High Uintas Wilderness

I spent the week of Labor Day this year hiking an approximately 90 mile loop through the High Uintas Wilderness in Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests. The trip took seven days to complete and I saw beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, and experienced unmatched solitude. It was fantastic! You can see my photos from the hike and my post-hike road trip at the following link: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk2Lbnx1

Here is one of my favorite photos from the trip: a female moose wandering through Henry’s Fork Basin in front of a mountainous wall of rock and snow. This was pretty typical for my daily sights.


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Georgia High Peaks Loop

Georgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks Loop
Georgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks Loop
Georgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks Loop
Georgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks LoopGeorgia High Peaks Loop

Georgia High Peaks Loop, a set on Flickr.

Over my week-long vacation for Independence Day, I had originally planned to hike the Cohos Trail in New Hampshire. My flight was cancelled and I decided to hike somewhere closer to home instead of re-booking my ticket and worrying if I had enough time to hike all I wanted before having to make my return flight.
Since I had a backpack full of gear ready to go for a week-long adventure, my options were as far and wide as I could drive. I decided to head back to where it all started for me over four years ago, in Georgia, on the Appalachian Trail. I wanted to incorporate Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the Peach State, into my hike because even though it is only a few miles from where my grandparents used to live, I never had been to the summit during all my visits there.
I began from a trailhead just up the road from my grandparents’ old house, hiking up the Arkaquah Trail up to Brasstown Bald. Just over an hour into my hike in the Brasstown Wilderness I had my first bear encounter of the trip. A mother bear and her cub had been using the trail when I happened upon them. The mother took off before I even saw them, startled by my presence. Her crashing through the woods, down the hill to my right, stopped me in my tracks. I looked up the trail to see the bear cub staring back at me. I spun around to make sure I wasn’t standing between the mother and cub, but mama bear was nowhere to be seen. I whistled and clapped my hiking poles together, and I heard the mother bear rumble further down the hill. The cub ran ahead on the trail as I hiked forward, whistling all the while. It stopped to look back at me again before it took off after its mother, down the hill.
I had two more bear encounters during my 100+ mile loop hike. The other bears were solitary males, both at least 200 pounds, and they both were wary of me. They ran off the trail as soon as they caught sight of me. I never got closer than about 50 yards from them before they took off.
From Brasstown Bald I hiked the Jacks Knob Trail south to meet up with the Appalachian Trail at Chattahoochee Gap, 11 miles into my trip. I followed the AT for 46 miles through Neels Gap, over Blood Mountain and all the way to the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, where I cooked my dinner while watching the sunset on my third night out.
It rained quite a bit over the course of my hike. The first two days were clear and sunny. It rained hard the second night, followed by a foggy morning on the third day. It cleared up long enough for me to dry out my wet gear at lunch, but then I got soaked again in an afternoon downpour. I ran up the hill to Hawk Mountain Shelter, but I was already as wet as it is possible to get. I stripped off my water-logged shirt and shoes, put on dry clothes, and took refuge with some other hikers in the shelter for a couple hours, napping and waiting for the storm to pass by. It finally did clear and I had enough daylight left to make it to Springer that evening. I camped near the shelter there, and it rained again that third night.
I hung a bear bag with my food and toiletries every night on this trip, but the shelters have bear cables, so when I camped at Springer Mountain Shelter, I hung my bags from the steel cables. In the morning I found that bear cables are not mouse-proof, as one of my food bags had a hole the size of a nickel chewed out of it, and so did my bag that was previously full of dark chocolate-covered almonds. Every last almond was gone, but the mouse didn’t touch any of my other food, and it left me a little present, too. I hope the rodent bastard died from chocolate poisoning! Fortunately I had plenty of food, so this wasn’t a huge loss, just a very tasty loss.
