Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Get Out of the Box and Explore

Get Out of the Box and Explore – An Interview with Hiker Blissful

In Episode Two, Lauralee Bliss, trail name Blissful, shares with listeners her motivation for hiking and exploring the trails. This interview was conducted by WhiteFire Podcasts about long distance hiking adventures and other interests with valuable lessons learned along the way.

What are the differences between hiking the Appalachian Trail vs the Florida Trail?
The Appalachian Trail or AT is widely recognized, being next to many major
metropolitan areas of the east coast, with books and movies about it. It has plenty of mountain adventures and is good for short term hikes. And it was the hike Blissful did as a long hiking adventure with her teen son.

The Florida Trail is a low elevation trail with flora and fauna inherent in a southern state. It gives a different perspective of wilderness set in swamp, palm trees, palmettos, with fauna and flora all its own. It provides good long-distance adventure in the winter. Blissful gives examples of the challenges found in a solo hike.

What is your background?
Lauralee Bliss, trail name Blissful, grew up in the Catskills of New York with a mountain in her backyard. Blissful enjoyed traveling in the family RV to destinations where great hikes abounded, including the Appalachian Trail. She lives the adventure rather than just talking about it due to a goal driven mentality and seeing a dream fulfilled with no regrets.

How did you accomplish your hikes?

Read about it, set a plan into motion, hear from others who have done it in podcasts such as this, on hiker forums like in Facebook, in chats, in webinars and other video platforms. Learn what gear will work and what won’t. Read a lot, a dream a lot, then do it.

Final Thoughts
Blissful realizes life is crazy. But you can turn the craziness about into an adventure that may seem crazy to others but actually becomes a trail to healing and learning much about yourself and others. Make life count, and when you go through those adventures, tell others. Don’t keep it to yourself. It’s not just about you.
So get out of life’s box, explore, and share it far and wide!

Never miss an episode! Be sure to subscribe to the Blissful Hiking Adventures podcast.
Don’t miss Episode 3 - Hiking and Exploring in our National Parks
Coming Soon – Running those Ridges, the Life of a Ridgerunner on the Trail

Also available, the Hiking Adventure series of books on the Appalachian Trail (both north and south) and the Florida Trail from these sources:
Barnes and Noble - Florida Trail and Appalachian Trail

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hiking in a Post Viral World

Episode One - Hiking in a Post Covid World – (Show Notes)

In this inaugural episode, host Lauralee Bliss, trail name Blissful, begins with the uncertainty the Covid health crisis placed upon hikers when trails were closed and plans curtailed. How we respond as hikers to these changes in plans says much about us and what we will accomplish.

Initial response – get angry
Follow up response – get rebellious and hike no matter what the restrictions
Neither generate peace.

How can we look at it differently?

Use the unseen enemy of this virus and its effects to rethink and re-plan hikes.
  • Check out new trails using new guidebooks and maps.
  • Check out online resources like Hiking Upward and All Trails for hikes and make sure those areas have no restrictions in place. National Forests provide many scenic trail opportunities, as does county and state parks. Check out the ones in your area. Enjoy a new trail and embrace a new adventure with new appreciation. I checked out new parks in my county and new trails in George Washington National Forest. And took a longer hike on the Foothills Trail of South Carolina and was amazed.

I found the beauty of wildflowers, waterfalls, views, and most of all, peace from the swirl of issues concerning the unseen enemy. I know I will have a new appreciation for nature and NOT take things for granted.

As trails open and opportunities increase, we should remain vigilant and safe for the safety and health of everyone.

  • Seek out those lesser known trails and avoid popular places. If a parking lot is crowded, find a different trailhead.
  • On the way to the trailhead, be safe in public places. Keep your distance, bring your hand sanitizer and face covering if elderly are present.
  • While on the trails, be sure to talk to folks but keep it at a safe distance. Don’t ignore others just because of social distancing. We need each other, more than ever.
  • Be trail safe. Do not put SAR and other rescue in harms way because of poor decisions. Do not bushwhack, do not take chances in unfamiliar areas, do not scale rocks and waterfalls. Know your limits out there and don’t overdo.
  • Take along the ten essentials including clothing like a hat and fleece, first aid kit, water and water purification, food, headlamp, a space blanket, a full charged cell phone, and navigation.

If you are backpacking:
  • Avoid popular trails like the Appalachian Trail. Check with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and other trail organizations to see when it is safe to venture to this popular place for hikers. Seek out lesser known trails for your overnight experiences. Now is the time to be a discoverer!
  • DO not stay at shelters or use picnic tables or privies. Carry a tent.
  • Practice Leave No Trace ethics by carrying out all trash and burying waste. Know before you go.
  • Be self-reliant and responsible, and most of all, be safe.

