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The Ten Hidden Gem National Parks

We here at Lightload Towels are always looking for that ultimate get-away from it all place. So when we ran across this article in Esquire we just had to check it out. How does 400+ square miles all to yourself in some of America’s most pristine and remote wilderness sound to you for a total get-away? According to Esquire these are 10 of North Americas least visited National Parks.

1) Kobuk Valleykobuk-valley-national-park-new-lg

Far and away (no pun intended) the least visited of our national parks system, Kobuk Valley National Park attracted only 847 visitors in 2007. Located in the Arctic Circle, accessible only by foot, dogsled or snowmobile, and featuring exactly zero designated trails and roads, the park’s title of least visited isn’t really that surprising.

What Kobuk Valley lacks in user-friendliness, however, it more than makes up for in sand dunes and caribou. The park is also a great place to experience the anomaly of 24-hour daylight (but only for one month a year).

 

2) Lake Clarklake-clark-np-lg

Concentrating all the best that Alaskan wilderness has to offer into a single park, it is surprising Lake Clark National Park and Preservation had only 5,549 visitors in 2007. Lakes, active volcanoes, three mountain ranges, glaciers, waterfalls, arctic-like tundra and even a rainforest comprise this majestic park outside of Anchorage. Sled dog teams were the best way to travel around the area until the 1960s, but they have recently faced competition from snowmobiles.

At 6,297 square miles, Lake Clark National Park provides plenty of open space for your personal enjoyment. With an average of only 15 visitors per day, this means each visitor has 419 square miles of pristine national park to him or herself every day

 

3) American Samoaamerican-smoa-np-lg

How many national parks can boast a rain forest and a coral reef? The National Park of American Samoa is unlike any other park, and if you weren’t one of the park’s 6,774 lucky visitors in 2007 (which, statistically, you probably weren’t), we suggest you check it out.

The park, which spans three islands, offers a chance to see some great wildlife, from flying foxes to humpback whales. Admission to the park is free, which is good news because you’ll probably need to book a couple flights to get there — and don’t forget your passport. Sure, it’s basically three-quarters of the way to Australia (a nonstop flight from Los Angeles takes about 10 hours), but the National Park of American Samoa is way cooler than one of those overcrowded touristy national parks.

 

4) Gates of the Arcticgates-arctic-np-lg

Don’t let Into the Wild scare you away from the almost-untouched-by-man natural beauty of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Considering it’s roughly the size of Switzerland, it’s surprising that only 10,942 people ventured through this Alaskan park in 2007.

Millennia of glaciation and erosion have carved out a breathtaking array of valleys, rivers, mountains and crystal-clear lakes. For an opportunity to enjoy tranquility like you’ve never experienced before, head north — far, far, north — to this park, where you’re more likely to encounter a moose or caribou than another tourist

 

5) Isle Royaleisle-royale-np-lg

Isle Royale is a true hidden gem — perhaps this is why Michigan’s state gemstone (Isle Royale greenstone) is named after the remote little island that’s closer to Canada than it is to the States. Isle Royale is the largest island in Lake Superior, the greatest of the Great Lakes. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Isle Royale National Park attracted 15,973 visitors in 2007.

Due to its remoteness, the island is populated by only about one third of the mammals that are found on the mainland. Interestingly, it is the only known place where wolves and moose live together without bears. If you don’t like crowds (or bears) pack up the seaplane and head to Isle Royale National Park.

 

6) North Cascadesnorth-cascades-np-lg

Considering its size and location (which is inconvenient, to say the least) it’s no surprise Alaska has so many parks on this list. While Alaskan national parks feature some truly amazing stuff, North Cascades National Park in Washington provides an opportunity to experience Alaska-like wilderness closer to home. In addition to bears, moose and cougars, the park has the most glaciers (more than 300 of them!) outside of Alaska. Sadly, that number is steadily decreasing as global warming continues to claim its victims, so go see them while you can.

Located in northern Washington, the park is popular among backpackers and hikers. Its 400 miles of trails also make it accessible to less-adventurous outdoor lovers. North Cascades National Park was enjoyed by 19,534 visitors in 2007.

 

7) Dry Tortugasdry-tortugas-np-lg

Looking for sunken pirate ships and lost treasure? Civil War history buff? Really into masonry? If any of these apply to you, then Dry Tortugas National Park is the park for you. Seventy miles west of Key West are the Dry Tortugas islands, so-called because they lack surface fresh water (“dry”) and Ponce de Leon caught a lot of sea turtles (“tortugas”) here in the 1500s.

