Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Your Permits for Your 2015 Hikes!

The Wonderland Trail circles Mt Rainier
In several places in the western states permits are required for popular backpacking ventures and are done by lottery or are first come, first served. And some backcountry use / camping reservations in the east are also required. Other trails, usually within national parks, require backcountry camping permits and are obtainable when you arrive at the park. Always abide by park regulations and have your backcountry permit.

Be sure you check your timetable for your hike and when you need to submit for certain hiking permits. Some are also by lottery and close by certain dates. Don't miss out!

Western Trails

Wonderland Trail Permit

Mt Whitney Permit - By lottery. Applications accepted Feb 1 until March 15th.

PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) - need three permits, begin early Feb.

John Muir Trail Permit (via Yosemite National Park)

The Cables of Half Dome - Yosemite National Park (day hike) - in March

Zion National Park - The Narrows, three months in advance

Enchantment Permit Area - In the Cascades of Washington State, lottery opens Feb. 15th.

Na Pali Coast - Hawaii

Eastern Trails

Paid reservations for backcountry sites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (online only, within thirty days of your planned stay, need a printed permit. Includes thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail Also if you plan to do the BMT - Benton MacKaye Trail - through the park or on other trails).

If hiking Katahdin in Maine via the Appalachian Trail, need reservations to camp in Baxter State Park (unless you began your hike at least 100 miles south of the park. Then you can stay at The Birches hiking campground if sites are available. Register for those sites at the kiosk upon entering the park).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 5 Nonessential Essentials in a Winter Hiking Trip

While trudging along the trail this past week, enduring frigid temps with cold winds that cut through even my heavyweight Polartec fleece, I thought about those things that some may not consider essential but you were to sure find in my pack on a winter hiking trip.
 Be ready for ice sculptures with a camera (phone)

1. A Cell Phone - an important tool especially if the trip goes wrong. Doubles as a camera, too, if you happen across the icy spectacle worth making a memory.

2. Chapstick – Oh yes, that tiny little tube of wonder that keeps your lips from drying and then cracking when you near the end of your journey, smiling from a great wander. Sore lips are no fun, especially if afterwards you plan to stop at the taco joint. OUCH

3. A Seat Pad – once a luxury item, maybe a HUGE necessity when you plan to stop for a break or lunch and find the rocks covered in snow. Or even sitting in the cold on an ice cold rock just makes you downright chilly. Thermarest and other brands makes nice lightweight options to keep your tushy from freezing on a break.

4. Traction devices like Yak Trax.  I can’t begin to say the number of times I have begun a trail without anything on the ground, only to hike higher elevation into unexpected snow and ice. Traction devices have saved a hike, turning what would have been a treacherous journey into an enjoyable, confident, and safe excursion.

Unexpected icy trails - Yaktrax or similar helps the trek

5. Wind shirt – While pricey at times, this ultralight garment is truly a necessity when the winter winds whip up, cutting right through your Polartec fleece or merino wool top. It provides just what you need to block the wind and keep you warm.

Your turn – what are your nonessential essentials?

Related Blogs

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hiker Food Kinds of Stuff

Food! Probably one of the most important things a hiker thinks about. And hikers get HUNGRY. It's the nature of the high level of activity. Your body is using lots of calories, and in colder weather, calories to stay warm too. Muscles are getting torn to shreds by constant abuse and the need of good protein to heal. Food is a necessity, and good food is a requirement to keep the hike going.

But sad to say, a lot of hikers seem to think that they can hike huge miles subsisting on potato packs and ramen. Have you ever read the back of those packages and the nutrition they contain?
Zip, zero, zilch. Nothing. No protein. No vitamins and minerals. No bone and muscle preserving calcium.

And this is what your body is saying when all you eat is that stuff. "HEY!! How do you expect me to move for you if you don't feed me right?"

Good nutrition is a must on a long arduous hike in the wilds. A good balance of proteins, carbs and fats to make everything work in sync.

