Extreme hiking in Sierra and The Guardian

We’re seeing more and better coverage of hiking in the media, I think that’s fair to say. Here are today’s examples. From Sierra (magazine) a sponsored content story about two hikers, young women, working their way up the length of the Americas. 20,000 miles. Which will take years.

The hikers’ next challenge is to make it through the deserts of Chile. In these parts, precipitation is all but unheard of. The Atacama stretches a thousand kilometers south to north, with few services or natural water sources. The hikers scoured satellite maps for water sources, and reached out to social networks to find volunteers willing to make water drops.

Other solutions are decidedly low-tech. In the Atacama, they will follow roads, not trails, Hughes says. “We have made it through two of the longest dry stretches, ninety-plus kilometers [56mi], with a large ‘water’ sign on my backpack. Again and again, the generosity of strangers has carried us through the toughest stretches.”

Before encountering the Atacama, as the two women walked north from Uspallata, Argentina, they entered the southernmost outposts of the Qhapaq Ñan, the famed Inca road system connecting a diverse empire that now encompasses six countries. The stone walls, irrigation channels, and rounded huts of the tambos (former forts and storehouses) remain. The hikers set up camp among the ruins. For Hughes, it was a transcendental moment of arrival. But she also noted, “To them, this was the end of the road, the middle of nowhere. The only Incas who made it down this far were the well-walked, outcast odd-balls—like us.”

Speaking of outcasts, the next example, from The Guardian, focuses on a legendary hiker known as Nimblewill Nomad, who has left all conventional life and family behind as he became a man who walks everywhere ceaselessly.

In his 61st year on this earth, the man who calls himself Nimblewill Nomad left home and walked a very long way through the mountains – about 10 million steps, he estimates, or 4,400 miles. Then, he took another, even longer walk. And then another one. And then another. Soon, he had given away almost all of his money and taken to walking almost year-round, roaming the post-industrial wilderness of North America in what he called “a desperate search for peace”.

Excellent and personal story from the writer Robert Moor, who for three days walked with Nomad by the roads of west Texas. Nomad no longer bothers with trails, but still finds islands of wildness along the way.

The next night, we slept in a copse of gnarled oaks beside a graveyard, a shady grove carpeted with slender, rippling leaves. It was strangely lovely. Eberhart found them everywhere, these forgotten little shards of wilderness. The problem, he said, was that hikers tended to divide their lives into compartments: wilderness over here, civilization over there. “The walls that exist between each of these compartments are not there naturally,” he said. “We create them. The guy that has to stand there and look at Mount Olympus to find peace and quiet and solitude and meaning – life has escaped him totally!”’

It’s true that nature is not “out there” as Gary Snyder likes to say, but “home.” Unfortunately, it’s also true that those in search of life at home in nature are considered “odd balls” and perhaps always have been, if Bethany Hughes and Lauren Reed’s accounting of Incan walkers can be trusted. Maybe that’s okay?

SIERRA Thru-Hiking the Americas 4 WB (1)

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