The centerpiece of the park is Fort Jefferson, a behemoth brick fortress originally intended to protect the U.S. from Gulf Coast invaders (namely pirates), but also used as a Union stronghold during the Civil War. The fort, although never completed, is comprised of more than 16 million bricks, making it the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Dry Tortugas is also a great place to watch migratory birds in the spring. With almost 300 bird species in the park, birdwatchers are in for quite a treat. As the 60,895 people who visited the park in 2007 can attest, Dry Tortugas National Park offers some great history in an idyllic setting.

 

8) Wrangell-St. Eliaswrangell-st-elias-lg

The largest of all the national parks, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is actually larger than nine states. It is almost impossible to understand the scope of this park without experiencing it firsthand. Glaciers and mountains — many of which could support their own national parks — are the only ones crowded here. The park’s 13 million acres provide a sprawling remote destination that is actually pretty accessible, as far as Alaskan national parks go. With 61,085 visitors in 2007, the park is increasing in popularity so enjoy its majesty before the Yellowstone crowd catches wind of it.

For those who just need some room to breathe, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park offers an average of 124 square miles per visitor, per day. That’s the size of the country of Malta — and it’s all waiting for you at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Smoky Mountain National Park, the most popular in the national park system, only offers a measly 0.03 square miles to each visitor each day.

 

9) Great Basingreat-basin-np-lg

Think of tourist destinations in Nevada and the first place your mind likely goes is Las Vegas. But our 36th state has so much more to offer than just strippers and slot machines. Head toward the Utah border and you’ll find Great Basin National Park, which attracted 81,364 visitors in 2007.

Thanks to an almost complete lack of civilization in these parts, the night skies of Great Basin National Park are among the darkest in the country. Think of the park as the yin to Las Vegas’ yang. Flashing neon lights are replaced with awesome, naked-eye views of the starry night — a rare opportunity for many. It’s estimated that two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyards, and as light pollution continues to worsen, chances to observe the cosmos as nature intended might be running out.

 

10) Katmaikatmai-np-lg

Katmai National Park in southern Alaska provides thrill seekers an opportunity to hike among 14 active volcanoes and the world’s largest population of protected brown bears. Active volcanoes and thousands of brown bears not extreme enough for you? Well the National Park Service Website also warns visitors to expect only “some sunshine” and to “be prepared for stormy weather.” And here’s the kicker: it also offers the caveat that “light rain can last for days.” Consider yourself warned.

With 82,634 visitors in 2007, Katmai National Park is the most visited of our least visited national parks.

All of these places are truly the “hidden gems” of North America, remote and unfettered by man or machine, so if you are planning a visit to one of these locations make sure you pack plenty Lightload Towels for the trip!

Fun Facts for Hikers

 

What is it about hiking that has us on our feet?Hiker

There are more then few folks who just don’t get it. After all it is an awful lot of work and in the end it’s not like your getting anything from it. Of course I totally disagree, the rewards for all that toil is often a view that can be seen from no where else but the top of that next rise, or a sunset that is beyond beauty. The more tangible benefits are of course an elevated heart rate (in a good way), fresh air and open skies and a chance to explore places not everyone gets to see. Still, not everyone buys into that. So we thought we would look at a bigger picture of hiking, and find the following nuggets of hiking facts, stats, averages, and other numbers:

7,325: Miles. Sum length of the Triple Crown (Appalacian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails combined)

420,880: Feet. Elevation change in the 2,663 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

46:11:20: Time, days:hours:minutes. Record set by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2011 for the fastest through-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

5: Pairs. Shoes used up by Davis on her record-setting trek. That’s a new pair every 9 days.

31 million: Americans. According to the American Recreation Foundation this is the number of Americans who hiked a trail in 2007.

4,600: Miles. Longest hike in the U.S., North Country National Scenic Trail. From Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota to Crown Point, New York.

16,368,000: Feet. Length of Continental Divide Trail. That’s 3,100 miles.

734: Miles. Sum of the length of all hiking trails in Glacier National Park.

10: Essentials. As dictated by The Mountaineers, a climber’s organization, in 1930 for establishing what you need to react positively to an accident or emergency, and to spend an unexpected night outside. In order: Map, Compass, Sunglasses and sunscreen, Extra clothing, Headlamp/flashlight, First-aid supplies, Firestarter, Matches, Knife, Extra food.

2003: Year. The Mountaineers updated their 10 Essentials in the 2003 edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills to the following: Navigation (map and compass), Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen), Insulation (extra clothing), Illumination (headlamp/flashlight), First-aid supplies, Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles), ulta-light towels/blankes, Repair kit and tools, Nutrition (extra food), Hydration (extra water), Emergency shelter

1989: Year. A river guide started a little company that makes sandals. Chaco. You know the one.

