New here, ambitious.

2:51 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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I've been struck with wanderlust, and having been a boy with a longstanding love for the outdoors and camping I have decided to do something others would deem reckless, and that'd be making a very, very long distance wilderness hike with several friends.

My question here is what would one need to do to be prepared to make a 200 mile hike in the boreal forest. Ridiculous, I know, but pretend you're not trying to talk me out of it.

I planned the trip for the summer of 2011, and have given myself all that time to take lessons, seminars and practice, building myself up. Aside from that, what would you recommend?

 


edit; Like, is there any forum more specifically directed toward something like this? And lastly, is this called anything (other than stupid)?

4:01 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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In what part of the world is this boreal forest located? The location makes a substantial difference in what you take and what skills you will need.

4:03 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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This would be the boreal forest in the Northwestern Territories of Canada. Specifically in the triangle of The Great Bear Lake, Lake Point and Yellowknife.

8:52 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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First thing is to make several short trips in boreal forests, 2 or 3 days, then a couple week-long treks, all at the season you intend to do the 200 miler. You should be aware that you are very much on your own up there, and also that conditions there are very much different from conditions in the lower 48 (Alaska has places like this, such as ANWR and Gates of the Arctic).

9:14 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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First, get some experience, as Bill says (he knows, so listen to him). Learn what gear you need, what skills you need and everything you can about the route. Long distance hiking is a different animal from your garden variety weekend trips. Planning is paramount. You will probably need resupply points. Some people can go 200 miles self-supported, but it takes some doing and sacrifice in comfort and the kind of food you eat. The only long distance hiking I've done was from hut to hut and not all that far- 40 miles maybe at most. so no other advice to offer.

Look for Canada specific websites. www.wintertrekking.com is a winter site, as the name implies, but the members are mostly in Canada and have both 3 season and winter experience in the boreal forest. They can probably suggest other sites that cover the same region.

There are also long distance hiking websites for people doing the John Muir Trail, Appalachian Trail or the whole Pacific Crest Trail and you can get some good info on long distance hiking there.

I have no idea what the weather would be for you, but the Canadians can tell you that.

6:55 a.m. on January 19, 2010 (EST)
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Making that sort of trip, should I look into who owns the land I'll be crossing? I'm not entirely sure; we won't be on a trail. Our plan is start at the Lake Point Lodge, on the Southern end of Lake Point Canada, and head south to return to Yellowknife.

9:29 a.m. on January 19, 2010 (EST)
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I assume you mean Point Lake and Point Lake Lodge. I wouldn't worry about land ownership, people don't worry typically about trespassing in rural Canada.

What should worry you is calling it a hike. There isn't a possibility of going three miles in a straight line in that part of the NWT on foot during the summer. The glaciers scraped out thousands of potholes which are lakes connected by streams. Where it is not lake or stream it is the barrens (ridges of rock and bushes between lakes) or soft ground. Either way, you would probably be better off with a canoe and portaging, than trying to stumble through the bogs, ford the streams, and circumambulate the lakes.

Every hour of the day you may be mired in the mud. When you can't paddle, you will be carrying your canoe over the barrens, or dragging your canoe over the quaking ground. The insects will be feasting on you - horse flies, deer flies, black flies, and mosquitoes.

Most of the time you will be just on the northern limit of trees.

Perhaps you should check some canoeing sites. Wekweti is located due south of Point Lake at about your halfway point. Pop. 147. You might be able to stock food there if you planned in advance. From there you could jump over to the Yellowknife River and follow it to Yellowknife.

I have had friends who spent years in the NWT (now just NT) and liked it; I have spent time in similar country and enjoyed it. However, it is unforgiving and doesn't follow your plans. Please take a look at your possible routes in google earth and note how many hundreds of lakes and streams lie in your way.

Good luck.

2:05 a.m. on January 20, 2010 (EST)
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A 200 mile hike on a relatively well-groomed trail like the Appalachian Trail would be a major challenge for someone new. It's been done. Some have even succeeded! But in good conscience I wouldn't recommend it. There are two kinds of people who do this kind of thing: those who are passionate about the challenge, and those who are stupid about their ability to meet the challenge. Trouble is, people in both groups think they are in group One.

I don't know which group you are in and you don't either, is my point.

