Tag Archives: Hiking

For the Appalachian Trail hiker: a great choice!

In my never-ending quest to find the best gear for any situation, I thought it would be fun to try the Leatherman Squirt PS4 and see if such a small multi-tool would be adequate for EDC. By small, I don’t mean compact. This Leatherman is seriously tiny. It’s only 2.25 inches long when closed but […]

via Leatherman Squirt PS4 —

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Backpacking gear, EDC, Everyday carry, Hiking, outdoor gear

Winter’s Wildman: The Real Hiking Viking on The AT

A new year – a new discovery: this wondrous winter wild man heading south on the Appalachian Trail!  For something truly different in winter backpacking and camping, check out http://www.therealhikingviking.com.  He doesn’t disappoint!

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What Backpacking the Appalachian Trail Taught Me About Thanksgiving

cropped-5237336713_912a58e48e_z.jpgLet’s get one thing straight; I was thankful before I set out the backpack the Appalachian Trail. But I was even more thankful after I finished the trip. Here are some way my perspective and appreciation changed as a result of the trip.

Going to the tap for a drink of water. We get the refreshment with a clean glass and simple twist of the tap. On the AT I once had to walk two miles to get water from a spring, and then freight two gallon water bags — one in each hand — back to camp. Uphill. In August heat!

I seldom fall walking up and down hills in the neighborhood. On the trail I fell many times, sometimes more than once or twice a day. Footway could be slick with ice or rain, plus falling with a heavy backpack hurts much more than when unencumbered. Once a fall on a rain-slicked log in Maine found my forehead slamming down face-first into it.

A spritz from an insect repellent or taking shelter indoors dispels the worry of mosquitoes. On the Appalachian Trail misery often dogged my steps and disrupted my sleep as hordes of the winged insect invaders sucked my blood and nearly maddened me with their incessant buzzing.

Air-conditioning gives blessed relief in mid-summer swelter. On the trail it’s often necessary to stoically press on beneath a blazing sun under a heavy pack while wilting in oppressive heat.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The trail is filled with fun and adventure. But it’s also filled with hard times and weary days. The upside, especially on reflection, is in knowing just how blessed I was to have the time and privilege to hike the trail, and to more deeply appreciate the common graces and conveniences of our day-to-day “real world.”

I think back on those times and feel deeply thankful. That has carried over into my life ever since, and I spend time especially at this season of the year counting the blessings I have received — and still enjoy. So, whether your Thanksgiving finds you alone, at a sumptuous feast among friends, or on a lonesome trail, remember: there is always reason to give thanks — and what you appreciate appreciates in value.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking, Thanksgiving

A tale of hiking shame from Anonymous Well

Courtesy Debbie @ Flickr

Courtesy Debbie @ Flickr

My good friend Anonymous Well shared with me today, and the story was. not. pretty.

Regaling me over coffee, he bent over, voice low, and muttered this confession:

“I had one friend that climbed Rainier in jeans. It was his first climb ever. He started with another buddy after a ranger lent them ice axes and crampons because they didn’t have either! They submitted (sans rope). That must have been in the 1970s or so.

“Another friend used to carry an iron skillet, and never carried a sleeping pad — until he froze his ass off on San Gorgonio sleeping on snow! “Something must be wrong,” he thought. Haha.

“Then there’s me, on my first ever hike, Mt. Whitney. Picked up a used suitcase at REI (it has shoulder straps, looks good to me I thought), and carried that thing into camp. Well, I wheeled it the last few hundred feet…

“We summited, but boy was I clueless. I won’t even mention the gear we carried. It was early season, and there were only two or three other parties on the mountain. A pair of older guys came over and gave us a few pointers. At the time I thought they were just nice guys, but looking back on it I bet they thought we were gonna die. We had a great time, and I learned quickly after that.

“For those that grew up hiking and/or climbing, I imagine it may seem impossible to be so naive, but some of us had no outdoor mentor, picked up a pack (or suitcase) and went for it.

“Somebody please come up with something more embarrassing…”

I ask you.

Who does this?

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Filed under Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Climbing, clueless, coffee, confession, dying, Hiking, outdoors

Creating A Backpacker’s Journal — Because You’ll Surely Forget!

Photo courtesy Ray Dumas @ Flickr

Photo courtesy Ray Dumas @ Flickr

In the fall of 1985, after a summer backpacking the Appalachian Trail, I spent extensive time at a donut shop north of Boston. I know, there’s no worse way to sabotage a svelte hiker waistline than keeping company with chocolate croissants and dark roast coffee.  But I wasn’t there for an insatiable sugar binge.  I was there to write (OK, I did have some coffee).

I was there to copy what I had journaled that summer from one notebook into another.  I knew the fuzzing of memory over time would dim the the events of those rare days.  The photos I’d taken could never express my feelings, and some entries were so sparse they barely described what happened.  To prevent the potential fraying of my recall over time from robbing me of a record of that hiking season, it was vital I transcribe and clarify my brief journal.

