He’s Been There! Rick McCharles has experienced Adventures the world over and brings The Best Hikes to you!

He’s Been There! Rick McCharles has experienced Adventures the world over and brings The Best Hikes to you!

As I research and blog about hiking world wide I have the pleasure of meeting folks that do the things that I dream about doing some day. Rick McCharles is one hiker that inspires! Not only has he hiked some of the Worlds Best Hikes but he has also published first hand accounts of many of the Best Hikes on his website BestHike.com!
Grab a cup of coffee and escape for a moment as Rick McCharles guides you from Peru to New Zealand and the Rockies to Everest and more in the interview below.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, I could see the Canadian Rockies from my doorstep. All our family holidays were camping trips to British Columbia. I was literally dragged on to my first major hike as a teenager by a friend, Rob Glaser, over 30 years ago. We remain hiking buddies to this day.

Rick McCharles

Rick McCharles

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

Nepal is #1 for me. I’ve just returned from a 17-day trek to Mt. Everest. Enjoy the photo’s of the Trek to Everest on Flickr. But I love the Sierra Nevada in California. The Andes. New Zealand.

The summer of 2009 I hiked two months in Europe. The “surprise” for me was how much I enjoyed the Dolomites in northern Italy.

I lived and worked in New Zealand for a year, affording me plenty of time to do the Great Walks there.

Late one afternoon I parked at the beach trailhead of the Heaphy Track, planning on adding the 82km adventure to my resume. At dusk I was driven into my tent by the Kiwi menace – sandflies. Millions of sandflies! I’d never seen anything like those ravenous predators anywhere else in the world. In fact, I abandoned that hike next morning.

Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

Non-hikers assume that what I do is risky. Far from it. Driving to the trailhead by motor vehicle is far more dangerous than anything I do in the wilds. Over decades I’ve had only one serious emergency.

Hiking alone off-trail in the highest mountains of Venezuela I had trouble finding a decent tent site to wild camp. It was too steep. Finally I found a very poor site. Dropping my pack at that point, I walked on hoping to find something better a little further up the trail. I marked landmarks, carefully, so I wouldn’t get lost.

Unfortunately, every afternoon in the Andes clouds roll in from the Amazon. Within minutes I was in fog, unable to sight my landmarks. I was forced to overnight in a t-shirt, shivering with hypothermia for 10 hours. Next morning I limped off the mountain without my pack.

Lesson learned = NEVER leave your pack behind. It’s your lifeline.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

The bears and mountain goats of the Rockies are childhood companions. But I’ve been thrilled to see large mammals in the wild from other areas. Ibex and chamois in Europe, wombats in Australia, llamas and alpacas in South America.

Alpacas on the Ausangate Circuit, Peru

Alpacas on the Ausangate Circuit, Peru

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

I’m not a thru-hiker. My longest trips have been 17-days in Nepal. My most exhilarating long hike was the high altitude Huayhuash Circuit in Peru, 11 days with a guide and pack horses.

I’m planning on longer hikes in future. It’s a great way to relax. And to slow life down.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

My favourite blogger is Tom Mangan. Aside from Tom, I follow perhaps 100 blogs including Tracks and Trails, constantly looking for information on the “best hikes” in the world.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

No question. Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada. It’s similar, but superior, to REI in the States.

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Start your hiking adventures at the list of the 10 best hikes in the world.

Hiking Lady

Hiking Lady aka; Carol Roberts is a TracksAndTrails.ca Ranger. I received this completed interview from her as she returned from climbing Mt. Whitney. I read the interview and my minds eye was ushered to  alpine meadows, distant mountains and free flowing rivers as she named the many magical place names of outdoor wonder and majesty. Maybe this interview will be the call that sets your feet to the trails…

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I’ve been hiking ever since I learned how to walk! My childhood home backed up to a small canyon in Southern California, and my brother and I would explore and go on our own little adventures. On family vacations we visited several U.S. National Parks including the popular destinations of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. Additionally, at an early age I was lucky to go to Canada as well, and hiked in Banff and Glacier/Waterton Lakes Parks.

What has been your favourite hiking trail or outdoor area?

I love the Sierra Nevada mountains in my home state of California. Yes, I know that is a very broad answer, because it includes everything from Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks to Mammoth Lakes and lesser known areas like Mt. Goode and Bishop Lakes, but it is beautiful year-round! Snowshoeing in the Sierras is my favorite wintertime outdoor activity!

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

My real love of hiking began on Canadian turf at Lake Louise in Banff National Park. That place is just so breathtaking that when I visited as a kid I did not want to go home! At the time I was a young girl and was with my family on a summer vacation. We spent the morning canoeing in turquoise glacial waters of Lake Louise, with the gorgeous backdrop of the snow capped Canadian Rockies in the distance. It was a pretty hot day, and we were all thirsty after paddling around the lake. We had heard about the Lake Agnes Teahouse, a short hike away, so of course my family decided to head over for some cool drinks. After hiking and hiking some more, we realized it wasn’t going to be a short little jaunt afterall! As I took in the stunning views of Lake Louise that peeked through the dense forests, I envisioned a nice cool lemonade. My parents encouraged my brother and me to keep up, telling us the sooner we got there, the sooner we’d have some lemonade and snacks! After about 2 miles (it seemed much farther), we got to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, and were all ready for some cool refreshments when the waitress told us they had run out of drinks! Even though I’ve never been thirstier as I was that day at the Lake Agnes Teahouse, the stunning views quenched a far deeper thirst and sure got me hooked on hiking and outdoor adventures!

Have you ever been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

Luckily I’ve never been lost! The most important thing I do before leaving home on a backpacking adventure is to leave my trip plan with my family or friends. I have heard way too many stories of people being lost in the wilderness and rescue teams unnecessarily searching much larger areas because a detailed trip plan was not left.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

Indeed! In the urban areas of Southern California I frequently encounter bobcats. On a recent trip to the Sierra Nevadas I ran into my first black bear! My hiking partners and I were camping at Whitney Portal, and went to bed early to get some rest in advance of our 17 hour hike the next day. We were all sleepless, anticipating the grueling 22-mile day hike of Mt. Whitney, and after a few hours of tossing and turning I was awakened by campers from the adjacent site shouting “Hey Hey!” Within just a few feet of my tent I could hear very a heavy lumbering noise of a large animal! I knew that it was a black bear, but decided to crawl a little deeper into my mummy sleeping bag and pretend a bear wasn’t right outside. Since I had done a thorough check for all scented items before going to bed and made sure they were all safely locked away in a bear box, I knew the bear would not have any inclination to coming inside my tent. So I went back to sleep and heard the stories the following day from the campers in the adjoining site. 🙂

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

Pack light! Every unnecessary ounce will feel like an albatross around your neck, so make sure you focus on packing all of the essentials, and whenever possible find multiple uses for items. A bandanna is one piece of hiking gear that I have found lots of uses for.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

Of course I’m highly biased, but my site (HikingLady.com) is my favorite! That is where I share all my hiking and backpacking tips, as well as book and movie reviews, information on interesting outdoors and hiking events, environmental issues, organizations to join, and more. I also spend a lot of time reading other people’s hiking and outdoor adventure blogs, especially Tracks & Trails.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

REI Their used gear sales are fantastic. Because of their generous return policy, I’ve been able to find slightly used boots, adventure apparel, trekking poles, and even backpacks and sleeping bags!

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