Thursday, November 13, 2014

What are You Thankful For?

As hikers we often overlook some of the reasons to be thankful. And this season of Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect and give thanks for things trail-wise maybe you hadn’t thought of in a while -
Here are some that come to mind for me –

1.       Those that Volunteer on the Trail – I’m talking trail club volunteers, maintainers, overseers, those who worked tirelessly to maintain the trails, shelters, etc. so we as hikers can enjoy it. Here is a listing of ones that maintain the Appalachian Trail. And in honor of them, feel free to read the blog I did on these great angels of the physical trail.
belong to a trail club, consider it. Here is a

2.       Trail Angels of Hikers – those that give tirelessly to trail efforts by helping hikers in their time of need. In December I plan to have a few of those trail gems as guests here to explain why they do what they do (so check back). I think of the people that took me into their homes, gave me food, took care of my stinky laundry, drove me back to trail at the crack of dawn, the list goes on.

3.       Organizations that oversee the trail. Like the trail clubs, consider joining them. The funds from memberships, stores, etc help oversee the trail, protect fragile environments, and assist in many other ways. Here's a listing of a few. 

4.       The many Hostels out there – I had the opportunity to interview a few hostel owners for a blog recently. While hikers do pay a modest fee for lodging, it no way begins to cover the amount of time, effort, long days and nights, these folks put in. And the way they support the trail community. It truly
is a labor of love providing a place of rest and recuperation for weary hikers.

5.       Our families and friends – I’m sure you can think of many who have gone out of their way to support you in your sometimes wild adventures. I know I give a BIG thanks to my husband who has stood by my side, even on the home front, while I went off exploring many trails. A big thanks for that!

So what are you thankful for? Feel free to comment. And from us here at Blissful Hiking, Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Being Considerate of Others on the Trail

We share the trail not only with woodland companions but with other hikers, hunters, wanderers, pets
etc. It's important that the outdoor experience is enjoyed not only by us but also by others. The video by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has good tips for showing consideration to others. Some other tips to consider -

1. The Leave No Trace Principle of Planning and Preparing. By planning your hike so you arrive at the right time, you won't disturb others by a late night arrival. If you find you will be arriving late or just like to night hike, plan to camp out somewhere away from those who will likely be sleeping when you arrive (maps are helpful if your itinerary changes). I was not happy when I found someone setting up a tent right behind mine way past hiker midnight (after 10 PM), shining a headllamp and waking me up. We are not all on the same time table.  

2. If you are leading a large group, like scouts, a youth group, etc, plan to stay away from other individuals. Groups, not matter how hard leaders try, are always noisy Do your homework ahead of time as to where your group will be staying on the trip. Consider alternative ideas and perhaps scout out locations ahead of time. Plan to split up the group if the camping areas will not work. Be flexible in your planning.

3. Watch your pets. Although you may love your dog and feel he or she won't hurt a flea, there are hikers that are genuinely afraid of them and don't wish to share shelter space with a dog, etc. Plan to stay out in your tent and make sure your dog is on a leash when encountering other hikers. Don't assume your dog will get along well with other hikers and with wildlife.

4. Cell phone useage. Do your talking away from the shelter or other communal areas, overlooks, or other hiker gathering places. Many hikers come to the woods to get away from man made devices. Use headphones when listening to music. Think about those around you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hiking Safety During Hunting Season from the ATC

 (This is reposted from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy web site. Please consider supporting the ATC by becoming a member or making a donation today! These are good reminders as we enter the hunting season this fall. Be extra vigilant. I did a good portion of my southbound hike in 2010 during hunting season and on the Tuscarora Trail last fall. Many times you are sharing the trail with hunters carrying rifles and with their dogs. Several times I heard rifle shots quite close to me. Pretty unnerving. So take these tips to heart as you enjoy your fall hikes.)


