Monday, July 15, 2019

Is it all Gators, Guts, and Glory?



Yes!

And it's right here! The long anticipated second book in the Blissful "Hiking Adventure Series"

What does the state of Florida give visions of? Beaches? Ocean waves? Resorts far and wide? Walt Disney World? 


What could it possibly give to the interest of a hiker?  

Blissful the Hiker takes you on a wild and wonder-laden trek on the Florida Trail through pristine cathedral palms, thick woods of palmettos, sky high scrub pine, Lord of the Rings forests of oak and cypress knees, a lounging gator or two, exotic birds, vast prairies, and maybe some swamps for fun. Not to mention the interest of assorted dogs who would rather hike with Blissful than guard property and the joy of trail angels who will do anything to help a hiker in need when storms arise.



Welcome to the release of Gators, Guts, and Glory – Adventures Along the Florida Trail. This humorous and painfully realistic tale of an 1100 mile trail stretching from Big Cypress National Preserve to Gulf Islands National Seashore will inspire hikers with a journey unlike any other to be found in the U.S.

What popular authors and hikers have said about Gators, Guts and Glory – Adventures Along the Florida Trail:

“Lauralee paints a richly descriptive and realistic picture of the unique challenges faced by long distance hikers walking from the swamps to the seashore as they traverse the length of Florida on the Florida Trail.  – Sandra Friend, Author of The Florida Trail Guide

“Lauralee's inspired writing provides us with a richly detailed account of hiking the Florida Trail. Her writing is genuine and thorough and reveals to us the rigors, emotions and ultimately the joy of long distance backpacking."  - David Miller, author of The A.T. Guide and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail 





So immerse yourself in adventure beyond your expectations! And hopefully begin your own trek on this unique trail.

Order on Amazon


Check out also Blissful’s first book in the Hiking Adventure Series – Mountains, Madness, and Miracles – 4000 Miles Along the Appalachian Trail





Thursday, June 27, 2019

Preventing Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking


It’s summer and time for great hiking adventures. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot and humid 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.

Yes it can get hot with bad water even in places like the Colorado Trail. Prepare!
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. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with heat and muscle cramping due to imbalances.

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. Your heart rate 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. Sunstroke can kill!





How to prevent heat-related illnesses from happening on a hike:

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty of water and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement (like Nuun)  to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments. if the sources are far apart or contaminated, prepare with filtering capability, a good guidebook, and containers to tote water.  You can also over-drink and deplete your sodium levels, leading to other potentially harmful conditions. When you drink, don't overdo it either! Do NOT drink Alcohol which can lead to quicker dehydration as it pulls water from your body.
  • Wear lightweight clothing and light colors. Wear a lightweight hat. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn. 
  • Carry maps and guidebooks so you know where the water sources are. If you pass a source, no matter what, fill up. You can also collect water off your tent, etc. during storms. Check for areas too where you can take a dip and cool off. Use hiker intel to tell you what water conditions are like en route or ask in hiker forums before you go. 
  • Never go off on a hike, no matter how short it is, without water.
  • Use common sense. If you are prone to heat related illness, choose a different location or wait for a better time to hike (such as early AM or late PM)
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies and hike with a buddy.
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means you are severely dehydrated and your core body temp is rising. Especially if you STOP sweating when you should be. That means DANGER. Stop immediately, rest, and rehydrate. Sunstroke kills!  

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Waterfall Adventures


Summer is here, the heat is on, and so is the opportunity to see beautiful falls in all their glory. Many states have waterfalls of varying heights and beauty. Some are easy to see, some require a bit of a walk or even longer treks. All have their own unique characteristics. Enjoy these favorites of mine from over the years, at different times and seasons. (Note: all photos are the author's except where noted)

Taughannock Falls, New York State  



Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia




Whitewater Falls, South Carolina (Foothills Trail)



Amicalola Falls, Georgia



Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming



Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

NPS website






   

Friday, May 24, 2019

9 Ways to Stay Safe on a Hike


With the tragic event on the Appalachian Trail of hikers terrorized and one killed by a
mentally unstable and drug addicted individual, fear can creep in. Is it safe to hike? One would think
a trail is immune to the dangers of society. But many times troubled individuals seek out the wilderness to cope with their mental issues. In very rare cases these issues lead to altercations and in this case, tragedy.

Looking at the facts of safety on trails like the Appalachian Trail, the odds of you receiving or witnessing violent crime is extremely rare. Compared to cities, towns, even a neighborhood, you are more likely to encounter issues than the woods. But that does NOT mean one should ever let their guard down, no matter where they are. Always be on the look-out for anything strange or suspicious. 
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. And heed ANY warnings you hear on the trail or elsewhere.  

