of a campsite with a couple of hardy, well-spaced trees to sling a hammock? Pack a book. Or…

1 min
the good fight

The Last Best Place Southwest Montana might have a wild reputation, but that doesn’t always translate to legal designations. Much of the Gallatin and Madison Ranges–home to grizzly and black bears, moose, elk, and mountain lions–remain at risk and vulnerable to exploitation by mining agencies, developers looking to capitalize on the area’s growing population, and wealthy private owners looking for second homes (who often bar the public from using long-extant trails on their land). Luckily, though, a solution might be in the works. A coalition that includes the Wilderness Society, American Rivers, and local groups like Gallatin Valley Backcountry Horsemen and Big Sky Mountain Bike Alliance have put forward the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement: a land management plan that would protect wildlife and the land itself while still allowing access for…

6 min
finding home

At mile three of the trail to Harding Icefield in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park, I found myself scrambling up bare rock, the glacier nowhere in sight. The summer sun beat down on my shoulders, wavering into a heat-haze above the forest below. Still, I didn’t slow my pace, drawn by the lure of ice far above. This was to be my last big hike before I went back to the Lower 48. Leading the way was Pang, my boss at a Seward accounting firm, who over the preceding months had become my partner in adventure. She moved to Seward when she was young and we bonded over our shared immigrant experience—her from Thailand, me from Somalia. We’d both had to figure out how to assimilate into a place while holding…

1 min
the long way down

Day three of four on our trek of the 46.5-mile Huemul Circuit in southwest Argentina, and for once there’s only scattered clouds in the Patagonian sky. Standing atop 3,269-foot Huemul Pass after 4 hours of climbing, I take a deep breath and steel myself for the descent, which drops more than 1,000 feet of scree in a mile. Shining down below, the Southern Patagonian Icefield sprawls to the horizon, where equally icy mountains raise 15,000-foot peaks to the sun. I slide through my first step, then repeat. Slowly another landscape swings into view: At the base of the slope, drawing closer with each switchback, the Southern Icefield and Viedma Glacier spill into Viedma Lake. The lake, fifty miles long and nine across, soon draws most of my attention as the…

3 min
now blooming

❶ Madrone Canyon Trail Mt. Diablo State Park, CA Info bit.do/mtdiablo Trailhead 37.8493, -121.9322 Head up into the hills above San Francisco for a 2.8-mile out-and-back through madrone trees, which feature sprays of tiny white flowers that bloom every May. Beyond the blossoms, catch panoramic views of Mt. Diablo and the surrounding valleys. ❷ Rhododendron Trail Grayson Highlands State Park, VA Info bit.do/graysonhighlands Trailhead 36.3800, -81.3031 This short-but-steep climb to 5,729-foot Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest point, tunnels through groves bursting with bright pink and purple rhododendron. Gain a thousand feet in just over a mile, and keep an eye out for the park’s wild ponies on the way. ❸ Hains Point Loop Trail Memorial Parks, Washington DC Info bit.do/NPSCherryBlossoms Trailhead 38.8774, -77.0366 Stroll between two rivers and the Washington Channel on this 4.1-mile tour through thousands of cherry trees from eleven species, including double-blossomed…

2 min
eye of the storm

It’s 4 a.m. in Vesper Basin, deep in Washington’s Cascades, and I’m building a dam out of twigs. The rain started two days ago; not with a roar but rather a slow drumming, wrapping the world in fog until even the near edge of the cirque vanished. Our tarp-tent made a good effort for the first 45 hours, but now the soil is saturated, and tiny rivers are snaking under our sleeping pads. Hence the twig dam. My three tentmates and I scramble into rain pants and jackets, squinting into the misty dark as we search for sticks big enough to divert the new stream trying to establish itself right through the center of our tent. As we start stacking our scavenged construction materials along the tarp edge, the absolute absurdity of…