Saturday, November 03, 2018

Our First Quarterly Newsletter!

Introducing Blissful Hiking's FIRST Quarterly newsletter! Four times a year we will be sending via email a newsletter highlighting the best from our hiking blog plus other fun stuff, pictures, wisdom, and more.  

Take a look at our inaugural first newsletter  with gear ideas, a recipe for a holiday trailside dinner, trail safety during hunting season, and more. 

Subscribe to the newsletter either by the
button on the newsletter post or via the "Subscribe to Newsletter" button located in the left column of this blog site. You can unsubscribe at any time. 


Thursday, November 01, 2018

A Thanksgiving Recipe Trailside

When you are out hiking for days, weeks, even months on end, thoughts of food occupy your mind day and night. So it was on our adventure on the Appalachian Trail. Knowing you are burning upwards of 4-6,000 calories per day hiking, it's nearly impossible to carry that much food to satisfy your need for nutrition. And eating meals trailside, day after day, one looks for creative ways to get the calories you need and still eat a good meal. Check out this blog also for hiker food kinds of stuff.

Here is a typical day on the trail. We cooked over a tiny stove called a pocket rocket that ran on a canister. We made one pot meals to share. Since our pot came with a lid, I gave Paul Bunyan food in the lid and I ate out of the pot. The pot it made out of titanium, a great lightweight option for cooking. We liked the pocket rocket canister stove to cook our meals. A simple lexan spoon or a titanium spork ( a combo spoon with fork tines, my fav) works great as a utensil. 

Lobster trailside? Not quite, but I was invited to a hiker's home for the evening while I hiked the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The invite came as a total surprise, hence the name "trail magic." The hiker (or in this case, trail angel) rolled out the red carpet for me, including a dinner of lobster and wine. Wow, I was really living it up on the trail! Towns are a great place to resupply food needs and to get a good meal, especially if a hiker can nail an AYCE restaurant (all-you-can-eat).

Ready for a THANKSGIVING recipe? Yes, you can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner on the trail with this which Paul Bunyan and I enjoyed many times on the trail. It feeds two.

(This recipe is adapted from the The Appalachian Trail Food Planner by Lu Adsmond, published by the ATC)

1 can chicken, dehydrated (canned chicken dehydrates really well, believe it or not. Don't use real chicken, it's too tough to rehydrate).
1/2 packet chicken gravy mix (I like the organic variety without msg)
1/4 tsp salt (carry more for taste)
dash of pepper
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
(put these ingredients in one snack size ziploc bag)

1 cup stuffing mix (I like Pepperidge Farm)
1 cup unseasoned potato flakes
(put these ingredients into another Ziploc bag)

When you get to camp, let pkg 1 sit in your pot filled with approx 3 cups of water to rehydrate as you make camp. Let it come to a boil, boil for 10 minutes. Put the pot in a pot cozy to keep warm. Add package number 2. Let stand a few minutes. Adjust seasoning and liquid to taste and consistency,
Wa la, Thanksgiving dinner on the trail!

Check out my 4,000 mile Appalachian Trail Adventure on Kindle and in paperback! Find out what a teen thinks about hiking with Mom and what it's like to be a solo adventurer! Makes a GREAT gift, too.  


Monday, October 22, 2018

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.

Of course, give the gift of inspiration to a backpacker who dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail! This one-of-a-kind book covers the trail north and south, including ideas from a teen son hiking with his mom, a solo adventure, and the spiritual aspects gleaned on a long distance adventure! Endorsed by long distance trekker Jennifer Pharr Davis. Available on Kindle or paperback. 


Monday, October 08, 2018

No Matter the Trips and Miles – You are Always a Newbie

I was so excited to hit the trail again. It had been several months since my car accident that had caused major back issues. I had been out once for an overnight during the summer, but for a few quick miles. I was ready to hit the trail for some fairly good walking and cover about 70 miles in four days. It had been a trail I’d done so many times, I had it memorized. The graded Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. The outlook was bright.

