Mark Fenton

A backpacker on the Clear Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.

Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek

By Michael Lanza

After descending seven miles and over 4,800 feet on the Grand Canyon’s always-stunning South Kaibab Trail and crossing the footbridge to the north side of the Colorado River, we follow the path through the Bright Angel backpacker campground to its end. There, not marked by any sign and not obvious to anyone unaware of it, a faint path leads through low bushes. Within moments, it turns and runs straight up a steep canyon wall of cacti and other desert flora, loose scree, and boulders, ascending about 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile, beyond what we can see from the bottom of it.

Gazing up with a volatile mix of excitement and trepidation, we start a long uphill grind.

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Still Crazy After All These Years: Hiking in the White Mountains

By Michael Lanza The sun beams down approvingly as Mark and I start hiking from Crawford Notch, the head-turning cleavage in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The temperature sits in a perfect zone somewhere between warm and cool. Not a trace of humidity moistens the air, while an idyllic breeze stirs it enough to keep the ravenous mosquitoes …

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A hiker on the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab Trail.

April Fools: Dayhiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

By Michael Lanza At 5:30 in the morning in early April, the bone-chilling wind cascading off the Grand Canyon’s South Rim at 7,200 feet slices through my few thin layers of clothing. Four of us are following our headlamp beams in the dark down the South Kaibab Trail. We’re just minutes into a day that will also end by headlamp …

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A backpacker passing Wanda Lake on the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days: Amazing Experience, or Certifiably Insane?

By Michael Lanza

“Umm, hey buddy, you okay?”

It’s 4:30 a.m., a time of day that puts us in the questionable company of cat burglars and alpinists. Our headlamp beams seem to bounce off the inky black of a moonless night in Yosemite Valley. Four of us are taking the first steps on the 221-mile John Muir Trail. And my friend Mark Fenton is staggering like a frat boy on a weekend bender.

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Backpackers hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.

Best of Yosemite: Backpacking South of Tuolumne Meadows

By Michael Lanza

I am floating in the stratosphere.

The feeling reminds me of childhood dreams of flying, but this is no dream. We are hiking across the slender, granite spine of 9,926-foot Clouds Rest, between sphincter-puckering abysses of deep air in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Below my left elbow, the rock drops off like a very long and insanely steep slide for several hundred feet before reaching forest; and that’s the side that feels less exposed. Below my right elbow, a cliff face sweeps downward a dizzying, stomach-churning 4,000 feet—that’s a thousand feet taller than the face of El Capitan.

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