Yes, this is a tough time. We will be changed forever by it, but in a good way as we appreciate nature and each other even more. Safe hiking to you!

Never miss an episode! Be sure to subscribe to the Blissful Hiking Adventures podcast.
Coming soon - Hiking in our National Parks

Also available, the Hiking Adventure series of books on the Appalachian Trail (both north and south) and the Florida Trail:
Barnes and Noble - Florida Trail and Appalachian Trail

Friday, May 15, 2020

Mail Drops and the Virus

During this time of issues with unknown resupply in towns and the current virus outbreak, I highly recommend mail drops for resupply on the trails. So what goes in your drop?

Food for what you need for the days until your next drop. Write out a sample menu list. See this food list for other ideas.

Sometimes extra treats can be put into the box from home you can’t get elsewhere to enjoy on your day off from the trail. Especially treats you may not find.

A roll of toilet paper in a Ziploc along with some baby wipes. For women: light pads are helpful. A new pee rag bandana. If you know approx when you might need feminine supplies, it helps to have that in your drop too along with any medications you might take.

Medications. I have a set of personal meds and vitamins I take (see the first aid blog for what I add vitamin-wise. I usually carry enough meds for ten days. Be sure you are ok on the homefront with your prescription meds and plan ahead (you can ask for "vacation refills" ahead of time to pack into maildrops). I have added a sandwich-size Ziploc with some extra Advil and Tylenol.

Pages copied from the Thru Hiker Guide or the Companion (AT) or specific trail guide you need for the next section of trail you are hiking. 

I've also added for long distance ventures – 

Some brand new Ziploc bags to replace the ones I use in my pack. And large envelope in case I need to mail things home. 

A few extra band aids, leukotape, etc to replenish the first aid kit. Small bottle of hand sanitizer to replace. 

For fuel, use the trail guidebooks and trail forums to find out where they are obtainable on the trail.

Be sure to send your mail drop Priority Mail and allow plenty of time (I give it at least a week). 

The drop should be addressed as follows for a Post Office delivery (Use your REAL name, not your trail name, and be sure to carry ID to pick up at the PO). Be sure to have a RETURN address on it in case you need to ship it home. Writing or marking something obvious or your last name on the outside side of the box so the carrier can see it among the piles of boxes helps too. Send it Priority Mail. 
Sample address:

Jane Doe
General Delivery
Hanover, NH  03755
Hold for AT Hiker: ETA (state the expected date of your arrival)

Other businesses, hostels, etc are accepting maildrops and are good options if you feel you may arrive on a weekend when the PO might be closed. However some of these are closing due to the virus. CALL AHEAD with your ETA to see if they will be open. If you mail to other locations, be sure to put your real name and "c/o" - care of and the address being sent. Include your ETA.

If you are going to be late (like more than five days), courtesy asks that you call the place holding your drop and alert them.

If you sent your drop Priority Mail to the Post Office, are going to be late, changed plans, etc and you have NOT gone to the PO and claimed it at the window, they can bounce your mail drop up the trail or send it home for you at no charge. 

During this time of uncertainty, but really, at all times on a hike, planning and preparing is essential to a great time in the outdoors. 

Related Links: The Virus Thing and Hiking - 8 Ways to Protect Yourself and OthersNeed to be at home for a while? Check out my Hiking Adventure Series on the Appalachian Trail - Mountains Madness and Miracles and the Florida Trails - Gators Guts and Glory!


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Can’t Backpack Right Now - 7 Things You Can Do Instead

Ok, if you are like me right now with the pandemic, watching your hiking plans evaporate for the time being, wondering when you will be able to hike again, here’s some things you might do to lessen the hiking blues.

1. Get outside anyway. Even if it’s landscaping like planting, starting veggie containers, walk the dog or walk yourself in parks or other areas that are open. It's important to get out for mental and physical wellness. Sunshine and fresh air are necessary. Exercise as best your can.

2. Take the time now to do a gear inventory. Start sorting out your gear closet to give away or sell. There are many used gear places to sell gear on the Web and on Facebook. Some require you to sign up.
Give away used gear in good condition to needy local scout troops or other youth groups in the area. 

3. Throw out gear that is not usable. Expired food, medicines. Other unnecessary items. Make a list of what you may need in the coming months for your trip.Take time to scan the Internet for updates to your gear. Check out hiking forums for what’s good and what’s not.