You don't say where you live but the odds are that there is a long trail somewhere not too far away. Pick a difficult section and try a week or two on it. That is still more than I would recommend to most people, but what the heck -- I'm going to assume that you just might be in group one.

There have been times, backpacking in the swamps around here, that after a day of slogging through trails that had turned into bogs, and bushwacking through dense yaupon and briar thickets when the bogs got too deep to manage, I had only hiked 6 or 7 miles and was worn slam out. I just can't imagine that the muskeg country would be any easier.

So, I have a hard time pretending that you shouldn't be talked out of it. The best I can do, is to suggest that you work up to it. If you haven't done a 200 mile trip on more forgiving terrain, you really just don't know, do you?

Look, Bill Bryson wrote a great book about setting off as a complete newbie on the Appalachian Trail, and all things considered, it went pretty well. But the AT is well-marked and well-maintained throughout most of its length. It is never that far from civilization, and there are frequent towns where one can re-supply, get a shower, have a cold beer, etc. There are also people along the trail who, if you were in some kind of trouble, would be able help you out. None of this would be true up in the Territories.

Come to think of it, read the last chapter of Bryson's book. He is on the last leg of the AT up in Maine, and some of the land is not unlike what you would find up around Yellowknife. While he managed to hike around 800 miles in the Southern states, he found out that this part of the trail was a whole 'nother beast.

Man, you could be right and it would be a total gas. But in my experience, Fortune favors the Prepared even more than the Brave.

9:35 a.m. on January 20, 2010 (EST)
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If you are really a nature boy with a long standing love of the outdoors and camping, you should be sleeping out every night on a deck or in your backyard, especially now that it's winter, and thereby gain an understanding of how your body does on a ground pad and inside a sleeping bag. Once you get used to these two items, and I mean really used to them, you can explore shelters and packs, etc.


I don't know your neck of the woods, but I stayed out around Lake Michigan in February once in '89 and it never got above 0F and it was rough and cold and my tent was a condensated frozen popcicle. Every place is different and has its own set of parameters for hiking and living out, but they can be learned and experienced with enough bag nights. I'd start in the backyard and inch my way into more knowledge and awareness.

7:18 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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Perhaps that not what I wanted then; I want a deep woods type travel. All the unforgiving elements, sure, because for us this is as much a challenge as recreation.


Where is there in CA that is just untouched forest? No trails, no towns, just unbroken forest. Thats what we're after.

8:11 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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No, they key to this is no trails whatsoever; we want complete isolation. We're bringing a emergency signal device incase things go terribly, but the purpose of this is utter and complete immersion into a land where there is no civilization. Just us, the woods, and the goal is to get back to the designated town.

8:16 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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and yes, we're qualified for it, though I doubt that anyone could ever be completely qualified for something like this.

8:55 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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The combination of parameters you seem to be setting probably can not be found in North America - 200 miles in deep forest with no trails whatsoever. You can sort of find that in Patagonia, but to get the 200 miles in, you might end up on the Patagonian ice sheet - no forest there, just ice (unbelievably gorgeous, though). The heavily forested parts of the US (including Alaska) are criscrossed with forestry roads so that you are never far from then. You could follow one of the routes of the Iditarod, but those are trails (there are 2 main routes used during the Iditarod, the "northern" and the "southern"). You could find such conditions in parts of Siberia, including Kamchatka (they have big furry guys there which are closely related to the ones in Alaska and northwestern Canada).

I will defer to Dewey on this, but it might be possible to find 100 miles or so like you are seeking on Vancouver Island. I suspect not, though, since there is active logging there these days.

I am curious, though. What are your qualifications, background and experience ("you" plural, all the members of your group)? Some of your comments indicate a fair amount of hubris (reminding me of a former Trailspace member, "MC"). What is the longest off-trail trek you have undertaken, that you have completed - mileage, duration, season, location, type of terrain (in case we are not familiar with the location)?

For OMW - what's this about stumbling through the bogs in the boreal forest? I thought it was more like sinking in the muskeg, as in the attached image -

9:37 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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Word is there are so many pot farms in the California forests that you probably could never go more than 50 miles in any direction in those forests without running afoul of certain "bad elements."

I hope those who are better informed can correct the record.

