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Giving Tuesday: ALDHA-West

five women with trail name tags standing. One holds a microphone.

Giving Tuesday is a response to the frantic post-Thanksgiving commercial rush—an occasion to be generous to nonprofits instead. For Giving Tuesday 2018, we encourage you to donate to ALDHA-West, the western branch of the American Long Distance Hiking Association. Financial contributions help the organization support its mission "to inspire, educate and promote fellowship among long-distance hikers and those who support long-distance hiking." So exactly what does ALDHA-West do to deserve your well-earned dollars? They educate on trail etiquette and Leave No Trace and advocate for long-distance hikers and their trails, as well as acting as a diplomatic bridge between hikers and local communities.

Triple Crown

Hiking the PCT or AT is a really big deal. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail is something phenomenal and deserves recognition with an award called the Triple Crown. Since 1994, ALDHA-West has handed out 396 Triple Crowns to hikers who have completed all three trails. The awards are presented annually at their Gathering.

woman in paper crown receiving plaque from manThe Gathering and Rucks

ALDHA-West events are opportunities for thru-hikers to reunite, swap tales of the trail, and learn from those who have journeyed before them. The 2018 Gathering, attended by over 100 adventurers, was held on an October weekend on Mt. Hood, but location rotates by state down the West Coast. In 2019 the Gathering will be in Nevada City, California.

a man and a woman running with comically large packs

The ALHA-West Rucks are aimed at getting new thru-hikers ready for their trips with gear and sound advice on keeping hydrated and fed, pack weight, and route planning. There are two upcoming Rucks in early 2019. The NorCal Ruck in January and the Colorado Rockies Ruck in March. Not convinced you need to attend one? Read Snuffy's account of how helpful a 2018 Ruck was for her.

Community building

A big part of what ALDHA-West is all about is to be a home and a community to the thousands of thru-hikers across the country. Though focused on the Western trails (particularly the PCT) more than the AT, ALDHA-West is the thru-hikers home. From helping to connect hikers to each other, to supporting Trail Angels, to trail town diplomacy, it is about creating the best environment for thru-hikers.

Many the ALDHA-West members are only known by their trail names and all the jokes, stories and meals are whatever hiker trash would love!

ALDHA-West also publishes the Gazette four times a year and members are active advocates for public lands (including trips to DC to be our voice in the capitol).

Education

Trail etiquette, real-life on trail experience, and inside knowledge are crucial to thru-hikers attempting to succeed at a full long-distance hike, and ALDHA-West provides! They help make sure thru-hiking is a sustainable hobby and interest.

The Rucks, set just before each hiking season, are meant to provide aspiring thru-hikers the knowledge needed to succeed. This helps to ensure that hikers going on the trail do so in the right way, for them, the communities they pass and the environment they hike in. Supporting ALDHA-West ensures that knowledge is preserved and shared with as many as possible to increase the viability of thru-hiking and help create new trails and a strong community.

Giving to ALHA-West 

There are two ways to contribute to ALHDA-West for Giving Tuesday. Make a tax-deductible donation or become a member. Thank you for supporting long distance hiking!

All photos taken by John "Biggie" Carr at the 2018 Gathering.

So You Want to Hike the ODT?

So You Want to Hike the ODT?

Finished your Triple Crown and not sure where to get your next thru-hike fix? While not as well-loved as the PCT, the Oregon Desert Trail shows off the intense scenic beauty of the high desert in southwest Oregon and deserves more attention. The ODT is a 750 mile W-shaped route with the western terminus in the Badlands of Central Oregon, east of Bend, and and the eastern terminus in the Owyhee Canyonlands in Lake Owyhee State Park near the Idaho border.

It’s a new route, vetted by thousands of volunteer hours beginning in 2011. It is a "virtual route" meaning there is no dedicated Oregon Desert Trail signage, so you need to show up prepared for the navigational challenge. In this backcountry, you will be able to experience the sublime solitude you dreamed about, but couldn’t find, on the crowded PCT and AT. You won’t have to fight anyone for the flattest, softest camping spots, but the terrain is so rough sometimes there aren’t very flat or soft spots.

There are hot springs and pictographs to enjoy, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse to view, and rattlesnakes to avoid. Unimpeded by light pollution, you’ll see more stars than you thought possible while challenging yourself to the limit. This is truly a hike for the experienced but it offers those special rewards reserved to those who persevere.

 

When to Hike

As a desert hike, shoulder seasons are the best time to get on the trail, though that means less stable weather with day and night extremes. In terms of water supply, springtime is the best time to hike the ODT, since the streams will be well-fed by snowmelt. (But that also means mosquitos!)