Unfortunately I had several things working against me right off the bat. First, I had a pretty good sore throat going when I left. Meaning I was battling sickness. I waved it off, having endured as much on the Florida Trail and thought it shouldn’t affect me much. Second was my backpack. Since my good one was getting reconditioned by ULA, I went with a very old one. I figured it would be fine for a four day trip. Third was the idea I could do some good miles each day on what I believed was easy trail for the most part.

All Wrong

The first day was lovely. I ascended from Chester Gap into the park, enjoying the pretty but warm day. Not a few hours into the trip I felt a certain exhaustion beginning to grip me. There was some decent ups and downs on this route. I worked away any issues as I did most everything else. But the unplanned tiredness, coupled with some muscular pain from the backpack that began erupting early on clued me in I ought to cut miles the first day. But I can be pretty stubborn and pushed through 
to reach Hogback Mountain and a 17 mile total for the day. Yes, I hiked 17 miles on day one.

I was pretty exhausted that night but still was able to check out a backpacking meal I had created for a magazine article (to be published in Mother Earth Living in March, 2019). Somehow I managed to get my act together to review the recipe and even take some pictures using a selfie stick I threw in at the last minute (which worked out well).

But then next day I felt it. I enjoyed a pretty sunrise over Hogback, but I was extremely sluggish and I hurt everywhere, with blisters also on my big toes (a situation I deal with on every new start until the prized calluses form). The 17 miles on day one had completely done me in. I was okay for the first two hours but after that, it was a mental push just to do minor elevation gain. The illness was
Hogback Mtn sunrise
sapping strength too.

So with great reluctance I called for a pick up at Thornton Gap, having done 27 miles in two days. At least I was able to get out but it took several days for me to recover from fairly intense muscle pain and the blisters, along with a cold.

I keep forgetting that my best on a trail was formed by consistent hard work and continual hiking. Not zooming out into long stretches straight from the house.

So here’s the lessons –

1.       DO NOT hike high miles on day one

2.       Change your plans

3.       Don’t go if you feel a cold coming on (sore throat, aches, etc.) cut your miles, head to a hostel, or wait on your trip.

4.       Remember that despite the many trails and miles of the past, of which the mind can play tricks, whenever you go out, you are still a newbie in your body  

Pass Mtn view

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Celebrating 50 Years of our National Scenic Trails

What a great country we live in, full of beauty in both nature and in humankind. And what better way to experience it all than through a hike, long or short, on a National Scenic Trail. 2018 marks the golden anniversary of this great trail system. 

So what sets a National Scenic Trail apart? To earn this revere designation, the trail must be over 100 miles and reveal outstanding beauty, history, and recreational opportunity. To date there are 11 such trail designations.

Here is a listing of them and what agency oversees them.

I have had the privilege of completing two of these trails -

I have hiked the Appalachian National Scenic Trail twice, first from Georgia to Maine and then from
Maine to Georgia. Spanning nearly 2,189 miles, this trail traverses fourteen states in the most populated part of the east, running primarily along the Appalachian Mountain chain. It’s diverse beauty spans from mountain peaks to farmlands, through small towns to mountains looming above treeline, and goes through several National Parks.

I have also hiked the Florida National Scenic Trail. This gem begins near the Everglades in Big Cypress National Preserve and winds its way through the heart of Florida and across the Panhandle, some 1,100 miles worth. Along the trail one experiences natural beauty that one might see in some island paradise, from tall palms to palmettos. There are lofty pines, the heartland of Florida’s farms and ranges, Cypress trees and bogs, and even a walk along the beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico, all part of this unique trail unlike any other.  

I hope to hike more of these national treasures (stay tuned!). Make sure you future hiking plans involves an exploration of these scenic wonders.  The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) is commemorating these national treasures at its October “Gathering” October 12-14. More Information.

My Book on my Appalachian Trail Hike - hike it both north and south! 

**Coming in 2019 – Adventures on the Florida Trail!**

Monday, August 06, 2018

Safety Tips - Cars Parked 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.

