Monday, October 16, 2017

Hiking Safety During Hunting Season from the ATC

 (This is reposted from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy web site. They are good reminders as we  are now in the main hunting season. Be extra vigilant. I did a good portion of my southbound hike during hunting season, on the Tuscarora Trail and the Allegheny Trail. Many times you are sharing the trail with hunters carrying rifles and with their dogs. Several times I heard rifle shots quite close to me. Pretty unnerving. So take these tips to heart as you enjoy your hike during hunting season.)


Be visible to hunters


Know local hunting seasons — Specific dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and also by type of game hunted and weapon used. Small-game seasons (turkey, rabbit) stretch from fall through the end of May; large-game seasons (deer, bear, moose) generally occur October through January. Learn the regulations and hunting seasons for the areas where you will be hiking before you go. 

Wear blaze orange
—Wear a blaze orange hat and vest (and pack cover if backpacking), or hooded outerwear when hiking in fall, winter and spring. All fourteen states that the A.T. traverses require hunter education classes prior to issuance of licenses, which has led to a significant decrease in hunting-related accidents. Even though these safeguards have been put in place, both hikers and hunters need to do their part to prevent accidents. In late 2002 and early 2003, two A.T. hikers were shot and seriously injured in separate incidents by hunters who mistook them for deer. Neither hiker was wearing blaze orange, and neither hunter properly identified his target.

If you hike with a dog, it should also wear blaze orange visible from all sides. The ATC recommends
Dogs need blaze orange too
that pets be leashed at all times while hiking.

On state game lands in Pennsylvania, all hunters and non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, or a fluorescent orange hat, from Nov. 15–Dec.15 (except on Sundays). The orange material must be visible from all angles (360 degrees).

Avoid wearing colors that could be mistaken for game animals. Avoid white or brown during deer seasons; red or blue during turkey seasons.

Use extra caution at dawn and dusk. Hunting activity may increase at dawn and dusk, when animals are feeding and visibility is poor. Wear reflective vests or use a headlamp or flashlight for extra visibility.

Use extra caution near roads and in valleys—Be especially cautious within 1/2-mile of road crossings (both approaching and leaving) and in valley areas.

Be heard—Make sure you are heard before you are seen by whistling, singing, talking, etc., while you hike.

Avoid hunter interference—Hikers should be aware that interference or harassment of hunters in the lawful pursuit of game is a violation of law in all fourteen A.T. states. This includes interference or tampering with dogs used in the pursuit of game where allowed by law. Sportsmen are our partners in conservation—encounters between hunters and hikers are opportunities to raise the awareness of both groups.

Avoid deer firearm season
—Avoid areas where hunting is legal during deer firearm season, which varies by state, but typically occurs during parts of the months of October, November, December, and January. During those months, you may want to hike in one of the five national parks crossed by the A.T. (note that hunting is allowed in Delaware Gap National Recreation Area, another NPS unit). Do a search for the specific state in which you will be hiking.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Safety and Hikes in the Fall Season

Max Patch in NC
There’s nothing better than a backpacking trip in the woods at the peak of leaf change. The air is crisp, the colors of the changing leaves brilliant, and the expectation is there for adventure and recreation. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help your trip go smoother and more enjoyable. 

Changing Weather – Fall can be a time of changing weather patterns. From warm to cold, bright sunshine to rain, make sure you are prepared for your trip. Check the weather before you venture out. Make sure your sleeping bag is of an adequate rating and you have enough warm layers. Include a good hat. Check out this blog too for ways to stay warm when the temperatures dip and what to bring when it rains. Carry the food you will need with a day extra to spare, just in case. Bring maps and a guidebook for the area in which you will be hiking, and include a phone in case of trouble. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia.

Wear blaze orange
Bears and Wildlife – This is the time of year when wildlife is foraging for food to keep them during the long winter months. They tend to be more aggressive and are on the hunt for food. Make sure you are using bear-proof techniques to hang your food. The PCT method works well for bears accustomed to hiker food strung up the usual way. Check ahead of time to see if there are any bear warnings for the area where you plan to hike (such as in the Smokies that routinely closes shelters for bear activity. Shenandoah National Park also can close areas to camping). Consider a bear canister or an Ursack with an odorproof liner like an Loksak Opsak. Check out the Bear facts of Life blog for tips on handling black bear encounters. Don't be afraid to be aggressive though if bears are sighted near shelter and tenting areas. Shout, bang pots, throw rocks, bark loudly  like a dog (which works very well. There's even apps for your phone!). Bears should NOT be there in those areas.