No matter which time time of the year you go, you can experience snow or 100+ degree days, or sometimes both in the same week. Deserts! They’re unpredictable. Here is some solid advice for keeping safe in the heat. (Ever heard of hyponatremia?) Like the desert animals, consider being active earlier or later in the day, and take some rest in shade during the hottest part. 

Water

Water is probably the ODT's biggest challenge due to a combination of several factors:

  • Hot and dry desert environment requiring a high intake of water while not offering much in terms of natural resources
  • Low-density population makes human-made water sources scarce
  • Mix use of many areas that include cattle herding creates a constant environmental strain on the few water sources that exist.

Be prepared for long stretches without water that is impossible to carry all the time, so you'll need to cache it. The Oregon Natural Desert Association has created a water chart indicating reliable, questionable, and unreliable water sources along the way, make sure you use it. While both spring and fall have milder temperatures than the summer or winter, fall will be a lot drier. The first person to thru-hike the ODT in the fall carried 9L of water at the driest point, and you should expect to need similar quantities.

Many of the water sources are shared with cattle so a reliable water filter is a must, aim for a high volume one like the Sawyer Squeeze. Due to the high volume of water needed, opt for a 3L Vecto instead of a 2L one, and carry at least 2 of them.

Resupply

The ODT passes through several towns, including Paisley, Plush, Frenchglen, Fields, and Rome (within 1 mile), where you can either buy supplies or have them mailed to Post Offices for you to pick up. The towns of Christmas Valley, Lakeview, and McDermitt are reached by alternate trail options. The greatest struggle is between the eastern terminus and Rome, where the nearest towns are more than 20 miles away and you may have to rely on hitching a ride. ONDA provides a resupply strategy here.

Section Hiking

If you're not committed to thru-hiking the ODT all at once, you can section hike (or section paddle, horseback ride, or bike) as you please. This is a great project for local Oregonians to add to their bucket list with the goal of completing a section a year. ONDA has helpfully divided the ODT into 25 sections and created guides for each region.

Region 1: Badlands to Paisley (Section 1-6)
Region 2: Paisley to Frenchglen (Sections 7 – 12)
Region 3: Frenchglen to Hwy 95 (Sections 13 – 19) 
Region 4: Hwy 95 to Owyhee Reservoir (Sections 20 – 25)

The map below shows the sections and route.

Gear

The ODT has some particular concerns and so requires some specialized gear beyond a standard 3 seasons kit.

  • Extreme heat, but also snow: Make sure you are ready for cold nights (even in summer) and hot days (even in winter). Sunscreen, UV protecting clothing, puffy jacket and a warm sleeping kit is recommended at all times.
  • Lack of high vegetation (aka trees): Umbrellas can shield you from heat, but also precipitation and help avoid sun strokes. We recommend the Silver Shadow Trekking Umbrella from Six Moons Design.
  • Rattlesnakes: Bring along gaiters. They're also useful for sharp plants.
  • Strong winds: There aren't many-wind breaking trees in several sections of the trail. Tents can become kites. Some nights, sleeping in the open air or in a bivy sack may be your best option.
  • No potable water/long distances without any water: You'll need more water storage that you usually carry. We recommend 3L Vectos and, of course, don't forget your filter.
  • Unmarked route: Unlike the PCT, AT, or more established trails, some of the ODT is not labeled. Bring maps and a compass and know how to use them well. ONDA has provided GPS data for your phone or GPS device.
  • Alternate options: At times, the ODT is more of a suggested route than a trail. Some explorers prefer to bikepack portions. You might want a packraft; the last 200 miles are along the Owyhee River.
  • Lack of cellphone service: Be safe in very remote areas. Carry a beacon to alert rescuers in case you need to be evacuated.
You can find ONDA's suggested pack list here.

Support September

In September, Cnoc Outdoors donates 10% of revenue from purchases on the website to an organization that strives to protect the wild beauty of the world and create inclusive, accessible outdoor adventures. For 2018, we are donating to the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The Executive Director of ONDA was the first to dream up the ODT. In addition to working on the ODT, some of the Oregon Natural Desert Association’s work has included obtaining legal protection for the Oregon Desert's lands and wildlife against dangers such as industrial-scale energy development and the intrusion by motorized vehicles.

Much of the information you will need for your desert adventure is available on the ONDA website. Check out their detailed guide before you head out to the trail. Oregon’s desert backcountry beckons.