Trip Coach: January 29, 2008
Peter Potterfield, author of "Classic Hikes of the World," answered your questions on hiking.
Peter Potterfield: Hello, this is adventure journalist Peter Potterfield, author of books and magazine pieces on hiking and backcountry travel. I'm ready to answer questions (or at least try to) on hikes, gear and adventure travel, so let's get started.
Phoenix, Ariz.: We're planning a girlfriends hiking trip up to the top of Mount Humphreys in Flagstaff in late May or early June. We live in Phoenix, and the peak is part of the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, just 2 1/2 hours north of us. Typically, the mountain gets freaky weather, i.e. thunderstorms with dangerous lightning and even snow, even in July. What gear would you recommend and how much time should we allot for the trip? I know it can be done in a day and once made it to the treeline at 11,000 feet. This time, we'd like to get to the top. I also need to acclimate myself to the altitude. Can I avoid any problems with that if we arrive the night before the hike? Thanks! -Pam S., 44 years old
Peter Potterfield: Most people do this route in a day, and altitude is a common complaint. At more than 12,600 feet, this is Arizona's highest peak, and not one to be taken lightly. You'll need to be prepared for all weathers, even prepared to turn around if the weather turns serious. As for acclimatization, the best way to do that would be to camp above 5,000 feet for a couple of nights, allowing your body to adjust to the thinner air. The potential for serious altitude sickness is not great, however, on a day trip, as the idea is to get down to lower altitudes quickly before serious complications can set in. My advice: get an early start, pre-dawn, by headlight.
Sun Prairie, Wis.: In August of 2009 I'm planning a retirement trip with 10 or 20 of my closest friends. We are going to walk across England at Hadrian's Wall. Should we walk west to east or east to west?
Peter Potterfield: The 80 mile walk that follows the Roman fortification known as Hadrian's Wall is a terrific route, bisecting England from Newcastle to Solway Firth, near Carlisle. You can hike it in either direction, although the prevailing tendency seems to be west to east, ending in Newcastle. It comes down to personal preference, and the direction you support company takes. Most people on this route have their bags shuttled to the next accommodation by an operator; there are several good ones, some go west to east, some the opposite.
Prescott, Ariz.: My wife and I will be staying at park lodges in Yosemite and Sequoia in early fall. What 6 to 8 mile hikes would you recommend in both parks?
Peter Potterfield: In Yosemite, I think some of the best hikes are up in Tuolomne Meadows, a beautiful alpine environment, many in the six to eight mile range you are looking for. Elilzabeth Lake, under Unicorn Peak, or Evelyn Lake, or Cathedral Pass are all good hikes south of Highway 120, and Tuolomne Falls and Gaylor Lakes are good ones north of the highway. Yosemite is your best bet for shorter hikes, as some of the best routes in Sequoia are much longer and require more time.
Ponce Inlet, Fla.: I will be 50 and my girlfriend 60 03/09 when we hike the South Island of NZ. We are booked for the Milford Trek & to heli-hike Franz Joseph Glacier. We are both from FL and concerned about our fear of heights getting in the way. We are not phobic--she's just concerned about the swinging bridges over chasms & I'm mainly concerned about crevices on the glacier. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Peter Potterfield: I think you'll do fine. The Milford is a beautiful but moderate route, and there's a guided option available. Consider that, as it gives you more comfortable lodges and attentive professional guides who know the trail like their own backyards. That takes any uncertainty out of this world famous walk. The trip up to the Franz Joseph should present no problems, either. The helicopter ride is half the fun, the Kiwis are nuts about helicopters, they use them all the time, sometimes just to blow the cold air off the fruit orchards in a freeze. The guides will make sure that you're safe while on the glacier, so it will be an experience you won't forget. The South Island has a number of great hikes, out of both Wanaka and Queenstown, and you'll find the New Zealanders to be friendly and relaxed, the food and wine top notch.
Saint Louis, Mo.: My husband and I are planning a hike into the Grand Canyon in March, 2008 to Havasu Falls. We are taking our 10 year old son along, so my questions are directed at preparing him and keeping him "motivated" along the 10 mile hike. What walking/hiking techniques are best to teach him to physically handle the hike, and how to I keep him motivated along the 10 mile route? While the hike is not constantly changing elevations, it is the length of the hike that I am concerned about. We have been preparing him by hiking with him 3 miles at a time with a 5 miler planned in the near future. Thanks! Julie