Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guest Blog - Dehydration

A follow up on the previous blog about heat related illnesses is a guest blog on dehydration from a medical standpoint and what it means in your body.

Don’t Get Dehydrated This Summer! 

With summer temperatures rising high, it is critical to keep in mind what may be causing you to feel dehydrated and also how you can spot dehydration before it becomes a serious hazard.

The first tip is to know the signs and symptoms of dehydration. Usually, the first signs are neurological; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, increased thirst, and dry mouth. After that, if dehydration has not been treated, the signs may progress on to GI symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and cramps. Medical signs physicians look for include tachycardia, fever, tachypnea (increased breathing), decreased urine output, and hypotension. On rare occasions with severe dehydration coma, seizures, and death can occur.

In order to avoid dehydration, prevention is key. Especially in preparing for any long outdoor physical activity, you should decrease alcohol, coffee, and tea, intake. The common factor in many sports drinks and sodas is caffeine, which is also a big contributor to dehydration. They are diuretics and diuretics will cause inhibition of ADH (antidiuretic hormones) made in the pituitary gland, which is needed for the sodium active transport system in your kidneys. When the transport system is blocked, water does not get reabsorbed by the kidneys and is lost through urine. This is the reason for the frequent urination when drinking these products.

Even more important than knowing what can make you feel dehydrated, is knowing ways to help you stay
properly and fully hydrated. When choosing a beverage that will keep you hydrated, the two main ingredients to look for are Salt (NACl) and Water(H2O). Plain water will be absorbed via the GI Tract but is very inefficient. Have you ever drank plain water and still felt dehydrated? It is the active transport system, specifically, the sodium (Na) active transport system in the kidneys that is the most efficient system in the human body in reabsorbing water. When we drink a high sodium drink in the form of NaCl (salt) and H2O (water) during dehydration, the kidneys will actively transport the sodium (Na). When this occurs, the H2O will follow passively into our body. This is why when a patient comes to the ER (emergecny room) for dehydration issues, they are given a Normal Saline IV. 1 Liter normal saline has 9000mg of Salt (NaCl) and Water (H20). The only ingredients found in a normal saline is Salt and Water.

Don’t short yourself of fluids you need to stay hydrated. While this is difficult to measure, generally for non-active consumers, 2-4 BANa’s per day will keep the doctor away. 4 bottles of adult BANa is similar in salt content as a normal saline IV bag. When hydrated, your body will naturally filter out out the excess salt and water. Doctors also tell non-active patients in clinic the 8x8 rule. Eight - 8 oz glasses of plain water per day. Have fun this summer, but stay safe by staying hydrated!

For more than a decade, Benjamin Yoo, MD has treated patients in the emergency room for dehydration. Dr. Yoo is the founder of BANa Bottling Co., an industry-leading rehydration beverage company. Born in South Korea, Yoo moved to the U.S. at the age of six and was raised on his parent’s farm in western Kentucky. Dr. Yoo earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville in 2001, then began working in emergency rooms across Georgia and South Carolina. He moved to Charleston, S.C. in 2004 to work at HealthFirst Rapid Care in North Charleston. It was there that Yoo had the idea for BANa a rehydration drink inspired by saline IVs given to patients in the ER or urgent care for dehydration

Related Blogs

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking

It’s the height of summer and time for great hikes. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot temperatures.

The two heat-related illnesses one needs to look out for are heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Heat exhaustion can be managed on the trail, but sunstroke is a life-threatening emergency where the hiker must get to a hospital.

Heat Exhaustion can occur in hot, humid temperatures when the body becomes depleted of fluids necessary to cool itself - (severe dehydration). There may be heat cramps involved. The skin may be pale, cool, clammy, the hiker slightly anxious, pulse and breathing are basically normal. However, if the hiker is not cooled down, it can advance to the life threatening sunstroke as the core body temperature begins to rise.
Seek rest in a shady, cool spot. Sometimes resting on rocks that are in the shade or beside stream beds are cool. Or find an area next to water or in a wet environment. Breezes can also help you cool down by allowing convection to happen. Drink! – Especially replace lost salt and water. Having an electrolyte type mix in your hiker bag is crucial to helping replace sodium and potassium lost during sweating. Gatorade is also a favorite choice. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with cramping.