Okay, so how does one accomplish that on a hike? After all, you must carry what you eat. And thankfully its a lot easier then it was some 30 to 40 years ago. Reading Ed Garvey's book when he hiked in 1975, he had to carry little cans of tuna and chicken. Now we have foil packets that are light and easy to use. Canned chicken dried in a dehydrator makes a good addition to rice and couscous mixes. Ever been to any of those Mennonite or Amish farmer's markets? Especially if you plan to have some mail drops - they have fantastic dried foods for hiking - everything from well balanced trail mixes (salty, sweet and spicy) to dehydrated veggie flakes, couscous in various flavors, to soup bases, and even these highly concentrated tiny squares that when I eat one, boy it can keep me going for a good long while. Super stores like Wally Worlds have a great selection of dried fruits (I have become partial to dried cherries of late) and Target has Simply Balanced fruit strips with no added sugar, made of fruit puree (check the labels on the strips to make sure they are fruit based). Of course there are old standbys like PB and Nutella which give good protein and fats. Some hikers even carry olive oil when the weather is really cold to add fat to a diet. And of course bars are everywhere, from the Luna bars (which are actually pretty good and last a while; even my hubby liked it though they say nutrition for women which means nothing) to Cliff bars, Power Bars, and I like Nature Valley granola bars for crunch and also the Sunbelt bars from Wally world pack a good carb punch for the weight. But all the bars tend to be heavy, so watch how many you carry.

These are typical foods stuffs I have had for my meals on the trail -

Breakfasts - Cliff bar, Pop tarts, oatmeal (when cold out, add dried fruit and nuts to fortify it), trail mix, granola bars, granola cereal, small bagel and PB, and usually I eat a piece of fruit like a the all natural fruit sticks from Target (they are now called Simply Balanced), granola

Snacks - trail mix (both salty variety and sweet, though I much prefer salty like sesame sticks, flax seed chips, cheese crackers), mixed nuts, mini candy bars, Snickers, sometimes a Power bar or Luna bar if I have a tough hike that day

Lunch - the small whole wheat bagels; I found the thin round sandwich bread then have now to be very packable, tortillas (but they tend to dry out), spam singles, pepperoni (put in a ziploc if hot out as it can get greasy), cheddar cheese, beef sausage, jerky, PB, raisins
Interesting flavors of rice these days

Dinner - I dehydrate beef mixtures and canned chicken to add to mixes. I dehydrate peas and green beans also to add to rice mixes. I use tuna packets. Also Knorr rice mixes, Knorr noodle mixes, couscous, a turkey dinner recipe, Annie's mac and cheese (much better than Kraft and you get more in the pkge. Bring some dried milk to add to it and noddle mixes.). I've gotten a pesto mix and added it to a bag of dried tortellini for dinner. If I eat Ramen, its fortified with dried peas and green beans and dried meat. I never use the Mountain House / BackPantry meals. Why spend all that money when you can easily make your own or buy similar? Dessert - Rice Krispy bar, Little Debbies oatmeal pie, packets of Oreos, snack size candy bars, etc

Extra - take a good multi vitamin with iron if you're out for a long time. Some hikers use the kiddie gumdrop ones. I use ones I know are good from a Vitamin shop and are in my maildrops.

Trail Magic rocks! Especially fresh fruit.
Good wholesome food will keep you going. And will help you enjoy the hike a whole lot more.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Are You Ready to Hike?

With winter here, how do you get ready physically for the demands of an extended backpacking trip? Normally post holiday there are plenty of ads about losing weight and getting in shape. The goal of an upcoming spring/ summer backpacking trip is a good incentive to start the process.

Here are a few tips I’ve used to begin the process and get oneself ready for that next adventure.

Set a Goal

More than anything, a backpacking trip is a mental venture. You can do the physical preparedness as best you can, but it’s the enjoyment of reaching a goal and enjoying the journey that ultimately leads to success. So spend some time thinking of your hiking goals for this year. Where do your want to go? How much time do you have to hike? Go over some trail guides and seek the advice of others as to the trails that might work. Pencil it into your calendar. With the goal in mind, your can now begin to work toward it. Sharing about it in social media forums helps you set the goal in place.

