Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Hiking the entire length of three famous trails by Jeff Sauer appeared to be a popular topic at a lecture Thursday at the University of Alaska Southeast.
The Appalachian, the Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest Trail were all conquered. The Appalachian measures some 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia. The Continental Divide measures some 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,653 miles and passes through seven National Parks.
For hikers it is their triple crown, over 7,000 miles and 22 states. Only about 500 have accomplished the feat.
He said there is a saying in the hiking world, see the world at two miles per hour.
In 1985, he conquered the Pacific Crest Trail. He noted at that time there was no GPS and no cell phones. The trail is famous due to the high Sierra Mountains. Sequoia, Yosemite, and Sierra National Park, the John Muir wilderness and other national forests were included on the map. He climbed Mount Whitney during the trip. Two hikers died on the trail in California trying to cross streams due to the heavy snow pack that year. The only fee on the trail then was the Bridge of the Gods, a 25 cent fare, at the Oregon, Washington State line over the Columbia River.
Sauer said one of his major hurdles was getting through the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area because visibility and weather were poor. He was able to find a shelter he had mapped on the trail. He said one of the more spectacular parts of the trip were the Cascade Range. He hiked this section during October and the weather held out to allow him to reach the end at the Canadian border.
Sauer said after the Pacific Crest he returned to Alaska and had no plan to try and hike another trail from start to finish. In 2010 he got the urge for another through hike. He chose the Appalachian trail which runs through 14 states. It begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia. It has hundreds of miles in forests with tree cover. It has the nickname, the long green tunnel. "I really enjoyed Georgia in particular. There are billions of birds that fly up the Appalachian ridge. They were all singing. It was really quite magical." He began the hike on April 12 when spring was in full bloom. Highlights of the trail include McAfree knob near Roanoke, Virginia. He also enjoyed Hot Springs, North Carolina, and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He enjoyed the small towns on the trail. "One of the things you do in these small towns is sit on your butt. You really don't want to walk around much"
He averaged 15 miles per day and took three days off each month to rest and restore.
Another highlight of the trail was New Hampshire. The Appalachian Mountain Club provides huts on the trail for shelter. He experienced fog at the summit of Mt. Washington. Another highlight was the 100 mile wilderness in Maine. The trail ends at the top of Mt. Katahdin, Maine.
He advised hikers to buy sneakers that are extra wide and about one size too big because your feet will swell during the hike. The hike lasted five and a half months.
He hiked the Continental Divide this year. The biggest obstacle on this trail is the weather and high altitude. Lightning can also be dangerous on this trail. "Lightning can strike you from miles away at an angle and can also strike the earth and electrocute you through the earth. It was all scary stuff. We didn't have a lot of experience with this stuff in Alaska."
There are few water sources in the New Mexico portion of the trail. The altitude is close to 7,000 ft near Sante Fe. Daytime temperatures got quite warm but could drop to freezing temperatures at night. Highlights included the Gila River and the Ghost Ranch Resort. There were spectacular views along some of the mesas. He also visited South Pass City, the Wind River Range in Wyoming and Jackson, Montana. The final section was through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park.
The Alaska Audubon Society is working on a virtual trail for birding in southeast Alaska. There is more information on their website, http://ak.audubon.org/
The annual Christmas bird count this year is December 15 in Juneau.