Here are some other ways to safeguard yourself on the trail:

  1. Always carry a cell phone and proper navigation. That means carry paper maps or an updated map app on your phone (realize though it may not have side trails like a paper map). If you are in trouble and need to bail or to get yourself out of a situation, you will need to know where to go. Have emergency contact information for the area you are hiking in on your phone. When in doubt dial 911.   
  2. Never give your itinerary out on social media. Share plans with family or friends privately but don’t broadcast it everywhere. Some hikers in the past have been attacked by sharing their whereabouts. That includes who you share with on the trail. Be sure you know the person(s) before telling them where you will be or what you are doing. I never give out my info to anyone. I tell hikers I don’t know where I’ll be. I also never tell anyone I see on the trail I am hiking solo if they ask.  
  3. Carrying safety measures is an individual choice. Some have talked about carrying mace, a firearm, etc. Please realize that each state has their own regulations for carrying pepper spray or a firearm. It is your responsibility to know the laws of each state and to make sure you are trained in all aspects of firearm safety and abiding by the regulations. Taking a defensive class can make you feel more confident. Oftentimes in situations your brain is the best defense you have. Don’t take chances. Don’t ever engage with someone who appears unstable. If something isn’t right, if you meet someone who isn’t right, leave the area. Even If it’s late at night, leave the area. And for that reason, make sure you also have fresh batteries in your headlamp, charged cell phone, and navigation handy.  
  4. If you witness anything suspicious or criminal, alert local authorities and fill out an incident form with the trail’s managing group (for the Appalachian Trail, for example, it would be the Appalachian Trail Conservancy). This includes items stolen, altercations witnessed, weird behavior, threats, damage to person or property, etc.
  5. Try to hike together or stay with groups. I have done extensive solo hiking, but it isn’t for everyone and I have hiked with others in certain areas. Especially on the AT though, it’s rare you are ever hiking solo. If you feel better with others then find hikers to hike with.  
  6. If you can and it is legal in that area, avoid staying in high use areas such as shelters or high use camping areas where you may encounter mentally unstable individuals, etc. Do not camp near any kind of road, including road traces. Look for those out of the way places to camp if it is legal to do so.
  7. The trail grapevine is essential for trail news, as is shelter logs. Take all warnings seriously and use common sense and good judgment. If you need to - adjust your plans, skip over a part of the trail (it isn't going anywhere), get off the trail, take a side trail, flip flop, do whatever you must to be safe.
  8. Do not hitchhike if possible. Check with day hikers in parking lots, try online hiking groups, or use your guidebook to call for rides. If you must hitch, do so with others.
  9. Above all, look out for one another. We are hiker family. If one is affected, it affects us all. There is strength in numbers and in each other. Stay strong, stay alert, and don’t let fear rob you of having a good time in the woods.  


#ATStrong #ATStronghold











Friday, May 03, 2019

Lessons of an Appalachian Trail Section Hike – Duncannon to Port Clinton in PA


This was the first multi night hike I have done since being in a car wreck early last year after just
finishing the Florida Trail. I had gone out for two overnights since then but nothing like this. I am of
a determined mind that I can do what I set myself up to do – which for this hike was to hopefully finish much of PA (working right now on my third hike of the AT). But hikes don’t always go as planned.

 
Day One – Duncannon to Peter’s Mtn Shelter – 12 miles  
Thought it would rain but only after I hit the ridge when I encountered a major thunderstorm for about fifteen minutes. All my gear stayed dry with a nice new compactor trash bag and a cuben fiber bag for my pack items. Terrain not bad and nice views looking back at the Susquehanna River. Arrived at the shelter to be greeted by several men in residence and the very long descent for water down 300 rock steps (!) Like my new Sea to Summit Ether Light XT insulated sleeping pad but found out it runs cold, even though it is listed as insulated. Had to use my thin ensolite pad over it for more insulation. Did like the blow up method for it using a bag, worked quickly.    
 
Day Two – Peter’s Mtn Shelter to one mile south of Rausch Gap – 17 miles
Was not intending to go so far, but the lack of campsites made it tough. The campsites that were listed in the Guthook trail app already had campers in them. That’s what you get for trying to find space on Saturday in nice weather. Some rocky terrain and muddy, wet areas also. Am liking the replacement shoes I selected for the trip – Brooks Cascadias, after the Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes were phased out. . Found a place to set up under the boughs of a pine tree after moving once due to rocks, holey areas and dotted with deer pellets (!).
 
