Tag Archives: Outdoors

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

An Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Code

As backpackers and hikers gear up for another season in the wild, it seemed appropriate to revisit this post.

Write in Front of Me

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…

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Life direction, Long distance backpacking, Outdoor sports, Travel, Walking, Wildlife

Obvious Lostness

railway-2439189_1920If I had kept my eyes lifted and looked straight ahead of me, I would never have become lost. But since the sweltering blaze of a blistering midsummer afternoon in August on the A.T. in Pennsylvania kept my head down — literally — I must have missed the turn.

Time has wilted with my motivation. A long roadwork through a dusty valley seemed at first an easy endeavor. An early start to beat the rising sun, to outrun its zenith, was the intention. Never made it. Lots of “cameling up” kept me alive, but pouring sweat and drenching humidity did their evil best to sap my energy. Despite many stops to rest in what shade I could find, I ended up in a late afternoon slog. The white blazes had directed me through some newly sown fields and alongside a two-lane asphalt road, now redolent with the smell of cooked tar clogging my nostrils.

Over an hour I had stashed my topographic map. Who needed in on flat roads which were well blazed and a route which was obvious?

Parched, I dipped my bandana in a trickle of dirty brown water and situated in on my neck to cool down. My breath was labored in the thick air. I wiped sweat from my brown, the bill of my ball cap soaked through. I noticed another clear turn and ended up on a shady unused railroad grade. I felt a bit more energetic and my pace quickened. Before I realized it I had covered another mile or two at least. But what tipped me off to trouble was the time; by now I should be leaving the valley to climb to a ridgeline where I would descend the other side to a cool, shaded campsite.

I stopped along the graded path and fetched my map. Nothing indicated rail line, used or not. I had decided a compass was unnecessary. My keen sense of direction said I was a fool headed East. I paid attention.

That’s when my newly recaptured attention noticed something else. I looked ahead and turned to look back. No white blazes on tree or stone. I walked ahead five minutes; no blaze. I headed back. No blazes.

I was lost.

Frustration settled in. I had never, ever become lost before. Not in the wilds of Vermont of upper Maine, not in the southern Appalachians. Nowhere. But here, where one would least expect it, it had happened. I had not been paying attention and had become mislocated.

Long story short; by the time I followed the railway grade to a road and hiked another few hours, I rediscovered the Appalachian Trail crossing.

mountain-727449_1280A long, tough, hot climb — already exhausted — I fell into the campsite nearly at sunset and had just enough energy to pitch my tent before a late summer storm deluged me with thunder, lightning, and plenty of warm rain.

Later, after the storm blew itself out, I calculated my day. I should have ended up backpacking only nine miles. I had completed…twenty-two! It was the longest day of backpacking I had ever undertaken. Unintentionally, of course.

Simple lesson learned through misery: always keep your head up! Never assume you won’t require a compass check. And don’t assume that walking such a well-blazed trail as the A.T. means you can’t get lost!
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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Decision making, Goals, Hiking, lost, Outdoor skills, outdoors, risk

7 Posts From My Archives Every Anticipating AT Hiker Should Read

Stubbs offers some fascinating and worthwhile advice on how to increase your chances of enjoying a successful Appalachian Trail backpacking adventure!

Stubbs Rambles On

Hello readers! My apologies for my total lack of new content lately, especially on trail life. I’ve been tied up in the “real world” trying to get my life back on track after my injury, and I’ve also been in the process of getting back to work. It’s about that time of year when expectant thru hikers and section hikers are about to get the show on the road, and are wrapping up on that last minute planning and preparation. I aim to kick out some more hiking content in the coming weeks, but until then, I’ve put together a wrap up of some of my archived posts that I thought are worth a read if you’re still concerned or confused about things. All of these posts can also be found on “The Trek” blog, which I used to write for.


1) Happy Feet: Your Guide to Not Having Angry…

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Filed under Adventure, Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Dreams, Hiking, Long distance backpacking, outdoors, Transformation

Top Ten Fire Starters — ON TARGET in CANADA

Follow our FISHING BLOG WEBSITE RATES FISH HUNT CABINS PHOTOS TESTIMONIALS BROCHURE HUNT BOOKLET

via Top Ten Fire Starters — ON TARGET in CANADA

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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camp, Camping, fire

Hiking in the year of discontent

alex_ford_flickr

Photo courtesy alex_ford @ Flickr

I was discontent. Employed in a vocation I loved (radio broadcasting) at 30 years of age, with friends and a place to live, in a town I grew up in and loved – yet I was discontent. I wasn’t sure why. My colleagues even threw me a super birthday party at work; I felt surprised, humbled, and happy. Something else was stirring. It felt like someone had come into the interior of my life and was rearranging the furniture while I followed them around shouting “No! No!! Don’t move that! Don’t throw that out!” Good luck with that. The rearranging kept happening.