Leaves and Acorns – No one would think acorns and leaves can disrupt a trip. But wet leaves makes the trail slippery which can cause injury. Piles of leaves can hide rocks and other impediments on the trail. 
Acorns rolling under your feet act like marbles to trip you up. Take extra care on the trail when encountering this minor obstacles to prevent ankle twists or other injuries. Sometimes fallen leaves and obscure the trail. Be sure to have a map with you and a compass also. 

Hunting season - Fall means hunters are out sharing the woods and trail. Wearing blaze orange is a must. Know the hunting regulations where you will be hiking. Watch for dogs that are assisting hunters also. Check out the blog on hunting tips to keep you safe on the trail. 

Where are the colors at their peak? Check out the fall foliage map

Finally, some top fall hikes in different states -

In the Smokies
New York and New Jersey
New England
Washington State
New Hampshire
CNN's take Includes Virginia

Friday, October 06, 2017

I Need Water – 7 Things You Can Do in Dry Conditions

Fall is here and so too water can dry up - here are some reminders on what you can do when water is low on the trail -

It has been very dry all along the Appalachians in the Eastern US, prompting lots of worry in hiking circles about water availability for fall hikes. 
So what can you do to prepare or while on a backpacking trip?

1.       Try to schedule your hike when there has been rainfall. Easier said than done when you can only go at a certain time. But if you have flexibility, do it. Check in with hiking social media to get updates if possible. If need be, alter your hiking plans to a different area that has better water availability. Some areas are beginning to close due to fire danger. Check ahead of time for these issues before you leave.

2.       Take an updated guidebook that will tell you when sources are reliable or unreliable. For instance AWOL’s AT Guide for the Appalachian Trail tells you when source are reliable. And those not marked this way for me were dry. Also, you need guidebooks of potable sources in towns etc. On the heels of this, take a map or use a map app on your phone. Maps can identify water sources – esp. springs, streams, etc that may not be in your guidebook. Or it will let you know if a water source is flowing from a beaver pond or a field or a road, of which you then need to treat with care. It will also tell you where you might want to camp that night.

3.       Take extra water containers. When in a dry section, you may need to tote water for a considerable distance. Take extra Platypus containers, empty water bottles, etc. Adjust your pack weight and how you carry items in your pack to adjust for the extra water (a liter of water weighs about 2 lbs). 

4.       When you see a water source, fill up. Hydrate too. Check your map, if it has been very dry, you may need to err on the side of caution and take an extra few liters with you. Plan your mileage accordingly if you need to carry extra weight.

5.       Plan non cook meals. This will use less water.

      6. Make sure you have adequate water treatment (chemical, Sawyer squeeze, Steripen, Pump)

      7. If things get tough, don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor for water. Sometimes you need to do what’s safe. If all else fails and there is none, get off the trail. Better to be off and hike another day than get dehydrated or worse.

It can be tough trying plan for water conditions, esp. when there has been no rainfall. But with some planning and flexibility, you can make it through the driest of times.

Related Blogs 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Colorado Trail – Part Two – Acclimating to the Altitude

(This is a series of blogs related to a thru hike of the Colorado Trail – Durango to Denver, August 20-September 26, 2017)

I am an eastern dweller at approx. 800 feet elevation. And I am going to spend day two of my hike heading northbound on the Colorado Trail climbing to 12,000 feet. BIG difference in elevation for sure. And one I need to prep for, even as I prep for other parts of my hike gear wise, mail drop wise, etc.

So what do you do to avoid the dreaded AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness? This is a very real and potentially life threatening illness. It can begin as a headache and rapidly spread to nausea, vomiting, and other more potent symptoms.  Just this past summer a young woman died of it in Colorado. It is not something to take lightly. So whether you are planning to tackle the Colorado Trail as I did, or are considering other destinations such as the PCT, John Muir Trail, Kilimanjaro, etc. one must get ready for the change in altitude. I did a few things to prep for this all important area I know if I didn’t get a handle on it, could ruin my chances for a safe adventure.

I first scanned the Internet for altitude related articles. Some advocated a period of acclimating, that is, going to a midway altitude and adjusting. This I did by spending the first few days in Denver, Estes Park, and I also climbed a bit of the trail up Longs Peak.

The second thing I read was taking gingko biloba two weeks before the hike. This I also did and continued to take it throughout my five week journey.

Fluids is a big deal. Drink, drink, drink. Know the water and streams issue and take extra containers to carry the water you need. There are several “dry” areas on the Colorado Trail – and this I prepared for by asking fellow hikers of water conditions and using any updated info some hikers did provide on my Atlas Guide map app (many thanks to hikers Phoenix and Hippie Longstocking for valuable information on water and campsites along the CT).

