Outdoor Adventure Goals: Fresh Air, Exercise, Fun, and Satisfaction
Something for Everyone Who Loves Adventure
Calling all outdoors-loving list-makers!
I don't know about you, but I make lists. Lots of lists. Of course, there's the weekly grocery list and the never-ending "to do" list of chores and issues to take care of (like the darn cable company's billing mistake ... again).
I have lists of books to read, topics to write about, appointments to keep. All sorts of lists on all sorts of scrap paper, sticky pads, dry erase boards and notebook pages of things I don't want to forget. A lot of pragmatic and often dull stuff. Stuff that sometimes makes me groan just looking at the list.
But that's not the sort of list-making I want to talk about. No, I want to talk about the fun stuff!
By far, my favorite lists that I keep have titles like, "Trails to hike" and its companion, "Trails I've hiked." I'm even toying with the idea of starting a "Mountains to Climb" list, though nothing too technical.
I'm not only a list-maker, you see, I'm a lover of the great outdoors, of adventure, and of goal-setting. When I set a new goal for myself, I get all giddy and excited, and life takes on a whole new meaning. I have something to strive for and fun planning to do, and I enjoy the process of reaching those goals as much as the feeling of checking something off a list. It's also my way of staying motivated to exercise.
So does this sound like you, too? If so, you've stopped by the right place.
The following are a handful of outdoor adventure goals -- some big and perhaps out of our comfort zones, others not quite so ambitious or gutsy -- and some folks who've accomplished or are striving to accomplish them.
Long-Distance Outdoor Adventures: Hiking America's Triple Crown
The three longest, north-south National Scenic Trails
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.)--The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)--The Continental Divide Trail (CDT). These three major National Scenic Trails, each stretching more than 2,000 miles through some of America's most beautiful, rugged and wild country, make up what is known within the long-distance backpacking community as the "Triple Crown."
An end-to-end hike of any one of these trails in a single season is known as a thru-hike. Each year in recent times, between two and four hundred people have successfully completed Appalachian Trail thru-hikes, while the number is usually less than 200 for the PCT and significantly fewer on the more remote CDT.
Meanwhile, greater numbers are hiking sections of these trails--thus called "section-hikers"--with the goal of piecing them together to eventually complete them end to end.
Completing any one of these or other long trails is a great goal and a wonderful accomplishment in and of itself. Sometimes, though, the long-distance backpacking bug bites, and doing just one isn't enough.
Eventually, when a habitual hiker completes the A.T., PCT and CDT, either as thru-hikes or in sections, that person is then known as a Triple-Crowner. As of December, 2008, approximately 92 people are known to have accomplished that goal.
Only the organization known as ALDHAWest (or Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, Western States Chapter) officially recognizes the "Triple Crown" accomplishment and, operating on the honor system, awards plaques to those who apply for the status.
However, the personal satisfaction, not to mention precious moments and memories, of experiencing and completing these trails is certainly what it's all about.
My favorite Triple-Crowner is a woman known as Yogi, who thru-hiked the A.T. in 1999, the PCT in 2002 and 2003, and the CDT in 2004. (She also kindly transcribed my own Appalachian Trail thru-hiking journal.)
And these are a couple of others who have hiked the Triple Crown:
A Triple Crown in One Year!
Check out this article about "Flyin'" Brian Robinson, the first person to complete a Triple Crown in a single calendar year.
I know some folks frown on any type of "speed record" attempts when it comes to hiking or backpacking, but regardless of one's opinion on that matter, walking 7,400 miles in 10 months is quite the feat. (Not to mention tough on the feet!)
For More Information on the A.T., PCT and CDT and hiking America's Triple Crown, visit....
- American Long-Distance Hiking Association -- Western States Chapter
Find out more about the Triple Crown award and see lists of those who've received it by year.
- Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association
Founded in 1983 by long-distance backpacker Warren Doyle, this organization was the inspiration for the formation of the western states chapter by lightweight backpacking guru Ray Jardin in 1993.
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy - Home
For information on hiking the A.T., visit the website of the ATC, "a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the preservation and management of the natural, scenic, historic, and cultural resources associated with" the trail.
