Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Appalachian Trail Section Hike – PA and NJ

Continuing my endeavor to complete my third finish of the AT, which began many years ago and because of other trails like the Arizona and Pinhoti. had been put on hold until now. This journey saw me hike from Palmerton, PA, to High Point State Park in NJ, approx 70 miles.

 Day One 

The climb up from Palmerton was just as beastly as I remember. Hand over hand with cliffs jutting out. It didn’t help that several day hikers turned around, unable to make it. I almost lost it and found it extremely nerve-wracking. At least I remembered some tough stuff in the Catskills and finally discovered a side route around one challenging cliff. But found a way through it and kept going


Day Two

Wet, wet. It didn’t help that I had no sleep last night because of a search and rescue around my tent site (I found out later the guy was deceased in his tent probably about a mile from me !). Drones flew overhead and two separate rescuers and a dog showed up at my tent.

It was wet, cold with a cold wind today. Got down to Wind Gap and got a hotel room, the best decision I made. Having a nice Christian lady as the Uber driver who also prayed for me was a nice added bonus.


Day Three

The sun made an appearance, but it took most of the day to show up. Very glad it cleared overnight with a nice wind and a dry tent. Rocky at times.

 Day Four

6-mile hike into Delaware Water Gap for the night. The church hostel here has been going for many many years serving hikers. Lots of love. The post office here was a gem and helped mail home gear I inadvertently had left in the bottom of my pack from a cabin trip last week. And didn’t want to carry anymore lol. Stuffed myself with the Stromboli pizza and then headed to the hotel for the night. Seeing February thru hikers now.

 Day Five & Six

A very warm day to cross into New Jersey and onward into the hills. The rocks continued as well as in Rocky ledges. Nothing too difficult though. A rabbit and snake greeted me at Sunfish Pond.Nice campsite at Mohican Trail Center and a blueberry lemon cookie that was out of this world. They even made me veggie smoothie that felt good after an 80-degree hiking day.

The next day had nice views from the rocky ridge walk. New Jersey has some nice viewpoints. Just be on the lookout for snakes.  

Day Seven & Eight

Wet, wet yet again. But the sun came out for my ending pint at High Point State Park for this section. Hope to return in July.






Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Arizona Trail - Part Two

 Late September saw my return to the Arizona Trail to finish this 800-mile adventure that began in the spring in Mexico. This time I would start the adventure at the Utah border and head south, some 450 miles, back to Roosevelt Lake where I ended in mid-April after completing 350 miles. This type of trek is commonly referred to as a "flip-flop" thru-hike. 

I began in Utah and traversed some lovely country to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that netted me my first and only snowfall of this section - just a dusting - and lovely aspens turning into their famous golden color for the arrival of autumn.

Next up was the rim-to-rim venture of the famous Grand Canyon. We had excellent weather for it and blessedly not too hot on the canyon floor as temps can soar into the 90s and above. The early summer and late fall are excellent times to do it. If staying in the canyon, backcountry permits are required.

Crossing the Colorado River was a joy. As was meeting all sorts of friendly folks on the Bright Angel Trail - our chosen route due to lack of water. 

Afterwards, I headed out for eight days to Flagstaff, with fairly tame trail. But I had run-ins with prescribed burning and other wildfires that made life interesting on the trail and made it a first for me, walking by active burns. 

Eventually, the trail took me off the Colorado Plateau that I'd been hiking on for miles and into the mountain ranges that offered challenges in climbing, negotiating rocky paths, but providing stunning views including my final destination to complete the trail at Roosevelt Lake.

The Four Peaks Wilderness provided some of my more challenging times, outside my snowy descent off Miller Peak back in March.

But the conclusion of a major trail in one year, and a National Scenic Trail at that, made it all worth it. 



Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Arizona Trail - Part One

 Hiking the Arizona Trail was a totally unique experience in the realm of hiking. I’d hiked over 10,000 miles, mostly in the East, but Arizona was the farthest west I’d traveled for a trail. Here are some practical observations after hiking 350 miles of it from mid-March to mid-April, beginning at the border and hiking to Roosevelt Lake.

The border. I hiked down to the border with a friend and was glad I did. There was plenty of action. The Miller Peak area can be very active with border hoppers - wearing camo and day packs or wrapped in blankets and wearing Converse sneakers in the snow. Most are carrying gallon jugs. Try to hike the mountain in one day, esp. if it's foggy (like it was for me). Keep an eye on your surroundings at all times. Don't linger. Try to get a very early start and hike the border and Miller in one long day. 

