Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Are You Ready to Hike? A Step by Step Process


How do you get ready physically for the demands of an extended backpacking trip? The goal of just doing a trip is the first step to starting the process.

Here are a few tips I’ve used to begin the process and get myself ready for that next great adventure.

Set a Goal

More than anything, a backpacking trip is a mental venture. You can do the physical preparedness as best you can, but it’s the enjoyment of reaching a goal and enjoying the journey that ultimately leads to success. So spend some time thinking of your hiking goals. Where do your want to go? How much time do you have to hike? Go over some trail guides and seek the advice of others as to trails that might work. Make notes on your calendar. With the goal in mind, your can now begin to work toward it. Sharing about it in social media forums helps you set the goal before you.


Getting in Shape - Diet

 If you are one of those that may need to shed a few pounds, start by choosing good foods. There is no need to do some kind of diet fad. In fact, doing and then eating junk on your hike can cause major issues.


Veggies, especially the green types, lean meats and fish, whole wheat products, and drink plenty of water are good choices. Try to cut down on refined sugary products and useless carbohydrates like white breads, crackers, muffins, things that will spike your sugar levels. Also, when you feel full, stop eating. Don’t take the second helping. Controlling portions helps. Look into intermittent fasting. A few pounds shed now is less that needs to be carried on the trip.

Getting in Shape - Physical Activity

If you have never engaged in physical activity, start slow. A walk around the neighborhood for instance. Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Park a good distance away from where your need to go and walk there instead. Walk as much as you can and slowly increase the amount of walking you do. I’ve heard of some walking up and down bleachers at school stadiums, etc. if there are no hills in your area. You can also load up a day pack and head for the hills. Every step helps.

I do day hiking in nearby Shenandoah to prepare. But any place where you can walk will do.


If you have trails to walk, try to get out on weekend and enjoy a few mile hike, increasing the mileage as time goes by. Later on, you can load up the backpack you plan to take and carry it. I’ve been seen carrying my backpack on trips around the neighborhood. I also alternate jogging with hiking or cross training. One day I'll hike 8-10 miles, the other days I am out jogging 2-3 miles. You can also alternate with other sports, like biking, swimming, etc. I have to admit I am not a treadmill person, but if this is what you have to work with, then use it. But stay as active as you can.

The Big Day Arrives!

Don’t worry if you are not in great shape. The trail will do it for you in no time. Keep your miles low and the weight in your backpack low. Start out slow. Realize that aches, pains, and blisters are all part of doing something your body is not accustomed to. You will adapt. Most of all, enjoy the journey whether on your own or with family or friends. Take lots of pictures and share about your trip. 




Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Where Should I Go? Six Things to Consider When Determining Your Hiking Trip

There are so many places. So many trails. So many adventures waiting to be had.

Lots of trails. Lots of choices. 

What to do? Where to go? 

First, take a deep breath. Yes there are lots of places to explore. Maybe this is not the year though to do the big trails. The shorter trails, even trails in your own state, can bring great satisfaction and unique experiences than just the big trails we always hear about. No one heard of the Allegheny Trail in West Virginia which I thru-hiked in the past. It doesn't get the major press and hoopla. But wow, did I learn a lot by doing it. And grew in my hiking knowledge that I can now share with others. And it ended up being the catalyst for the Florida Trail the following winter. One never knows where a hiking adventure will lead. 

My finish of the 1100 mile Florida Trail, Feb, 2018

If you are planning a big one – like a multi-day backpacking trip, take a few things into consideration in planning. Some say you can just drop everything and go. Not wise. By taking the time to think things through that maybe you hadn’t yet considered, you will be steered towards that perfect trip meant for you! And without the distractions, misplanning can cause.

1.       Time. Do you have the time to do the trip you are considering? Will you need to take vacation time from work? Or a leave of absence for a major hike? Take into consideration how long the trip will take. You won’t be able to do 20-mile days. A 50-mile trip may take you five days. Plan accordingly.

2.       Money. It takes money to do a trip. Money for gear. For traveling to and from your destination. For expenses on the hike. For paying the bills or other needs on the homefront if you will be gone for an extended period of time. Be sure there are the finances to do this. Don’t think – oh, I will earn money on the way. Or I can skimp on things along the way. Or raid hiker boxes, etc. More often than not it never works out the way you think it will in the comfort of your home. Always plan for more money than you will need. Save up and be self-sufficient.

3.       Physical State. How are you physically? It is important to know if you are able to hike safely the trip you have planned. Even weekend getaways. Carrying a backpack is not the same as walking or running. It uses muscles differently, especially bearing a full load. For instance, if you are having knee issues, it’s doubtful they will suddenly go away on a hike! So take care to get checked out by the Dr. Get fixed what needs fixing so you don’t exacerbate a condition. If you need to change shoes do so. Work on physical strengthening, etc., do it. And make sure you have the proper gear and you are not burdening yourself with lots of extra weight that can rapidly turn a trip into a grueling experience. Learn from others on what to bring and what not to bring.

