Month: March 2011

An Audience with the Queen of Mountains

I’ve had some exhilarating experiences on snow, but it’s been a volatile relationship. I’ve been unnerved by the stuff in Japan and the U.S., and I’m also not very tolerant of prolonged or extreme cold. Where most other hikers on the PCT last year claimed to love the High Sierra, I couldn’t wait to get back down on solid, clearly discernible ground. Switzerland in early winter was the setting for an occasionally testing but always magical reacquaintance.

A Long and Intimate Walk with John Hillaby

In an earlier post I mentioned my affection for John Hillaby‘s ‘Journey Through Britain‘. As promised, here’s a little more on this wonderful book. The Britain discovered by John Hillaby on his walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the late-’60s may well, for all I know, already have vanished. I haven’t been there, but he seems to predict its fading in the final pages of ‘Journey’, noting that open country is diminishing rapidly but concluding, a tad warily, that many parts of Britain are still inexpressibly beautiful. Inexpressibly? I don’t think so. The traverse of Britain between its southwest and northeastern points has been done innumerable times, on foot, and on wheeled contraptions ranging from bicycle to skateboard to wheelchair. Hillaby’s skill lies in vividly and effortlessly expressing the wisps of natural, social, ancient and modern history that float through his journey, one of the earliest well-documented ones in modern times. So early was it, in fact, that he refers to encounters with blue-jeaned beatniks in the early part of his walk! The book …

The Suburbs Come to Deep Creek

This was my 22nd day on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was around 300 miles into my journey, still feeling strong, and stomping out a few big-mile days just to see if I could. I did 27.5 miles on this day, but it’s memorable for me also for the amazing scenery, my total independence, and a brush with the uglier side of the world hikers are usually happy to leave behind. MAY 2010 I woke among the broken boughs of fallen pines high above Deep Creek, best camp I could find in the fading light after just scraping a 30-miler the evening before. The creek bank was the prize, but it was claimed by some rowdy people in a car, and you can’t be too careful. I felt good, free and light and alone; yesterday I’d busted free of the little trickle of hikers around me, said, “No offence, but I wanna try hiking alone for a bit,” and cruised on, reclaiming my independence, a long, fast day out of Big Bear through mile upon …

Crusoe for a Weekend on Moreton Island

I can’t take in the dawn from the Sandgate waterfront, not far from home, without scanning the blue-grey backbone of  Moreton Island on the far-off rim of the bay, and thinking about my three big adventures there. Moreton just might be my favourite place; I’ve circled her on foot twice, in both directions, and hiked most of her through the middle. Here’s the story of my first big walk there…

The Vagabond Spirit: Mud-Slicked Memories of Vermont

JUNE 2006 Day 46, Little Rock Pond Shelter, VT, 18.2 miles ‘Cedar Moe’ and I are being mauled by very aggressive mosquitoes. We’re the only ones here — the others must have pulled in at one of the previous shelters. Today was another good day and my love affair with Vermont continues. People complain about the mud but I’ve been to Tasmania.