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Backpacker Magazine – February 1998

Ultralight: The Ray Jardine Way

He rocked the world of climbing, challenged the accepted wisdom in sea kayaking, and now Ray Jardine turned his renegade way of thinking to backpacking.

by: Peter Potterfield

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The AT hike validated Jardine's new techniques, and a "cruise" of the PCT in the summer of 1994—Jenny and Ray's final long-distance hike—confirmed it once again. Jardine was deluged with mail as The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook became more widely read. As he settled in as president of the trail group he founded, the American Long Distance Hiker's Association (ALDHA), he tried to answer all the letters. He was pleased to see that as more and more hikers tried his ideas, the response to the book was shifting from outright ridicule to deep gratitude.

"I was hiking the AT the same year as you," begins a typical letter, this one from Mark Welch, dated August 1996. "I had no idea who you were, but I was loaded down with about 60 pounds and you both had on what looked like daypacks. I thought to myself, 'Holy Cow, what a couple of yahoos!' After you passed me I started reading your entries and was awestruck at your daily mileage. After reading your book it just amuses the heck out of me that I was pretty much the idiot."

Four years have passed since Ray Jardine last strapped on a pack for a long-distance hike. Given his history, it was predictable that he would drift away from long-distance hiking. With the noise and clamor of the hiking community sounding a lot like the sound and fury in Yosemite after his "friends" appeared, his already waning interest in hiking was further diminished. Jardine soon distanced himself from the discussion generated by his book and from groups like ALDHA that he'd fostered.

Today he lives with Jenny, his partner in adventure, in a quiet, sparsely populated corner of the Northwest. His modest house and cavernous workshop stand on a few acres of lodgepole pine, not far from the mountains and forests he loves. It's an abode that fits his frugal and unpretentious style. Jardine, who's more comfortable outdoors than in, often sleeps in a tent in the backyard. He seems content at home, absolutely focused on the details of his next wilderness adventure, which will take him and Jenny through some of the most remote and unforgiving land in the world. But he won't be going there on foot. Shortly after leaving behind the backpacking world, Jardine turned the considerable wattage of his full attention to a new outdoor enthusiasm: Arctic kayaking.

This fall he and Jenny returned from their third year in the Arctic, having paddled from Washington State, through Alaska, to the Mackenzie Delta. With 6,000 miles under their spray skirts so far, they're halfway through a treacherous retracing of the Northwest Passage. Each day in the Arctic, Ray and Jenny would don survival suits and paddle through what is literally ice water. Their only company might be beluga whales or grizzlies on shore. It's a deadly environment with no margin for error. Roll your boat trying to get through the surf to camp and, if you can't start a fire quickly, you die of hypothermia.


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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star
Keith
Nov 22, 2013

brilliant guy, but the first book has all these weird hippy tangents; lectures about handwashing in restaurants, that are just a waste of space

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back... ArnoldMtnMan

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back...
Switchback Cowboy

BannerBlueBill
Nov 22, 2008

How do you print a page from your website?

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