4.       Social Aspects. Are you going on this hike with others or going alone? Both need planning. For instance if going with a buddy, do you both hike roughly the same pace? Can you live with that person for an extended time? If the buddy must leave the trail on a long-distance trek, can you go on alone or are you sharing gear? Decide who carries what gear or if you should carry your own (which is a better idea). If you are going solo, prepare with your safety in mind. Maps, a cell phone, a guidebook, knowledge, even some personal safety devices like the Garmin Inreach. Are you also ready mentally to spend days and nights alone? Much of this can decide the kind of trip you want to do.

5.       Gear. Do you have the gear for the season and the area you plan to hike? Research ahead of time what you are going to need to accomplish your adventure. Adequate footwear, clothing, outerwear, sleep and cookwear. The backpack. All important. But remember, gear first, backpack last. Make sure you know weather conditions ahead of time and prepare accordingly for whatever you might face.

6.       The Mental Aspects. Are you accomplishing a hike to chip off sections on the AT? Doing a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail? Or going on your first expedition? Are you seeking waterfalls or a great view? Or another hiking challenge. Whatever it is, be sure your heart and mind are into it. The mental aspect of a hike is the number one thing that can kill it altogether if you are not ready and eager to get out there and experience the lows as well as the highs. The good and the bad. All of it is a learning experience. Stay positive even in the hard stuff. Limit expectations and take it one day at a time.

By looking at these different aspects of a hiking journey, you can better prepare for the perfect trip to fulfill your hiking dream this year. 



Friday, July 01, 2022

Preparing for the Unexpected on the Trail - Review of the Jase Medical Kit

Preparing for the unexpected sounds like a misnomer. How can one prepare when you don't know what may happen? Especially in the area of medical treatment with hiking and backpacking long distances. I have already covered in a blog on first aid kits but was contacted by an interesting group of physicians that have come up with an emergency medical kit for people like us as well as travelers, etc. It is a medical kit of antibiotic treatments for emergencies, including antibiotics to treat giardia, tick-borne illness, infections--ailments that can often plague a hike. 


The Jase Medical Kit is a kit of antibiotic treatments that can be carried in the field. The kit is dispensed after a consultation with a physician online before the hike begins.
 The kit is a little green bag containing antibiotics that are prescribed for certain conditions. Those conditions are outlined in a small informative booklet included with the kit. With different types of antibiotics, some of them are well known. One of them, doxycycline, can be used to treat tick-borne illnesses and also respiratory infections, which my husband needed during a battle with Covid. Other antibiotics in the kit can deal with major infections, female vaginal issues, and Giardia or water-borne illness. 



was most impressed with the professionalism of this company when ordering this product. I was particularly impressed with how quickly they could assess my needs and then respond and mail the kit. I find this kit to be a major relief-saving factor for problems that crop up in the backpacking field. More than once I’ve suffered from an infection in my toenail and wondered what to do. I even once used some of my doxycycline, which the doctor dispensed just for tick illnesses in case I needed it, and found it worked. 


With the Jase kit, you get plenty of antibiotics that can be used for multiple purposes. 
What a great way to keep a long-distance backpacking trip going, knowing you have medications in your first aid kit that can help you when you need it most. The cost seems like a lot at first, but the antibiotics can last up to five years or even longer. Combined with the need of a doctor visit, a possible stay in town on a hike while being evaluated, and the prescription cost, the cost of this kit is cheap. To me, it's a worthwhile investment, especially in this day in age when all kinds of illnesses are rampant. Especially for us hikers, to have peace of mind when we’re on the trail and away from civilization keeps the dream of our hike alive. 

To find out more, go to Jase Medical Supplies.



Friday, May 27, 2022

The All-Important Hiker Tramily

Have you ever heard the word “Tramily”? We know, of course, our regular family, but to a hiker, Tramily means the hiker family, and a unique and special family at that.

After walking thousands of miles of trails, I am happy to say that the experiences have knitted me with many wonderful hikers that have become a “tramily”. We share our love of the great outdoors, meeting in ways we knew would never be possible if not for the trails we hike. Many times, we are out on a trail and suddenly a fellow hiker starts to show up each day. We see them at the shelter area at night or while



gathering water or at a trail intersection or in a trail town resupplying. Recently on my Pinhoti Trail hike this past spring, I had a chance to fall into company with a young hiker, Ruby. She far outdistanced me with speed and strength on the trail. But she hated hiking in rain. I usually walked in rain if I had a particular destination in mind, so we ended up seeing each other frequently. And with that, we developed a comradery that lasted off and on for a few weeks. Sadly, she eventually outpaced me and went her merry way on the Benton MacKaye Trail, but I’m thankful for the time we did spend and our many adventures. The hike on the Pinhoti also knitted me with a hiker friend I first met way back in 2007 on my first AT hike while in the Great Smoky Mountains, and because of that, we connected. I spent several days with her hiking, especially the boring road walks of the Pinhoti, and as a guest in her home.

