Category Archives: The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Eleventh Essential – Coffee!

coffee Let me be clear: no coffee – no hike!  Over and beyond the “Ten Essentials” of backpacking, there is an Eleventh Essential — coffee.  There may be a Twelfth, but that’s a post for another day.

Instants have come and gone, though I think Trader Joe’s Columbian instant would do in a pinch.  I’ve tried funnels and gadgets of various sorts.  I will not take an espresso maker; too much to fidget with.

A few years ago I found a lightweight, convenient method of taking fresh-ground coffee on the trail and brewing it with as little fanfare and difficulty as possible.

Enter – the coffee sock.  No, it’s not a “recycled” tube sock (ack!)  It’s a wooden handled gadget with a muslin “basket” which holds grounds through which hot water if poured.  Quick on the brew, good on the palate.  I can amp the coffee with as many grounds as I like and cleanup is a simple rinse.  Occasionally I will use some soap and water to wash out the oils which accumulate.

Viola!  Easy, fast, and most of all – effective!


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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, coffee, Food, Hiking, outdoors, The Appalachian Trail

The 2,000-mile barrier

hiker-1149898_1920There is something which stands in the way of an Appalachian Trail backpacker and success. Something that makes even the day-hiker hesitant to head out the door into the wild.

Vast and dominant, it looms over the beauty which beckons the heart and soul, daring the brave who wish to enter the sanctuary of wood and stream, glen and crag.

There is something which intimidates and defeats, which cripples and discourages. Even the seasoned backpacker who is armed with profound skill might in a moment collapse into discouraged retreat. Rather than forge into the green, they will pack up and head for home, tail between their legs. Rather than return to the world with wondrous stories and rich memories, they bear the shame of having given up to a simple and pervasive enemy which will haunt them for their lack of fortitude.

Countless expeditions and numerous souls who might otherwise push hesitancy aside lose all sense and intention when faced with this one, single, seemingly-mighty barrier.

wrangell-1721526_1920Should you be among those with the will and ability to endure this demon, you will find it accompanies you the entire length of your woodland sojourn. It will gawk at you across the fireside and pester you as you walk the miles.

Nevertheless, this creature which plagues the wilderness is deserving of existence. For it is the guardian and force which prevents lesser prepared travelers from crossing the boundary into the mystic mist of remote lands.

Should you be among the few who can tolerate its company, you will find that it does not disempower or distract you from the joy to be found in walking wild places. In fact, this jinn obstructs lesser souls, but nourishes those wise to the gift it can bring.

What is this force; this barrier? Simply this…

the unknown!

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Apprehension, Backpacking, Courage, Fear, Hiking, Journey, nature, The Appalachian Trail, Walking

7 Reasons Thru Hikes Fail and How to Prevent Defeat

Stubbs provides great insight and wisdom which is crucial to upping your odds for a successful Appalachian Trail hike.

Stubbs Rambles On

Originally posted on The Trek on January 17th, 2017

There are numerous reasons why people quit their thru-hike, and some of them are preventable. Here are several examples of reasons why people fail their thru hike attempt and how they can be avoided.

1) A Negative Mindset


I met a hiker in the beginning who was extremely negative about EVERYTHING under the sun (Including the sun, actually). You would try to help guide her into thinking about things on the bright side and she would find a way to turn it around in hopes of making you feel bad for her entirely hopeless situation.

Prevention: A bad mindset when you’re constantly in a funk about everything will force you off trail as early as day one (unless you’re as stubborn as the hiker I just described).

  • Think Positive – The key is to try to rewire yourself to become more positive…

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Filed under Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Outdoor sports, outdoors, The Appalachian Trail, Writing

It’s hard to leave a trail town…

Thanks to Sarah and Jay for the tasty tip and positive review of one of the many eateries on the Appalachian Trail!

Sarah and Jay Hike

March 24, 2017

Midmorning, leaving Hot Springs, NC, brunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner called to us. Deviating from the trail slightly, we left our packs on the back porch, and came inside to discover every table filled! As we stood in the doorway, wondering whether we’d be eating trail food for breakfast, a lady about our age beckoned us over and said, “I’ll share my table, if you want.” We didn’t need to be told twice! We quickly sat down and introduced ourselves. Maureen was visiting the town with friends, and seemed enchanted to share a breakfast table with two thru-hikers. We, on the other hand, were delighted to spend time with a person whose interests were wide-ranging and varied. The conversation was lively and diverse.