Sunstroke occurs when the mechanism to keep yourself cool begins to fail and your internal body temperature rises. Your skin becomes red, hot and dry. You can become disoriented, confused, and irritable. Pulse is rapid and there may be a seizure. Cool immediately by immersing into a cold stream or river or pouring water over the body. Give fluids if still awake and you can massage limbs to draw out the heat. Call for help.

How to prevent these illnesses from happening on a hike: 

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty fluids and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement granules to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments
  • Wear lightweight clothing and bright colors. Wear a lightweight hat
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means dehydration is setting in. Stop and rehydrate. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When to Use the Phrase “Hike Your Own Hike” (HYOH)


I have seen the phrase Hike Your Own Hike (or HYOH) used quite frequently on hiker forums and Facebook groups when it comes to various hiking issues. It appears to be the pet phrase of choice whenever there are issues that crop up, including anything from water treatment to bear bagging to camping illegally or using drugs trailside. There is a reason to say “Hike your own Hike” (HYOH) and a reason not to use it as an excuse for something illegal, immoral or downright dangerous. It would be akin, I suppose, to saying – “Hey do whatever you want.” 

But you can’t just do whatever you want if it restricts another’s enjoyment of the woods, if it will destroy or harm wildlife and or the trail or wilderness, if it will endanger your life or someone else’s, or it’s just plain against the law.

I once saw this phrase used when someone, for instance, instead of following the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail, decides they feel like a wander down a blue blaze trail to see other scenery, or they decide maybe they would rather canoe the river instead of hiking or bicycle or road walk a portion. In that instance they are doing their journey the way they want without the legalistic approach following a white blaze or the trail. They are hiking their own hike.

Contrary, a hiker says he’s going to forgo Maryland’s rules of no camping between designated areas and set up his tent wherever he chooses. That is not HYOH. That is disobeying a posted regulation which is put there for a purpose. It’s not to restrict but to protect both the hiker and the wilderness experience from the multitude of other hikers also looking for a pristine place to wander. Or a hiker plans not to bear-proof food from wildlife which is against the ethics of Leave No Trace and protecting wildlife. This is also not Hiking your own Hike.

It is hoped people will use the wisdom of HYOH the way it is meant to be used – to enjoy the trail and the journey that best suits your needs and plans. It should not be used as a catch-all phrase and excuse that can potentially harm you, another hiker, or the wilderness.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some Safety Tips - Parking Cars at Trailheads

I have posted on this in the past but it's good with the hiking season in full swing to reiterate safety tips.

On parking areas -

Some things to keep in mind to avoid possible theft and car damage.

  • Check with other clubs and their specific trails for parking issues. Don't hesitate to contact these groups ahead of time for parking advice. Facebook also has many groups related to specific trails that can give advice on safe parking.
  • Take your oldest, beat-up vehicle to leave at the parking lot. Or get a ride to and from the trailhead (better to pay someone for the ride then to pay lots of money for a broken window or lose money to stolen items). Another option is to look for alternative parking near to the trail and get a ride up or walk to the trailhead. A place of business, for example. 
  • Consider leaving the car unlocked to avoid windows being broken (though most safety sites advocate locking it). But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change (conceal change under a rock at the trailhead if you forget to take it out at home), and take wallet, cell phone, etc with you. Better yet, leave everything at home you can't carry with you in your backpack or day pack. Locking items in the trunk doesn't mean the thieves can't force the trunk open or break a window to get at it. 
  • Leave some unsavory items on the seat and / or back window to discourage thieves. Underwear. Dirty socks. Grungy clothes, etc.
  • If you see vandalism or are a victim of vandalism, report it immediately to the local authorities. If it occurs on the AT, go to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website and file an incident form. A park ranger evaluates it and contacts appropriate authorities along with making the hiker community aware. Also on the AT - The Appalachian Trail Conservancy posts on its website trouble spots with parking. Be sure to find out where there have been incidents and avoid parking there. 
  • In all honestly, one does park at their own risk, no matter where you are at.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ticks! Prevention Tips

It's tick season! Now more than ever it seems new diseases and other issues are evolving concerning this pest. I see more hikers worried about bears in the Appalachians, but what they really need to be concerned about is this very tiny menace that can wreck havoc on your body and cause a variety of illnesses. 

Here are the top ten ways to prevent this pest from ruining you. 

Ticks are most active in the spring and summer months when they’re typically in their “nymph” stage.  Because of their small size at this stage in their lives, these ticks can go feeding—unnoticed—for days, allowing greater time for infectious bacteria to travel from the tick to its human host.  

Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease and the most common tick-borne disease in the country, according to the Center for Disease Control, but there are numerous other diseases that ticks can pass along. There is currently no full-proof diagnostic tool for Lyme disease, causing thousands of people to often go misdiagnosed and without appropriate treatment.  Many sufferers of tick-borne illnesses are not even aware that they are victims of these diseases because they don’t have the facts. 

Below is the list of Tick Borne Disease Allaince Tick Prevention Tips:

1.    Purchase tick-repellent clothing, especially clothing treated with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks. You may spray your own clothing with permethrin or seek out brands such as Insect Shield, ExOfficio’s BugsAway or ElimiTick from retailers like L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports, which remain effective for up to 70 washes.  Any article of personal clothing can actually be sent directly to Insect Shield in Greensboro, NC, where they will treat it with permethrin in their patented bonding process.  The treated clothes will look exactly the same as the clothes that were sent in, but will have the ability to repel and kill ticks, as well as repel other insects, for up to 70 washings. 

2.     Reduce the amount of skin exposed by sporting long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat

3.     EPA-approved insect repellent should be applied to exposed skin (Note: I use DEET. The stronger the percentage of DEET the longer it lasts. But be careful, this stuff can melt your good clothing, like Gore-tex)

4.     Venture in the center of woodland trails, and by all means avoid walking along any deer paths

5.     Every time you’ve been outside, check for ticks while you are out and as soon as you get back

6.     Never wait to shower.  Bathing as soon as possible will help in removing unattached ticks from your body.   Bath time is the perfect time to carefully inspect for any unwanted hitchhikers.

7.     Take your clothes off and put them in the dryer at high heat for about 30 minutes to kill any ticks.  If clothes cannot be put into the dryer immediately, they should be placed in a Ziploc bag until a dryer is available.

8.     Inspect your pets when they come inside from the outdoors, as they may be transporting ticks that can then transfer to you (Note: This is really important. Be sure your pet has been vaccinized for Lyme disease. And use a tick killing collar or the drops. Don't skip this. I've had a dog with tick-born illness)

9.     Opt for light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks

10.  Neatly tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants legs into your socks when possible to provide an extra line of defense against ticks

(Note also - if you do find an embedded tick, remove it promptly with tweezers or a tick-removal tool and seek out a doctor, especially if the tick was a deer tick. A one time dose of doxycycline 200 mg can be taken to prevent Lyme Disease if done with 72 hrs of the bite)

More information about TBDA, Lyme and tick-borne diseases, and prevention and protection can be found at

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hiking with Munchkins - Taking Kids on the Trails

"Keep Movin' Nana"takes her granddaughter to Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah National Park

Trails and kids go together. There is something special about taking them on the trail that adds a whole different perspective to the adventure. For me as a hiker who is goal-oriented, I really needed a munchkin (as my hubby used to call the little ones) to help me see the bigger picture of the great outdoors. A butterfly on a bush and caterpillar crawling along the ground. That youthful joy when they race ahead to see the next great sight around the bend while you are still struggling to get there. Ah, to be young and full of curiosity! To be a child at heart. And it's good for the kids too, especially with the distraction of games on a tablet, cell phones, TV, etc. One needs to take their children outdoors to catch the big vision of the adventure and excitement the woods can provide.

That also means as a parent, getting ready to take their child exploring. One must prepare so it's a good experience for both you and them. We began our adventure when our son was very little, carrying him in a child carrier. Tough Travelers Kid carriers made the perfect carrier to keep him happy and us comfortable while we went on our trail adventures (there are other types out there too). We liked it as it had a place to put diapers and feeding supplies and also came with a sun shade and even foot stirrups when he was a toddler to rest his feet. 
Our son backpacks (literally) on Dad's back

As he got older, we began to take him on short day hikes carrying his little school backpack filled with some small supplies, mainly his plastic canteen with  water and some snacks (like Cheerios or raisins in a little plastic container). Of course those jaunts were very short trips filled with exploration, finding bugs, looking at a strange tree, or taking a trip to see a raging waterfall, which kids just love.

