5 Spot | Peter Potterfield, author of Classic Hikes of the World | 5 Spot | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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5 Spot | Peter Potterfield, author of Classic Hikes of the World


Celebrated hiking expert Peter Potterfield is the author of Classic Hikes of the World. He is appearing at REI (3285 E. 3300 South, 486-2100) on Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m. where he will present his favorite hikes of New Zealand.

What were your solo expeditions like?
Solo hiking is more psychologically demanding because you have to rely entirely on yourself. If you get hurt, there’s no one to turn to, so you have to take extra precautions and be conservative. The upside is that you don’t have to agree with anyone; you can go where you want when you want. It’s certainly a growth experience though. On the other hand, hiking with a friend can be really fun, too—particularly someone at the same skill level. To sum up, I’d say it’s good either way.

 Encounter any ferocious animals on your hikes?

The grizzly bear—especially in Alaska where there are a lot of them. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not at the top of the food chain.


Where do you like to hike in Utah?

One is Chessler Park, which is in Canyonlands National Park about 40 miles south of Moab. The other is Buckskin Gulch, which is in southern Utah near Kanab. It’s a 20-mile route through a slot canyon, and it’s beautiful!


How important is it to stay on the trail?

It depends on your experience. If you’re an experienced hiker with the necessary skills, and you know how to use a map and GPS device, then it’s OK to explore off trail. But if you’re relatively new to hiking, it’s much safer to just follow the trail.


Any other advice for beginning hikers?

Just do it! Go hiking as frequently as possible because it’s good for your psyche and your health. You’re going to make some mistakes in the beginning, but gradually you’ll gain the skills that enable you to go farther, faster and to more remote places.


What’s unique about New Zealand hiking?

New Zealand was actually a surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy hiking there as much as I did. It’s an incredible place because of the combination of culture, terrain, scenery and their elaborate trail and hut system. All New Zealand trails have huts so you can travel lightly and stay safe from bad weather. The coolest thing about hiking there was the variety of terrain. There are mountains, beaches, wild trees and miles of forest that haven’t been exploited. It’s rare that such a small country has so much to offer. Oh, and the seasons are reversed. So when it’s too cold and snowy here to go hiking, you can go to New Zealand in mid-January and it’s the middle of summer!


What’s left on your “must-hike” list?

You know, by now I’ve been to most of the places I’ve wanted to go, but I learn about great places all the time. One place I’d like to go is Arctic Canada. Another is Eastern Europe.