Hiker homecoming in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Hiker homecoming in Nevada City

ALDHA-West President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa on his recent 3,100-mile hike along the Roky Mountains on the Continental Divide Trail.
Submitted photo |

This weekend, long distance hikers from around the world will come together in Nevada City for camaraderie, education and inspiration.

It’s the second time the American Long Distance Hiking Association West has hosted their three-day annual Gathering at Camp Augusta. The event begins today and runs through Sunday.

Triple Crown awards will be given to serious hikers with three big ones under their belt: Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

“The annual meeting is really a way to celebrate the end of the hiking season with everyone,” said ALDHA-West President Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa.

In addition to the Triple Crown Awards, a Hiker Olympics and a Big Gear Raffle, participants will enjoy a community dinner while hearing from keynote speakers: Justin “Trauma” Lichter and Shawn “Pepper” Forry on the Great Himalaya Trail; Mary “Fireweed” Kwart on the Bigfoot Trail (in the Trinity Marble Mountains); Aria Zoner on The Hot Springs Trail; and Clay Jacobson and Kelly Bussard on the Idaho Centennial Trail.

“We try to highlight trails from around the world,” said LaRuffa.

LaRuffa recently completed a 3,100-mile hike along the Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide Trail, from Mexico to Canada. He left behind a good career as a lumber broker to follow his dream.

“I really like to be outside in wilderness, said LaRuffa, who admits there is a degree of masochism among long distance hikers who endure averaging 20 to 30-plus miles a day and the extremely harsh conditions that Mother Nature dishes out. LaRuffa woke at 4:30 a.m. each morning, hit the trail by 5 a.m. and walked until 8 p.m. each night.

“There’s a tremendous amount of freedom when you only have to put one foot in front of the other,” he said.

LaRuffa enjoys the people he meets on the trail and the physical challenge of long distance hiking. Some of the highlights from his recent trip include the Beaverhead Mountains in Montana, camping under the stars in Wyoming and seeing a herd of wild horses and the 360 degree sunset views of sagebrush and pines while atop the rocky crest of the Divide.

LaRuffa is no stranger to long-distance trails. He hiked the 2,182 mile Appalachian Trail when he was 18. It took him five months and three days. He has hiked the Allegheny Trail in West Virginia, the Tahoe Rim Trail, the John Muir Trail and the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. In 2014, LaRuffa and friends were the first people to pioneer a 330-mile route in the Columbia River Gorge and in 2015 he joined a team that hiked 195 miles on the Sierra High Route paralleling the John Muir Trail. Only 33 of those miles were on a designated trail.

ALDHA-West started 21 years ago as a social organization and has evolved to be a group that promotes trail education with topics ranging from “leave no trace,” going ultra-light and how to financially plan for a big backpacking trip. Today, the group has 300 members that each year meet in Oregon, Washington and California. Members range from folks who have hiked 100 miles to 3,000 miles in a season — from social hikers to those who like the solitude and spirituality of going solo.

Some people fly in from other countries. Inspirational guest speakers have hiked trails from Venezuela, Patagonia, Israel and Spain.

This year, Justin “Trauma” Lichter and Shawn “Pepper” Forry will return with stories of hiking in the jungles and high passes of Nepal on the Great Himalaya Trail. The two were the first to hike the PCT in winter and were so entertaining during their presentation last year they were invited back.

“It’s always a very inspiring weekend. It’s also like a homecoming for a lot of us,” said LaRuffa.

Learn more at: http://www.aldhawest.org.

Contact Freelance Writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067.

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