In 2019 I plan to offer trips in four locations. Jump to (in chronological order):
Welcome to my backyard, the Front Range Mountains of Colorado!
Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses some of Colorado’s most majestic scenery. It has extensive alpine areas, pristine lakes, deep glacier-carved valleys, and robust populations of elk, moose, and mule deer.
Elevations range from 8,000 to over 14,000 feet. Lodgepole pine covers most of the lower areas; spruce and sub-alpine fir extend into the upper ends of treeline.
In July, the park is exceptional for its wildflowers, lush vegetation, and waterfalls. In September, the tundra and aspens turn colors, and the elk rut is at its peak.
The 5-day Adventure trips will follow sections of the Pfiffner Traverse, an off-trail route that accesses some of the most remote corners of the park.
The 3-day trips are normally held in Wild Basin, west of Allenspark and just south of Longs Peak.
The 5-day trips normally start outside of Grand Lake, on the west side of the park.
Carpooling among group members will be encouraged in order to minimize the travel burden.
Drive times to Wild Basin:
- From Boulder – 1 hour
- From Fort Collins – 1.5 hours
- From Denver – 1 hour 45 minutes
- From Colorado Springs – 2 hours 45 minutes
Drive times to Grand Lake:
- From Boulder – 2 hours 15 minutes
- From Fort Collins – 2.5 hours
- From Denver – 2 hours
- From Colorado Springs – 3 hours
If you are flying in from afar, fly into Denver International Airport (DEN).
The High Sierra is in my Top 3 for backpacking locations in the Lower 48. The range is huge and intricate; the scenery is superb; the off-trail travel is blissful; road access is very limited; and the crowded, high-use areas are easy to leave behind. The range encompasses two famous National Parks — Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon — as well as “American’s Most Beautiful Trail,” the 224-mile John Muir Trail, which links these two parks.
The 2019 trips will be in Yosemite National Park, and the 5- and 7-day trips will follow sections of the newly minted Yosemite High Route. Sequoia-Kings is a worthy and convenient backup if wildfires or smoke are plaguing Yosemite during the trips. There, the longer trips will follow sections of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route.
The trips will start and finish in Tuolumne Meadows, the base camp for the Yosemite high country.
Mammoth Yosemite (MMH) is the closest airport to Yosemite National Park. But only United Airlines and Alaska Airlines offer flights into it, and connect only with Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco. More practical airports, in order of drive-time to Tuolumne Meadows, include:
- Reno-Tahoe (RNO): 2 hr 55 min
- Fresno-Yosemite (FAT): 3 hr 30 min
- Sacramento (SMF): 4 hr 0 min
- Oakland (OAK): 4 hr 5 min
- San Jose (SJC): 4 hr 20 min
- Los Angeles (LAX): 5 hr 35 min
- Las Vegas (LAS): 5 hr 50 min
Tuolumne Meadows can be reached via public transit. Use Greyhound, Amtrak, or Eastern Sierra Transit to reach one of the gateway towns such as Merced or Lee Vining. Then take a YARTS bus to Tuolumne.
As of January 1, Monongahela National Forest is reviewing my application to run trips in Seneca Creek and Dolly Sods. I have operated here before, and expect the application to be approved.
I offer trips here for two reasons. First, I genuinely enjoy the location. West Virginia is a rural and lightly inhabited state, and it’s backcountry areas are about as wild as the Appalachians get. Mid-May is a prime season here: it should be wonderfully green, and temperatures should be warm enough for refreshing swims in pristine mountain creeks.
Second, it’s reasonably accessible from many eastern metro areas. Imagine drawing a box with corners at New York City, Columbus, Knoxville, and Raleigh. Anything in that box is no more than about 5 hours away. If you want Appalachian-specific instruction and/or cannot justify the travel expenses and time for a Fundamentals course in California or Colorado, this is the location for you.
The closest airports serve Washington DC, and are about two hours east. Use Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Dulles (IAD), or Reagan (DCA).
The town of Seneca Rocks is equidistant to Spruce Knob and Dolly Sods. It has basic services, including lodging, restaurants, and a small grocery store.
The trips will probably be in Seneca Creek Recreation Area, which encompasses West Virginia’s high point, Spruce Knob. If group size is 10 or less, we may operate in Dolly Sods instead.
As of January 4, these trips are likely to be run in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Road access is very limited, and bush flights are required to access most areas. Once I have these dialed in, I will apply for a permit with the National Park Service, which I expect to approve it.
As a backup, the trips will be in the eastern Alaska Range (aka Hayes Range), which is across the Parks Highway from Denali National Park. I have operated here before.
The Brooks Range is the greatest wilderness in North America, and these trips are designed to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It was undoubtedly the most magnificent part of the Alaska-Yukon Expedition — at one point, I went over 600 miles and 24 days without crossing a road or seeing another human being.
The Brooks will redefine your concept of wilderness. The range is immense, about 1000 miles long and usually about 100 miles wide. There are no trails, save for those made by wildlife, notably caribou. It’s intersected by just one road, the Dalton Highway (aka Haul Road). And only one town sits firmly within the range, Anaktuvuk Pass, a native village with a population of about 350.
The groups will meet in Fairbanks. From there, we will fly to Bettles on a 9-passenger Cessna, and then from Bettles into the Brooks Range, on a 9-passenger Otter or two 5-passenger Beavers.
To exit, we will reverse our route. Or, if we plot our route to finish in Anaktuvuk Pass, we can fly directly to Fairbanks.