ICYMI: Mountains, trails, kids and gear

View of the Susquehanna Valley looking south to Harrisburg from Second Mountain, Dauphin, Pa.

There are many things to think about with an outdoors hobby.

What’s the next mountain to climb? What’s the best trail? How will we attack the trail and mountain with the group we have assembled? How do you teach the next generation to love, respect and defend wilderness we know it should be? Is all my gear in order for the next trip?

These questions are equally valid and relevant, whether you’re planning a day-hike or an extended trek to a high peak, a leisurely kayaking and fly fishing trip on a sunny afternoon, or a climbing route with razor-thin danger margins.

In case you missed it, we’ve assembled several articles and stories about these subjects.

People are always finding new ways to experience wilderness, especially with novel ideas about how to expand our network of established trails. For example, volunteer trail builders and the National Park Service are currently cutting the North Country Trail to be added to the pantheon of long-distance hiking trails in the U.S.

End marker of the Horseshoe Trail on the Appalachian Trail, Stoney Mountain.

In a similar thread, there are proposals to redefine the trail experience in Pennsylvania. Outdoorsman, author and Wyoming County prosecutor Jeff Mitchell recently wrote in his blog that the Pennsylvania Wilds deserves a region-crossing long-distance trail. The “PA Wilds Trail” would run 171 miles by linking existing trails, and offer hikers an opportunity to see some of the state’s best wild spaces in a single adventure. Such ideas are worth further examination.

I’ve been looking forward to the challenge of conquering the Catskill 35, the 35 peaks over 3,500 feet in New York’s Catskill Mountains. I’m planning to launch that project soon. In Pennsylvania, we don’t have anything higher than Mt. Davis at slightly more than 3,200 feet, but maybe we should have a similar peak-bagging club. I’ll go back to Mitchell again. He compiled a list of Pennsylvania “peaks” with more of a focus on the relative difficulty of the ascent and quality of the view near the top.

Pennsylvania needs a definitive peak-bagging club, maybe called “Keystone 2K,” where hikers are challenged to bag (and document their conquest of) the top mountains over 2,000 feet. Any such club would need a mandate to hike from base to summit, as well as a winter hike requirement for 50 percent of the peaks, similar to the Catskill 35.

If you’re going out in winter, maybe you should give adequate attention to your footwear. I prefer wool socks to start off. But what about those boots? Are yours in need of repair? I’ll get to that in a future post. But if your boots are beyond the point of no-return, maybe it’s time to invest in a new pair. Here’s Section Hiker’s look at the 10 best winter hiking boots, if you’re in the market or just need a way to spend your holiday gift cash.

The kids descending Second Mountain on a day hike.

After boots, your pack is one of the most important pieces of gear you have because it holds everything else. I’ve had good experiences with both brand-name and budget packs. But I still have gripes about internal frames. Maybe, the answer is to go back to my BSA external frame from the 1990s? Backpacker recently had an interesting story about one chap who still swears by the external frame pack.

Hey, if you’re getting out there, I won’t judge you for your fitness level. I’m in good shape for 41, but I’m not running any triathlons. Realistically, if you keep with outdoors activities, your fitness and health will improve, or you’ll become a cautionary tale. (I don’t hope for that second option.) But if you want to improve that fitness level, here’s some insight on how.

The last time you took your child on a trip, did you enjoy it? Or was it one stressful happening after another? Maybe next time, let go and let the kids take control. With a safety veto built in, of course. Maybe you’ll find some helpful advise and a few good laughs in this story about letting 5th graders plan the backpacking trip. Enjoy!

Let go of your illusions of control over your child’s future. You have a lot of influence in ensuring they grow up into reasonably stable young adults. But at some point, it’s time to let them climb their own route. This mother-son team decided to follow a literary trail. Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums” was one of my favorite books, too, so it was interesting to hear about someone literally following the Dharma Bum Trail. This mother was out to bond with her son, but sounds like she’s the one who took away a valuable lesson.

Well, there’s your rainy day, waste-some-time-between-meetings reading list. After, put down the tablet, and go for a hike. Happy trails.

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