Sunday, March 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 Others
Need 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!


Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Virus Thing and Hiking – 8 Ways to Protect Yourself and Others

UPDATE - as of 3/26/20 things have changed on many trails. Many areas are closed off to hikers or to camping altogether. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to forgo any kind of hiking on the AT right now. Please consult the local, state and federal areas for these closures and please obey the regulations. Change your hiking plans. A thru hike can still be accomplished in a calendar year by some creative ways once the emergency is over. Be flexible, and most importantly, don't give up on your dream!

Every year viruses do plague the trails, esp the AT which comes down with its annul norovirus bug every spring. So of course hikers are going to wonder whether the Coronovirus will hit too.

First off, be sensible and take simple steps to safeguard yourself and those around you. A good hike in the woods is actually therapeutic for the mind and body. Cardiovascular exercise makes you feel good and releases good hormones like endorphins. Fresh air and getting away from crowds are other good things.
But be sure to follow some simple, common sense steps as there are other hikers out there and towns are also on a hiker’s list of stops for resupply. But right now avoid the heavily used areas. Seek other lesser known trails. Seek solitude. And hang in there. This too shall pass.

1.       Carry hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol on the trail but handwash as much as possible in towns.

Practice social distancing on the trail at all times.

2.      No staying in shelter areas. Some areas like on the AT are closed to backcountry camping too. Plan ahead and avoid closed areas. Have guidebooks and maps to tell you where campsites are if it is allowed.

3.       NO sharing of food at any time. Do not take food from hiker boxes. Plan accordingly so you have enough food for your hike. As resupply is limited in some towns, do mail drops.

4.       When in town, avoid communal and gathering areas. A motel room or a separate room when offered at hostels might be good for now (though many hostels are now closed. Budget your money so can prepare to spend a little extra for a single room. Hand wash frequently and use your hand sanitizer in town. Call ahead with hostel and other providers to see if they are open (many are not).

5.       It may be hard to find rides (hitchhike) right now as people may be reluctant to pick up hikers. Plan to walk or call for a shuttle. Budget to pay for the shuttle rides. Call ahead on shuttles though as some providers are canceling services for now.

6.       If you hear in the trail grapevine there is sickness ahead, avoid staying in the affected area by slowing down or speeding up.  Carry extra food in case you must spend extra time on the trail and can’t get to town right away.

7.       Carry good foods to eat (less of the empty sugars, etc), Vitamin C tabs, Zinc. Get enough rest. And watch the alcohol, etc.

8.       If you feel sick and especially have the norovirus or a fever, get off the trail and stay away from others. Know the symptoms of each type of virus. (Noro for instance is the stomach bug with runs and vomiting. Coronovirus is a fever and dry cough with chest irritation. The common cold is a sore throat and runny nose and usually no fever). if you exhibit signs of the virus, you MUST quarantine immediately. - Best bet right now is to avoid a backpacking trip and go when it's safe.

   Related Links:  The Virus and Maildrops

      Need 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!

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   

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

My Gear Favs 2019

Here are some of Blissful Hiking's favorite gear picks - I STILL love this stuff...
And a series of great adventures on our National Scenic Trails! :)

(NEW!) Sea to Summit Ether Light Insulated Sleep Pad - Check out a full review of it on SectionHiker. Nice pad, very comfy, sleeps a bit cold though compared to Neoair.

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.

National Scenic Trail Adventures - for the Wanderer in All of Us!

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.


Dreaming of a great winter hiking in the Florida Sunshine among the Palms and Palmettos, and yeah, the Gators? Check out Gators, Guts, and Glory! An adventure on the wild side!


Friday, October 25, 2019

Holiday Hiking Challenge

The Blissful Hiking Fall/Holiday newsletter is out! 

Looking for a challenge? 
Tremper fire tower

In this edition we share some unique challenges - like the Catskill fire tower challenge and the challenge of a new wander in a different type of climate and terrain - the Florida Trail! 

Hunting safety issues for the hiker are reviewed. And we can’t forget a good Thanksgiving dinner trailside. 

Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail

After all – we should give thanks every day for our great trails and the people who give so much to maintain them. 

Read all about this and more as well as catch up on past issues. 

The sun sets on the Florida Trail

Don't miss an issue! Subscribe to the newsletter!

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

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

Fall is here and yes, with the lack of rain, water can dry up.

Here are some reminders on what you can do when water is low on the trail -

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 also institute burn bans 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, business, even a home 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, especially when there has been no rainfall. But with some planning and flexibility, you can make it through the driest of times.

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