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Distance hikers reunite for 2013 ALDHA-W Gathering

Long-trail documentarian and incurable jokester Scott “Squatch” Herriott shares this report from the 20th annual American Long Distance Hiking Association – West Gathering. We loved it too. See Squatch’s movies at squatchfilms.com.

I’ve been to a few ALDHA-West Gatherings in the past and have always enjoyed myself…reconnecting, hearing about new trail adventures, getting money and gear back from those who owe me…ya know, the basics.

I think, though, that most of us who were attending this year at Camp Augusta in Nevada City, Calif., on the weekend of Sept. 27-29 silently were expecting that at least one or two of the presentations would probably be a bit of a snooze fest or that the meals would potentially be better served at the local penitentiary. (That didn’t happen since there was no local penitentiary and, as it turned out, all the meals were outstanding).

Also, one of the first things I noticed when arriving at camp was the relatively large amount of circus-training gear scattered about. That was a sign that things, at the very least, were probably going to be interesting.

The amount of wilderness that this group has explored is incredible. Photo by Megan Michelson

The amount of wilderness that this group has explored is incredible. Photo by Megan Michelson

Friday night had the West Coast premiere of Jester’s fine Continental Divide Trail film “Embrace the Brutality.” It would have been a nice touch if Jester handed out small packets of dirt to put in our shoes to enhance the experience. I’m hoping that’s the case for the East Coast premiere.

Saturday was speaker day. Newly-minted unsupported PCT speed record holder Heather “Anish” Anderson, in her first public speaking event, enthralled the audience with her tales of constant 40+ mile days, cougar encounters and pushing through the several mental envelopes she faced. Great job, Anish.

Then Kristin “Lost” Gates, no slouch herself, talked and shared photos of her solo trek/float across the Brooks Range in Alaska last year. Yes, solo. And Ian Reeves continued the Inspiration Express by telling of his several-years-long, 8,000-mile walkabout across South America.

You would think that would be enough for a weekend to rev the engines and/or deflate the egos of people who like to walk long distances. But to make things even more inspirational-y or low self-esteem-y, Australian Cam “Swami” Honan regaled the crowd with tales of the “12 Long Walks” he took recently in North America that totaled more than 14,000 miles over 18 months. I’ve completed the entire PCT and 3/4 of the AT and felt like I just went down to the corner store for milk by comparison. Thanks Swami.

There was also a raffle (more than $600 raised for ALDHA-West) and some Hiker Olympics where, appropriately, wood replaced gold in the medal-making process. Big hats off to the organizers Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, Christopher “Freefall” Sanderson, Teresa “Dicentra” Black, Scotland “So Far” Forbes, Marmot and any others I missed for putting on what was easily the best ALDHA-West gathering I’ve ever been to. Thanks!

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