Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Blissful Trail Journals

While Blissful is out hiking the Florida Trail - Part Two this winter,
Florida Trail, Part One
feel free to check out previous journals on 

my hiking adventures and stay tuned for more lessons learned when I return! 

(NEW) Colorado Trail Journal

Florida Trail Journal - Part One

Allegheny Trail of West Virginia

Long Trail of Vermont
Mt Mansfield on the Long Trail

Foothills Trail
Foothills Trail of South Carolina

Appalachian Trail South - Part One 

Appalachian Trail South - Part Two

Appalachian Trail - North

AT Finish, Katahdin, Maine

My book on my 4,000 mile Appalachian Trail Adventure

**NEW for 2018**

Want to know about my upcoming Florida Trail book - "Gators and Guts to Glory, Adventures on the Florida Trail" and get sneak peaks, facts, fun, and news when it releases? Subscribe to my newsletter for this and more about my adventures and hiking plans. And of course, I will share valuable lessons learned to help make your hiking dream a reality! I may also throw in a giveaway or two to newsletter recipients. 

(You are free to unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Don't Forget Your Permits for Your 2018 Hike!

Don't Forget!

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.

There are several permits required to either camp /hike the Appalachian Trail in certain areas. Be sure to take advantage of the Appalachian Trail thru hiker registry. Also you will need permits to camp in the Great Smoky Mountains. NEW from last year there is a capped amount of hiker permits to climb Katahdin in Baxter State Park. The permit for Shenandoah National Park can be obtained when you arrive or you can get it by mail.

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 - begins March 15th

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

PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) - different permits depending on whether you are doing a short section or a thru hike, begins early Feb.

John Muir Trail Permit (via Yosemite National Park) - up to 24 weeks in advance

The Cables of Half Dome - Yosemite National Park (day hike) - Preseason lottery in March 1st to the 31st. Advance 2 day lotteries begin in May.

Zion National Park - The Narrows, three months in advance

Enchantment Permit Area - In the Cascades of Washington State, lottery opens mid Feb. to March

Na Pali Coast - Hawaii

Eastern Trails

Appalachian Trail

AT Thru Hiker Registry - a volunteer registry to spread out hikers. You can also register for

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 you need a paid reservation. Please note there are different reservations for a thruhiker vs a section hiker. Be sure to obtain the correct one via their regulations.

Shenandoah National Park Free Backcountry Permits - you must have a permit to backcountry camp in the park, obtain by mail or at the kiosks as you enter the park.

NEW Climbing Katahdin in Baxter State Park. If you are hiking Katahdin in Maine via the Appalachian Trail, you must have a permit. There is a capped amount that will be given out for Northbound, Southbound, Section hikers, and Flip Floppers.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

5 Ways to go-fund Your Long Distance Hike

I just saw a post on a Facebook group of two hikers that set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe so folks can donate to their upcoming long distance hike. I must say, it raised my ire. To ask for money to fund a hike when there are people that need the cash--their house burned down, their loved ones are facing incurable illnesses, they have fallen on bad times—seems selfish and immature to me. It shows a lack of discipline, determination, and independence. It also shows a lack of planning for a venture.
A hike is not a necessity. It isn’t something one must do to survive. It is, for all intent and purpose, a trip for pleasure. Some say a vacation even. I myself waited thirty years for the funding and the right time to do my hike. 

But a long distance hike is a pricey adventure when one considers gear, travel and the hike itself. So what are some legitimate and worthy ways to raise the money you need to fulfill your hiking dream?
Here are some ideas.

1      Save. This is the most obvious but one that is overlooked. We are not a saving society but a spending society. It takes great patience, determination and discipline to set aside money. And that determination and discipline ultimately transfers to a hike itself. If you take the time to save and fund your hike, it will mean more to you anyway. So put away cash bit by bit over time. Say no to that caramel macchiato at Starbucks and put it in your account instead. Maybe don’t eat out. Look for other ways to cut money out of your daily/weekly/monthly budget and put it in a hiking savings account.

2       Work overtime at your present job. Or look for an extra job on the side like temporary work to make
some bucks. Seek extra opportunities. Even shovel snow off driveways, mow lawns, pet sit. Be disciplined.  