Gates abound on the trail. I probably opened at least fifty of them and all with different mechanisms. Most of the trail lies within pastureland, even though it’s desert and cattle are grazing, so opening and closing gates are part of the experience. And get along with the cows. They are on the trail. I sang a song. “Oh, the hiker and the cows shall be friends” (from te movie Oklahoma! - lol). It worked well.

Learn how to get water. 

Of course, we hikers expect streams and creeks, which there are some on the Arizona Trail. But many times water is found in unexpected places, such as troughs, storage bins, water collection devices from rain - of which they are installing several on the trail - and other places. I carried two different methods of purifying (Sawyer and Aqua Mira) as some cow ponds for water are - yes, cow ponds, dung and all. And yeah, you will camp among the cow pies. It happens. 

There are a few water caches for hikers. Which is very much appreciated. But do not rely on them. Ever. What gallons may be there on the Far Out app can disappear in just a day or two with hiker bubbles. Don't be caught dry.

The air in Arizona is very dry so it’s vital to maintain hydration. Your skin dries out, your mouth dries out, and your nasal passages bleed easily. Many hikers complained of nausea. It’s vital to maintain hydration and to also take electrolytes, which I never used to do but now am a firm believer. You also must use sun protection. Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, long hiking shirts. Your skin is susceptible to sun poisoning. Keep it covered. Seek shade as best you can when resting. Do not sit and rest in the sun. And hydrate, hydrate.

I was amazed by the variety of foliage on the trail during this first half – but mostly prickly and burning. Even the trees. A good first aid kit and knife with tweezers are a must out there because you’ll get embedded thorns and other issues. And some of those thorns get easily infected. Make sure you remove them. If you set down your hiking poles and then pick them up, watch hitchhiker thorns. Be ever careful of thorns when setting up your tent and using an inflatable sleeping pad. I carried a thin ensolite foam pad to protect my main pad from prickers. But my inflatable seat cushion didn't make it. 

Walking in sandy soil for miles is tough on your feet, so blister protection is vital. And carry enough socks.

The Arizona Trail is not blazed. It is navigable through rock cairns, which are all over the place, esp in gorges, scattered signage, and following the trail on the Far Out app on your cell phone. At times small signposts let you know where the trail is at or small AZT markers.  But I got lost in a few places. And I followed lots of footsteps, except if they went in the wrong direction, like atop a snowy Mica. I also carried the Garmin Inreach mini, esp in part two of the hike, and was glad I did. Loved ones could follow my progression, and in case of rescue, I was covered.

There are places you need reservations and backcountry permits. Like Saguaro National Park. And of course, Grand Canyon when you get there. Plan accordingly. Both national parks though are great working with hikers doing the AZT.

This trail is not cheap. From air travel to shuttles to mailing food drops and town stops, along with gear, it’s expensive. Plan accordingly.  

Along the Arizona Trail in March, one can go from snow to hot desert. You need to be prepared for anything from the 20s all the way up to the 80s, requiring a variety of gear.  I did carry EXO spike traction devices for snow which were only good in the morning when the snow was firm. Slushy snow which I had on Miller Peak causes you to slip and fall which I did multiple times. One hiker actually lost his sleeping pad off the mountainside because of a fall. 

2023 was an extreme challenge in the weather because of all the high snow levels, so I actually hiked the trail in two sections. But because of those high snow levels, hikers bubbled up into groups, and we got to know each other. The Arizona Trail ended up being much more of a thru hiker type atmosphere like the AT - moreso than any other trail I’ve been on in recent years. And I’ve been on a lot of different trails. So it was nice to have that feel of an AT community in hiker towns like Kearny, and other places. Trail angels abound, and there is a good Facebook group to connect. And it was fun running into hikers along the way. We are all out there in it. We’re experiencing the different parts of the trail. It’s highs and lows. And learning from it is always the hallmark of a hike.

Friday, March 03, 2023

The Pinhoti - Alabama and Georgia's Long Trail

The Pinhoti Trail is a 337-mile trail starting at Flagg Mountain Alabama in the southern Appalachians

and extending up into Georgia to meet up with the Benton McKaye Trail. It is also part of the Eastern Continental Trail or ECT that spans from the Keys in Florida all the way up to the International Appalachian Trail or IAT. I've had the opportunity to hike a good deal of the ECT, of which the Pinhoti is a part, from the Florida Trail down in Big Cypress, Alabama and Georgia on the Pinhoti, heading along the Benton McKaye trail or BMT, and linking with the Appalachian Trail which I’ve done twice. 