It was foggy again on the morning of the fourth day, when I began hiking the Benton Mackaye Trail, which also starts at Springer Mountain, northbound. I didn’t see another hiker on the BMT apart from some day tourists at the Toccoa River suspension bridge. The sky cleared up in the afternoon again, with no thunderstorm this time, and it stayed calm and cool all night.
On the morning of the fifth day, I caught just a glimmer of pink sunlight before the gray clouds enveloped the sky. I split from the BMT and took the Duncan Ridge Trail, said to be one of the hardest hikes in Georgia, back to the east. It was a very difficult trail, with steep inclines, making progress very slow. The rain that began about 9:00 am didn’t help matters. The rain didn’t let up for more than five minutes all day long. So I just kept hiking in my rain coat and rain pants, taking cover under a hemlock tree, when the rain became too heavy to hike through. I tried hiding under every kind of tree in the forest, but the hemlocks seemed to do the best job at keeping the rain off me. I nearly fell asleep under one on the climb up to Coosa Bald. When the rainfall lightened up I moved back into the river of a trail. My feet were already drenched so I didn’t bother too much with avoiding water on the trail. Thankfully it’s July and not January, or I could’ve been in very bad shape.
I summited Coosa Bald, although “bald” seems to be a misnomer, as the top is 90% wooded. There was a small rock outcropping where I assume there would’ve been a view on a clear day. I descended the Coosa Trail; down, down, down in the rain, rain, rain. I came out to a junction with a gravel road, where I began the 10 mile road walk back to my car.
On this secluded road I encountered a canine that just about made up for all the rain. I saw a tan creature bounding up to the road from the woods on the right, about 50 feet in front of me. At first I assumed it was a deer, but when it stopped in the middle of the road, I pegged it as a coyote. It was tan with reddish-brown streaks all along its sides, legs and tail. It looked to be about the size of a golden retriever or German shepherd, pretty large for a coyote. It looked down the road in the opposite direction from me when it first leapt onto the gravel surface, but when it turned its head in my direction I was struck by its snout, which was square, like a wolf, not pointed like a coyote. It looked at me for a second as I was standing completely still, and then it took off across the road and ran up the hill. All this took place in a matter of seconds, so I didn’t have time to reach for my camera without scaring the creature off anyway. Immediately my mind began to think this might have been a red wolf, which would be extremely rare, as most of the reintroduced red wolves are in northeastern North Carolina. Then I wondered if it was a hybrid of a red wolf and a coyote or a dog, which has been known to occur. (Since red wolves are so rare they have to resort to mating with other similar species to pass on their genes) I only had a brief encounter with this animal, but I got a good look at its face, and that broad, square nose and snout stick out in my mind, and I’m almost certain that it had some wolf DNA in it. That encounter kept me in good spirits as I walked the back roads in the rain to get to my car. I ended up hiking a marathon my last day to reach my vehicle, and my knees told me it was too much, but I wasn’t going to stop and set up camp in the rain, when the dry shelter of my CR-V awaits.
This trip was just what I was looking for in terms of solitude and difficulty, although I may have underestimated how tough the trails in Georgia are. I was reminded of why I averaged just over 10 miles per day in Georgia on my AT thru-hike four years ago. Yet I pushed myself and doubled that daily average. My leg muscles were certainly up to the task, but my lungs had a hard time adjusting to the steepness of the trails and keeping up with the pace my legs and mind wanted to go. My knees received a lot of abuse on the steep downhills, as they carried my weight and the weight of my pack with each step. My trekking poles helped, but they couldn’t completely prevent the soreness.
I would recommend this hike for the intermediate to advanced backpacker, but I do not recommend averaging 20 miles per day through the Georgia mountains. The trails are too rocky and steep to comfortably hike 20 miles per day. There are lots of options to make shorter or longer loops with the AT, BMT and Duncan Ridge Trail, too.
I’m looking forward to going back to the area to knock out more sections of the Benton Mackaye Trail, and eventually cross that one off the list!