         3. Sell things. I have seen hikers sell used gear on Craigslist, used hiker sites, yard sales, etc. to raise money for their hikes. Or if you are creative and want to make items to sell on Etsy, etc. do that too.

          4. Look for ways to budget on your upcoming hike. There are blogs here on Blissful Hiking on how to hike on a budget. Realize right out that you may not be able to stay at the fancy places, take lots of zero days, or indulge in food and drink. Check out the blog on a hiker that did an AT hike on $1000. But that doesn’t mean you become a beggar on the trail either. Live within your means and the money you have. But realize you don’t need the most expensive or fanciest gear either. Look around for deals on your gear, clothing, etc.    

5.       Don’t go on your hike until you are financially ready. Too many strike out then find they are spending way too much and have to abandon their hike due to lack of funds. Don’t let this be you. Have the money you need before you go. The trails are not going anywhere. Save up and go when the timing is right. You’ll have a much better opportunity then to be successful in fulfilling your hiking dreams and goals.  And the hike will mean much more to you, too, when you can say – I hiked it AND I paid for it with hard work and determination.

Related Blogs

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What a Year of Blissful Hiking

2017 ended up being a year of great hiking adventures across several states!

The Florida Trail:

What began at the end of 2016 in the Great Cypress Swamp started up once more in earnest in 2017
as I continued to trek north through the state of Florida. 2017 saw me by the Kissimmee River, around Orlando, and through the Ocala National Forest to the halfway point. I also secured a book contract on this unique wander with my publisher WhiteFire Publishing who also published my AT adventures in Mountains, Madness and Miracles - 4000 Miles along the Appalachian Trail. Tentative title - "Gators and Guts to Glory, Adventures on the Florida Trail." Stay tuned.

Florida Trail Journal

Florida Trail Info

Appalachian Trail Section Hike:

I continued my quest for a third go-around on the AT with a section hike in lower PA, from Pen Mar Park to Duncannon. I also completed my 6th year as a ridgerunner and 5th year in Shenandoah National Park working along the AT.

Speaking Opportunities:

New this year - the Ranger and the Bear Children's program
Once again this year I was able to speak at several libraries about my AT adventures and developed a new children's program on the AT and backpacking. I enjoy teaching about hiking and hope for more opportunities.

Speaking Information

The Colorado Trail:

While not planned at all when the year began, by March I was seriously thinking about hiking this unique trail from Durango to Denver. I completed a thru hike of it from August 21 to September 26 with beauty and adventure all the way, meeting wonderful trail angels and hikers, as well as hiking for my first time at elevation. And using an Ursack.

Colorado Trail Journal (in progress)

Colorado Trail Info

New Gear Added:

I expanded my gear this year to include a large size Bear Vault and an Ursack for hiking in the western regions.

Goals for 2018:  Finish the Florida Trail and finish the book on it. Do more section hiking of the AT. Find future speaking opportunities. And dream big.

What are your hiking goals?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day Hiking in the Winter

Winter snow and ice on the Pocosin Hollow trail in Shenandoah National Park
A day hike in the winter can be a wonderful experience. Cold, brisk days. Outstanding views you can’t see in the summer. No insects. Few visitors. Ice sculptures on cliff faces and waterfalls.

But it also requires some careful planning so it becomes an experience to treasure and not to dread. Winter hiking usually involves winter travel. That means walking on snow and ice. In normally warmer climates, when winter precipitation falls, snow can thaw then melt, making for icy travel (such as in Shenandoah National Park where I just walked an eight mile circuit hike in snow and ice). Snow walking can easily sap your strength quicker than you realize. It’s important when planning a day hike to use wisdom for calculating time and distance. Don’t be afraid to limit your hike for the day. It’s better to walk the trail and return safely with limbs intact than try for a higher mile day, slip due to fatigue and sprain an ankle or worse.
Snow-filled Appalachian Trail

When walking on snow and ice, some sort of traction device on your feet is wise and makes for better assurance on the trail. Yaktrax work well in snowy conditions. Microspikes (such as Kahtoola) are useful in steeper and icier terrain. When walking in snow, use trekking poles to help with balance and give support in icy spots or over stream crossings. Take care that sometimes snow will cover rocks and logs in the path that could trip you up. Also, you are working ligaments and tendons much more in snow. Don’t overdo it or it can set you up for overuse injury such as straining a calf muscle, overworking the arch in your foot, or putting a strain on the Achilles tendon. It's also a good idea to use gaiters to keep snow and ice out of your boots. Once inside your boot, the snow can chill your feet and even cause frostbite and blister issues.