I stay in touch with many of these great hikers through social media. But I also gather with hikers when I can to see each other face to face and share adventures over meals, workshops, and visits. This past winter, I headed for Florida for the annual Billy Goat Day 


which is actually a birthday celebration for an extraordinary hiker, Billy Goat. Now it has become a gathering for Florida Trail hikers. I see old and new faces, and we share food and conversation. After that, I was a guest speaker at the outdoor She Can Adventure Summit for women and again spent time kindling new and old friendships and sharing my love of the trails and tramily through speaking and my hiking adventure series of books.


Just recently there was the big hiker gathering in Damascus, Virginia each year called Trail Days, and again hikers by the hundreds come to see each other and have fun in the friendliest town along the Appalachian Trail.

Trails are much more than just a walk in the woods or putting on miles to reach a destination. It’s also an opportunity to meet hikers and develop everlasting friendships, making the tramily a growing part of our lives and the hiking experience.


I look forward to hearing of your tramily experience – feel free to share in a comment to the blog or use this Contact form! And If I have met you on the trail or a gathering, let me know where and when as I count you as part of the Tramily.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

NEW Series: Adventures in our National Parks - Guest Blog on Best Hikes in Mt Rainier

Blissful Hiking Adventures is proud to announce a series of blogs on great hiking, adventure, and opportunity in our national parks in the USA. 

To kick-off, we welcome Ten Adventures founder Richard Campbell with the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. Permitting for many backcountry camping and hiking in the parks begins soon. Plan your adventures now!


Must-Do Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park for Every Skill Level


Majestic Mount Rainier is the gem of Washington State, and the national park that surrounds it covers nearly 370 square miles of pristine wilderness. 14,409-foot Mount Rainier, originally named Tahoma, stands guard over the park, consisting of rolling carpets of wildflowers, old-growth forests, crystalline lakes, and rugged mountains. Mount Rainier National Park is a premier destination that sees over 2 million annual visitors. In a place like this it can be hard to choose where to start, so here are 3 exceptional hikes in the park: one for beginners, one for intermediate hikers, and one for advanced adventurers. 

Best Beginner Hike: Naches Peak Loop

When picking a hiking route for beginners, it is always best to picture the least outdoorsy person and start from there. Take into consideration how much distance and elevation gain they could realistically handle, and how good the views would have to be to make them feel like the hike was worthwhile. Ideally, you end up with a hike thats forgiving on the body but big on scenery, which is exactly what the Naches Peak Loop is.

 The Naches Peak Loop is 3.5 miles roundtrip and only gains about 500 feet of elevation, which should be within the realm of possibility for most visitors to the park. Beginning at beautiful Tipsoo Lake, the hike starts off on a high note before youve even gotten out of your car. From Tipsoo, the hike climbs to a perfect viewpoint over Dewey Lake at the midpoint. Along the way, youll be trekking through a wide sea of wildflowers with Mount Rainier standing tall right ahead of you.

 As you circumnavigate Naches Peak, the hike follows a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This gives you the opportunity to explain the trials and tribulations of thru-hiking is to your least outdoorsy friend, which is almost guaranteed to garner a hilarious reaction.

Best Intermediate Hike: Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail should definitely be considered an essential hike at Mount Rainier National Park. Yes, essential often means busy, but its worth sacrificing solitude for scenery on this route. The Skyline Trail circles the well-known and well-loved Paradise area of the park. Paradise it is indeed, with summits, wildflowers, and forests enchanting you from every angle. The hike is 5.5 miles long with about 1700 feet of elevation gain, letting you get a sweat on without being too demanding.

 The Skyline Trail begins from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. You can do the loop either way, but most people seem to go clockwise. The wildflowers are excellent in the summertime, but no matter what time of year you do this hike, youll be astounded by how close Mount Rainier seems to be. The view of the Nisqually Glacier is great, and you can see as far as Mount Hood on a clear day. This is one trail that, no matter how many times you have hiked it, will always leave you feeling as satisfied as the first time. 

Best Advanced Hike: Wonderland Trail

Something about the Pacific Northwest just makes you want to stay awhile, and Mount Rainier National Park is no exception. If youre a strong hiker and want to stretch your adventure into a backpacking trip, the Wonderland Trail is definitely one to aspire to. After all, where else to start than Mount Rainier itself? This route is 93 miles long with more elevation gain and loss than you’d care to keep track of (its about 3,500 feet per day for those who want to know what theyre getting into). Its a big trip that is only recommended for very strong hikers, but itll never leave the back of your mind after you do it. 

