Is this guy channeling me?

September 30, 2006

Rodney “Mad Dog” Mangum retired and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail last summer.

“Walking this trail has been a life goal for me,” said Mangum, 57, of Arden. “I’ve been around this beautiful area and the Smokies and was just fascinated by it. So I said, ‘By golly, one day I’m going to walk that thing.'”


In about eight years I expect to complete the same goal. My plans closely parallel what he did. In fact, they’re similar right down to the fact that we both have school teacher wives.

No OreosBut there’s one big difference between us. Mangum says his favorite trail food was Oreo cookies.



It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s backpacking Superman!

September 29, 2006

This article is a couple weeks old, but I just came across it:

Backpacking with Superman

I have one boy in college and another is in high school, but I seem to recall they were once that age.

I’m jealous

September 28, 2006

Charlie FergusonThe Carolina Mountain Club newsletter reports Charlie Ferguson recently completed the SB6K Challenge.

I was envious, considering I’ve only been able to reach 6 of the 40 summits so far.

But then I read what Ferguson said about his efforts:

“I had my first real taste of the SB6K this May when I went on the 3 day SB6K Smokies backpack, led by Tom Sanders.”

Gaaaa! Don’t tell me that! You’ve hiked nearly all of the peaks in just 5 months?

Ferguson says it was easy because he had help.

“The CMC hike schedule included many of the SB6K peaks that were needed to fill in the blanks. All I had to do was show up.”

Oh sure, that and having all the free time in the world.

Anyway, congratulations Charlie.

Let’s get passionate

September 27, 2006

When I chimed in yesterday on a discussion started by Tom Mangan at Two-Heel Drive I figured I’d get a response. I didn’t mean to get riled, but I expressed surprise that Steve Outing questioned whether hikers share the same passion for their sport that mountain bikers and climbers have for theirs.

In a reply to my post, Outing explains a little more what he meant.

“I think our model is different and more community/passion focused than most other outdoors online stuff to be of interest and use to people.”

I’m still not seeing a difference in the communities or the level of their passion. But maybe that’s because I’m a hiker/backpacker and, as Outing admits, he isn’t.

“Haven’t backpacked in years, and my hiking is usually on vacations or once in a blue moon I might do a 14er here in Colorado.”

So perhaps it’s up to us to show him just how passionate we can be about our sport. Mangan and winehiker have already started.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.

I also thought it would interesting to see if there was a way to quantify some of this passion. At Echo Media I found circulation figures for a lot of publications. I’m not able to validate the numbers, but what little cross referencing I did seemed to indicate they were fairly accurate. I don’t know about the other data. For one thing, the income level shown for Mountain Bike seems way out of whack.

I picked out a few biking and climbing magazines to put up against Backpacker magazine. And I also threw in some other outdoor-related publications.

To be sure, these numbers can’t offer a complete picture, but they do provide an interesting insight.

Magazine Undup. Circ. Avg. Income Avg. Age Percent Male
Backpacker 310,000 $70,950 40 73%
Bicycling 400,000 $69,815 37 77%
Bike 79,339 $67,165 33 94%
Canoe & Kayak 57,230 $88,000 44 83%
Climbing 36,646 $75,000 37 87%
Field and Stream 1,500,000 $50,586 41 na
Mountain Bike 155,000 $94,000 36 91%
Mountain Bike Action 65,000 $70,000 33 97%
Outside 650,000 na na 68%
Rock and Ice 31,250 $79,982 35 na
Runner’s World 615,000 $69,274 36 57%
Sierra 675,000 $100,700 50 47%

If you view magazine subscriptions as one measure of that commitment, the number of people passionate about backpacking and hiking has to be judged at least on par with those passionate about the so-called extreme sports.

But I don’t think Outing is concerned with numbers so much as he’s interested in the magnitude of their passion.

As others have pointed out, there’s a far lower barrier to entry for hiking, and only to a slightly lesser extent for backpacking, than there is for most other sports. That makes it easier for people in, well, my age bracket to stay involved in hiking and backpacking.

Still, I don’t know what you can conclude from that. If you’re really passionate about a sport you have to buy expensive toys? You have to be young?

I’m not ready to agree to that. Are you?

It takes one to know one

September 26, 2006

After I mentioned the startup of and, Tom Mangan at Two-Heel Drive took note and decided to ask the sites’ founder, Steve Outing, if there were plans to launch “”

Mangan says Outing replied, but questioned the viability of such a site.

“I’m a bit dubious about hiking, but maybe you can convince me I shouldn’t be. With MTB and climbing, people who are passionate about the sport really identify themselves with being part of a tribe, so they seem willing to join a community of people who share a common obsession.”

I find that response startling. Are hikers less passionate about their sport than climbers and mountain bikers?

They are if your sport is climbing or mountain biking and not hiking.

But take it from someone who’s been hiking and backpacking for more than 35 years, and who’s also been involved in mountain biking, climbing, road biking, whitewater kayaking, flatwater canoeing, and assorted other outdoor pursuits — there are people in every one of these sports who are equally passionate.

Mangan apparently doesn’t agree.

“Hiking doesn’t seem sexy compared to those extreme sports with their extreme hype. Not complicated enough, not difficult enough, not expensive enough.”

Yeah, it does have something to do with the money, doesn’t it.

But still, if you want to see passion, try getting in a simple discussion on pack weight in the BackpackingLight discussion group. Try complaining about cell phone use on the trail in the AT-L mailing list. Claim you have the best alcohol stove design at Show up at a hiker gathering like Trail Days in Damascus, Va.

Or just get out on a trail and talk to another hiker.

There’s a tribe of hikers out there, all right.

You may as well leave your common sense at home, too

September 26, 2006

Jonathan Crowe at The Map Room found an article that left me dumbfounded.

Forget the map; let a GPS guide you to fall foliage:

“A navigational device can help you avoid getting lost (saving precious gas); it can also find eateries and other landmarks along the way. It’s almost like having a fall colors tour guide.”

By “almost” I hope the writer means “not at all.”

Jonathan is equally bewildered by the stupidity of this article.

“It also repeats the canard that a GPS renders paper maps unnecessary: ‘A foldable map is cheaper and just as portable as a GPS device, but doesn’t tell you directions the way a GPS unit does.’ To me that’s like saying a compass renders a topo map obsolete.”

I couldn’t agree more

September 22, 2006

Dan Stafford at Environmental Action says: Hooray for the Roadless Rule!