The other thing I did was join the Facebook group Altitude Acclimatization. The group offered great advice on what to do. The FILES also contained important information on an altitude medicine to take. At first I wasn’t going to take it, but I decided it was a good idea. The drug Acetazolamide (or Diamox) has been used to treat glaucoma. But in small doses it is very effective in warding off AMS. I was given 125 mg tablets by my doctor. Some say to take more, some less. The dosage that worked for me is the day before beginning my ascent, I took 125 mg AM and PM. I also needed to drink a lot as this drug acts as a diuretic. Be prepared to head for the forests and fields frequently as you will urinate frequently. You keep taking it until you reached maximum altitude. On the Colorado Trail this did not happen for a week when I reached the high point at 13,000 feet. I took it for 10 days then for the last two days went down to half dosage. After about five days of taking the drug I did experience a side effect of some strange tingling in my fingers and the heels of my feet. It did not bother me, but it was noticeable. But the drug worked perfectly, I had no headaches, nausea or other symptoms of AMS.

There are of course physical aspects. Hiking at altitude can make you very short winded. While you may not be having any signs of sickness, you still need to curb your physical output to match your cardiovascular one. I found using my respirations as the guide to how fast I hiked worked well. If my breathing became labored, I slowed it down. If I needed an extra breath, I stopped and allowed my body a quick recoup. I found with this technique that even after a few days, I was able to hike farther without having to pause so frequently. In time I was also hiking quicker. Being in good physical condition beforehand helps speed this process along.  

Once I adapted, I went off the drug, continued to take in water, but had no other issues, even as I hiked between 10-12,000 feet. In time  was able to hike a fairly good pace and keep my breathing also in check.

With some careful prep ahead of time, altitude doesn’t have to be the issue that can ruin your trail experience.

Related Blogs: 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

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

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 and 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 & 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!

Related Blogs

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Colorado Trail - Part One - Preparing for the Long Distance Hike

This year I am embarking on a new long distance venture that will take me into high altitude for multiple days and away from the typical eastern US hiking trips I have enjoyed in the past.

My plan is to hike the 486 mile Colorado Trail (CT) that extends from Denver to Durango in the beautiful and wild Rocky Mountains.

Most hikers plan their trip to leave from Waterton Canyon south of Denver and hike southbound, arriving some four to five weeks later at Durango. Typically the main season begins sometime in July and ends in August. For me, since I am starting later in the season and because of possible snow in September at the higher elevations close to Durango, I am hiking northbound to Denver. This necessitates me to do more planning, such as acclimating, watching pack weight for long stretches of resupply in areas, and planning for shorter days at the onset to help me adapt to the high altitude and the stretches of tough climbing.

My planning for this trip began several months ago by joining a Colorado Thru Hiker Facebook Group. This place on social media has been an invaluable tool for the beginning steps needed to do the trail. Much information is shared—from resupply options, to acclimating (of which there is a special Facebook group specifically for that), gear, travel options, and yes, I have even met great trail angels willing to help me out on the trail. The  Colorado Trail Foundation will also email on request a list of shuttlers willing to transport you to towns or trailheads.
A Map App helps with navigation

Once the plans are made, important trail resources are needed. I downloaded the trail app from Atlas Guides (formerly Guthook). I am quite familiar with the map app on my phone, having used it successfully on the Florida Trail. Hikers have also left notes on the app for water resources and waypoints, which allows me to check on water availability late in the season. I also purchased the Colorado Trail Foundation’s data book for the trail. Both resources have proved invaluable for planning purposes. A Trail Foundation can be a wealth of information as to trail conditions – be sure to see if they have a social media group online as well, along with guidebooks and print maps. I have even called the foundation office to ask questions.

Mail Drop Prep
I then spent time gathering gear and also food and supplies for some mail drops. While the scene to the left looks a mess, maildrops give me the option to eat the foods I want while not spending valuable time trying to figure out options at a grocery store. The End to End Colorado Trail guide assists in this kind of planning.   

All these resources together, coupled with information shared from other hikers’ experiences, helps one plan the best they can for a journey into the wilds of the Rockies.

(Note – the above information can be used toward any long distance hiking trail as far as planning such as the use of social media outlets, trail foundations, guidebooks and maps)

Summary of Resources:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Don’t You Love Getting Trail Magic?

I did. 

Seeing those coolers, sitting by their lonesome, brimming with goodies just for a hard hiker like me.

But things have changed….

I have changed.


Because of this.

Bear wrecks a thru hiker tent. 2017.
And this.

I have seen gear damaged and hikers lose money by animals that have received food rewards in one form or another. Including my own tent that had nothing in it.

I have seen magic left and remnants scattered around the cooler and a half mile beyond, with cans thrown into the woods. I have seen food tied to trees, soda cans propped on the ground and cans pierced by bears’ teeth and a sign on a tree afterwards that says – Bears are active in these woods and have destroyed property.

