Thus far my travels have been dictated by seasons and opportunities. Here are a few examples.
- I was invited to join some friends in Moab. I mapped out a strategy to get to Moab, with potential destinations marked to explore along the way. Once there, a friend was interested in traveling through Southern Utah. We mapped and figured out routes along the way. From there I was invited to visit friends in Colorado, so once again off I went. I prefer this mode of travel. Destinations find me.
- My priority for early 2016 was the Superbloom in Death Valley. That gave me time enroute to explore more of the eastern sierra before spending time in Death Valley. Next, I had a date in New Mexico and sufficient time to play along the way, including a jaunt through the Grand Canyon. After New Mexico, it was time to to meet another friend to hike sections of the Arizona Trail. And so it goes . . .
I’ve found I don’t enjoy planning, so rather than spending my time on that aspect, I go prepared to plan on the fly.
Preparation- what resources are helpful to gather in advance?
- Paper Maps (I order state and regional maps from AAA since I’m a member)
- Electronic Topo Maps (I download to my phone app)
- US Atlas (after finding myself in unplanned states, I now carry this as a security blanket)
- Internet Research (I create documents in Google with links to places I might want to visit)
- Hiking Guidebooks & Maps (I might buy in advance if I’m committed to hiking a particular area)
- Hiking GPX Tracks (If applicable I might download to a USB drive)
Organization – how to maintain all that collected stuff?
- Maps, handouts, printed materials can become unmanageable quickly when you’re spending significant time on the road visiting many places.
- Plastic pocket folders have become my friend. I find them clearance’d with school supplies in late fall. Initially I might have one per state, but as I spend time in a particular area where I’ve gathered a lot of materials, I’ll make it’s own folder such as Glacier National Park or Grand Canyon. They are stored on a bookshelf at home.
- As I prep for a trip, I’ll grab the applicable folders, and remove items not needed, being mindful of not overpacking. Tip: (1) bring what you need for first leg of trip and send it home when done; (2) have additional folders mailed along the way.
- Visitor Centers, Ranger Stations and Gear Stores are a wealth of information, but you need to help them know how to help you. With experience you’ll learn how to be more specific about what your looking for. Examples:
- I’m interested in a trail with views. I prefer ridges and less populated trails.
- Where would be the best place to watch the sunset, sunrise, full moon, eclipse, etc.
- What are the dispersed camping options?
- What permits do I need for backpacking x trail?
- Where can I refill my water bottles?
- The internet is your friend. I travel with an inexpensive Chromebook. I prefer it to my phone for research. I like having multiple tabs open while creating hyperlinks on my associated spreadsheet. I also save pages to Pocket, which provides off-line access to web pages on my phone. Free WiFi is readily available. The benefit of a Chromebook is that it isn’t susceptible to viruses. Mine has very little memory so I don’t save anything on it in case it gets stolen. I also use my Chromebook to copy photos from my SIM card to Google and to a USB drive I carry on my key ring.
- I highlight my map with a colored marker denoting the route I drove. This is helpful later when trying to recollect details of the trip, especially if you want to take new routes the next trip.
- I use either colored markers or removable tape to mark other details such as maybe where I camped, towns I visited, trails I hiked, names & phone numbers of friends, etc. These might become useful for future travels.
- Keep a journal. Days run into days, and it’s surprising how fast memories can become jumbled. I journal on my phone. The basics include Day # of trip, Date, where I camped, hiked, drove, spent time.
- When you are done with maps or documents from one area, file them before getting out new stuff. If you dump it in a bag, it becomes overwhelming and may never be of future use.