Hikerspace

This post is intended to be an occasional feature showcasing some of the websites which I have enjoyed recently. I would welcome your suggestions about good sites using the #hikerspace hashtag or the comments section for this post. (Comments are moderately moderated).

Trail Angels
Trail Angels on Hadrian’s Wall

Chris Townsend Outdoors Blog by a very experienced backpacker with an impressive outdoor CV. Unparalleled knowledge of gear and environmental issues.

Grough Magazine An independently owned site featuring news and features about the outdoors and outdoor activities.

Hiking in Finland  A European backpacking blog in English written by the multi skilled Hendrick Morkel

Homemade Wanderlust  Blog and Vlog following trailhiker Dixie’s interesting and involving attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and become a hiking triple crowner.

John Muir Trust Founded in 1983 with the aim of conserving and protecting wild places for the benefit of present and future generations

Northumberland National Park This site is growing into a well researched and  interesting website about the area. They are quite responsive to comments and criticisms from users.

The Outdoors Station Podcast A professionally produced podcast covering many aspects of the outdoors from the Cartwrights at Backpacking Light UK

Scotland Outdoors Podcast A wide ranging, well informed and entertaining podcast about outdoor life in Scotland.

Tramplite Ultralight long distance hiker who designs and makes his own line of hiking equipment when he isn’t hiking trails around the world

Walk Highlands All aspects of walking in Scotland are covered in this engaging blog which has a good mix of trail data, downloads and long form posts. It is supported by accommodation providers who want to appeal to the outdoor market.

Rucksack Rose

Revamped Reviews

As a great consumer of outdoor films and books, I began writing reviews for this site some time ago. I hope regular readers have enjoyed the selection of outdoor reviews, which include British, European, Asian and American adventures.

Since returning to my blog, I have added quite a few book and film reviews as well as introducing sections on Global adventures, Autobiographies and Guide Books to the mix. If you have suggestions on things for me to read or watch, or you would like to send me a review copy, please use the contact form on this site.

reviews

Thanks for reading and watching

Tramping around Tyneside

3 years ago, after I moved from the borders back to Newcastle, I wrote an article about rediscovering my own back yard as a walker. Because I wasn’t sure whether there would be demand for urban walks on my site, I made a YouTube playlist of my Tyne and Wear walks but didn’t create GPX files or write up the walks as I do for most of my trips. As I am again confined to walking close to home, I thought I would share these walks on ViewRanger, as well as YouTube, and maybe create a blog post about them.

Sometimes life limits the options we have open to us for outdoor pursuits, but I have not found staying at home to be the answer. I hope you will enjoy some or all of these Tyne and Wear walks. They are all accessible by public transport – one advantage of city walking.

Creating a walk

Having created a long distance route from a map for a challenge event, I was reminded that following pre-existing routes with signs, guides, waymarks, apps and other hikers for company is reassuring and even soporific at times. However as you may know, once you can absorb the information contained in a  map, it becomes easier to create a route of your own. If you have ever looked at Foul Weather Alternatives or taken a short cut, then you have created your own walk.

OS Maps
OS Maps

My background has involved following a lot of other people’s routes, and a helpful spell of route checking for the Ramblers. Their training covered areas such as safety, legality, accessibility, topography, themes and focal points on routes. There are then two stages involved in the process of creating a route. One involves looking at the route on your map and in satellite view (which can reveal inaccuracies in the map), and the other is to reccy the route on foot with all these issues in mind.

Maps
Harvey Maps

What should a good route involve?

The legality of a route is essential if you are offering it for other people to follow. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the symbols which denote what type of track it is; right of way, bridle way etc and any rules and exemptions which apply.

Camping Signs
Route signage

Safety is a crucial issue so it is important to be aware of any potential hazards such as river’s in spate, slippery rocks, eroded tracks or obstructions such as fallen trees. You should then try to incorporate these into your route data. 

tree trunk
Fallen tree

In case of access issues and the use of wheeled vehicles, it is helpful to mention any steps or stiles on the route and a note on the condition of the tracks i.e whether they are full of potholes or overgrown.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk

Focal Points

The received wisdom when I trained was that a good walk should involve a focal point/s. This could be a view, or historic, natural, sacred, architectural or topographic features in the case of a day hike. In the case of a distance hike there is the opportunity to introduce a theme or feature such as the Pennines (Pennine Way), historic landmarks (Hadrian’s Wall), Abbeys (Borders Abbeys Way) or geographical features such as a river (Speyside Way). A walk could also follow a person’s life (John Muir Trail) or encompass a pilgrimage route (Camino di Santiago).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Steps on St Cuthbert’s Way

Questions

When working from the map, the following questions could be considered when creating a day hike:

Are the start and finish accessible?
Is the walk is do-able?
What are the gradients like?
Has it got a gradual start?
Does it have variety?
Does it include suitable rest places and shelter?
Are there any avoidable eyesores?

For a distance hike you could add these questions to your list:

How far apart are the resupply points?
Where are the water supplies?
Is there a variety of accommodation?
Is it possible to backpack the route?
Are refreshments available?

Summary

This is just a sketch of some of the issues and questions to bear in mind when walking somebody else’s route or creating your own. It can be interesting to evaluate the decisions which have been made for you on pre-existing routes, and to try and improve on them on your own walk. This can become the first step towards creating your own.

With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.