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PCT 2012 Class Video

The Class Video for the PCT Class of 2012 is now available to watch online after it was shown at the ADZPCTKO on the last weekend of April. This past week I celebrated the one year “trail-versary” of the day my three friends and I left the Mexican border together and began hiking to Canada!

This video was a collaboration by many fellow thru-hikers and section-hikers from 2012. It was all put together by VirGo, who is an excellent videographer and film editor. Thank you VirGo! I had a smile on my face the entire time I was watching this, reminiscing about the trail and recognizing so many friends! Also, special thanks to Jeremiah Johnson, our group photographer, who did a great job documenting along the way and who contributed many photos to this project!

It is over an hour in length, but it is totally worth it for anyone who has hiked, plans to hike or wants a taste of the Pacific Crest Trail experience. Enjoy!

PCT 2012 Class Video from Alasdair Fowler on Vimeo.

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Familiar Faces From the Trail

Check out this awesome video, in which thru-hikers and section-hikers from the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012 take the camera and walk or talk for a few moments. It was really exciting to watch this and see again the faces of many friends I met along my 2,660 mile journey last summer, although I never ran into “Buster,” the creator of this excellent video.

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The Beards at the Border

It’s a little hard to believe that Beardoh, Jeremiah Johnson, Qball, and I stuck together for the entire PCT, but I’m glad I got to experience the trail with a group like that. It made for some great memories!
Thank you to everyone who helped me and my friends along the way. You trail angels are excellent people! Thanks to those who followed along and offered words of encouragement or sent care packages. Those were much appreciated!
And congratulations to all my fellow thru-hikers, bearded or otherwise. You guys make the experience of a long-distance hike even more interesting, exciting, and fun! Thanks for that!

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Pedro at the Border

Yes, Pedro Carlos Torres made it all the way from Mexico to Canada, too! As you can see, he’s about to do some celebrating.

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There’s the Border!

You can’t see the U.S.-Canadian border swath from the PCT until you come to the end of a switchback in a meadow, less than a quarter of a mile from the end. It definitely intensifies the emotions from that moment forward.

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North Cascades

On the last full day of my PCT thru-hike, I was treated to this majestic vista, and many more like it.

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Stehekin Sunset

Stehekin was a fun last stop on the PCT. It sits on the shores of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in the United States; which, interestingly, all three of those deepest lakes are along the Pacific Crest Trail! Can you name the other two that I passed along the way?

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Marmot Sun Worship

Marmots are crazy rodents. They whistle at PCT hikers and worship the sun. It made for a cool photo, though. Plus, they are cute, but not as cute as the pikas.

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Glacier Peak Wilderness

The Glacier Peak Wilderness is in my top five favorite sections of the PCT, along with the High Sierra, Mount Adams, Crater Lake, and Goat Rocks.

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Pikas in Washington

North of Snoqualmie Pass I started seeing and hearing pikas on every boulder field and scree slope. They sound just like a dog’s squeaky toy when they squeal at passing hikers. And, have I mentioned that they are really cute?!

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We made it to the U.S.-Canadian border at 9:00 am on September 9th. It’s a lot to process, having hiked over 2,600 miles in the last four and a half months. So for today, all I’m going to post is this one photo from the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail! Time to celebrate!

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Sunrise over Cathedral Rock

The PCT crosses a saddle just below Cathedral Rock. The next morning we could look back and see the peak standing alone from the rest of the ridge, with a golden halo encircling it.

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass is another very scenic section of the PCT. It is also very popular with locals as a weeklong or weekend hiking destination.
Here is just one example of the amazing views from this section. The clouds burning off from that morning added some more variety to the scene.

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Rainy Day in Washington

The day leaving Snoqualmie Pass was the wettest day of hiking yet. I’m glad I got a true Pacific Northwest weather experience on the PCT, especially since it cleared up later in the day. It didn’t rain so much as drizzle all morning, but it was still cold and uncomfortable.
The mountainsides were socked in, clouding what I’m sure was an outstanding view.

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Mile Marker 2400

Whoever has been making the mile markers along the PCT got a little creative with the mile 2400 sign. They used Roman numerals to mark mile MMCD!

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Blueberries and Huckleberries, Oh My!

I took my time as I walked through the fields of berry bushes, collecting a handful of blueberries to snack on. There’s just one huckleberry in this photo. Can you spot it?

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Clear Cuts in Washington

The section of the PCT after Mount Rainier was less scenic than what I’d become accustomed to in Washington. When the trail left the protected Wilderness areas it entered a series of clear cuts and burned areas. It wasn’t too bad, as the trail worked its way in and out of the patchwork cut areas and back into forest that hadn’t been logged for many decades.
I found it interesting to see how areas logged twenty or more years ago were progressing through the stages of reforestation, and all the open space meant lots of berries to be picked!

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More Rainier

Mount Rainier is a gigantic mountain, and it seemed to grow larger each time I saw it, even as the PCT took me farther away from it!

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David Keller

Photo // Film // Creative

Wandering the Wild

Backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail and Beyond

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