Eventually at age 10 we took him on his first weekend backpacking trip. We discovered a nice hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a trail to Franconia Falls. It was perfect, a little over two miles via fairly level terrain and great for the introductory hike. He had his little backpack this time, an external frame job that, I think, cost 50 cents at a yard sale.Not the best, but it served us for this jaunt. We went along the Lincoln Woods trail, found a campsite, then spent the afternoon sliding down the falls. On these kinds of trips we made sure we had kid friendly foods to eat, as food at the campsite is great fun. And had a fire to keep little ones interested (if campfires are permitted), along with the proverbial treat of s'mores (roasted marshmallows between graham crackers on a slab of Hershey's chocolate). As far as sleeping, our son did pretty good in tents, but occasionally would wake up in the middle of the night terrified, as he didn't know where he was. These little nightmares were eased with just some reassuring words. But usually he slept like a log, especially after a day of full activities.

Eventually this young boy we began in a baby carrier and did small backpacking trips with became a teen. He eventually went on the trip of all trips, completing a full hike of the Appalachian Trail at age 16 (turning 17 while in Maine). This he completed with me, his mother, on a trip that marked the highlight for both parent and child in the world of backpacking adventure.

Blissful and son Paul Bunyan completed a northbound of the Appalachian Trail n 2007

Looking back on it all, it did take planning for a little one in the woods. But the reward and patience in the  end will net an experience of a lifetime - for both them and for you.

Some resources for children and hiking are:  Hikes with Tykes - a Practical Guide to Hiking with Kids by Rob Bignell and Get Your Kids Hiking by Jeff Alt.

Also , check out young Buddy Backpacker who is now on his way to his second long distance hike on the PCT!

Last year he completed the entire Appalachian Trail at age 5! Pretty impressive.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Other Trail Angels - Hostel Owners

The Greene Mountain House Hostel in Vermont
I've had the privilege of staying at many of the hostels along the Appalachian Trail (AT) during the course of both my northbound and southbound hikes, as well as now on my section hikes. Hostels provide a unique opportunities for hikers to get off the trail and to a real bed while showering, resupplying, doing laundry, and catching up with loved ones and friends. They are like homes away from home, and for the hostel owners, they are a real labor of love in serving the hiker community.

For this blog, I interviewed two hostel owners who provide fantastic services for hikers along the AT.

The first is Jeff, Owner of the Green Mountain House Hostel in Manchester Center, Vermont. I had the opportunity to stay at his hostel during my southbound hike in 2010, and the accommodations and friendliness are beyond words. Jeff makes you feel right at home.

So tell us, Jeff, why you decided to become a hostel owner.

After an early retirement opportunity, I section hiked the AT over a six year
period. Trail hostels intrigued me because no two are alike. When you decide to stay 
at an AT hostel you never quite know what you are getting yourself into. After an outstanding hiking experience, my wife and I decided to look throughout New England for a trail town in need of reasonably priced accommodations. Manchester Vermont fit the bill and to top it off, has close access to skiing, something my daughters and their families love to do.
Owning a hostel is an opportunity to create the perfect hiker service. However, managing a hostel is a completely different experience from hiking the trail. For example, there are no zeros, no days off during the hiking season. You are on duty 24/7 for months at a time. That is usually not a problem because your guests are almost always folks you like to be around, have similar interests and tell great stories of their grand adventure.
What are some unique aspects of your particular hostel? 

Our hostel is unique because our town is along the section of the AT that is also a part of the Long Trail running the length of Vermont. Manchester is usually the first town stop for the northbound Long Trail hiker. They come in the door tired and beat up by the trail. Some talk about finding a ride home. It is so exciting to listen to our AT hiker guests offer ideas and encouragement to these first timers.  Usually the conversations work their magic and very few hikers end up quitting the trail. 

I hear it's made some changes in you too! 
My wife loves to tell her friends about my hostel housekeeping duties like cleaning toilets, washing sheets and scrubbing floors. For the first 30 years of our marriage, I rarely took on those responsibilities. Now, I spend free time asking friends about housecleaning tips, cleansers and the best fabric softener. 

What do you offer hikers?  
Since we have a strict no alcohol policy, we don't attract the party crowd. Most hikers are looking for clean, comfortable accommodations, a chance to shower, rest and recharge. Our place does not provide meals to guests. What we do offer is the use of a large, well equipped kitchen. Hikers love this feature and take full advantage. Most evenings I see group dinners prepared for all the guests. I am usually invited to eat, but discovered long ago that if I do not hike like a thruhiker, I cannot eat like a thruhiker.
On most sunny days I wish I could hike out of town with my guests. Of course, on those rainy days I am happy to wish them well and look forward to their summit photo on Katahdin, Springer or the Canadian border.
Next I want to introduce Laurel, the owner of the Teahorse Hostel in the famous town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Laurel loves hikers and provides some great services for both thru and section hikers, as well
Laurel makes waffles each morning for hikers
as an active shuttle service.