The Pinhoti Trail is managed by many volunteers in conjunction with the Pinhoti Trail Alliance. There you can find links to hiking the trail, including shuttles and hostels along the way - of which there are several. 

Relaxing at the Hearn Inn

The most famous and robust one and a great advocate for the trail is the Pinhoti Outdoor Center, which helps with shuttles and has a hostel for hikers. You'll also want to download the FarOut app for your phone which now includes the Pinhoti Trail and provides an invaluable resource for all trail info, campsites, water sources, town info, etc.

The trail itself is divided into sections, some of which include fairly lengthy road walking. 

Road walk and the familiar turkey blaze for the trail

I did this trail last year in March and found it to be a very interesting trail. The weather was good as far as it wasn’t too hot or buggy. But I did have to contend with several severe weather situations, being springtime. Having adequate rain gear and plans for dealing with weather and raging creeks is a good idea. The Pinhoti Trai Alliance has a downloadable data booklet that gives ideas for navigating flood waters should the need arise.  

Roaring water after rain. There are several hazardous crossings

The road walks were not as obnoxious as they could’ve been because I was used to it from the Florida Trail. But for those not used to hiking by way of roads, this can sometimes be a difficulty. In Georgia, I did much of the road walking on a Sunday and this helped with traffic.

The trail does have a few trailside shelters. 

There are several good places to stay along the way as well as places re-supply. I had the opportunity to stay with several good friends in the Georgia section of the trail, which allowed me the opportunity to do some slackpacking and helped a knee condition that sprouted from doing too many road miles ( I think from now on, 20-mile days are out)

Along the trail in Georgia

I recommended the Pinhoti Trail for its diverse beauty and mountains that do exist in Alabama. And there are hikers now that are doing it in conjunction with the AT in what’s being called the Bama to Baxter thru-hike.

Cheaha State Park - the highest point in AL

  At the  Border of AL and GA

The Finish 


Check out my Florida Trail Blog

Saturday, January 07, 2023

My 5 Nonessential Essentials in a Winter Hiking Trip

While trudging along the trail this past week, enduring frigid temps with cold winds that cut through even my heavyweight Polartec fleece, I thought about those things that some may not consider essential but you are sure to find in my pack on a winter hiking trip.

1. Cell Phone - an important tool especially if the trip goes wrong. Doubles as a camera, too, if you happen across the icy spectacle worth making a memory.

2. Chapstick – Oh yes, that tiny little tube of wonder that keeps your lips from drying and then cracking when you near the end of your journey, smiling from a great wander. Sore lips are no fun, especially if afterward you plan to stop at the taco joint. OUCH

3. A Seat Pad – once a luxury item, maybe a HUGE necessity when you plan to stop for a break or lunch and find the rocks covered in snow. Or even sitting in the cold on an ice-cold rock just makes you downright chilly. Thermarest and other brands make nice lightweight options to keep your tushy from freezing on a break.

4. Traction devices like Yak Trax or Microspikes.  I can’t begin to say the number of times I have begun a trail without anything on the ground, only to hike higher in elevation into unexpected snow and ice. Traction devices have saved a hike, turning what would have been a treacherous journey into an enjoyable, confident, and safe excursion.

Unexpected icy trails - Yaktrax or similar helps the trek

5. Wind shirt – While pricey at times, this ultralight garment is truly a necessity when the winter winds whip up, cutting right through your Polartec fleece or merino wool top. It provides just what you need to block the wind and keep you warm.

Your turn – what are your nonessential essentials?

Be sure to also check out my blog on Day Hiking in Winter

Other related blogs:

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Lessons Learned from an October Section Hike on the AT – Damascus to Bland

(Repost of a section hike and lessons learned)

Continuing my third round of completing the Appalachian Trail with a lengthy hike of over 120 miles. My only catch this time is I had eight days to complete it. Thus it required me
The climb north to Buzzard Rock yields a great view
to do heftier miles for longer periods of time (averaging 15 miles) and without rest. It also occurred during a drought time on the trail which has seen little in rainfall.

Water Issues. I talk about this issue in another blog, but my trip required a good idea of reliable water locations. I carried the guidebook pages and maps. I did ask hikers along the way what water was available and most had a hard time remembering. But what I did hear at least boosted my confidence that there was fairly adequate water availability.