ViewRanger Top Publisher Award 2018

I have been digging my old trumpet out from the top of the cupboard and dusting it off to receive this very exciting ViewRanger award, alongside 9 other distinguished recipients.

image002

Craig Wareham, Co-Founder and CEO at ViewRanger, describes the annual award as follows:

‘The Top Publisher Award recognises people, organizations and publishers creating interesting, engaging, and high quality trail guide content. Each year, just ten outdoor organizations and authors receive our top award for contributing outstanding digital content, including route descriptions, turn-by-turn directions and photos to share with the growing ViewRanger outdoor community’

Press Release Image
All 10 of the 2018 Top Publisher Award Winners

By way of acknowledgement, ViewRanger has dragged my blog out of the dusty filing cabinets and card indexes where it was created, and into the digital present. The ViewRanger App provided me with exactly the tools I needed to make my routes accessible to a wider audience and to communicate directly with users.

Thanks to my followers and all at ViewRanger for making it happen for all my Rucksack Rose sites.

rravatarsa4
Rucksack Rose – Avatars

Twitter Detox

As a digital immigrant, I didn’t really know much about online safety when I started Rucksack Rose using a pseudonym in 2012. My aims were to celebrate the life of my late mother and to remind myself, after her long illness, that beauty and kindness still existed in the world. I wanted to connect with other outdoor people, particularly people who are normally excluded from outdoor debates. Naively I thought that is what the internet was for. Because of this, I didn’t know how to react or who to turn to when my sites were targeted by cyberstalkers, malware and organised trolling. For the last 5 years I have made repeated attempts to refer people to my personal site for information and news, but the main thing I have learned is that trolls can’t, or won’t, read.

After my studies in 2016, issues from the same people flared up again when I mentioned that my application had been accepted for the TGO challenge, and their sheer unpleasantness resulted in my withdrawal from the event. This was soon followed by another outburst from a couple of people from the same group (without even knowing the circumstances) when I mentioned that I had made a call to Mountain Rescue for advice during a walk in memory of a relative.

RR Bullying 1
Blow the whistle on trolling and harassment

This group seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than to wreak emotional devastation on Twitter. After haranguing me for over two years, they eventually pressured me into disclosing private information which was really off topic on this blog.

All these experiences have changed my approach to blogging and social media, which is ironic on a blog intended to share beauty and kindness. As a result I have put Twitter on hold for the moment as I’m not sure it is the right platform for remembering people, beauty, kindness, survivors or fledgling businesses. When I try to balance out the positive contribution it is making to Rucksack Rose against the emotional damage being caused by trolls, and the lax safety responses from the company involved, the option to come off Twitter is becoming an increasingly tempting one.

Otherwise all is good, and everything else will hopefully carry on with improved productivity in a less toxic environment. Thanks again to the people who have stopped by. It means a great deal to me.

Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers near Malham

Does the world need another review of 2017?

Summary.

The answer is probably not, so I’m keeping it short. Like most years, 2017 has had it’s ups and downs for me. I have achieved many of the aims for Rucksack Rose that I set out a year ago; completely updating all my sites, introducing a way to support me and producing more regular content, which includes ‘talkie’ videos and GPX links.

Outdoor
rucksackrose.com

In April, under pressure from trolls, I wrote a bit about my childhood experiences of aggression, and the ways in which I learned to cope with them, in Fear. I can only hope that writing about this may help others who have had similar experiences.

In September I celebrated the fifth birthday of this blog and passing the 100k views mark on both my YouTube channel and my blog. I am proud to say that views currently stand at 108k+ on YouTube and 107k+ on this blog.

RR Thanks
Thank You from Rucksack Rose

In spite of these successes, responses to supporting me have been muted although I realise that competition is pretty fierce in this area. Thanks to the companies who have sent products for me to look at and try out and I hope it is onward and upwards for you in 2018.

Pictures.

My achievements over the last year included completing my first solo wild camp in January to Shillhope Law in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland.

Sunrise from Shillhope Law
Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

I also completed two backpacked trails – the Berwickshire Coastal Path in March..

Sunrise near Eyemouth
Sunrise near Eyemouth on the Berwickshire Coastal Path
Eyemouth Port
Eyemouth Port, Berwickshire

… and the Speyside Way in May.

Cairngorms
Looking towards the Cairngorms from the Speyside Way near Aviemore
Fochabers
Near Fochabers on the Speyside Way

I did two shorter camping trips; Pitcarmick on the Cateran Trail in June, and Bealach Cumhang on the Rob Roy Way in August, both of which featured a lot of rain.

Blackcraig Forest
Views from Blackcraig Forest on the Cateran Trail
Camp site
Bealach Cumhang Camp on The Rob Roy Way

In between these trails and camping trips, I also managed some lovely day walks in North Northumberland and the Scottish Borders when I began experimenting with ‘talkie” videos. This featured some very loud wind drowning out my speech, until a friend suggested a microphone.

Tweed and Till
First live video: Confluence of the River Tweed and the River Till

For those who like to keep count, I did a total of 11 wild camps this year before Lyme disease took hold. The second half of the year was quieter, as the prolonged symptoms required two courses of antibiotics.

In order to have some off-grid time, I did some outdoor volunteer work at North Perthshire in October. During this rewarding trip, I learned a lot about the ecology, history and stewardship of the three sites where I worked, as well as meeting some great people.

Garry Bridge
Voluntary work in North Perthshire: View from Garry Bridge, Linn of Tummel
Killiecrankie
Trooper’s Den at Killiecrankie
Linn of Tummel Falls
Waterfall at Linn of Tummel viewpoint

Since then I have been focussing on writing, photography, editing, adding to and improving my GPX routes, various site improvements and spending less time on social media.

2018.

This year I have realised that my outdoor life is essentially a reflective place and a sanctuary in which to recover, recharge and renew. I therefore wish my supporters and my genuine followers and readers a happy and tranquil New Year filled only with positive people.

RR New Year 2017