4. Take out some maps and books and decide where you want to venture when trails open. See what time you have this year for a hike. Start nurturing those hiking dreams. Or read other adventures out there - I  have books out on the AT and the Florida Trail!  

5. If you have a dehydrator, its fine to start dehydrating some foods and creating recipes. They can safely be stored in your freezer until you are ready to go. Check out forums for backpacking recipes.

6. Check out some interesting hiking movies out there. Some out there right now like what the Backpacker Magazine Poll says about fav and not so fav hiker movies. 

7. Be a part of online hiking forums and in social media. There are many new faces out there who want to learn from those who have been there. Use your experiences to help others discover the treasure of hiking. But please, don't debate other plans or disrespect or argue with fellow hikers. Now is the time to support. Be a friend of the trail and of other fellow hikers. We all need it right now! And if you are feeling real blue, please call a friend. Don't drown it in alcohol and drugs which will make things worse. Stay positive and focused.   

The good thing is, the trails will still be there as will some great hiking when the opportunity comes again. And it will...

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Hiking Adventure Series!

National Scenic Trails Adventures! 

A National Scenic Trails Adventure is not just a dream but a goal. Journey with Blissful the Hiker, wandering over 5,000 miles of National Scenic Trail in all kinds of terrain and situations - from the lofty peak of Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail to the swamps of Big Cypress on the Florida Trail. It doesn't get any better or wilder than this!

Mountains, Madness, and Miracles! North AND South adventures on the Appalachian Trail AND with a teenager who gives his own experience on a trail adventure! 

Paperback and e-book formats ORDER

Gators, Guts, and Glory - Adventures Along the Florida Trail. A wild hike like no other - sucking mud and gators and Tahiti and all. A Reader favorite. 

Paperback and E-book formats ORDER 


Makes a great gift for the hiker in all of us! Plan that dream hike in 2020.

Friday, March 06, 2020

The Spring Backpacking Gear List

The spring backpacking season is here! Use or adapt this gear list to prepare for a spring backpacking adventure in the east and have a great time!

Backpacking Gear List
Compiled By “Blissful”  

Backpack, pack cover, trash liner bag, hiking poles

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 - I use Klymit or Exped)

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 or Lifewater bottles are good, etc), water purification (Sawyer Squeeze system or Aquamira work in many instances), 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 skirt is another option), 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

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

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 (at least 70% alcohol), chapstick, whistle, picaridin bug spray, facenet (optional, depends on the trail)  sunscreen (no leaves means burns can happen), 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

Maps (or map app like Guthook) and guidebook pages, small journal and pen (can dictate on cell phone), cell phone, charger (I user the Anker 10k) cords, Yaktrax or microspikes (winter or early spring seasonal)

How about reading and immersing yourself into some great hiking adventures! The Hiking Adventure Series on our National Scenic Trails!  More Information and to Order

Friday, January 31, 2020

Trail Legends - Who and What are They?

I had the opportunity in a gathering called Billy Goat Day that celebrates the Florida Trail to meet several "trail legends." I heard the term often and wondered what parameters would give one the title of trail legend?

Nimblewood Nomad

Take these gentlemen that were present at Billy Goat Day.

Billy Goat and Nimblewill Nomad along with the Florida Trail Guide author Sandra Friend

On the left is Billy Goat, whose birthday is celebrated annually in late January along the Florida Trail. He has hiked over 50,000 miles, and his infectious enthusiasm for adventure and the trail remains a catalyst for all hikers. He spoke kindly to me at a hiker gathering one fall in 2016, displaying great interest for the hike that I accomplished with my teen son on the Appalachian Trail and the one I soon planned to embark on - hiking the length of the Florida Trail.

On the right is Nimblewill Nomad, the perpetual hiker, who has completed all the national scenic trails including hiking across the US and has written books about his adventures. He now oversees a camp on Flagg Mountain, greeting hikers starting or completing Alabama's Pinhoti Trail.

Lastly is Jim Kern, a trail visionary who, in 1966, wanted a long distance hiking trail in Florida. Through his passion and hiking, he sparked the creation of the Florida National Scenic Trail stretching from the Everglades to the Gulf Islands and the Alabama border.

So what constitutes a trail legend?

Hiking? Sure, but a hiker who goes over and beyond a casual trip. These are diehard hikers that have accomplished great feats on the trail. But more importantly, they are hikers that wish to spread their enthusiasm for all things wild and a wild hike to others so they also might enjoy an adventure. It is those that have not kept their great feats a secret unto themselves but encourage others to make a journey of a lifetime. And that is a legend worth celebrating.


Want to read about my wild adventures? Check out my Hiking Adventure Series!

Appalachian Trail

The Florida Trail