I have seen folks think they are doing right with all the food feeds, especially down south in the early AT hiker season, but are instead contributing to a massive mentality issue currently affecting long distance hikers. The “I deserve it” mentality. The entitlement mentality. After all – “I am hiking the whole trail, I need it.” They expect people to do for them. They are of a higher class. And that mentality carries into towns and places with regulations, where ill behavior can run rampant and thankfulness and doing good to others instead of yourself is absent. Selfishness abounds. The yellow blazer class is also born with those not interested in hiking but hitchhiking from party to party or feed.  

I have worked now as a ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail and seen a lot to turn me off to food magic. This past season I had a thru hiker actually ask me – “Hey where is the trail magic around here? I haven’t had food or drink in a long time.”

I was flabbergasted.

I say to him – “There are others ways of trail magic in these woods besides food and drink.”

A sunny sky.
A pretty flower.
A trail kept free of blowdowns by a maintainer. Or a shelter that keeps out rain.
A flowing spring that is not dry.
Encouragement to a weary hiker with a kind word.
Picking up trash along the way. Even some gum wrappers will do.
Offering a ride to a weary hiker. I’ve had some even invite me into their homes. Wow
Thanking a maintainer and offering to help.

(To the trail angels that helped me so much on my treks – who offered rides and their homes and a friendly smile and encouragement – thanks)

To those that leave trail magic unattended - with coolers and bags and boxes of food sitting at a road or by the trail -

PLEASE don’t. Stay with your offerings and give them out. Meet and greet. Then remove it all when you are done. But really, consider other ways of magic instead of food. There is so much food along the AT these days – it is like a carnival from one food stop to another. The wilderness is gone. 

Instead, do other things. 

And do it expecting no thanks or rewards. The thanks is the satisfaction that you helped others and the trail. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Campfire Talk

Okay, let's talk campfire lingo. Snap. Spark. Heat. Glow. Entertainment. S'mores. People-pleaser.

Fires seem to be the mainstay of an evening sojourn in the woods. Done properly and with care, they can add to an evening. Who doesn't like to share tales around the embers? Or roast marshmellows? Or take the chill out of a cool evening?

Unfortunately, more often than not, campfires are tools of abuse. There are an overabundance of campfire pits and rings built in the woods. Sometimes they scar the beauty of rocks at an overlook or are scattered all over the forest floor. They surround a single tent platform at such close proximity, I often wonder why the occupants' tent hasn't burned. I've seen woods totally devoid of downed limbs used to replenish the soil of the woods because it's used to feed the hungry flames of a large fire.

But more often than not, campfire rings are used as garbage containers in the wild. As a ridgerunner, I have cleaned out burnt cans, paper, numerous "hobo" meal wrappers - IE foil, from the pits. Some just leave whole garbage bags in them. Some have tried to burn their trash, only to have the burnt remains littering the pit and sinking in ash. I see lots of tn cans left in there. Why do folks think a tin can burns? Others toss used toilet paper and other unsavory items into the ring. And fire pits consistently used as an ashtray where hikers leave their cigarette butts.

So if we are to salvage anything good out of having a campfire - please do the following:

- Do NOT burn any garbage!! Not a scrap. Pack it all out. If you can carry in the food wrappers, you can pack out the empty ones!! That includes the foil from the "hobo" campfire meals. Pack it ALL out.  

- Don't build new campfire rings. There are plenty to be found in preexisting campfire rings out there. Share a ring with a neighbor. Or gather around the principle campfire ring at the shelters or established campsites. Who knows - you may develop friendships for life and save the woods from another scarred campfire ring.

- When you have a campfire, keep it small. Huge bonfires risk the vegetation, can cause a forest fire if they get out of hand, sterilize and damage the surrounding soil, and eat more of the wood in the area needed to replenish the soil. Huge fires also cast annoying light and smoke on other fellow hikers and campers who may want to sleep or who don't care to light a fire. Respect your neighbors.

- Some like campfire cooking. I'm not sure I like the idea of a blackened pot to stow away in my pack. I find a canister stove works very well. I've used a pocket rocket for 7,000 miles of hiking. But if it works for you, go for it.

- The flames of a fire can be entertaining but I've seen hikers use other methods. Like a candle lantern. I saw two hikers do it and were perfectly content.

If you choose a campfire, please be responsible so others can enjoy the beauty of our woods. And be sure to put out the fire completely. DO not leave it smoldering when you go to bed at night or leave in the AM.

With care and consideration campfires can be an enjoyable part of the hiking experience.    

Related Blogs:

Plan and Prepare for that Trip

Town Etiquette for Hikers