Fulfill Your Hiking Dream! Here to help fellow hikers by offering wisdom, ideas, and lessons learned from a two-time AT North and South, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Allegheny Trail, Colorado Trail, Florida Trail, Shenandoah Nat'l Park 500 miler completions. Former AT Ridgerunner for six years, Author, Speaker on Hiking and Backpacking
has come and gone. Hard to believe. When 2017 ended, I was coming off a great
year of hiking, from the palmettos of Florida to the grand Rockies of the Colorado
Trail, plus ridgerunning in Shenandoah National Park.
2018 saw me return
to the Florida Trail to complete the 500 mile long section of the Panhandle in January
and February and thus finish the whole trail. The Panhandle section of the trail
St Marks National Wildlife Refuge
being a fascinating journey of rivers, and palmettos, of a wildlife refuge,
a boat ride, long needle pine and titi (that indicates swamp ahead) and a beach walk to its end at Fort Pickens. Then there was the multitude of trail angels
who helped me out, and especially one I now call my big sister for all we went through
together for nearly ten days as she took care of me on the trail.
The FT finish at Fort Pickens
As I write
this, hikers are gearing up for a Florida Trail adventure as the season for hiking
it spans from December to April. You can find more about the trail through the FloridaHikes!or the FTA web site, including some section wanders along it.
the night I returned from the trail I was in an auto accident that basically curtailed
any kind of lengthy backpacking for the rest of the year. I am still under care
for it, and wonder how a backpacking trip will change when I do return. But
that is what 2019 is for, I hope and pray. I am already planning a return to Florida
to complete the Blackwater section that will take me to Alabama, along with my
new big sister from February’s wander.
In July of 2019 will also
see the publication of my Florida Trail journey in "Gators, Guts, and Glory –Adventures on the Florida Trail" by WhiteFire
Publishing. Plus I have already set up for more programs at libraries about my
trail adventures. Stay up-to-date with all the happenings by signing up to receive our quarterly newsletter for
details of adventures to come and about the book’s upcoming release. See the button
on the left column of this blog site to sign up!
being a part of Blissful Hiking, and here’s to more adventures on and off the
trails in 2019.
“Do I Need to Be in Physical Shape to Hike?”- a young hiker
asked tentatively on social media.
I responded in the thread – “No. The trail will help in that.”
And was rebuked in front of all. I was informed that is bad
advice. Dangerous advice. Advice that can put that hiker in jeopardy. Make them
miserable and quit. I had no business saying that. Of course
they need to be in
the best shape they can!
I thought about that. If one needs to be in physical shape
to accomplish a trail.
I thought then about my son, a couch-type guy, in no shape
whatsoever, who did the entire Appalachian Trail with me (in fact, he wanted to
quit midway, in the best shape of his life at that point).
I thought about the seven-year-old child who has done it. I thought
about the blind person who did it, the one who has joint replacements, the 80
year old woman, the one with heart issues, cancer, or other issues, do it….
Were they physically fit?
What did they have then that physical shape did not?
The will to accomplish something great in their
I believe in the power of the mind. The will. I have seen the
powerful will overcome whatever physical limitations a body has. I have seen folks
with the drive and determination to make things happen and succeed when the odds
speak against it. I have also seen physically fit people quit because they were
mentally miserable. Multiple times.
To me - if you keep walking, it makes sense the physical
shape will come right along with it. If you stop, it won’t.
That is what I meant by saying – the trail will get you in physical
shape. “If” you keep walking.
You see, I was one of those people that was told I couldn’t
do something (both in grade school and when I was injured as an adult). I was
not in physical shape at all. I had a sports doctor tell me I’d never hike again
because of a bad ankle. It was all impossible. But I found a doctor who said I
could accomplish it. Most importantly, I had my will, my dream that I had dreamed for 30 years
to keep me going. What the body seemingly could not do, the will could. And the body followed. One way or the other. Short or long.
The Florida Trail, a flat trail - is mental!
SO I did it. The Appalachian Trail, not once but twice. The Florida
Trail. The Allegheny Trail. The Long Trail. The Colorado Trail. And yeah, I wanted
to quit. I had physical issues. Mental issues. But I rose up with prayer and
the will to do it. On some of those hikes I was in great shape when I wanted to
quit. I was miserable anyway. But the mind overcame it. I found a reason to go
Is it necessary to be in physical shape? It can’t hurt, except
if that physical shape is from bicycling or running, for sudden backpacking and carrying a load uphill can still cause
mega issues (those sports uses different muscle sets than hiking. ITB issues are
major). Cardiovascular shape can help some. But I advise getting your mind in shape
above all. And through that strong mind, you will make the right decisions so that
you ARE in the best shape to hike. You will make the right decision with planning.
Goal setting. The gear you need. Safety. Going to see the doctor and dentist too
to make sure you are set (you never want to forego annual physicals). Have the
mind ready to get up and do a hike, even in rain, sleet, snow, or when you are
hurting or feel like, why am I doing this? You will keep walking. You will get in shape because you keep walking. But most of all, you keep walking in response to the will to keep walking. Then you will see a dream reached.
That is what I feel and believe and share with others. I don’t believe it's dangerous advice. I believe it’s
victorious to achieve a dream.
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. Enjoy!
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 forhiker foodkinds 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.