From ATC website


Know local hunting seasons — Specific dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and also by type of game hunted and weapon used. Small-game seasons (turkey, rabbit) stretch from fall through the end of May; large-game seasons (deer, bear, moose) generally occur October through January. Learn the regulations and hunting seasons for the areas where you will be hiking before you go. Hunting on Sundays is prohibited in some states. See our 2014 Hunting Season Guide by State.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Serious Infection Trailside

A simple sting begins to blister, which is not a good sign
(Be Warned - Injury Pictures) On my most recent hike along the Foothills Trail, I had the unfortunate experience of developing what could have been a severe infection. It began fairly tame enough – what I thought to be a simple hornet sting on the trail. That evening I looked at it to see a rather small round circular mark. I put some sting eze type prep on it. Over the night it appeared to be getting better. I did no other first aid,
put on my rather dirty sock (I had no clean socks as it was the end of my journey) and proceeded to finish the hike.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Observations on Thru Hiking the Foothills Trail

I have just come off an interesting adventure thru hiking the Foothills Trail. This unique 77 mile long trail straddles the North Carolina / South Carolina border in what could be called the foothills of mountains that extend into the Nantahala region and the Smokies. The trail runs from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park, both in South Carolina, with other spur trails off this trail. It also
traverses the highest peak in South Carolina – Sassafras Mountain. And for those looking for an even greater adventure, you could begin at Table Rock on this trail, hike to the Chatooga Trail and from there to the Bartram Trail all the way to the AT just north of NOC.

First off, in planning, etc., I highly recommend the guidebook put out by the Foothills Trail Conference. They also have a map, but I found it hard to read and rather useless. The guidebook, however is a handy piece to have while you’re hiking. It is very thorough, contains maps and mini maps of each section, and will guide you from point A to point B (though it is only written in one direction – Table Rock to Oconee. I saw no advantage one way or the other with starting at either point. But I liked starting at Table Rock as I got the uphill climbs on bare rock out of the way and did not have to read the guidebook backwards, which to me is bothersome). I carried the guidebook the whole way and referred to it many times.

The Foothills Trail is abundant in water, waterfalls, established, campsites, bridges, and steps. I was amazed at the trail work that has gone into this. The trail leading uphill often had wooden steps built in. The intricate bridges crossing the waterways were amazing. The trail is easy to follow using the
Stairs and Railings
white blazes and signage, and coupled with the guidebook, you can’t get lost.

I hiked this trail in early September and with that, it was humid and warm. I was constantly wet. Probably the best time to hike this trail would be spring, with the abundance of rhododendron and with better temperatures. I did not see one person hiking this trail when I was out. In all I saw maybe six people. A family on Sassafras, and two kids swimming near Toxaway. Other than that, I was alone. I managed to dodge most of the thunderstorm activity though I did have one all night rain. What I could not dodge was the thousand upon thousands of spider webs, stretching even over vast logging roads (!). Since no one had likely been on the trail for weeks, the spider webs were everywhere! One cannot get squeamish then picking webs and spiders off glasses, gear, and clothes. It came with the territory. I did end up with a hornet bite on day four. It became infected when I got off, so be sure you do First Aid out there and carry an adequate kit.

Bridges galore

There is no resupply on this trail, so I carried food for six days. It was pretty heavy, but I figured out where to put the food in my pack so it worked out good. There is one place on the trail where you can dump your garbage – at Whitewater Falls area (which the falls is seen by a side trail). Since the weather was warm though I went with summer gear. Some stuff I could have left home, like any kind of jacket, and rain gear. I just let the rain cool me as I was constantly hot, sweaty, and yeah, smelly.

The great beauty and tame terrain of this trail make it a nice adventure. Yes there are some steep areas, but not too bad. The campsites are everywhere as is water. It makes for a simple but rewarding thru hike. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Blog - A First Timer Observation of an AT Section Hike

Our First Section Hike on the Appalachian Trail...what did we learn?

My husband and I just returned from our first section hike on the AT. We've hiked before but not for this amount of time. Our initial plan had us starting at the NH/VT line in Hanover and ending at the VT-103. We would hike for 5 days then take one overnight at the Inn at Long Trail then hike another 4 days. Our actual hike included a 4 day hike, 2 nights stay at the Inn at Long Trail another 2 day hike and another 2 nights stay at the Inn at Long Trail. I researched and planned (and had two back up plans) for this section hike for a year. We spent more money than I want to mention on gear,

travel, etc. I read and re-read advice on this site and others and we only followed some of that advice. So what happened? Here is what we learned...

1. We are slower than everyone else on the trail. See #2 for pack weight. But even when we lightened our packs we were a lot slower than everyone else. Once we remembered the phrase Hike your own Hike we were able to relax and enjoy. You will see everyone from runners, day hikers, thru hikers, section hikers etc. on the trail. Some will be faster than you, most will go farther per day than you but none will be slower than my husband and I !!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Fall Hiking Tips

There’s nothing better than a backpacking trip in the woods at the peak of leaf change. The air is crisp, the colors of the changing leaves brilliant, and the expectation is there for adventure and recreation. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help your trip go smoother and more enjoyable. 
Max Patch in NC
Changing Weather – Fall can be a time of changing weather patterns. From warm to cold, bright sunshine to rain, make sure you are prepared for your trip. Check the weather before you venture out. Make sure your sleeping bag is of an adequate rating and you have enough warm layers. Include a good hat. Check out this blog too for ways to stay warm when the temperatures dip and what to bring when it rains. Carry the food you will need with a day extra to spare, just in case. Bring maps and a guidebook for the area in which you will be hiking.