- Pacific Crest Trail Association - Preserving, Protecting and Promoting
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the best trail experiences on Earth. We’re on a mission to protect it forever. Join us.
- Continental Divide Trail Alliance
The Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA) was formed in 1995 to assist the federal land management agencies in the completion, management and protection of the Trail.
- Trail Journals
Read journals by thru-hikers and section-hikers on the A.T., PCT, CDT and many other long-distance trails around the world.
Samuel Gadner's 12,500+ mile "All-In Trek"
The Goal: To establish a new record of unassisted ultra-light long-distance backpacking on the four longest hiking trails in the U.S., continuously with no time off -- the Appalachian Trail, the North Country Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail
Read more about this grand adventure and follow Samuel's journal on National Geographic's Adventure Blog.
"Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another."
Another Outdoor Goal: Highpointing
Climbing the highest peaks, hills, humps, bumps and knolls
Me at the highest point in New Hampshire
Until the summer of 2008, I'd never heard of highpointing. Not until one of our monthly Search and Rescue team meetings, when our coordinator announced that the club named for the pursuit would be coming to Flagstaff for their annual, week-long convention. During that time, roughly three-hundred people would be hiking to the summit of Arizona's highest peak, Mt. Humphreys at 12,633 feet, just outside of town, as well as other area trails. (He told us this so we'd be prepared for potentially more call-outs than usual, given the increased number of people on the mountain. I should say right off, though, our pagers didn't go off even once that week.)
Highpointing is the sport of visiting the point with the highest elevation within some geographical area, such as the highest points in each county within a state.
Over the years, this pursuit has been taken up by thousands of people with goals that include visiting the highest point in each state, summiting every peak above some round number (ie. climbing all the mountains in Colorado above 14,000 feet), and reaching the highest point on each continent (the now famous "Seven Summits").
Talk about a list-making outdoors-person's dream! When I heard about highpointing and about the Highpointers Club, this new-found idea made me go ... hmmm.
Are You Thinking, Hmm, About Setting a Highpointing Goal, Too? If so, here are some handy links.
- Highpointers Club: Summits of the States
The Club's blog
- The Highpointers Foundation
"...provides a forum for education about the highpoints, aids in the conservation of the highpoints and their environs, maintains positive relationships with owners of highpoints on private property, assists in the care and maintenance of highpoints
- Highest Points in the U.S.
A cool, interactive map on Geology.com
- Unofficial Highpointers Group
A Yahoo! Group not affiliated with the Highpointers Club. Members "discuss high points of states, nations, and other geographical and political entities. A great way to meet fellow hikers and climbers for mountaineering expeditions to high points."
The journey is the reward.
A State-Specific Outdoor Adventure Goal: Climbing the Colorado 14ers
54 mountains above 14,000 feet
This form of highpointing, I'd definitely heard of before knowing anything about the Highpinters club, even while growing up and going to college in New England.
I had a number of friends in the New Hampshire Outdoors Club who'd spend every vacation out in Colorado, climbing one or more of the state's 54 peaks over 14,000 feet. And now that I live in Arizona, I hear about it all the time, though I've yet to climb any of these peaks myself. The key word being "yet."
One person who has hiked them all is Rex Headd, who checked the final summit off his list in August, 2005, after successfully climbing Mt. Wilson and El Diente. During Rex's quest, he climbed in all seasons all over Colorado. And Rex has put together a great Colorado Fourteeners website that includes a journal, photos, routes and mileages, and even a movie. (It's no surprise that Rex is a highpointer, as well. List-makers unite!)
More Colorado 14er Websites
- Rex Headd's Colorado Fourteeners
A comprehensive site, informative and fun
A frequently-updated site by Bill Middlebrook of Breckenridge, CO, with detailed route descriptions, maps, satellite photos, elevation profiles, and photos taken during an ascent.
- Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
"...a partnership among nonprofit organizations, concerned individuals, and public agencies to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado's Fourteeners and the quality of the recreational opportunities they provide."
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
Marathons and Adventure Races
Test yourself and have some arse-kickin' fun at the same time!