Start Some Weight Control

Many have enjoyed the treats of the holidays but are now faced with some extra weight to lose. If you are one of those that may need to shed a few pounds, start by choosing good foods. There is no need to do some diet fad. Vegetables

especially the green types, lean meats and fish, whole wheat products, and drink plenty of water are good choices. Try to cut down on refined sugary products and useless carbohydrates like white breads, crackers, muffins, things that will spike your sugar levels. Also, when you feel full, stop eating. Don’t take the second helping. Controlling portions helps.

Physical Activity

If you have never engaged in a physical activity, start slow. A walk around the neighborhood for starters. Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Park a good distance away from where your need to go and walk there instead. Walk as much as you can and slowly increase the amount of walking you do. I’ve heard of some walking up and down bleachers at school stadiums, etc. if there are no hills in your area. You can also load up a day pack and head for the hills.

Hiking in snow is actually good exercise, but take it easy when you do.
If you have trails to walk, try to get out on weekend and enjoy a few mile hike, increasing as time goes by. Later on you can load up the backpack you plan to take and carry it. I’ve been seen carrying my backpack on trips around the neighborhood. I also alternate jogging with hiking or cross training. One day I'll hike 8-10 miles, the other days I am out jogging 2-3 miles. You can also alternate with other sports, like biking, swimming, etc. I have to admit I am not a treadmill person, but if this is what you have to work with in snowy conditions, then use it. But stay as active as you can.

The Hike Comes

Don’t sweat it if you are not in great shape. The trail will do it for you in no time. Keep your miles low and the weight in your backpack low. Start out slow. Realize that aches, pains, and some blisters are all part of doing something your body is not accustomed to. It will adapt. Most of all, enjoy the journey whether on your own or with family or friends. Take lots of pictures and share about your trip. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Pick Your Five Must-Haves for the Trail

This was a recent topic of conversation in a thread post on the Facebook group Appalachian Trail Section Hikers. What would be your top 5 must-haves for the trail? Like 99% of the posters, I thought of my top five. A good sleep system. Adequate water
protection. Navigation. Warm clothing. A light. Good shoes on my feet. It was very natural to pick the obvious.

But then a hiker came out with another take on must-haves for a hike. And after reading it, I believe it was the most valuable of all -   

(These Top Five Must-haves courtesy of Craig H)
1.     A  love for the outdoors
2.     Realistic expectations
3.     The ability to push through the present for the goal ahead
4.     The ability to enjoy the moment and not worry about what is ahead
5.     A respect for the trail and the realization that all our gear is a tool set, enabling us to enjoy it
He went on - “Yes, I have my gear favorites….but I feel that the gear is not as important as the experience. The gear is a tool…the knowledge on how to use that gear (or more importantly, how to get by without it) is the best thing that we can take with us.”

Wow. I was stopped in my tracks, as much as you can be sitting down reading this on a smart phone, pad, or laptop. And you know, he is absolutely right. We get so hung up on gear. Where we are going. The incidentals. Sweating what we think is the big stuff but will come forth naturally when the main priorities are put into place. And I believe this hiker named the top priorities for a successful hike. If you have the drive, a love to be

outdoors, a respect for the trail and hikers, the ability to enjoy whatever comes your way, it follows that you will prepare for the experience. And that means the secondary things like trip planning, gear, etc. 

So as we delve into this year, full of hiking expectations, spend time pondering your top must-haves for a successful venture. You may find they actually parallel Craig’s when it comes right down to it!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Backpacking Bootcamp Workshop! March 14 Register Now!

All Day Intensive Backpacking Workshop

The Seminar Venue
Saturday, March 14, 2015

8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

American Legion Hall
636 Madison Road
Stanardsville, Virginia 

(at the foot of beautiful Shenandoah National Park)

**Registration is now open! 
Limited seating so act now!**     

Learn all the ins and outs of backpacking, whether you are planning your first outing, a weekend or a long distance adventure. For novices as well as backpackers who want to learn about new gear and new ideas. Topics include planning your adventure, dissecting a backpack, essential gear, food and cooking, first aid, and much more. Tent and gear displays, sample literature, and books for sale. Just 15 minutes from the Swift Run Gap entrance to the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Get ready for the upcoming spring and summer hiking season and make your hiking dream come true! The workshop includes classroom and outdoor instruction!