10-20: Percentage. Suggested backpack weight for children as a percentage of their body weight. For example, a 50 lbs child should carry backpack that weighs 10 lbs — or until they start whining about numb arms. Which ever comes first. Keep the peace. Try bribery with candy, then move on to reducing weight.

31: Satellites. The Global Positioning System (GPS) operates on a constellation of 31 satellites that orbit the earth on 6 orbital planes at an altitude of 12,600 miles in a fashion that puts nearly all points on the planet in line of sight with at least 6 satellites at any given time.

14,505: Elevation. Mount Whitney is the tallest peak in the 48 U.S., and also the tallest “hikeable” peak (vs climbable) by a trail 22 miles round trip.

6,288: Elevation. Tallest hikeable peak in New England, Mt. Washington.

13: Length. Miles of longest slot canyon, Buckskin Gulch in Utah.

800: Approximated average. Number of hikers who would hike Half Dome on a busy holiday or weekend day in Yosemite before the current permit system went into place. The NPS now allows just 400 people on the trail in a day, and a permit is required.

21: Distance. A rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon using South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails is 21 miles long. A hard 21 miles.

517: Calories. Man weighing 190 lbs will burn this in one hour of hiking.

440: Calories. A woman who weighs 163 lbs will burn this in an hour of hiking.

Mark Beaumont’s around-the-world bicycle adventure

If you are into cycling at all you have no doubt you already know about Mark and his amazing feats. I had not heard about him until recently (I know I live under a rock) and was amazed, astounded and dumb struck at this particular adventure of his.

I ran across this when I was searching for what to pack for a long bike trek. I came up with the obvious suggestions and the mantra repeated over and over again light lighter and lightest.  All of which made me think of LightLoad Towels (duh)  Anyway I just had to share Mark’s story with you.

This is Mark’s story and a link to his website.

Mark Beaumont’s around-the-world bicycle adventure

The hub for Mark’s expeditions, events, charity work and much more. You can follow Mark’s projects timthumb (2)here and through social media. Broadcasting about adventure, culture, travel, sport, and human endeavor from all corners of the world

What is worse than hearing rats scurrying around your hotel room getting into your bike panniers at night? It might be waking up the next morning with rat turds on the pillow.

That episode in India kind of strips the glamour off the idea of bicycling around the world in pursuit of a world record. It’s just one of many experiences recounted in Mark Beaumont’s book “The Man Who Cycled the World,” recently released in the US.

The Scotsman was the second in what has seemed a rush of bicyclists seeking a Guinness World Record for bicycling around the world.

Beaumont accomplished his feat in 2008, completing his grand adventure in 194 days and 17 hours. Remarkably, he shaved 81 days off the record set by Steve Strange in 2005. At least four others have since tallied faster times on paper, but not all made the record books. The current record holder, Vin Cox, accomplished the feat in 163 days.

Professional adventurer

The Scotsman started his career as a professional adventurer at age 24,when he set off on his 18,296-mile quest. Growing up on a farm and with

timthumbhis university years behind him, Beaumont hit on the idea of the global bicycle ride and figured he could get sponsors if he was going for a coveted world record. He also landed a deal with BBC for a documentary.

Beaumont wrote and published this book, “The Man Who Cycled the World,” the year after he finished his ride. Broadway Paperbacks, an imprint of Crown Publishing, brought the book to US audiences in 2011 and sent me a copy to review.

In reading it, I was struck by how much Beaumont missed by pushing himself to cover 100 miles a day on his bicycle. There are countless times when he talks about being near famous landmarks or destinations, and he just keeps pedaling.

In Thailand, for instance, he catches a tailwind and refuses to stop, in spite of constantly passing road signs for tourist destinations. “The sea was just through the trees to my left and had been for two days, but I hadn’t seen it once.”

No romance

Head-slapping unbelievable is his response to an attractive and “fun” marine biologist he met soon after landing in Australia. As they trade daily texts as he heads across the continent, she offers to take a week off and take a road trip out to his location. At first it seemed perfect, but he writes:

“I called her again that night, having decided against it. It was hard to explain, and it sounded ridiculous even as I tried to, but I needed to be left in my own world.” Later, he thought about changing his mind, “But I knew in the long run I would regret anything that might slow me down. I was here to race.”

So race he does, across four continents. His human contact is often limited to hotel desk clerks, cooks, waitresses and waiters, and whoever is sitting next to him on the stool at the diner.