When we each ordered two entrees from the menu, Maureen’s eyes bugged out a bit, then her expression cleared. ”Oh, will you be…

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April 1, 2017 · 2:05 pm

September Trail Song

In mid-September a telling chill laces the evening air.  In daytime, while hiking, there comes a moment when the breeze takes on an edge that says “autumn.”  That moment is both welcome and dreaded.  Autumn is my favorite season of the year, but since I don’t backpack during winter I find the promise of colder days unwelcome, unless they find me sitting beside a roaring fireplace with hot chocolate.  Still, this is the next spoke in the seasonal wheel ordained since time began, and I find it’s easier going from September until late March if I simply embrace the chilly guest who has come to share my life the next seven months.

One good thing about September and fall hiking is the change in the trail.  Less water and muddiness and more firm going underfoot.  The colorful pattern made by yellow-gold and burnished red fall leaves is a delight to tread through.  The yellow-jackets sometimes found nesting in the trail are the most unpleasant possibility, but I have only been stung once.  I learned that, yes, it is possible to run far while carrying a heavy backpack when their venomous sting is felt.

Nights come earlier and fire and wood smoke are welcome.  There is a sadness to the loss of the long summer days when I might come trudging into camp as late as eight-thirty in the evening.  Days are shorter now, so itineraries focus on making efficient miles and having time to set camp and gather wood.  The melancholy also has something to do with the absence of seeing more kindred souls on the trial than I did during warmer months.  Again, it’s both welcome to have solitude and be alone while hiking, but lonely not having others to share the joy with.

The September trail song is a bittersweet one.  Introspective, but not necessarily despondent.  There is more time as I walk to think and assess the lessons learned from the high season just gone.  Lessons that cannot be processed in a crowd, teachings that only come when I am the only soul gazing into the blazing campfire alone, staring up through the leafless trees into the naked sky of eternal starlight.  A late-arriving hiker at my site would not be welcome during such a holy moment.  I hold the hot cup of coffee close to ward the chill from my fingers.  I hold the moment itself closer still.  A gift of blessing seems to settle down on me from the upward curls of firewood smoke, and I feel a presence not noticed during the daylight or during the busy trail months.  Alone, yet not.  Wistful, but happy and content.  I place another log on the fire, lie back against a supporting tree, and gaze at the moon cresting the horizon.  I sip and swallow.  I muse and think.  No epiphany intrudes on my thoughts, just the comforting awareness of being alone at a specific place and time, in the wild, listening to the song of the barred owls and the whistling of the wind through tall hemlock trees.



Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking, The Appalachian Trail, Timothy J. Hodges

Trails and Thomas Merton


Photo courtesy jimforest @ Flickr

Traveling trails — including the trail of life — takes many forms and evokes many prayers, such as this one by Thomas Merton. See if you can identify with his heart.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Contemplation, Continental Divide Trail, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail, Prayer, The Appalachian Trail, Thomas Merton, Timothy J. Hodges

Guiding Light – A song for the trail

One song that haunts me wonderfully as I hike and backpack the trail is this one by Irish worship leader Robin Mark.  Ponder the lyrics; enjoy the video.


O the road is wide,

And water runs on either side.

My shadow in the fading light

Is stretching out towards the night.


For the sun is low,

But I still have yet so far to go.

My lonely heart is beating so,

Cause I’m tired of the wandering.


There’s a sign ahead,

but I think it’s the same one again.

I’m thinking about my only friend,

so I’ll find my way home.



When I need to get home

you’re my guiding light, you’re my guiding light.

When I need to get home

you’re my guiding light, you’re my guiding light.


And the night is cold,

and yonder lies my sleeping soul

by all the branches broke like bones,

but this weakened tree no longer holds.


And the night is still,

but I have not yet lost my will.

So think I’ll keep on moving still,

til I find my way home.



When I need to get home,

You’re my guiding light, you’re my guiding light.

When I need to get home,

You’re my guiding light, you’re my guiding light.


Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking, Long distance backpacking, The Appalachian Trail, Timothy J. Hodges