Day Three - Rausch Gap to William Penn Shelter – 14.6
Took a bypass today around a big beaver dam area with knee deep water from a hiker’s report. Did tag team today with a hiker I had met at Peter’s Mtn, Slo-go-in. Some rain, temps to plummet into the high twenties (!). Crossed some wild water necessitating me to put on crocs for the slog through. Passed over the Swatara bridge, saw an old lock, then under Interstate 81 which I travel frequently on to NY. Nice to see it, this time by foot. Bundling up in every piece of clothing I have tonight for a cold one.


Day Four – William Penn shelter to Black Swatara River campsite – 15

Did ok and survived a cold night with frost on my tent. Layering is the key. But now I am experiencing back issues from the accident. Pain and bring nerve pain. Having to stop frequently. Deciding now to cut my trip short and only hike to Port Clinton rather than risk further issues by going on. Met the caretaker of 501 shelter. Ran into a biologist on the trail who told me about different plants. Also mentioned camping at Black Swatara, which when I arrived had been wiped out from floods. And the trail down to the water source was steam. NOT a good place to camp, but no other choice as it was getting late. Had rain during the night, and the zipper on the tent fly is not working right. :(

Day Five –Black Swatara to Port Clinton – 13.8
Arranged for a pick up that afternoon at Port Clinton with my back giving my trouble. Up and over more rocky terrain and muddy areas. I have realized after this trip that I will need to redo how I hike trails and my plans and goals. That is, take more rest breaks. Watch mileage. Try to watch the weight in my backpack.  Go with the flow and don’t get overzealous with plans.   


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Guest Blog - A Change of Plans? Focus on the Positive

I had an abrupt change of plans to my section hike this week when sidelined by unexpected sickness. Thought this was good to repost -

A Change of Plans? Focus on the Positive

By Dallas Gallmann

After 4 long weeks I finally got my cast off and have gone into a walking boot for another 3 weeks before I start physical therapy.
I set off on the trail last month in order to do some soul searching but God had a different plan for me. My trip ended early after a fall and it may sound cliche but I went to the trail to learn about myself, to test myself physically and mentally and I came out of this experience with doing just that. (Just not in the way I thought I would)
As soon as I fell I knew something was seriously wrong but without cell phone signal I had to continue hiking up to Hawk Mountain shelter. The next few hours were hard. Mentally and physically I knew what I had to do but my mind immediately deemed everything up to that point as a failure. I was beating myself up for something I could no longer control. I was a failure because I wasn't going to be able to finish what I had set out to do. As I continued up the mountain I realized I was so focused on my pain and the idea of failing that everything had become a blur. I stopped to collect my thoughts. I told myself from here on out nothing negative, you have to pick yourself up, you are doing this, worry about everything else tomorrow. You see it is so easy for my mind to immediately think of the negative and I was no longer going to feed into what others would say or view my trip. I made it up that damn mountain and as I passed the sign for Hawk Mountain shelter I stopped for a moment to cry and reflect. I accomplished that mountain, that hurdle. I could be proud of that!
The next morning trail angels hiked up to the shelter and hiked me out. Later I learned that I had fractured my ankle, torn multiple ligaments and strained my calf muscle as a result of my fall. But as I told my story to everyone who asked what had happened, I didn't get the reaction my head told me I would get! They didn't see my story as a failure! They congratulated me on being brave enough to solo hike. They were inspired by my resilience and most of all they were curious if I was going to let my injury keep me from going back to the trail. I told them I only got 24 hrs on the trail and 22 of them were spent in pain but I have dreamed of being back out there ever since!
I encourage / challenge each one of you when things go wrong in life or on the trail to focus on the positive! Don't beat yourself up when things don't work out the way you want! The trail will still be there, life will continue and when I am healed up and my ankle is strong again I will finish my hike! I hope to see some of you on the trail!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gear List from an Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker

Other hiker gear lists 

You never can have too many to compare! Sharing this post from our files of an alternate gear list for an Appalachian Trail thru hike.

This hiker's start was in February, but keep in mind that winter conditions can persist on the trail all throughout the spring. So far its been wet out there for 2019, so prepare mentally as well.


