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Backpacker March 2017

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
discomfort zone

SWITCHBACKS. HEAVY PACK. Hot sun. You’ve probably been there yourself. On this particular slog—I was 8 years old at the time—my dad and I were hiking to Foster Lake in California’s Trinity Alps. The last mile to the lake climbs steeply, with little tree cover. It’s a tough hike even when the sun isn’t blazing. But this day was harder than usual, even considering the heat. My dad had decided to take me on my first “real” backpacking trip, just the two of us. I was the proud new owner of a kid-size external-frame pack. But the shoulder straps broke during the hike in, and my dad lashed the whole thing onto his already-heavy pack (this was in the era of iron skillets). The load wore him down on those switchbacks. Sweat…

3 min

Vintage Long Trails When we posted a 30-year-old set of photos from the Pacific Crest Trail on Facebook, thru-hikers showed up— mostly to reminisce about how much their packs used to weigh. “I used a JanSport for my 1986 AT thru-hike,” wrote Andrew Grieve. “Forty-plus pounds leaving towns!” Jerry Wells kept a little bit of the old days around: “I have my Wilderness Experience external-frame pack on a hook in my shed,” he wrote . Meanwhile, Trey Ricardo wished he had been there to experience the trail with the oldschoolers. “Those are the people I would like to be friends with,” he wrote. Some PCT journeys are almost as old as those pictures, as we found out when we posted Casey Lyons’s January essay (“The Never-Ending Journey,” page 20) about section-hiking the…

1 min
hide out.

Bad guys like good views, too. As the legend goes, 19th-century bandits and bootleggers evaded the law—and the sun—in Robbers Roost, a cave just west of Sedona. It’s not hard to see why: Peer through the hideout’s natural window and it’s juniper and redrock as far as the eye can see. Get there on a short-but-steep, .4-mile walk from the unmarked trailhead (34.930957, -111.972109; high-clearance vehicle required). The skinny path follows a cliff edge the whole way, so prepare for exposure. Contact fs.usda.gov/coconino…

3 min
color country

The insider As head of the trail-building crew known as the Palo Duro Corps of Engineers, Chris Podzemny scouts new routes and uncovers old ones in this 120-mile-long canyon. He knows every square inch of Palo Duro, on trail and off. Uncharted overnight To protect archaeological sites (Comanche and Kiowa tribes lived here until the 1870s), backpacking in this 27,000-acre park is restricted to the southeastern corner. Most folks will stay in the north end of the area, but don’t follow them. Instead, head over to the park’s roadless southern boundary, where you’ll find a rare native grassland. Deer and aoudad sheep (as well as natural wildfires) keep the grass to knee height, yielding views of the coppercolored Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the banded, 800-foothigh cliffs. Try this…

1 min
chase waterfalls.

“You bag peaks in Colorado and the Northeast—but you bag waterfalls in the southern Appalachians,” says photographer Kennan Harvey. And now is the best time to do it: Most waterfalls hit peak flow in March. One of the best is 70-foot Crabtree Falls, the highlight of the 3-mile Crabtree Falls Loop. From the Parkway, the trail passes through a mixed oak-hickory forest and a tunnel of rosebay rhododendron (blooming May and June). Harvey recommends doing it counterclockwise for a more gradual ascent on the return. Contact nps.gov/blri…

1 min
sneak a peek.

Get a jump on spring at Hocking Hills, a small state park southeast of Columbus. In March, the mercury hits 50°F, the hemlocks green up, and the color show of bluebells, lady slippers, and columbine is about to go off. Nab one of the best vantages of spring glory through this opening in the Rock House. Find the cave at the terminus of the .5-mile trail of the same name. A. er, string together the Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave Trails into a 12-mile outand-back. Contact bit.do/hocking-hills-sp…