But people are often drawn to people traveling by bicycle, and he occasionally acquiesces to offers to share their home or meals.

Illness, soreness

Beaumont must have kept a detailed journal, as there are descriptions of the terrain, the local foods, housing, traffic and his condition — all things you expect him to dwell on as he spends hours alone on his bicycle.

Throughout his adventures, Beaumont suffers gastrointestinal attacks, bicycle breakdowns, sore muscles, and various other aches and pains. After riding his bicycle across many countries in all types of weather,
his worst experience comes in Louisiana, where he is hit by a car driven
by an old woman and robbed in his hotel room all in the same day.

Daily centuries

He goes into detail about suffering from saddle sores most of his trip. No wonder, as Beaumont’s target of 100 miles a day takes a toll.

We’ve all ridden centuries, but not day after day after day. Obviously, he doesn’t achieve this goal every day, but he makes the attempt. It often means lots of night riding, camping at the roadside, or riding into strange towns in foreign lands late at night with no idea where to stay.

In the final days of the tour, Beaumont admits to exhaustion as he nears Paris. It’s almost like his goal of riding 100 miles a day has become paramount, and the fact that it enabled him to encircle the globe is just a side issue.

“I still didn’t feel the least bit excited about the finish; I was simply too tired to care. My every thought was focused on making the next mile, knowing that eventually I would get there.”

Beaumont did get there and realized his achievement. But he didn’t stop moving.

More adventures

Soon, he was back on his bicycle to pedal the longest mountain chain on the planet, at the same time climbing Mt. McKinley in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina. That adventure also became a book, “The Man Who Cycled the Americas.”

This past summer, he was the member of a crew that rowed to the North Pole. Next, starting in January 2012, he’ll join a team of six seeking to break the trans-Atlantic rowing record.timthumb (1)It sounds like Beaumont isn’t interested in slowing down, at all. I’ll be interested to hear about his next adventures. You can check up on him at MarkBeaumontOnline.

Hut-to Hut Backcountry Bike Treks

Camp Towels for Bike Treks
Camping has never been easier with a three pack of lightload Towels. Use one towel for the cook-set, one for the first aid kit and the other for general use. “Pack it in and Pack it Out” so the next campers can enjoy a good clean site.

I have been looking for different types of overnight/longer then a day biking treks when I happened on this one. Now I have done the winter hut-to-hut cross-country treks so I am not sure why this never crossed my mind, but I have to say now that I have seen it I am obsessed.

This was presented as a non-camping option and given some of the regions there is good reason to opt for the hut overnight.  Hut-to-hut touring is an activity of which Colorado is king. There you can tackle a fat-tire adventure beginning in the southwest corner of the state (in either Telluride or Durango), and wind up a few days later in Moab (okay, that’s in Utah, not Colorado). The trips are organized by San Juan Hut Systems, whose mission is “to provide low-impact, human-powered, lightweight backcountry travel opportunities for the independent, health-conscious adventurer at a practical price.” The distance from one hut to the next is generally about 35 miles; the terrain ranges from dirt roads and trails in the alpine vastness of the San Juan Mountains, to desert canyons and slickrock. Each hut is stocked with food and utensils, water, a cookstove, and sleeping gear.

Another Colorado option: Take one of the trips organized out of Fruita by “The Hut Guy,” who, according to the Colorado Backcountry Biker website, “spent years scouring hundreds of miles, identifying the premier mountain biking trails in western Colorado.” As a result, it says, Colorado Backcountry Biker offers self-guided, budget-friendly bike trips on which you can spend two or three nights in fully stocked huts, and by day experience some of the best mountain biking in the West. Options include riding on the storied Tabeguache Trail, with baggage transfer from hut to hut and other amenities that are somewhat luxurious, considering the backwoods setting.

If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer — or haul-it-yourselfer (your own food, sleeping bag, etc.) — there are some great trail rides to the huts maintained by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Not all thirty of the system’s huts are reachable by mountain bike, but a lot of them are. These huts are relatively large, sleeping an average of sixteen people, and come equipped with wood-burning stoves and propane burners, cooking and eating utensils, and mattresses and pillows.

Up in the great Pacific Northwest, Cascade Huts offers self-guided multi-day trips in Oregon’s Mt. Hood National Forest. Again stocked with supplies to enable lightweight riding, the huts line a loop around Mt. Hood that ranges from 135 to 160 miles in length, depending on the exact route chosen. And to the north of there, in Washington state, the five Rendezvous Huts in Methow Valley offer rustic but cozy accommodations for summer cyclists in a location that, come winter, is one of the premier Nordic skiing destinations in North America.