When contemplating a winter hike, be sure you carry necessary gear in a sturdy daypack. Typical gear includes warm clothing (hat, gloves, insulated jacket, a pair of silk long johns can add warmth under clothing with minimal weight, a wind jacket helps break a cold wind or bring a rain jacket), a first aid kit, a headlamp (there is much less daylight in winter), maps, food and water, and a charged cell phone. Be sure to let someone on the home front know where your will be and how long you will be gone.
Winter view from Hightop Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park
With just a few safety measures, winter hiking can be a great experience.

(This blog was expanded into an article on winter hiking for the AT Journey's Winter 2015 edition)

Related Blogs:

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Some Gear Favs from Blissful Hiking

Here are some of Blissful Hiking's favorite gear picks; it has not changed, I STILL love this stuff... :)

The Evernew water bottle. Compatible with the Sawyer squeeze filter (see below which has blown out my Platypus and a substitution for the Sawyer bags which also fail. Bombproof, works great.

Socks are a hiker's best friend, and it might as well be a pair that works great and lasts forever. Hence our fav pick is Darn Tough. They are a pricey but a high quality sock with an unlimited guarantee to boot. In fact, they dare you to wear out their socks! Pretty cool.

Assorted cuben fiber stuff sacks. Waterproof, durable, great for adding protection in your backpack or for keeping sleeping bags and clothes dry. We have used them in all shapes and sizes (they make a good hiker wallet too). The thicker the material, the more durable, Z Packs has a great selection. Cuben fiber (now referred to as Dyneema) has also been used in ultralight tents and backpacks as well (but they are pricey).
Other gear websites: Mountain Laurel Designs, Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Basic rain gear is a must in a hiker's backpack. If only out for short jaunts, Frogg Toggs makes a ultralight and cheap means to stay dry with a jacket and pants for around $30 bucks (though be warned, they are NOT durable for lengthy ventures). We find the jacket also provides good warmth in windy weather. Another fav is the rain kilt or rain wrap that does a great job of protecting without the need for cumbersome and hot rain pants.
Some gear shops for a rain kilt:
Lightheart Gear,  ULA

The Sawyer Filter -  a fav for Appalachian Trail adventures. We use the bigger model that filters water much quicker than its smaller mini model for a mere ounce or two more (though some like to have the smaller Sawyer mini filter attached to a Smartwater bottle for quick drinking).

Of all the eating utensils, the simple titanium spoon is our fav. Unlike the Light My Fire sporks that seem to break on a whim (and we've gone through many), This has been on dozens of trips and remains tried and true (gets out gooey stuff like PB from a jar without breaking), and good also for scraping away food while cleaning the pot, too.

Feel free to share your fav gear in the comments!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Mother's Pride

This guest blog is from a mother who sent her daughter off an adventure along the Appalachian Trail. It serves as a wonderful reminder for women to achieve their hiking dream (and never let anyone tell you it can't be done)!

A Mother's Pride by Sylvia Krakar

My daughter just did a NOBO (northbound) on the AT (Appalachian Trail). She set out on March 27th 2017 and finished September 26, 2017.
Nighthawk finishes

She had a lot of day hiking experience, but that was about it. We did a lot of camping too. She researched for almost two years before her hike by reading blogs and gear ratings. She graduated early to make the hike. 

She had great days and days I had to take off my mom hat and put on my pep talk hat when she called. She had a wonderful experience, but she did tell me that there were some males on the trail that tried to make women feel inferior. She was actually told by one male hiker that he could not stand the idea of a woman hiking faster than him. That said, she also met some really great male hikers that treated her equal. She set out alone, but found her family right away. People she will keep in touch with the rest of her life. People she will hike with again.