A couple of people have asked for a gear list from my Thru Hike Feb 1st.  The first couple of weeks were very pleasant. Then we had several days of snow and ice with temperatures below zero long
Triumphant finish.
about the Smokies.
Here is a summary:

I am using a well worn ULA Catalyst back pack. When I no longer need winter cloths I would switch to the smaller ULA Circuit pack. I bought a new ULA Catalyst when I got to Damascus. The old one served me well for thousands of miles. I never did use it this hike since I switched to my ULA Circuit pack for the rest of the trip to Katahdin
Western Mountaineering 20* ultra light down bag less than two pounds

Xped Neo Air regular sleep pad 16 oz - this pad worked out great. At twice the insulation value of a Z Rest. In the past I have carried a Neo and a Z Rest in winter or a Ridgerest and a z rest. This pad did the job at half the weight. A generous seat pad offers some backup protection.
Ready to go for the 2105 thru hike
Mont Bell bivi 9 oz
Jet Boil titanium SOL stove, I think its’ about 11 oz long handled Sea to Summit aluminum spoon
Flash hoody down jacket
Flash down pants
Mont bell 6 oz down jacket
Fleece jacket 200 weight
Golight tights
Patagonia silk weight top and bottom
EMS zippered v neck top
2 pair Darn Tough socks I will be wearing one pair of these socks and some other items depending on daytime weather
Running shorts, worn over tights or capilene as needed...rain pants are the only pants I carry
2 stocking hats one much thicker than the other
wind bloc pro balaclava
a couple of buff hats
touch screen light gloves, fingerless army wool gloves, thick thinsulate gloves
Rain wear: Marmot Super Mica jacket, REI elements rain pants, Rocky Goretex socks, Mountain Laurel rain mittens
Water: Sawyer filter, a couple of Gatorade bottles and a couple of Smart Water bottles, one pint size Nalgene serves as coffee cup or emergency hot water bottle. I did not use my Sawyer filter until the Smokies at a shelter with mostly ground water and no privy. Next time I plan to use Aquamaira during weather where the Sawyer filter might freeze and ruin. It’s a pain to try and keep the Sawyer from freezing so it just makes since to carry Aquamira until the weather warms up then switch to a Sawyer original not the mini.
Leki hiking poles, three folds of a Zrest pad for a generous sit pad. 
Suunto altimeter watch, whistle.

ELECTRONICS
Galaxy S5 phone amazing battery life in black and white mode, Anker 16000 mah E5 brick battery at 10 oz its as heavy as a brick but this is a luxury cruise, 5.5 volt 2 amp charger, headlight. I sent the Anker battery brick home with its fast charger. Instead I just carried 3 extra batteries for my phone @ about 1 ounce each. I found that I didn't care to play with my phone as much as I expected as it distracted from my immersion in nature. The spare batteries were more than enough for pictures, Guthook trail maps and an occasional movie the day before town.
Guthooks AT Hiker apps, I love electronic gadgets, 2015 Data Book this is what I hike with when I take a break I jot the time down next to my position in the Data Book this makes it easy to judge location, travel time/miles. For town planning and additional water spots I use both AWOL and ALDHA Companion and I have both in pdf format also. 
FOOD
I have packed 6.5 ‪#‎s food for 4 days the last day being mostly Ramen. Mostly I am eating Mountain House freeze dried food and Lipton sides that has been repackaged into ziplock freezer bags. I do not care for the Liptons by themselves without doctoring them up. Last year I got to liking 1/2 a freeze dried meal and 1/2 a lipton noodle and rice side mixed together. Boiling water is poured into the ziplock bag with the food after about 15 min I eat from the bag, no cleanup and little trash and no food smell in my stove. No stirring while cooking KISS keep it simple stupid makes for a happy Thru hiker.
This year I did not care much for the Liptons mixed with Mountain House. They are so so if you have a can of meat to add and maybe a handful of raisins. I gradually moved to not having a hot breakfast, just coffee and a honey bun or something similar. Just in the last month I finally started liking oatmeal, well Quaker super grains blend with at least a quarter cup of nuts and berries. So I expect I’ll eat that some for breakfast next trip.
I do not like Starbucks very much but I often use the Via's on trail for a good dose of caffeine. Lunch is about a pound of candy bars, peanut butter crackers, nuts, beef sticks, cheese, cookies that sort of stuff. Mostly I eat one of those items every hour and sit down for a few minutes. This trip I abandoned my Jardean method of eating every hour with a 5 min break. Instead we did a more conventional longer break every couple of hours.