In Washington’s geographical counterpart on other side of the country, Maine Huts & Trails has big plans over the coming years to enhance the mountain biking possibilities it makes available. As it says on their website, “we envision offering mountain bikers a wide array of trails, from short, easy riding along our hut access roads and other dirt roads to technical singletrack deep in the backcountry. Riders will eventually be able to ride for several days along a variety of trails, staying overnight in the Maine Huts … [and, in fact] cyclists are already finding some great riding along and proximal to the MH&T system.”

Gear List

The Basics for Camping:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pad
  • Small tent, bivy sack, or camp hammock
  • Food (or a nearby dining establishment)
  • Personal items: toiletries, hand towels and camp towels etc

Deluxe Gear List:
Perhaps you’re not a minimalist. Just remember: everything you bring adds weight to your bike. If you have much hill climbing or a lot of mileage planned, you may want to reconsider how much you take along.

Deluxe Camping Gear List:

  • Route map(s)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pad or air mattress
  • Small tent, bivy sack, or camp hammock
  • Camp pillow or stuff sack, bath, hand and cook towels
  • Cooking equipment (small stove, cookware, utensils) including food, camp towel
  • Camp chair
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Pocketknife
  • Waterproof matches

Deluxe Personal Gear List:

  • Toiletries
  • Two sets of bike clothes
  • Two sets of off-the-bike clothes
  • Raingear
  • Cold weather gear
  • Shoes/sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Towel

Other possibilities:

  • Books
  • Camera
  • Playing cards
  • Sports equipment
  • Fishing gear
  • Radio/iPod/MP3 player
  • And more!

This about wraps up the hut-to-hut riding opportunities my research turned up. If you know of others, feel free to add them to this list.

 

Lightload Travel Towels Comparisons for Outdoor, Camping and Backpack Gear

Easily packable lightload Towels

Susan Hamilton the award winning travel writer did a comparison of three towels used for travel. Here is what she had to say about Lightload Towels.

Lightload Towels

“This super compact 12-inch by 20-inch towel comes vacuum sealed in a package that is smaller than palm size. Lightload towels are wickable and should be hand washed. Because these towels are made of viscose, they are more absorbent than microfiber or cotton.

Lightload towels can provide insulation in extreme weather, as well as being used as a fire starter or coffee filter. Backpackers use Lightload towels in place of bandanas and camp towels. Athletes use them for drying off as well as cleaning their gear.”

Susan also went on to describe what a travel towel is. She writes, ”

Compact and thin, travel towels are a practical way to take towels on vacations, camping trips and international destinations. Much less bulky than regular terrycloth or cotton towels, travel towels are made of synthetic materials that dry quickly.

Many travel towels are made of microfiber. These towels are soft but the microfiber can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Some travel towels are made of viscose rayon, nylon or polyester. Some travel towel fabrics are infused with antibacterial fibers that prevent bacterial growth.

She goes on to write, ”

Travel towels allow campers, backpackers, travelers and athletes to have the convenience of a towel without the added weight. When packing for yurt camping (such as destinations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho), travel towels keep the load light. Their compact size is ideal for saving space in luggage and packs. Super absorbent and quick drying, travel towels have a multitude of uses — from blankets to fire starters.”

Susan Lynne Hamilton is an award-winning writer, specializing in travel, recreation, wine, food and health. As the Feature Writer for Suite 101’s Northwest U.S. travel section, she showcases the rich features this unique region of America offers.

Read more at Suite101: Travel Towels Comparisons for Outdoor, Camping and Backpack Gear http://nwusalaskatravel.suite101.com/article.cfm/travel-towels-comparisons-for-outdoor-camping-and-backpack-gear#ixzz0rxG93HPW

At only 5 oz. and the Size of a Hockey Puck in the package, Lightload Beach towels are the Perfect Accessory for Globetrotting.

Traveling has never been as light weight as with the Lightload Towels. At only 5 oz. and the size of a hockey puck in the package, Lightload Beach towels are the perfect accessory for Globetrotting. Sizing in at 36 x60 inches, the towels are full size beach towels that fit right into a pocket. They can cover the body when changing; bloc bugs keep the body insulated in cold and act as a sun bloc.  Lightloads have far better absorbency than the cotton beach towels and dry quicker.  Our towels are biodegradable so disposing of them is no problem. They come in two sizes, the beach and the hand towels (12 x24 inch). www.ultralighttowels.com