Until the following year, when I read a book.

Driving to Charlotte, NC, to a backpacking outfitter, I wandered the store. I was just looking. Plenty of new gear; packs, boots, stoves – all the wonder-toys hikers and backpackers drool over. I wasn’t looking to buy, just looking to dream.

On the way out the door I stopped in the book section. I saw guidebooks, how-to manuals, and a few personal experience backpacking memoirs (compared to today!).

I picked up “Appalachian Hiker II,” by Ed Garvey. I took it home and devoured it, looking for an empathic experience of what it would be like to backpack a long-distance trail. Until that time I had only engaged in long weekends in the Carolina Blue Ridge, Linville Gorge, and Shining Rock Wilderness. I was testing myself. Often I backpacked alone, since no other friends I knew either enjoyed hiking or had the same flexible schedule I had. I digress.

Garvey’s book put the hook in me. By the time I closed the cover I realized that his reality could be mine. Almost without thinking, I began to work toward taking the same journey from Georgia to Maine. I bought all the A.T. Guidebooks. I began assembling gear and saving money.

In the spring of 1985 I told my employer “I’m going to take a hike.” I meant it. I left for Springer Mountain in Georgia in mid-April and began walking to Maine.

Alex Banakas

Photo courtesy Alex Banakas @ Flickr

Over the years I have thought about the real “why?” of hiking the trail that propelled me to go. After all, I left employment, a home, family, friends all to do…what?

My reasons for hiking the Appalachian Trail go like this:

  • I felt I had “hit a wall” in my profession. The job I was in seemed to offer little room for advancement and openings elsewhere were sparse. Digging deeper I found…
  • I wanted “a change.” I yearned to understand what my discontent was, and felt the trail would give an answer. Then there was, even deeper…
  • Adventure! After all, what I had read in Ed Garvey’s book was enticing. There were colorful characters on the trail, wild scenery, unexpected surprises around every bend. But, the real, rock-bottom reason I hiked the trail, these many years later, is…
  • I wanted to go someplace wild and have the force of nature strip away everything in me – to give me a baptism which would hollow out my emotional and psychological insides, refine my physical outside, and prepare me to be filled with whatever was to come next in my life.

Those months on the A.T. and the visits back in these intervening years, have accomplished this. They have made me someone I would never otherwise have been had I chosen to stay the course I was on, and the discomforts and hard growth which have resulted from that choice I would not trade for anything.

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

The hike toward Autumn

Photo courtesy Nicholas_T at Flickr

Photo courtesy Nicholas_T at Flickr

It’s bittersweet and sad, the hike toward autumn.  Yet, it’s part of the journey.  Necessary.  Painful.

My hike toward autumn was more challenging by my choice to “flip-flop.”  Those backpackers who “flip-flop” the Appalachian Trail have run out of time.  Dallying and delaying in the southern Appalachians results in their realizing that reaching Katahdin before snowfall is unlikely.  They travel to Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and hike south from Katahdin.  The “flip-flopper” has leapfrogged hikers going north, and is now backpacking toward Springer Mountain in Georgia.  It’s a lonely choice, as he passes those he once walked with who are nearing Maine.  A “flip-flopper” is also lagging well behind those who set out for Georgia in June.

After I “flip-flopped,” and was passing through the 100-mile wilderness in Maine in late August, the air was already chilled with the foretaste of wintry days to come, and the leaves were turning in many places.  While it was glorious to see early color, I wished things would have remained green.  The autumn palette only foretold of a dying summer, only spoke of endings, and my journey winding down.

Weeks later, standing at Pinkham Notch Camp waiting for a ride to Boston and then a plane home, I weighed my pack.  46 pounds — the lightest it had been all season.  I kicked up gravel, paced,  and re-read pages in my tattered journal.  I wanted to go — I didn’t want to go.  I was relieved to finally rest from the wear and tear of trail life — I dreaded having to readjust to the day-to-day pace of urban living.

Photo courtesy maine_mike at Flickr

Photo courtesy maine_mike at Flickr

Still, autumn was coming and with it inclement weather.  Having no wish to continue under the capricious, near-winter conditions the White Mountains could deliver, I made for home.  At the time it felt like my heart was being left behind.  So much accomplished!  So many things I had done and risked that I’d never done before.  I enjoyed a new charge in my  confidence, self-esteem, and bolstered adventurous spirit!  Would that now be lost?  Would moving back to “the real world” drain away the person I had become during those months from April to mid-September?

Happy to say that wasn’t the case.  I did return to complete the Appalachian Trail section in the Whites, and walk many more miles.  But leaving the footpath in autumn, where I had spent the better part of six-plus months of my life, was one of the loneliest choices of all.

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