ALDHA West Cascade Winter Ruck

This past Saturday, CleverHiker was thrilled to attend the first ever ALDHA West Cascade Winter Ruck in Cascade Locks, Oregon. The purpose of the event was to bring together a mix of veteran thru-hikers and aspiring long distance backpackers to swap stories and build community. It was a learning and networking opportunity for backpackers of all levels and CleverHiker was on hand to soak up the weekend’s events and share some tips and techniques. The program included a variety of long-distance backpacking presentations, equipment evaluations, a gear raffle of UL goodies, great food, and cheap handcrafted beers. By all accounts the event was a massive success.

Glen Van Peski, founder of Gossamer Gear and a UL Jedi Master, kicked things off with a rousing talk on lightweight and ultralight techniques.

Next up: Navigation tools and digital trail resources for long-distance hikers. CH was amazed to discover how much has changed since we hiked the PCT four short years ago. Smartphone apps and interactive maps seem to be on everyone's minds these days.

Throughout the day, attendees received gear advice from the GG Trail Ambassadors and other UL experts. Novice hikers submitted their packs to examination and scrutiny by advanced UL hikers, and the results were not always pretty! But this proved to be an extremely helpful exercise for aspiring long-distance hikers.

Later in the day, the topics of Snow travel and river crossings were addressed by Carolyn “Ravensong” Burkhart and ALDHA West president Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa. Trail food and resupply logistics were covered by Chris “Freefall” Sanderson and Scotland “SoFar” Forbes. The two housemates provided a detailed and comedic presentation of opposing views about trail food choices and resupply strategies. Trail food is a highly personal choice, and these guys presented some great options.

The event was capped-off by Kate “Drop and Roll” Hoch, who gave a stunning presentation of her 2013 CDT thru-hike with pictures, videos, and stories. She provided an honest, inspiring, and deeply personal view of thru-hiking one of the world's most  beautiful  Scenic Trails.

If there’s one thing that we took away from the weekend – other than a healthy longing to get back out on the trail – it’s that there's always room for improvement and there are always more skills and techniques to master. Even accomplished triple-crown hikers discussed their desire to improve their gear, food, and outdoor skills. Backpacking is a never-ending learning experience and one that only seems to get more enjoyable with practice.

A CleverHiker knows that nature is a school, and every hike is a lesson.


Here are some of my favorite takeaways and reminders from the weekend’s presentations:

Backpacking is rad! We're ready for winter to end!

PCT Thru-hikers are utilizing smart phone apps for navigation almost exclusively these days and they highly recommend them.

Halfmile’s free maps and apps seem to be the consensus favorite among smart phone users, but Guthooks apps also seemed to quite popular.

Smart phone GPS was said to be just as accurate as traditional GPS units by many experts.

Never rely on water cashes when planning desert hiking trips. That one is pretty obvious, but it’s always good to remember.

Most backpackers could really benefit from a winter mountaineering class for ice axe self arrest skills. Get an ice axe and learn how to use it. You’re going to encounter snow slopes, especially if you're hiking in the spring or fall, and ice axe skills could save your life.

Learning to use a food dehydrator can really help to spice up trail meals. Dehydrated veggies, fruits, and full meals will help add nutrition and taste while still keeping weight low.

Bounce boxes aren’t nearly as common as they used to be among PCT thru-hikers.

I really need to get out and hike more sections of the Continental Divide Trail. Photographs from the CDT look absolutely stunning, especially the Wind River Range in Wyoming and Glacier National Park.

It’s not about the gear. It’s all about getting out there and having an adventure.


A huge thanks to everyone involved in the ALDHA West Cascade Winter Ruck this past weekend and best of luck to everyone attempting a thru-hike this year. Your mission is inspiring and very fun to follow.