Now that the warm weather has come to most of the globe, wanderlust has infected those of us trapped in offices. And what better way to get out and about than to surf the Net for those quiet trails away from the noise and congestion of the city. Fortunately, if you're considering an outdoor adventure this summer, there's help and advice for every level of hiker on the World Wide Web.
Hiking & Walking Homepage
To begin your quest for the perfect trail, tramp over to the Hiking & Walking Homepage. Constructed by Web designer Wendy Bumgardner, the site is a winding path through thickets of information on the Net about backpacking, day hikes, and climbing. The site offers connections to sites describing hiking trails from the Voyageur Trail in Ontario, Canada, to Queensland Bushwalking in Australia. If you're in search of personal advice, the site also keeps a listing of Usenet and hiking clubs you can contact in specific areas. Of course, you can also just browse a few pages by hitting the front page highlights, including a walking information webstation that covers recreational walks and race walking. Also on the front page, HWH also offers brief news, in this case from the non-profit educational organization, Leave No Trace, which strives to enlighten backpackers about leaving the wilderness as untrammeled as possible. Other links featured this week include a gear finder, the National Parks Foundation's revamped site, and material on aerobic camping dubbed FastPacking. And you can skim previous features including advice on planning a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps and making the grade in Russia's Fan Mountains. Broad and ideal for the casual hiker, the Hiking & Walking site steers clear of steep inclines.
The Total Yellowstone Page
Created by John William Uhler, this site focuses on one of America's most popular national parks, Yellowstone. Thorough yet tinged with personal anecdotes and tips, the site offers separate sections for camping, fishing, and day hikes. For the last, there are descriptions of different trails, including the Bunsen Peak 4-mile hike with panoramic views of the stunning landscape. Uhler also logs in regular Yellowstone trip reports. A forthcoming June trip report, for example, is presaged with a teaser that mentions his sighting of 26 grizzlies, 8 black bears, and 8 wolves (audio clips of howling wolves augment the pages). First-time visitors should start with Uhler's Visitor's Guide. It has basic fees, road opening dates, nearby hotels, and maps of the park to print out. In addition, there are basic recommendations, such as picking one area of the park to visit per day so that you don't waste time stuck in traffic on the loops (and there's a lot of traffic). Other sections of the Total Yellowstone Page take you to the famous geysers, various waterfalls, and serve up stories about the wildlife you'll encounter there. From the history of the park to current weather conditions, Uhler has done an excellent job covering the hundreds of acres in Yellowstone.
The All American Hiking and Backpacking Trail Guide now defunct; try American Hiking Society
If you're planning a road trip to a particular state this summer, you might want to supplement it with some off-road work. To help you find the right hiking spot to augment your travels, visit the All American Hiking and Backpacking Trail Guide. It's a collection of brief trail reviews covering most of the U.S. On each trail page you'll find a description of the trail and a ratings system. Boot graphics indicate the level of difficulty of the trail (one book for a causal trek in running shoes and multiple boots for serious hiking) and stars rate the trails for visual appeal, flora and fauna, and the trail's overall condition. You'll find everything from a moderate trail in Maine, such as the Birdsacre Sanctuary paths, to Elowah Falls in Oregon. For most of the trail guides, there are driving instructions and brief descriptions of the trail's highlights. A few Canadian trails are also included (in spite of the site's moniker), but maps are few and far between, as are photographs. Even with these drawbacks, though, the All American Hiking and BackPacking Trail Guide is worth exploring if only to find leads for further hiking investigation.
Sierra Club Outings
The Sierra Club is well known for its environmental stance, but few people realize the wealth of hiking, biking, and camping trips the club hosts each year. At this site, you can tap into the scores of excursions the club offers. This month, the featured trip will take participants to the mountains of the Yukon Territories in Canada. The trip starts on July 7 and costs about $1,500. For each trip, the Sierra Club describes the anticipated highlights and expected rigors (or lack thereof). Especially helpful is a list of trips indexed by special interest. Sojourns cover those designed specifically for birding, biking, fishing, fall leaf peeping, and archaeology. Most of the U.S. trips cost from $400 to $600 per person, with special family adventures available. For more exotic hiking, the Sierra Club Outings still have openings for treks to Kenya and Greenland. If you're looking to do something good for the environment on your next vacation, naturally, the Sierra Club has several opportunities to join what are called "service trips." The idea behind these excursions is to enjoin participants to help build trails, preserve archeological sites, and help clean up the environment. The service trips are much more demanding, but also much less expensive. For those interested in the Sierra Club this webstation is an invaluable resource, but the absence of pictures to accompany trip descriptions won't encourage much browsing.