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.
What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?
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.
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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