Why did you decide to become a hostel owner? 
I have traveled a fair amount and stayed in a lot of hostels. When I decided to open a business, I wanted to open a hostel because I have enjoyed them so much.

What are some of the pluses and minuses to it?

Plus: I meet people from all walks of life - and from different countries of the world.
Minus: My pet peeve is people doing stuff they wouldn't do in their own home: like a super-glue project with no protection for the table or floor. This is why you can see super glue on the table and on the floor.

What does your hostel provide?

The Teahorse provides for each person a bunk, shower and waffle breakfast for $33 plus tax. We have a common area and full kitchen and a guitar!

Any interesting guest stories to tell? 

Recently a young man with a 90-pound pack arrived at the hostel, having spent the previous week hiking the Maryland AT. On hand were five veteran hikers from Vermont, two southbound thruhikers, and 2 bicyclists, one of whom had thruhiked the AT 2 years before. They did an "intervention" on him: one person advised him that anything he hadn't used in the previous week of hiking he should get rid of. They managed to convince him to take out 15 pounds of gear, including an 18" machete. He continued south a little lighter.

Green Mountain House Hiker Hostel - Manchester Center, Vermont
Teahorse Hostel - Harpers Ferry, WV - owner:  Laurel Drake

For other great hostels - see your guidebook! And check out the new AT Passport System that allows you to get your passport stamped each time you stay at a hostel. Makes a great memory of your trail adventure.  

Related Blogs:
Town Etiquette for Hikers
Northbound vs Southbound: Outfitters and Resupply

Monday, April 28, 2014

Trail Maintainers - the Unsung Trail Angels of Hiking

It's that time of year when trail crews are out tackling the issues of trail maintenance that come up on trails like the Appalachian Trail. Keeping pathways clear and usable for trail traffic is a time consuming but rewarding experience. Trail organizations offer ways for interested people to become trained, certified in certain areas such as chain saw to help clear and maintain trails. Without these efforts, trails would become unusable. Also, the changes of weather affect the trails, leading to erosion issues. Steep grades in trails require a reassessment and may need to be rerouted. Without trail overseers and maintainers, there would be no trails and limited ways of enjoying the wilderness experience.

Maintainer works on a reroute of the Appalachian Trail
The trail upkeep maintainers face -

1. Initial assessment of trail conditions - some clubs hire ridgerunners and others to patrol trails and report their conditions so maintainers know what to look for. This helps a maintainer avoid having to carry heavy equipment while looking for a blowdown or other hazard. If there are no ridgerunners or its out of season the maintainers must walk their section and look for hazards and issues that need to be addressed. This also includes trailside shelters and privies. They then must return and fix the issues they find.

2. Garbage removal - maintainers look for trash and clean it up, including trailside trash and trash in shelters and inside privies. As you might imagine, this is difficult and problematic work at times (and should be totally unnecessary if hikers carry out their trash and don't put trash in the privies!).

3. Foliage - maintainers are responsible for cutting back foliage, many times mowing or weed whacking high grass, and taking care of limb and tree blowdowns. They must carry in the tools necessary to accomplish the task, anything from hand clippers to chain saws (requiring certification). Trail blazing is also done as well as checking for signage.

A maintainer will need to walk in and either saw or take a chainsaw to remove the obstacle

4. Trail maintenance - with the precipitation a trail receives, maintainers look for issues regarding water run-off. In many cases with this and to stop trail erosion, they install water bars (where water moving down the trail turns when it comes in contact with the water and is directed to the lower edge of the trail and runs off) and check dams. Sometimes a steep graded trail becomes so badly eroded that a reroute is needed. Or a reroute can be considered to remove a trail from a road walk or to avoid a hazardous intersection. Trail clubs and maintainers are involved in the process as well as constructing the new trail
Building a Check Dam

5. Shelter maintenance and privy maintenance, including inspection, fixing of issues such as roof leakage, cleaning out and maintaining privies

Trail groups are in dire need of people who love the trail and want to help preserve the trail for future generations. Many offer courses, training, etc on various aspects of trail maintenance. PLEASE - find a trail organization near you and become involved! Even a little can help a lot!