9:58 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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Long time since you were last in California, eh, Tom? Try 20 or 30 miles in any direction. In many of the state parks, the rangers will tell you very strongly " DO NOT GO OFF-TRAIL!" because there are so many pot farms. There have been several shoot-outs in the hills that form the spine of the SF Peninsula, just 10 miles in a straight line from my house between the guards of the farms and the DEA and sheriff's department. It is California's largest cash crop, which is part of the reason for the push to legalize marijuana and tax it (estimate is one year's tax take would not only wipe out the state's deficit, but produce a significant budget surplus). I hear the same is true in North Carolina as well.

10:09 p.m. on February 1, 2010 (EST)
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I hiked those Bay Area trails every weekend for five years so I know about the issues there, especially in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was thinking more of the very remote areas in, say, the far northwest corner of the state.

Maybe I'm too paranoid by nature but I'd be a bit concerned that if I showed up in, say, a ranger station in one of those far reaches and asked for directions to the wildest, remotest areas, they'd automatically assume I was scouting for drug traffickers.

12:07 p.m. on February 2, 2010 (EST)
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About 50-55 miles off-trail in the Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l park, came out the other side near Bryson City.

Stepfather was in a recon division of the Army, so on the weekends he started teaching me survival skills and I fell in love with it. We made 1-2 day trips, 3-7 day backpack adventures, after a bunch of those I started to teach a few of my friends and when they were ready we took a trip through the Nat'l forest.

It was great, a real challenge for once, so we want to bump it up. Go colder, more north, and more remote. But from what I understand there are mines and logging camps every-...-where in the more southern canadian forests, so its tough finding something that can be what we like.

So where outside of N.A. is this possible? Maybe somewhere in Russia?

12:10 p.m. on February 2, 2010 (EST)
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And I apologize if I sound a little cocky, its not my intention.

12:38 p.m. on February 2, 2010 (EST)
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I'm wondering how your going to carry food for a 200 mile hike? How many people are you going with? What is your experience level? Have you made out a route plan? Is there anybody in your group with back country medical training? Do you have any Navigation training? Do have you any experience with Bears? These are only a handful of questions that you should be asking yourself. I understand where your coming from, when you say "the purpose of this is utter and complete immersion into a land where there is no civilization. " but all to often its that mentality thats gets people killed in the back country. I live in Ontario Canada and we have a vast Boreal forest here as well. I have been backpacking, camping here for almost 20 years. It can be an unforgiving place at times. I too seek out the solitude and isolation when I head out on a trip, where its "you" and "the Land"... but I plan accordingly. You can always hire a Guide as well.

1:17 p.m. on February 2, 2010 (EST)
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MOJO makes some very good points. The Smokies are pretty benign compared to what you say you are aiming for. 50-55 miles there off-trail is a long weekend in summer and in most winter conditions (been there, done that, as the old saying goes). As OMW pointed out (and you can guess from the image I posted above), 50-55 miles in the boreal forest (NWT or northern Ontario, or parts of Alaska) is going to take more like 10 days to 2 weeks. Plan on food for 6-8 weeks.

Yes, there are locations in Siberia (which is part of Russia, the far far far eastern 2/3 of the country) where you can find taiga that might suit your needs. There are political restrictions you will have to deal with (Russian bureaucrats have far more rules than almost any other country). You might well have to make connections with some locals who will accompany you, as did some friends of mine who were researching the Tunguska event. Oh, and like virtually all Arctic regions, you will have to prepare for the mosquitos, noseeums, black flies, and other tiny 6-legged critters that are a worse pain than any bears. And you are unlikely to have food resupply locations (my friends had all their food brought in by helicopter).

It can be done, and has been. But the people I know who have done it had far more experience than you list.

8:56 p.m. on February 2, 2010 (EST)
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There is a lot of backcountry in West Virginia where, although there are trails, I have been back in there and not seen another human being for a week (that was on a main trail, as I was returning to the trailhead.) So if isolation is your goal, rather than "no trails", this is worth considering. No problem racking up 200 miles -- there are over 1,000 miles of trail in WV which fit the above description. Come to think of it, no reason you couldn't go off-trail, and just cross a trail from time to time. Beautiful country, too. I don't know about the pot farm situation but the local rangers would be more than happy to alert you to any problems there.

1:02 a.m. on February 3, 2010 (EST)
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West Virginia is a place where I spend alot of time. Brerarnold is definitely right as far as not seeing anyone. Beautiful country.

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