165: Reading Between the Lines

Show Notes: Episode 165

Today on the First 40 Miles, while looking for your next hike or backpacking trip, it’s easy to lose track of time reading colorful, inspiring trip reports.   We’ll help you decipher some uncommon words and phrases you may run across in your reading.  Then we’ll review some dreamy socks that are getting a cult following among thru hikers.  And we’ll give you access to the secret government code book to decipher trip reports.


  • Creative Trip Report Writing…
  • How can I decode some of the buzzwords on trail reviews and get a REAL sense of whether this is worth the attempt?
  • Great lines from trip reports:
  • http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/enchantment-lakes

Top 5 Types of Words I Ran into While Reading Trip Reports

Worlds that describe the ecosystem

  • Give you the big picture of what to expect in terms of plant life, animals, temperature ranges, exposure, and features
  • An ecosystem describes the connection of all the elements
  • Sub-alpine, wetlands, rainforest, desert, grasslands, temperate forests

Words that describe the geology or earth shape

  • Earth is shaped by erosion, glaciers, volcanoes, wind, water, wind, earthquakes, plate tectonics…and much of the evidence of these forces can be seen on the trail
  • Avalanche chute, basin walled by rugged peaks, rock formation, summit, dome, ridge, pass, shoreline, alluvial, pluvial lake
  • These words pain the picture of what you’ll see as you hike
  • These features could be a hundred miles away, or right in front of you.

Words that describe other living matter

  • Dense growth of sedges, wildflowers, Indian paintbrush, western anemone, lupine
  • Mountain goats, elk
  • Even insects are frequently mentioned in trail reports, as well as fungi

Words that describe manmade structures

  • Boardwalk, rustic log bridge, bear pole, camp sites
  • Understanding these features will help you to appreciate man’s desire to return to the wild and find solitude, beauty and peace.
  • Many of these features have minimum impact, use local resources, and are created to be long lasting.

Words that describe trail features

  • Switchbacks, elevation gain, left branch/right branch, T-junction, forks
  • Understanding these words can help you to navigate successfully

SUMMIT Gear Review™:  CloudLine Socks


  • 63% Ultra Soft Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 4% Spandex
  • Reinforced cushion zones for durability and comfort
  • Anti-microbial
  • Long lasting softness


  • Merino wool wicks moisture, regulates temperature, and resists odor making this the perfect sock


  • Weight varies by size and sock


  • Machine washable


  • $15-24 depending on size and weight
  • Hiking sock with medium cushion is $22
  • “THE CLOUDLINE LIFETIME GUARANTEE: You can be confident that you are going to love these hiking socks as much as we do. Or your money back. That’s our guarantee. If they don’t live up to the abuse of the wild, your money back. If there are any defects, your money back. If a bear eats them whole, well, consider yourself lucky. But we think you get the picture.”


  • What do you love about Cloudline socks?
  • https://www.cloudlineapparel.com/
  • They will win awards for comfort…super soft
  • Kept calling them Cloud 9 socks…but they’re Cloudline socks

Backpack Hack of the Week™:  Outdoor Glossary

Glossary from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service


You can also download the PDF of the entire glossary from this website

Trail Wisdom

“The natural world will always be there to save me from suffocating in my human problems.”
–Hunter S. Thompson