Comments from last year's participants - 

"Good value. Excellent beginner intro"
"Real life experiences and stories help put things in perspective"
"So much information"
"The speakers are very experienced and happy to help. They will honestly answer any questions you have."
"Great opportunity to learn about so many topics concerning backpacking."

A Look Back

As the year closes out today, I like to take the opportunity to look back on my hiking goals and what was accomplished and experienced:
AT Section hike

1. My section hike on the AT - wintry weather was the making of this two week section hike that began near Stecoah Gap and ended just shy of Erwin, TN.

2. Another great year ridgerunning Shenandoah National Park. With the hopes of another season, coming, I found this year in the park to be a great experience meeting plenty of eager hikers, and helping maintain the AT. Oh, and my bear tally was 45.
Meeting friends as a ridgerunner

3. Completing the Shenandoah 500. I succeeded in hiking all the maintained trails within this national park. I hope one day to see recognition set up for this important goal. Until then I help administrate on a Shenandoah Hikers group on Facebook sharing our love of the park.

4. Completed the Foothills  Trail. This was a unique experience for me, and while difficult as far as some of the elements, spider webs, and the weird insect sting that became infected at the end of te hike, it was an interesting adventure.

Whitewater Falls along the Foothills Trail

So what's in store for 2015? Well this is on my resolution wish list - so we shall see. Continue my section hiking of the AT, the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier, and my third season as a ridgerunner in Shenandoah National Park. Maybe other things, too. Who knows.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas

Greeted with snow that morning in the Smokies
Long ago, when I was section hiking the Appalachian Trail in what I thought was a snow-safe month of late March, 2014 (is any month snow-or-storm-safe when in the Great Smoky Mountains? I should know better!) - I trudged through foot-tall drifts of snow along with bitter cold temps. It was difficult to hike in but beautiful all the same. Back then, all I could think of was how much it looked like Christmas. 

Snowy footprints to follow

So enjoy some photos of that time with our wish here at Blissful Hiking that you have a wonderful Christmas- snow or no snow!

My humble abode in the snow

On the way to Clingman's Dome, highest point on the AT. March 2014

On Clingman's Dome

The sun sets at the Mt Collins Shelter

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Being a Moderator of an Appalachian Trail Facebook Group

Okay - what does this have to do with hiking?

A lot, when you think about it. 

I am the founder of the Appalachian Trail Section Hikers group on Facebook. We just turned over 11,000 eager hikers that have joined. I have other great administrators of the group who tirelessly
work to make sure we keep it family-friendly and on our passion – hiking.
In this group, eager hikers share their hikes, pictures, gear questions, their hopes and dreams, their triumphs and trials.

But just recently my eyes have been opened to other facets of this group and its members.
For instance, a dying hiker is sharing his thoughts to all of us as he goes through what must be terrible agony for him and his family.

On the lighter side, I have seen several couples get engaged on the trail and one even said that the Facebook group got him together with his new bride-to-be. Wow.

Though I don’t always hear about it, there are hikers that have shared hikes and now have made new friends. Others have asked for help and gotten maybe more than they bargained for. But for the most part, hikers go out of their way to help. When hikers have been in need, their fellow hikers come running to the rescue. They are true hiker angels. I know. Several years ago when I lost my mom, hikers who didn’t even know me sent me personal messages, gave their phone numbers, prayed and stood by my side.  

Of course, not everything is rosy. As a moderator, I’ve had some issues to deal with. Like the passionate few who have forgotten the gentle guidelines of the group and become a bit too boisterous in speech and content for their own good. Or some that tear down others when they do not agree, which we do not tolerate. We all must respect each other, even if we disagree. And we avoid the hot button issues that can rile some and keep it focused on hiking and the AT. Which, after all, is why we are a part of the group. 

I am most humbled to be the head of a group that is passionate about each other and this trail we call the Appalachian Trail. Here is no greater call at this point in my life, and I am glad for those who have shared their lives, their hopes and dreams, and a part of themselves in the group.

Here’s to another year of great hiking. And I just want to say - to the gentle hiker soon to meet the Creator, here’s to some awesome hiking when you pass through Glory’s Gate. I hear the fruit trees are marvelous and the Great River clear as crystal. Say hello to my mom for me.