As a mom I was terrified when she set out alone on this journey. The first two weeks were hard for both of us. Dianne “Nighthawk” grew so much during the six months she was on the trail. 

I wanted to share this to encourage any woman no matter how old who is thinking about hiking the AT to make the journey. Don’t let anyone stop you or convince you that you can’t do it. 

Valedictorian of her class AND now a thru hiker!
I include two pictures. The first is in Virginia. Her uncle hiked for one week with her there. He is in great shape but this was more than he expected. He was in awe of Dianne. He has a new outlook on hiking. He wants to do the PCT with her. I took her graduation things out there so I could take a picture to put in her announcements. I was very proud to accept her valedictorian award at graduation on her behalf. She had a teacher that devoted an entire class to belittling her for wanting to do this hike. When I accepted her award I spoke just a few words. I said “ Mr Keeler, Dianne did not need the hatchet”. The student body erupted in laughter. 

I am very proud of her and I want other women to follow their dream no matter what others think. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lightening that Backpacking Load

One of the things I love to do as a hiker advocate, educator, and ridgerunner is helping hikers eliminate unnecessary weight from their packs in what's called a pack shakedown. I had the opportunity to do this many times, and with good results. In one shakedown, the young hiker was dead tired after only four miles and ready to quit. Not only was that hiker carrying heavy items like a seven pound tent and a chair, but the backpack did not fit correctly either, and the hiker carried all the weight on the shoulders.
Make the right choices to lighten the load

Definitely a painful ordeal.

So what can you take out of your pack?

Most hikers tend to overkill in the area of food, toiletries, first aid,
etc. They take every part of a cook set rather than just the tools they need. Sometimes half the medicine chest is in the first aid kit. This hiker I helped had two 8 oz. fuel canisters for three days. Also many lightweight items can quickly add up to pounds. Eliminating these in rapid fashion decreases the weight and makes a hike more comfortable.

So let’s take a few of the above.

Food. A good rule of thumb is approx. 1 ½ lbs. of food per day. No need for cans. Check my blog on hiker food ideas to give you nutritious meals without the weight. Most hikers tend to take too much thinking they will be hungry with the exercise and fresh air. Many times the exact opposite happens. Unless one has been out long distance hiking, it takes time for the appetite to really kick in. Plan accordingly.

Toiletries. No need for deodorant, brush, shampoo. Ladies – you don't need makeup. If you are hiking long distance, chances are very good that hostels and motels have shampoo and soap. A few baby wipes can make you feel refreshed in camp (but pack them out!!). I have never felt the need to take a brush or comb.

Take only what you need for trail first aid. No need for splints, lots of big bandages, etc. 

Cooking. Many hikers take an overabundance of cooking gear to make simple meals. Honestly, all one needs for most meals is one pot and one Spork. No need for a plate, frying pan, or extra pots. And don’t forget a simple stove, like a pocket rocket version (there’s a cheap one on Amazon some have said works good) or a jetboil to cook. I’ve seen hikers struggle to cook meals over a fire with wet wood and go hungry. Substitute Smartwater or Lifewater bottles for a Nalgene bottle which saves some good ounces.  

Lifewater bottles have some cool designs

Lots of heavy bags, stuff sacks etc. can add extra ounces that add up to pounds. Simple, good quality Ziplocs make organization easy and you can see through the bags to help determine what you have. Cuben fiber is a great option for lightening the load. But do carry a good waterproof food bag for bear bagging. And make sure your clothing and sleeping bag are in good waterproof bags.

Electronics can get heavy. Bring only what you need. A phone in many instances can serve as a camera, music player, etc.  

Check your pack. Do you REALLY need that huge book? That chair?  Try cutting an old blue foam pad or ridgerest and plop it next to a tree. Or I use the Thermarest seat lite pad. Leave out the heavy knife, ax, and egg container. If you don’t think you will use it, don’t bring it.

Lastly, make sure your pack fits you right and you have packed it correctly. Make sure also you are using the waistbelt correctly.

Some links for each:

Packing a backpack along with a video

Fitting a backpack

Just few ideas to lighten the load and make for a happier, less painful trip.