First I reviewed the original material and jotted notes on entries which required expansion.  I corrected misremembered points. I expounded on moments which had deep meaning. I used a fresh corps of words to conjure a picture which featured adventure and exhaustion, frustration and elation, sadness and loneliness.  I penciled in what I felt and thought, all my regrets, misgivings, and moments when endorphins had me feeling I might take wing from the glorious summits I scaled.

I recorded it all: the pain and pleasure, the wrong turns and risks taken.  I apprised the me I had then and since become, capturing in a net of ink and paper a person who, though different today, still lives.  My journal became a lesson book that still reflects the vibrant risk taker I had become.  Each time I read it, I feel I’ve come home.  No video, photo, or electronic blog post can take me back to the intimacy, power and precious story of those days like my handwritten journal.

Thus I would admonish you, my friendly reader; though you blog and video and snap the shutter, nothing will make your hiking memory become a valued legacy like taking pen to paper to document the details.  Do it soon.  Because — over time — you’ll surely forget!

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

An Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Code

Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr

Photo courtesy Jim Dollar @ Flickr

Daniel Wood left journals from hikes he had taken. Among those pages I discovered this document. I testify it was written by him. He requested whoever discovered it would post it online for all Appalachian Trail hikers and backpackers.

A Backpacker’s Code

I realize that choosing to hike this trail is a fulfilling, but serious endeavor. In setting foot here, I choose to be responsible not just for myself, but for those I meet on the trail. While I may never find myself in such a situation, I owe it to myself and others to hike responsibly and stand ready to help another backpacker should the situation arise.

I realize that I am to be responsible to myself first, and self-reliant to the extent of my backpacking and camping skills. If I do not have the basic skills of the art I will seek out seminars and workshops where I can learn how to hike and backpack properly. I will not simply stuff and shoulder a pack and lumber into the unknown.

I realize that the trail is a much-loved but much used space, and that I am a steward of it when I hike it, as well as before and afterward. I will not litter. I will not leave trash in fire pits. I will sweep clean all shelters I use, before and after. I will leave things better than I found them. I will respect trees and not engage in cutting or harvesting living trees for firewood.

Though celebration of the journey with others hikers is a wonderful part of the hiking experience, I realize the AT is not “party central.” Reckless behavior, selfishness, drunkenness, and drug use are not part of the trail. I will be mindful of how I would feel if I came across a hiker in distress on the trail and wasn’t ready or able to help them out because of my own incapacity. It is irresponsible and foolish. A clear head on the trail at all times shows good judgement and shows me to be a mature, experienced backpacker who is able to care for others along the way. As a result I will find greater enjoyment and respect on the trail.

As a long distance hiker I know where I am going. I don’t simply show up at a trailhead expecting to wander like an aimless nomad. I know the trial, how long it is, what rules and regulations (federal, state, and local) are to be followed. I study maps and guides. I know the terrain I will encounter and the weather concerns. I am ready to deal with snow, ice, blistering heat. I know what risks are genuine as well as the dangers (e.g., it is not bears and snakes). I understand the meaning of the word hypothermia and recognize if I were about to fall victim to this killer.

Photo courtesy Nicholas A. Tonelli @ Flickr

Photo courtesy Nicholas A. Tonelli @ Flickr

I know that the trail is more overcrowded than ever. My trip will factor in this knowledge and, if needed, I will choose an alternate route for my hike, or a different season. I will avoid hiking with a large group, which takes a toll on the trail and results in packed campsites and shelters. I will not camp on land or in areas where laws forbid. I will especially avoid stealth camping in ecologically sensitive areas.

I will practice rigorous hygiene as much as possible, realizing that outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases or norovirus spoil the journey for everyone. I will wash my hands often and keep my cooking gear clean and dry. I will carry and use hand sanitizer. I will use proper sanitation methods for my private toilet.

Before I leave home I will make sure I have the proper gear and know how to use it. I will know how to use a map and compass and will not rely on a cell phone or GPS while on the trail. I will not cavalierly place myself in dangerous circumstances which might require my rescue and put first responders at risk.

Photo courtesy Ben Townsend @ Flickr

Photo courtesy Ben Townsend @ Flickr

I realize that when I take on the choice to hike the trail I immediately become an ambassador and trail steward. Other backpackers, hiker, day-hikers, and the general public I meed will judge not just myself but the entire hiking community by my example.

I realize, lastly, that in passing along the trail I leave a legacy of behavior and reputation. Townsfolk and hostel owners will remember most the hiker and backpackers who were best behaved. I know that my stay at a hotel, motel, campsite or hostel will determine whether or not hikers behind me are welcomed or sent packing. I will be on my best behavior at all times.

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Trail Call

IMG_0341Snowfall turn snowmelt

Turn undulating earth abounding green.

Waking land escapes the winter sleep

And the voice of earth unfolds

And calls souls who hear it.

Hands reach for boots, tie laces.

Inventories and gear and maps

Result in pack shouldered and courses set.

alex_ford_flickrThe trailhead is an embrace,

A unique comfort,

Welcoming the footfalls that are put there.

Moving into the green,

Folded into forest,

Sanctified by mountains.

Home at last! BitoRjbIgAE2g-r

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