Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Backcountry Explorer’s New Year’s Resolutions

As the New Year is almost upon us I thought I would take part in the time-honored tradition of making a list of New Year’s resolutions. But unlike those typical resolutions of “exercise more,” “lose weight,” and “change my career” this list will concentrate on backcountry exploration in the Adirondacks.

The following is a list of my 10 New Year’s backcountry/bushwhacking resolutions in no particular order.

1. Spend more money while in the Adirondacks.

Typically in the past, I race up to the Adirondacks, go on whatever hike/bushwhack I have planned and afterward depart for home almost immediately upon exiting the backcountry. The most I would purchase is a couple drinks and a small snack on my drive home.

This year I would like to try make more purchases either while in the Adirondacks or en route. Such items as gas, food for the trip and perhaps even some equipment could be purchased while in the Adirondacks.

For years I have had my eye on an Adirondack pack basket at The Natural Basket Shop in Natural Bridge but when I stopped in this year the price scared me off. This year I will have to pull the trigger on that purchase.

2. Spend more time exploring the backcountry.

This past year I only got out exploring the backcountry three times. All three were in the Adirondacks: one in the Five Ponds Wilderness for eight days and the other two times in the Pepperbox Wilderness for three and five days.

Sixteen days in the backcountry was clearly not enough so with the New Year I definitely would like to surpass this past year’s total.

3. Explore some new places.

Lately, I have been concentrating my backcountry explorations in the northwestern part of the Adirondacks, specifically either the Five Ponds or Pepperbox Wildernesses. This year I would like to branch out and at least visit one place outside of the northwestern part of the Adirondacks or somewhere outside the Adirondacks completely.

One possible location would be the West Canada Lake Wilderness, which I have hiked through multiple times but never investigated with the intention of bushwhacking before. Also, I have been seriously thinking of doing some backpacking within Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

4. Try to stay healthy.

One of the reasons for the few bushwhacking trips this past year was due to back issues that struck me in the middle of the summer. Then during autumn I developed a strained groin and it went all downhill from there.

With the New Year I would like to try to stay healthy so I can enjoy more days out in the backcountry. To remain healthy I will have to work out smarter in 2011 than I did during this past year.

5. Avoid buying more expensive equipment.

I spent a good deal of hard-earned cash on a few expensive pieces of backcountry equipment this past year. The reasons for these purchases varied from replacing old equipment to enhancing my ability to describe my adventures.

The Garmin eTrex Legend HCx handheld personal GPS was purchased to replace my previous GPS, which had started to go on the fritz the year before. The Gitzo tripod head and legs were acquired so I could take better pictures to chronicle my adventures. And finally, I purchased a SONY recorder so I could avoid taking so many notes while bushwhacking through the backcountry. All of these expensive items were used throughout my three trips except the recorder. The recorder was actually more of an effort than simply writing the notes on paper. But it was useful for recording the morning bird chorus.

6. Give more money to charities dedicated to preserving wild areas within the Adirondacks.

This past year I was somewhat lax in my charitable contributions to Adirondack-centric organizations. During 2011 I would like to give more financial support to organizations devoted to preserving natural areas, protecting the environment and lobbying politicians for environmentally-friendly policies at all levels of government. Examples of such organizations are the Adirondack Council the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Mountain Club.

7. Communicate my support for public land acquisition within the Adirondacks to my elected officials

Although I do not live within the Blue Line, I am still a tax-paying New Yorker and I need to let my elected officials know of my support for further land acquisitions and/or conservations easements in the Adirondack Park. This is particularly important with a new governor for whom conservation does NOT appear to be a priority, especially during tough economic times when funds are scarce.

8. Haul more garbage out of the backcountry.

There seems to be no shortage of irresponsible people in the backcountry who refuse to pick up after themselves. It seems as if I am regularly finding new sources of litter in the backcountry in the most unlikely of places. This litter ranges from candy wrappers to discarded equipment to balloons.

9. Do some backcountry volunteering.

During 2011 I would like to do some backcountry-oriented volunteering. I am not certain in what form this volunteering would take but such programs as the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adopt-a-Lean-to or Adopt-a-Wild-Land programs would be a good start. Perhaps someone could suggest some other opportunities for volunteering in the Adirondacks.

10. Promote outdoor recreation especially backcountry bushwhacking.

In 2011 I want to continue to promote backcountry bushwhacking via this website and on my own blog at the Bushwhacking Fool.

Although 2010 was a good year for backcountry exploration these resolutions should ensure that 2011 will be an even better one. I hope everyone has a safe and fun New Year’s celebration filled with hats, noise-makers and helium-filled balloons. On second thought, scratch those balloons, I would hate to have to pick up their remains in the backcountry.

Happy New Year!

Photo: Conifer trees along a stream in the Five Ponds Wilderness by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

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Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.

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