Monday, June 18, 2018

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 on 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 enroute 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 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!  

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Rain... Part of a Hiker's Life

Blissful in the fog of PA before descending down to Palmerton

I felt like tonight I should blog about rain, since many hikers out this year are encountering rainy events. And not just any rain, but sometimes major events or even tropical systems. There can be downpours and strong winds. Heavy stuff. There isn't much weather protection that can keep you and your gear dry in that kind of extreme weather, except a good ol' warm hostel or other place of refuge.

But rain is a fact of life on the trail. And you must protect your gear and yourself. In some conditions it can be a life saver, especially if you hit the 50 degree temperatures with a wind that can actually cause hypothermia to set in rapidly. Hypothermia is a condition where your core body temperature begins to drop. Symptoms include shivering, clumsiness, poor decision making, weakness, drowsiness - if it progresses further you are in serious trouble. In the case where the temperatures warrant it, I always don my full gear - rain jacket, rain hat, and my rain pants. In the summer I don't bring rain pants as its warm enough that a good shower can actually feel good. My son loved to carry an umbrella. But in colder conditions they can help prevent you from getting soaked to the skin and having real issues.

This is a picture that a fellow hiker took of me atop Springer Mountain during my southbound hike a few years back. It shows me with full rain gear in action as it is November. Because of my glasses issue, I prefer wearing a rain hat. I have tried both the Marmot and Outdoor Research brands and has served me well. I am wearing a Marmot precip rain jacket (the orange color here came in handy when I hiked through the states of TN and NC in the fall and full hunting season with hunters out actually carrying their rifles - slightly unnerving). I did switch to DriDucks for a light weight option in the summer and it served me well on the Long Trail, but note - it is NOT durable if pine branches snag it! You can purchase rain gear made of simple silnylon or cuben fiber but remember they do not vent well and you may find yourself wetter on the inside than the outside. My son disliked rain gear and carried a lite umbrella for the summer rains on our thru hike of the AT.

In the above photo I am also wearing Marmot precip pants. On warmer days, a rain skirt such as the ones sold on Lightheart Gear has done well to keep the upper part of me dry. I only have regular trail runners on, not waterproof, but on a nice sunny day afterwards, I find they dry out amazingly well. But I did use a pair of the Gore Tex waterproof trail runners to test them out in the spring snow-like conditions. And I must say, having dry feet at night sure felt good.

As for pack protection, in this photo my husband sewed for me a sil nylon pack cover (we also made our own stuff sacks). You can get kits to make your own covers like this at Thru-hiker Gear which sells kits and materials for that creative person. I have met hikers that have made many of their own gear items, including a backpack, a sleeping bag, a vest, etc. Just recently I purchased a Sea to Summit pack cover and it has worked out well. But in heavy downpours, no pack cover keeps a pack dry, so it behooves you to keep the contents dry.  On the inside I have lined my pack with a trash compactor bag. The thicker the bag (in milliliters), the better. After a heavy storm though, I found the Z packs cuben fiber pack liner a must-have, esp as I still got water inside the trashbag line.  Nothing gets by this - it's bombproof. They also make a variety of stuff sacks for clothing and sleeping bag (which must stay dry no matter what). Worth the $$. I tend to go overboard and double bag my camp and clothes and sleeping bag. if all else fails and you are wet and cold, these can really save you and make you comfortable. Be sure also to have a working stove to heat up water for hot soups and drinks, and carry a good tent to protect you at night.

These are a few ways I have coped with rain while hiking. Sometimes its hard to see the fog rolling in and know you are missing some good views. But there is also good to be found on a rainy, foggy day. Clean fresh air. Plenty of water at the springs and streams when you need it. And knowing the sun will eventually come out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wow, I Hurt from Backpacking! 9 Ways to Prevent It

"Oh, do I hurt!"

You’ve likely heard and said those words many times after a backpacking trip. That unpleasant feeling of soreness. It can come from just carrying a backpack (sometimes with too much weight in it or not properly fitted) to the harsh terrain day after day on foot and leg muscles not used to such rigors.
An overstuffed pack coupled with the terrain can make you sore

The best way to minimize the painful effects of hiking is to try and prevent it as much as possible.

1. Carry the right backpack for you. Gather your gear together first, then check out backpacks at an outfitter. Make sure the backpack is properly fitted. There are also techniques for how to pack a backpack. to minimize the unpleasantness of weight bearing on tender shoulders. But do expect some pain the first few days. After all, you are doing something you have never done before. It will take time for you to adjust. So be patient with yourself and you will be amazed how quickly your body adapts.

2. Make sure you are not overpacking. Take only what you need. There are ways to cut back on pack weight simply by reducing ounces (which can quickly add up to pounds). While this may not be critical on a weekend venture, over long distances, it can attribute to lots of aches and pains. Look over your gear to see what your need and what you don’t. Have other hikers peruse your list online in trail forums to help you reduce weight. Check out this gear list for backpacking for what you need on a long trip. See the Related Blogs below for other ideas in cut in food, specialty gear, etc. 

3. While hiking, be sure you are drinking plenty of water. Our body is composed mostly of water, and water keeps joints lubricated and less likely to hurt. Carry the means to safely filter your water and bottles to carry it.

4. Eat the right foods like good proteins, veggies, dried fruits, whole grains, and cheese. Avoid useless calories that will do nothing to re-energize or heal achy joints and the micro tears in muscles. A candy bar might give you a temporary sugar boost, but then it makes you drag.

5. Make sure you are wearing the proper footwear for your foot type. Get fitted by a professional. The wrong shoes or worn-out shoes can make your legs feel very achy and sore.

6. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. I tend to crash for at least ten hours because I know during that time, the body is repairing itself. It helps reduce pain. 

7. If your need to, take some pain medicine but don’t overdo it. Advil or other NSAID products can cause wear and tear on your stomach, leading to ulcers. Preventing pain is better than trusting to drugs. If you do need a pain reliever, try the lesser one, like Tylenol. Take turmeric with pepperine also. Do not take narcotics for pain. If you need that much relief, you need to get off the trail and have your affected limb or issue looked at by a professional. 

8. Limit your mileage. Don’t try to be cool and do lots of miles when you're not ready. Take your time to adjust to the rigors of hiking. Stop often to rest, eat a snack, and enjoy a view or a flower. This is about the journey, not the destination.

9. If you feel achy even after limited hiking and it is accompanied by a headache and / or fever, get checked by a doctor. It could be an indicator of Lyme Disease.

Yes, aches and pains can come, but the joy of the trail, the views, the woods, and times with new friends makes it all worthwhile!

Related Blogs:

Lighten that Backpacking Load

Top Three Weight-Loss Challenge for Hikers

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Ticks Are Out! Get Defensive Now

It's tick season and they are out in full force! 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 from the Tick Borne Disease Alliance (and I add in a few tips also): 

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 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. 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.  See their web site for details. (I sent mine in and they were returned in a week).

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. check this website from REi on different kinds. I like Picardin.  

4.     Venture in the center of woodland trails, and 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, drops or a pill. 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.   Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants legs into your socks when possible to provide an extra line of defense against ticks

**Important - If you do find an embedded tick, remove it promptly with tweezers or a tick-removal tool and seek out a doctor. This is important for ANY tick, not just the deer tick. A one time dose of doxycycline 200 mg can be taken to prevent Lyme Disease if done with 36 hrs of the bite. If you are unsure when you got bit or start to have a fever, headache, joint aches, get to a Dr asap.

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

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?