After finishing my first half-marathon in Phoenix, Arizona, in January, 2008, I decided I'd add, "Run full marathon," to the appropriate list. (I have many, after all.) After successfully completing the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN, a few months later (beating my goal time of 5 hours by a whole 4 minutes ... yippee!), I have a new level of respect for anyone who runs a second marathon, let alone dozens ... or more. Oh, the chafing!
Marathons and adventure racing can make a list-maker swoon. The choices are endless (though you'd have to have a pretty endless budget, too, to enter them all).
Most folks are familiar with the 26.2 mile run (or walk or combination of both) called the marathon, and most of us probably know someone--or at least someone who knows someone--who's completed one. In fact, I recently met a woman who, to my surprise given her physique, has completed thirty of them, including one just six months ago.
Adventure racing, however, is probably somewhat less understood (not to mention considered a bit nuts to some folks, myself not included). To quote Wikipedia, "Adventure racing is a combination of two or more disciplines, including orienteering and navigation, cross-country running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing and related rope skills. An expedition event can span ten days or more while sprints can be completed in a matter of hours. There is typically no dark period during races, irrespective of length; competitors must choose if or when to rest." Generally, adventure racing focuses on teamwork rather than individual pursuits; although some events do have solo categories.
One fairly well-known example of an adventure race is the Eco-Challenge, a multi-day, expedition-length event in which teams of four race continuously, 24 hours a day, over a rugged 300-mile course, participating in such disciplines as trekking, whitewater canoeing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, mountaineering and mountain biking.
Another adventure race, this one for individuals, is the Imogene Pass Run (IPR), a 17.1 mile course in the western San Juan mountains of Colorado, run along a route which connects the towns of Ouray and Telluride by way of 13,120 foot Imogene Pass. The IPR is held each year on the first Saturday after the Labor Day holiday. In the past, the weather on the mountain on race day has ranged from clear, sunny and windless to sub-freezing temps, snow and winds of 50mph.
One nice thing about marathons, adventure races and other long-distance pursuits is that participants come in all shapes and sizes and levels of ability and, more often than not, just finishing is considered victory.
Fifty (50!) Marathons in 50 States in 50 Days?
Can you imagine? Sounds a little over-the-top perhaps, but it's been done ... by 44 year-old endurance runner Dean Karnazes.
Find Outdoor Adventure Events
a comprehensive site for finding events in numerous categories--running, mountain biking, triathalons, endurance events and more--as well as community forums and information on training and fitness, nutrition, and so on.
- Adventure Sports Online
"...a directory for anyone that is providing goods and services to the outdoor enthusiast. Additionally, the site is designed to be an online information resource and inspiration for the outdoor enthusiast and adventure traveler."
- United States Adventure Racing Association
Joining the USARA gives you a one year license that allows you to race in any USARA-sanctioned event in the nation. Members also receive "Adventure World Magazine."
- Elite Racing Systems
"...a sports marketing and management company that is a leader in producing world-class running events. Elite Racing organizes ten events each year, including the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and the Carlsbad 5000, the world's fastest 5K."
Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.
A Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Goal: Climbing the World's Highest Peaks
About eight years ago, I had the good fortune of attending a presentation and slide show given by a man named Ed Viesturs.
You may not immediately recognize the name, but you may have heard of his accomplishments. This 5-foot-10, 165-pound, high-altitude adventurer has summited Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak, six times. And, on May 12, 2005, Ed completed a 16-year quest to climb all 14 of the world's highest mountains (above 8,000 meters or 26,000 feet) without the use of supplemental oxygen, becoming the first American and the 5th person in the world to do so. That's some highpointer!
The world's 14 highest peaks are all located in the Himalayas or Karakoram ranges in Asia. The peaks and their elevations in feet are as follows:
- Kangchenjunga (28,169)
- Everest (29,035)
- K2 (28,250)
- Lhotse (27,940)
- Cho Oyu (26,906)
- Makalu (27,766)
- Gasherbrum II (26,360)
- Gasherbrum I (26,470)
- Broad Peak ( 26,400)
- Manaslu (26,781)
- Dhualagiri (26,795)
- Shishapangma (26,289)
- Nanga Parbat (26,660)
- Annapurna (26,545)
Following Ed Viesturs' presentation, I had a chance to meet and speak with him. Given his accomplishments, I was expecting to meet a man with a hint of ... well, arrogance perhaps? But that could not be farther from the truth. Mr. Viesturs--humble, gracious and genuine--respects the mountains he climbs, and it is evident when he speaks that he loves the pursuit as much as the success of reaching a summit. On his website, you'll find the following quote: "When I first attempt a Himalayan peak ... I climb without bottled oxygen, even if it keeps me from reaching the summit. My personal goal is to see how I can perform, to experience the mountain as it is without reducing it to my level. For me, how I reach the top is more important than whether I do."