Like trailhead parking areas. Already there have been break-ins at parked cars

Here are some things to keep in mind to avoid possible theft and car damage:

  • Check with online hiker forums, clubs and the specific trail organizations for parking issues. For instance the Appalachian Trail Conservancy posts on its website trouble spots with parking. Other trail organizations may do the same. Be sure to find out where there have been incidents and avoid parking there. 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. But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change, wallet, cell phone, any important papers, 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. I did leave my car unlocked for two weeks while out on the Long Trail and did okay.    
  • 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 occurred on a major trail system like the Appalachian Trail, report it also to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website and file an incident form. A park ranger evaluates each incident and contacts appropriate authorities along with making the hiker community aware of issues.
  • In all honesty, remember, one parks at their own risk, no matter where you are or what advise you have received.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Overuse Hiking Issues

Overuse issues cropping up among hikers and especially those doing long distances. Unfortunately hikers sometimes believe the hike is a competition and they need to keep up with the flock. Or they feel the miles they do is too low and they ought to do more. Thus they end up doing too much for ligaments and tendons unaccustomed to the stress. Because of this, hikers end up with overuse related issues that can jeopardize their hike.

Foot and lower leg tendonitis - Just today I developed an anterior tendonitis in my right lower leg radiating to the right side of my foot from increased exercise and a flexion issue. Pain on the top of the foot may be extensor tendonitis and could be because your laces are too tight. If you have pressure point pain over a bone, a stress fracture may be developing.    

Shin Splints – I have seen many hikers developing this issue, usually after long days of hiking, doing
high miles their limbs are not used to it. Shin splints refers to medial tibia stress syndrome over the shaft of the tibia. It is directly related to doing too much too soon. The pain is felt along the thick bone of the tibia of the lower leg. Sometimes it can be in the calf muscle itself.  There could also be swelling.

Knee issues – this is probably the most common joint that suffers from overuse. The ligaments around the knee become sensitive to the loads we carry, not only of our backpacks but the stresses of uphills,   downhills, and rocky terrain. That plus longer distances puts a good deal of stress on them, leading to pain and sometimes even ligament tears.

Muscle and Body Pain and Fatigue – again, doing too much too soon can lead to weariness in the
body, especially in long distance hikers who are not adequately taking in good nutrition needed for the miles hiked. Or they skimp on drinking water. The body can turn to muscle to burn - a very poor place to find the energy needed to keep things going. Muscle wasting leads to weight drop, fatigue, and health issues once the hike ends.

What to do?

First of all, CUT the miles! If you are developing an issue like tendonitis, shin splints or knee issues, rest is important. RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation until symptoms subside.  Take a few days off. Ice the affected extremity. Take Vit I (Advil) or Meloxicam works well too (a prescription). Taking tumeric with pepperine helps with inflammation. I have had very good results with an ointment called Penetrex. Applying an ace wrap or brace to the area sometimes helps (for me, it tends to aggravate things). Search out exercises online to help stretch the affected areas. If you are having foot pain, try relacing your shoes. If there is no relief, get checked out by a good sports medicine doctor.

Check your shoes. I’ve seen hikers that have come 800 miles in trail runners which are only meant to 
do 3-400 miles. Change your shoes ad insoles, and when you do, make sure they are the proper shoes for your foot type. Good insoles and good socks are important. And don’t forget hiking poles.

Make sure you are taking in adequate fluids and nutrition. Eating just ramen or potatoes is not going to provide the protein needed to help your muscles recover. Skimping on good foods means your body may turn to muscle of energy, and that’s not good. Eat a well-balanced meal that also contains dehydrated veggies and protein. Also take a multi vitamin. Water is needed to lubricate joints and prevent that achy feeling.

When you are ready to begin hiking again, ease back into your hiking. Do not be tempted to do too much too soon. Or you will be right back where you started. Be patient and your body will reward with with an awesome hike.

Related blogs:

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!