Wear blaze orange
Bears and Wildlife – This is the time of year when wildlife is foraging for food to keep them during the long winter months. They tend to be more aggressive and are on the hunt for food. Make sure you are using bear-proof techniques to hang your food. The PCT method works well for bears accustomed to hiker food. Check ahead of time to see if there are any bear warnings for the area where you plan to hike. Check out the Bear facts of Life blog for tips on handling black bear encounters. 

Leaves and Acorns – No one would think acorns and leaves can disrupt a trip. But wet leaves makes the trail slippery which can cause injury. Piles of leaves can hide rocks and other impediments on the trail.

Acorns rolling under your feet act like marbles to trip you up. Take extra care on the trail when encountering this minor obstacles to prevent ankle twists or other injuries.

Hunting season - Fall means hunters will be out, and wearing blaze orange is a must. Know the hunting regulations where you will be hiking. Check out the blog on hunting tips to keep you safe on the trail.

Some top Fall Hikes - 

In the Smokies
New York and New Jersey
New England
Washington State
New Hampshire
CNN's take Includes Virginia

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gear Product Review - Dorcy Headlamps

I sent out one of my staff to try the Dorcy headlamps for use in backpacking and regular camping, and this is what he had to say about the products.

(From Dorcy) The new 41-2096 lightweight headlight is loaded with features and brightness. The small headlight produces 120 lumen of light output in a broad beam. With 12 hours of run time and 3 brightness modes makes this headlight the perfect light. Weighing in at only 2.9 ounces with batteries this light will not feel heavy after wearing it for hours. The LED panel has a 50 degree adjustment to allow for pin point focusing. 3 brightness modes. Full power, half power and strobe mode will allow this light will meet all of your needs.

Product Specifications
Lumens: 120
Run Time: 12 Hours
Beam Distance: 48 Meters / 157 feet
Bulb Type: LED
Batteries: 3 AAA Included
Product Material: Plastic
Product Dimensions: 2.75" W X 1.50" depth
Bezel Diameter: 1"
Product Weight: 2.9 ounces
Available Color(s): Black / Silver bezel Ring
Switch: Push button top

Additional Features: Lightweight weather resistant, 3 light modes
full power, half power, strobe

Our Review - The broad beam headlamp was a simple on & off model that is good for around the house use but the brighter light and hence shorter battery life (12 hours on 3 AAA's ) do not lend it to backpacking especially on extended trips. At 120 lumens, this is great for looking around a dark engine or seeing  and being seen when  walking  the dogs around the neighborhood at night. I'd use it for backyard or car camping. It seems a good, sturdy-made, reasonably priced headlamp.

Dorcy 20 Lumen Headlamp

Product Specifications
Lumens: 2 Run Time: 18 Hours Beam Distance: 28 Meters
Bulb Type: LED Batteries: 3 AAA Included Product Material: Plastic Product Dimensions: 2.75" W X 1.50" depth Bezel Diameter: 1" Product Weight: 2.9 ounces Available Color(s): Black
Switch: Push button top
Additional Features: Lightweight weather resistant, light modes
full power, half power, strobe, Red On, Red Flash Green On Green Flash Red green on Red/green flash - 

Review - I used the Dorsey headlamp on a few backpacking trip and found it work well.  I love the green reading and the ease of battery installation.  It has a nice solid battery door and sturdy construction over all.  A Few things did not like was that there were to many multiple settings. There was way too many buttons to push to go from on and off especially with the colored lamps. You go from on green to blinking green, then on red then blinking red and then both colors. From on to off it took about 7 button hits. The diffuser lens was interesting in that it took the beam and would light up the tent area like a lantern light but I don't think it was that useful. The weight on this headlamp was around 3 oz., seems similar to other ones I use. It seemed reasonably made and a decent headlamp.

NOTE - This headlamp is only $10 via the Dorcy website!

Related Websites

That Beacon of Light - review of other headlamps

Product Reviews