The Wonderland Trail encircles Mount Rainier. Starting from Longmire, there are 21 campsites,18 wilderness sites, and three non-wilderness sites to make use of along the way. While that seems like a lot, youll definitely want to sit down ahead of time to work out how far youll go each day and which camps youll need to book ahead of time. When youre actually out on the trail, the mountain will preside over you every step of the way, and youll be able to appreciate it and the surrounding park in a gradual 360-degree loop. Its unforgettable. Note, Wonderland Trail campsites require a reservation which can be difficult at times to get. The process begins in late February. 


As the foundation document for the park reads, The purpose of Mount Rainier National Park is to protect and preserve unimpaired the majestic icon of Mount Rainier, along with its natural and cultural resources, values, and dynamic processes. The park provides opportunities for people to experience, understand, and care for the park environment, and also provides for wilderness experiences and sustains wilderness values.Doesnt that speak to you? Take those opportunities and enjoy every second of them. No matter how many miles youve made in the past, theres beauty for you to find in Mount Rainier National Park.

Check out Ten Adventures for more hiking information, resources, and trips.

Listen to Blissful Hiking Adventures Podcast on hiking in our National Parks!



Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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 odor-proof liner like an Loksak Opsak. Check out the Bear facts of the Trail blog for tips on handling black bear encounters. Don't be afraid to be aggressive though if bears are sighted near the shelter and tenting areas. Shout, bang pots, throw rocks, bark loudly like a dog (which works very well. There are 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 make 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 these 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 and be sure your furry pal also wears blaze orange. 

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
Colorado
New Hampshire
CNN's take Includes Virginia



Sunday, May 09, 2021

A thru hike of the Benton MacKaye Trail!


Blissful is proud to announce the accomplishment of a thru hike along the Benton MacKaye Trail! Blissful began the journey in late March and finished April 16th. The hike began near the base of Springer Mtn and wound its way through the northern Georgia mountains, fording creeks, hiking up and down many "lumps" as Blissful coined them, some gaining elevation to near 5,000 feet until linking again with the Appalachian Trail and onward through the southern Smokies. Blissful enjoyed tremendous scenery, vistas, challenges in good ascents and descents, river crossings that were swift and slippery, 


emerging wildflowers in the spring season, and exploring the past mountaineers that once made the vast Smokies their home. 



If you are interested in this trail, find out more through the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and visit Blissful's trail journal (link below) that explores the day by day journey along this 287 mile trail. 


Hiking Journal

Blissful Hiking Adventures Podcast

Books

Amazon - Florida Trail

Amazon - Appalachian Trail

Monday, February 08, 2021

Hiking in the Winter

Winter snow and ice on the Pocosin Hollow trail in Shenandoah National Park
A day hike in the winter can be a wonderful experience. Cold, brisk days. Outstanding views you can’t see in the summer. No insects. Few visitors. Ice sculptures on cliff faces and waterfalls.

But it also requires careful planning so it becomes an experience to treasure and not to dread. Winter hiking usually involves winter travel. That means walking on snow and ice. In normally warmer climates, when winter precipitation falls, snow can thaw then melt, making for icy travel (such as in Shenandoah National Park where I just walked an eight mile circuit hike in snow and ice). Snow walking can easily sap your strength quicker than you realize. It’s important when planning a day hike to use wisdom for calculating time and distance. Don’t be afraid to limit your hike for the day. It’s better to walk the trail and return safely with limbs intact than try for a higher mile day, slip due to fatigue and sprain an ankle or worse.



When walking on snow and ice, some sort of traction device on your feet is wise and makes for better assurance on the trail. Yaktrax work well in snowy conditions. Microspikes (such as Kahtoola) are useful in steeper and icier terrain. When walking in snow, use trekking poles to help with balance and give support in icy spots or over stream crossings. Take care that sometimes snow will cover rocks and logs in the path that could trip you up. Also, you are working ligaments and tendons much more in snow. Don’t overdo it or it can set you up for overuse injury such as straining a calf muscle, overworking the arch in your foot, or putting a strain on the Achilles tendon. It's also a good idea to use gaiters to keep snow and ice out of your boots. Once inside your boot, the snow can chill your feet and even cause frostbite and blister issues.

If you are contemplating a winter hike, be sure you carry necessary gear in a sturdy daypack. Typical gear includes warm clothing (hat, gloves, insulated jacket, a pair of silk long johns can add warmth under clothing with minimal weight, a wind jacket helps break a cold wind or bring a rain jacket), a first aid kit, a headlamp (there is much less daylight in winter), maps, food and water, and a charged cell phone. Be sure to let someone on the homefront know where your will be and how long you will be gone.
Winter view from Hightop Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park

With just a few safety measures, winter hiking can be a great experience.



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