To find out more about Ed Viesturs climbs as well as his other epic outdoor adventures, visit his website at EdViesturs.com.
A Book About Ed Viesters
An inspiring adventurer ... and a good man
Read a review by The Hiking Lady.
Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.
Outdoor Adventure In Your Own Backyard and Beyond: Geocaching
Bringing things a bit more down to earth, so to speak, geocaching is something any outdoor enthusiast can do. All you need is a GPS--or even a map and compass will do if you'd like a bit more of a navigational challenge--and ... a list!
Geocaching is sorta like treasure-hunting. A cache, historically meaning a "store of things that will be required in the future and can be retrieved rapidly" (Thanks again, Wikipedia), in this case is typically a small, waterproof container with a logbook, pen or pencil, and "treasure," usually trinkets of little value. There are now more than 800,000 geocaches registered on various websites devoted to the pastime, located in over 100 countries and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.
Geocaches, while sometimes located in urban areas, are often hidden in the woods, on mountains, in canyons .... you name a type of location, there's probably a geocache in one somewhere.
Geocachers are as varied a bunch as you'll ever find. I know lawyers who geocache and trash collectors. There are 10 year-olds and 90 year-olds (or, well, so I assume). All walks of life, certainly all fitness levels aside from couch-potatoes. That's one thing about geocaching: you do have to get off your keester and go out and look for them.
I recently came across an interesting blog by Jereme Gray called "Slim Cache: My journey to become a healthier person through geocaching". How cool, doing something you love to get in shape. Jereme has lost more than 60 pounds to date! Stop by if you have a chance and give him a thumbs up.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC
Wow, that's some goal!
56-year old Jennifer Figge becomes the first woman to swim across the Atlantic. Read the article on Yahoo! Sports.
Jennifer now plans to swim from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands to end her epic journey at the Bitter End Yacht Club in late February.
Benoit Lecomte of France was the first man to make a solo trans-Atlantic swim, covering nearly 4,000 miles from Massachusetts.
My Own Outdoor Adventure Goals: - An ever growing and changing list
- Hike the Appalachian Trail (Done! Sept., 2000)
- Hike the Pacific Crest Trail
- Hike the Continental Divide Trail
- Complete a half-marathon (Done! January, 2008)
- Complete a full marathon (Done! April, 2008)
- Hike the Colorado Trail (first section from Durango to Silverton, 75 miles, in June, 2009)
- Hike the Arizona Trail
- Hike the Long Trail (Vermont)
- Hike the Pennine Way (England)
- Hike the Wonderland Trail (Washington state)
- Hike the Florida Trail
- Hike the American Discovery Trail (coast to coast)
Some Other Ideas for Outdoor Adventure
So taking six months off to do a thru-hike isn't in the cards any time soon perhaps. And section-hiking a 2,000-mile trail? Well, maybe, but all of that traveling back and forth could get a bit expensive. Marathons and adventure races may not be for you, either. Climbing 26,000-plus-foot peaks sure isn't for me! But there are as many ideas out there for us outdoor adventure list-makers as they are peaks to bag or races to run.
So what about....
- climbing that mountain you see from your back porch, once a month during all twelve months of the year, or;
- bird-watching. I hear bird-watchers make "life lists" of birds they want to see. I'd say that'd keep you outdoors for a while!
- You could climb all the cinder cones (old volcanoes) in Northern Arizona (although, some are illegal to climb). That was my husband's suggestion. I hear there are more than 600! But I don't know how many have names.
- What about picking out your favorite local trail guide and hiking them all, page by page, or....
© 2008 Deb Kingsbury