WEATHER CONSIDERATIONS

While in town I evaluate expected weather etc for the next section hike to the next town. At NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center)  with -10* below zero weather approaching, I purchased a second pint Nalgene and an extra 7 oz can of fuel beyond what I expected to use. The extra Nalgene and fuel where great luxury items and I enjoyed many hot beverages and hot water bottles.
My brother and I held up at Fontana Resort a few days for the worst of the below zero weather and precipitation. The Smokies was officially closed, all trails and roads. Luckily they lifted the ban on hiking trails and we were able to cautiously continue our hike. Sure its only 35 miles to Newfound Gap and I have made that in two days of good weather. But if Newfound Gap road is still closed then its another 15 miles to Gatlinburg for resupply. On my 2012 SOBO I narrowly missed 6 foot of snow around Newfound/ Cingmans Dome from a predicted major storm, sometimes referred to as the Sandy Hook storm. There were lots of unprepared sobo hikers with no gloves, warm clothes or rain gear braving windy temperatures in the teens. They foolishly listened to Thru hikers from 2011 a very warm dry year. Luckily I have never had one of those years where there is a cold rain for six weeks straight but it happens. So we headed into the Smokies with a few days extra supplies and about twice the fuel that we expected to need. Moving shelter to shelter with additional snow each day. Yea Newfound Gap road was open.
Weather can be expected to be anywhere form 65* to - 10* day or night, rain, snow, ice, packed snow can all happen. Oh yea I have a pair of Yaktrax Pro for additional traction if needed. The Yaktrak Pro's have served me ok in the past and are definitely better than nothing. With hard ice (daytime highs in single digits) and off camber trail they offered only a little grip. We switched to Hillsounds brand light crampon and wore them for 90 miles including the Smokies. They worked great. You can pretty much count on the Smoky mountains to be a sheet of ice until spring. April before last it warmed up to 4* before I reached Newfound gap it was awesomely beautiful. I walked the road down from Clingmans Dome because the road was closed and I knew the views were much better than from the trail.


All that and 20 oz of water leaves me with a 30# pack.

Remember take all advice with a grain of salt or maybe a shot of whiskey 


Chase Davidson is a long time distance hiker starting in 1982 with over 19,000 lifetime miles including: IMT-87, AT-99, GG-99, ALT-00, HATT-00, LT-01, TT-01, ART-02, BMT-04, AT-06, JMT-11,
AT-12, FHT-13, Big-O-13. FT-14, AT-2015.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

The Spring Backpacking Gear List


It's coming! The spring backpacking season. Use or adapt this gear list to prepare for a spring backpacking adventure in the east.




Backpacking Gear List
Compiled By “Blissful”  

Hiking
Backpack, pack cover, trash liner bag, hiking poles

Sleep
Sleeping bag (15-20 degree rating but depends on season), compression sack or good waterproof sack for sleeping bag, silk liner (optional, good for cold sleeper), sleeping pad, Tyvek ground sheet to protect tent floor from mud & snow, tent poles and stakes (or complete hammock set-up), air pillow (optional)

Cooking and Drinking
Stove, fuel and fuel container, lighter, windscreen (optional), titanium pot, pot cozy (all this is incl if you get a Jetboil system), lexan spoon or spork, cup (useful for stream dipping), container for getting water, personal water drinking containers (such as liter plastic bottles - Smartwater bottle is good, etc), water purification (Sawyer Squeeze system or Aquamira), 50 feet of paracord for bear bagging, waterproof food bag with food (8-13 liter)

Clothing (can vary depending on your likes and the season)
Hiking clothes (merino wool long sleeve top, one t-shirt top, convertible pants, fleece top) Insulated jacket (down is good for spring, late fall), windshirt, hat, gloves, midweight merino wool or fleece top and bottom for camp and sleep (depends on season), rain jacket (pants optional, but needed in spring and fall), rain hat is good for glasses, wicking underwear, sports bra (women), good socks (at least three pair for long hikes), crocs for camp, trail shoes, good waterproof bag for clothes

Personal
Headlamp, First Aid Kit, medicines, toothbrush and paste, dental floss, earplugs, prescriptions (esp. for vision), hiker wallet with ID, cash, a few personal checks, credit card, debit card, toilet paper, a few baby wipes, hand sanitizer, chapstick, whistle, DEET (later on), facenet (optional)  sunscreen, body glide (if prone to chafing, can take it out of its container), small jackknife with scissors, bandana, pack towel, assorted sil nylon stuff sacks and ziplocs for organization

Other 
Maps (or map app) and guidebook pages, small journal and pen, cell phone, charger & cords, Yaktrax or microspikes (winter or early spring seasonal)


Late March in the Smokies can still mean old man winter.