by Whitney "Allgood" La Ruffa
The final sunset of 2022 is nearly upon us, and as we sit and contemplate the winters long dark grasp, we have time to reflect on this past year and the next one upon us. This past year has been wild, we finally began to gather again in person, travel was at an all-time high, and our outdoor spaces welcomed a record number of users. While it was not the same as before the pandemic, it was flat out awesome to get out and explore and visit with old friends and new friends alike in person.
The multiple trail events we attended were fantastic! Getting to visit places such as Silver City, NM, Damascus, VA, and Cascade Locks, OR and see this year’s crop of thru-hikers all over the towns enjoying food, friendship, and shenanigans, absolutely warmed my heart. It was so great to see these towns vibrant with the life energy that trail events bring to them.
PCT Days in Cascade Locks Oregon
A major highlight for me, however, was exhibiting at the American Pack Rafting Association Round-up, this grass-roots event was held in a wonderful campground in Idaho along the Payette Rivers. For 3 days, this enthusiastic group of paddlers enjoyed numerous runs on the rivers, shared tips on gear repair, safety, and best practices for packrafting. I was overwhelmed by how inviting everyone was, they even lent me in a boat and turned me onto a new outdoor activity to pursue.
Playing for the first time in a packraft along an easier stretch of the main fork of the Payette River in ID
2022 was also a year for getting out on trail, testing some new gear we have in the works and where better to do so than one of my all-time favorite places, New Mexico. In April, two friends and I revisited our old friend the CDT and hiked the official CDT route through the Black Range just north of Silver City. In the 10 days we hiked 220 miles, and only saw 1 person on the trail, a day hiker out of a campground. The Black Range was magical, high grassy ridges for miles, remote mountains where you can’t see a human made light at night no matter which direction you look, and a sense of remoteness hardly felt anymore in today’s world. We saw an abundant amount of wildlife and dealt with some of the highest sustained winds in New Mexican history. I am happy to report that the Deschutes and Haven both held up in 60+ mph winds without fail. They kept us safe and warm night after night, even through a 14 degree night.
The author looking out at the trail a ahed along the Northern New Mexico Loop
In September, I returned to New Mexico to hike Northern New Mexico Loop. This ~500 mile route starts and ends in Santa Fe, NM and is one of the most spectacular hikes I have ever done. The various high mountain peaks were breathtaking; the large herds of elk kept us entertained, especially at night as we would drift off to sleep with sound of bugling bull elk. A major highlight was walking through Bandelier National Monument and having a chance to see ancient Pueblo sites and culture up close. If you are looking for a challenging route in the Western US where you will see relatively few people, check out the NNML.
2022 was overall a good year, but what lies in store for the hiking world in 2023? Will 2023 be another year of new FKT’s shattering past records on trails? Will we continue to see certain trails get an overwhelming amount of use or will people start to seek out less used trails and routes to avoid overcrowding? Will there be a new groundbreaking improvement in UL gear that changes the way we all hike and explore? Who knows what this next year has in store for all of us, but one thing is for certain 2023 will be a great year to get outside.
A puzzle by headlamp is one way to pass time during winter hut trips in the Cascades
So, as you sit insides during these long cold dreary nights, take this time to plan for your year of adventure and exploration. Maybe this is a good time to research a work trip vacation with a trail organization to help give back in 2023. I also suggest that you look over maps, read guidebooks, binge some YouTube or whatever other medium you prefer to use to gather information on the next hike you want to take. Get a plan together now, so you can hit the ground running when the snow melts and the long days of summer return.
Thanks for your continued support of our small business this past year, I hope to see you all somewhere along my travels in 2023.
Happy New Year,
In memory of Karluk, July 2018-September 2022, happy trails little buddy...