The Hayduke Trail covers 800 miles through some of the most remote and challenging country the National Park Service, BLM, and Forest Service have to offer. It links six national parks in Utah and Arizona and is considered very difficult in each of its many sections. Last week, Andrew Rivers, Travis Anderson, and Zach Luinder, began tackling the trail in its entirety, and they plan to do it in just six to seven weeks. These accomplished hikers can boast multiple completions of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, just to name a few. Their current route is marked by dangerously hot and arid conditions, grueling elevation changes, and some of the most beautiful country in the world. Fortunately, their journey through various remote and fascinating ecosystems will be benefiting the area itself.
It is unusual that we see six in the morning these days. Stumbling off the bus from Córdoba with limbs still half asleep we had arrived in Chilecito. Our mind in a haze, we were enthusiastically greeted by the newest member of our ever-growing wolfpack- Josh Mahan (our guide from rafting the Futaleufu back in December) has joined us for a couple weeks of "wandering in the middle of nowhere." He was stoked to learn we actually, literally, were going to be in the middle of nowhere. Naturally, our estrogen-packed foursome was a little hesitant at first, but after the first discussion of "pee-rags" and his childhood in the yurt, we knew he would mesh well. Josh, however, is not on the lightweight backpacking kick that we are; I am sure everyone who sees our five-some thinks we have hired this male figure as a porter for us, lugging around his monstrous 65L pack.This time of year in the desert the "rivers" marked on the maps no longer exist. Finding water on the trail was not an option. Long thru-hikes, therefore, were also not an option. This was the first time on our journey where running out of water was a serious concern. We transitioned from bringing merely our filled bladders to each bringing an additional 2L bottle for a total of 6L each (heavy!). Our route evolved travelling between towns in multiple two-day stretches via dry washes, as that was as much water we could (or were willing to) carry. Town hopping through the infamous Famatina Valley, our first stop after Chilecito was Famatina itself.
Aconcagua towers 9,000 feet above our current lunching spot at a scrawny elevation of 13,000 feet. The sheer magnitude of the mountain is hard for us to grasp. Our best attempt at comprehending exactly what 22,841 feet is is to break the south face currently staring at us into 1,000 foot sections. Even then we still can't quite wrap our heads around the number (this could also be a side-effect of our current lack of oxygen). We sit in awe, in the middle of this stunning valley, surrounded by vibrantly colored rock patterns streaking the shark-tooth-ridged 16,000 foot plus peaks on all sides, next to a multi-kilometer long meringue-peaked glacier, while this 22,000 foot "melting Oreo ice cream cake" monster of a mountain silences us with its power. Behind us, the scree flows down the majestic mountains like a dripping watercolor painting, beckoning us to return to camp. So goes our lunch break on just another Saturday in South America.
They have adopted the phrase “one of the exploration world’s last great firsts.” They are men who have
summited the world’s tallest peaks, won national championship adventure races, and completed record
setting rows. Their journey will be nonstop, will take 30 days to cover 1,100 miles of frigid, unforgiving
water, and will make history. In July of 2012, four men will row the Arctic Ocean in a 29-foot-long, six-
foot-wide boat – and they will be doing it for science and conservation.
Danielle Katz and John Dye, founder and co-founder of Rivers for Change, have officially begun their 1,900 mile, human powered paddling project. Beginning in January with the lower Yuba and completing the 111 mile trip down the Russian River in February, the 12 Rivers in 2012 campaign commenced its mission to explore, source to sea, California’s most significant water sheds. As impressive as this is, it’s only the beginning for Katz, Dye, and the rest of their team. Throughout the year, they also plan to travel the Salinas, Los Angeles, American, Tuolumne, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Mokelumne, Klamath, and Feather Rivers. The adventurers are separated into two groups in order to travel the entire feasible length of each river. In the spring and summer (when the runoff is most significant), the Headwaters Team begins at the uppermost portion of each watershed - at the first runnable (Class IV and V+) stretches of river. Below, the Mainstream Team takes over to complete the long journey to the ocean.
The idea behind 12 Rivers in 2012 is that by undertaking expeditions to travel these rivers from their origins to the sea, the team will gain a comprehensive and unprecedented view of each watershed as well as garner widespread attention for the threats they face. By inviting community members along for portions of the adventure (Community Conservation Paddle Days), Rivers for Change aims to inspire participants to become advocates for their local rivers. In addition to raising public awareness, 12 Rivers in 2012 has the opportunity to collect scientific data that can be used for better understanding and thus managing these ecosystems. Realizing this potential, Katz and Dye reached out to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), hoping that the nonprofit could pair them with a researcher in need of data from their expedition.
ASC matched Rivers for Change with Mike Deas of Watercourse Inc., a freshwater ecologist who has been studying flow, temperature, and water quality in many of these rivers. The 12 Rivers team are collecting water samples for Deas to analyze, and algae samples which can provide important information on climate change. In addition, they will be collecting water quality samples to determine presence of various pollutants dissolved in the water column.
All of this data will provide Deas and other researchers with details concerning these critical California watersheds. With this information and the awareness raised by the feats of the adventurers, 12 Rivers in 2012 holds the potential to be a landmark for river conservation. For more information on Rivers for Change, including dates (they’re tackling the Salinas next week) and ways you can get involved, visit www.riversforchange.org. To find out more about adventurers and scientists currently or soon to be working with ASC, check out http://www.adventureascientists.org/expeditions.html.
In a few short weeks, Andrew Badenoch will set out on an expedition to prove that world travel and exploration is possible without the use of environmentally destructive fuels. By packraft and fatbike Andrew will head north from Bellingham, Washington. Journeying through Canada to the Arctic Ocean, he’ll travel the coastline before making his way south through Alaska’s interior. He’ll finish his loop back to Bellingham via the Pacific Coast, completing a 7,000 mile, fuel-free expedition. The few tools he’ll need to power electrically (a UV water purifier, phone, satellite uplink and e-reader for note taking) will be powered with portable solar panels and a generator on the front wheel of his bike.
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