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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive
Nine hikes as big as the hearts of their namesake wilderness visionaries.
Aldo Leopold was just one of the wilderness pioneers who helped blaze the way in the name of conservation. Here are a few places where you can follow the bootprints of other conservation heroes deep into the wildlands that bear their names.
William O. Douglas Wilderness,Washington
Freedom is a right Justice William O. Douglas held close to heart. Even the freedom to nearly meet your death in the wilds. In his book Of Men and Mountains, he writes, "We had accomplished the impossible...survived terrible ordeals...faced death down; and because of our encounter with it, we had come to value life more." Born in 1898 in Minnesota, Douglas received a law degree from Columbia University and taught at Yale before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Roosevelt. From the bench, and in the many books he would write, he continued to stand on the side of freedom and the freedom wild places represent. "Roadless areas are one pledge to freedom," he wrote in My Wilderness. That pledge is kept today in the 168,000-acre William O. Douglas Wilderness.
On the trail: "Discovery is adventure," Douglas wrote, and you will find a lot to discover on the 26.7-mile, one-way hike along the American Ridge. Despite its somewhat short length, it is a good, four- to five-day trip with enough elevation gain and loss to, as the guidebook says, "make your legs feel like canned hams." All of that up and down does have its advantages, such as the view from the lookout atop 6,473-foot Goat Peak. If your "hams" have enough left in them, you can piece together longer loop hikes by combining this trail with others that share nearby trailheads.
Contact: Wenatchee National Forest, Naches Ranger District, 10061 Highway 12, Naches, WA 98937; (509) 653-2205.
Trail guide: Pacific Northwest Hiking, by Ron C. Judd and Dan Nelson. Foghorn Press, 340 Bodega Ave., Petaluma, CA 94952; (800) 364-4676; $20.95.