Most bridges went over dry areas unless they were bigger creeks
Murky Water sources. The evening of Day One saw me camped by a black pond as my water source. In all the miles I have hiked, I have never had to pre filter water. But in this case it was a must to avoid the sediment clogging my Sawyer filter. I took a bandana (glad I had two with me for this hike!) and ran the water through. The bandana worked perfectly to collect the dark sediment. I then filtered the water through the regular Sawyer filter. While the water was still discolored, it was free of particles and treated.

Elevation and Weather. It pays to know the weather ahead of time. The hike began in summer-like
Snow and cold wind on Chestnut Knob
70s but I knew at the end I would face cold conditions. What I didn’t count on also was snow on Chestnut Knob! SO I had both extremes, warm and snow in a week section hike. Be sure to check the weather up to the minute and prepare for weather extremes, taking into account the elevation in which you will be hiking. I felt weird carrying cold weather gear at first, esp. with hikers bouncing along with light packs for the summer temps, but at the end of the week, I used everything I had and glad I packed what I did.

Other Hikers. I must say, on this trip I met the friendliest hikers out there. Everyone greeted me. I saw lots of southbound thru-hikers also as they are heading for final destination of Springer Mtn in GA, only weeks away (and boy were they happy!). It was great to see such a collection of friendly hikers out there enjoying the trail. The only issue I saw among most – no one was wearing blaze orange!!

Animals. In this section of trail it is not so much the bears but ponies and longhorn cattle! In several instances, the cattle stood directly on the trail. The horns were quite intimidating, I must say. I did

what I usually do with bears, talked to them like my dogs in a confident manner and they thankfully moved. But it was still nerve-wracking.

Overuse. Because of the persistent high miles over rough terrain, I am now nursing a fairly bad anterior tibial tendonitis on my right leg. Even after four days of basically no walking t is still bothering me. So the rule is – don’t overdo or you will suffer the consequences! And that is something I ought to know by now! Check out tips on my Overuse blog.

Sunset at Thomas Knob Shelter

Observations and Lessons Learned on Section Hikes Series:

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

2024 Trail Festivals and Conference Schedule

Upcoming Hiking Events, Trail Festivals, and Gatherings 
for 2024

Appalachian Trail Gateway -Formally the Kick-Off,  First weekend in March, Dawsonville, GA

AT Flip Flop Festival, Harpers Ferry, WV, in mid-April

Trail Days, May 17-19th, Damascus Virginia

Loudoun AT Festival, June 8th, Old Stone School, Hillsboro, VA

The Gathering, ALDHA, Oct 11-14 in Abingdon, VA 

Check back for more events.

Feel free to e-mail at blissfulhiking(at)gmail(dot)com or comment with any other festivals that should be included.

Dreaming, Planning, Hiking, and Finishing an Appalachian Trail Thru-hike

Blissful Hiking Adventure celebrates fifteen years with a new episode on the Blissful Hiking Adventures Podcast Network

Episode Seven - Dreaming, Planning, Hiking and Finishing an Appalachian Trail thru-hike - A 15-year Anniversary

Blissful the Hiker reminisces about her dreams of hiking the entire AT beginning as a teen and waiting thirty years for its fulfillment. She recalls the many twists and turns to get to that moment, and then the twists and turns of hiking the trail with a teenage son. 

Hear it all on the podcast. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

15 year Anniversary of a Northbound Completion - Fun Facts!

Mt Washington fun fact - I have climbed this peak four times.

Celebrating 15 Years!

It's hard to believe that we began this adventure on an early spring day on March 5th and finished on September 18, 2007. To commemorate the event, Blissful shares fun facts and tidbits from the journey.

Northbound Georgia to Maine
Average Miles per Day
Average Miles per Hiking Day
Average Miles per Week
Number of days in Trail Towns
Number of nights in a Shelter
Number of nights in a Tent

Number of nights in a Hotel
Number of nights in a Hostel
Number of nights in a House
Number of Day Hikes
Longest Day
Shortest Day
Number of Days over 20 Miles
Number of Days between 15-20
Number of Days between 10-15
Number of Days between 5-10
Number of Days between .1-5

"What was the Toughest Day on the AT?" For me, the day after I was sick with norovirus all night at Lakes of the Clouds hut in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That ten-mile trek over the Presidential Range did me in. At Osgood tentsite, I collapsed and didn't move. My teen dude did it all -set up the tent, cooked, everything. 

"Did You See any Animals?"  A big 300-pounder bear in PA, and snakes galore. Not much, surprisingly. 

"Did We Ever Get Lost?" Yup. One day Paul Bunyan was lost for over five miles in Maine. He finally got a ride back to the real Appalachian Trail after realizing he was on a logging road going nowhere. He did not get into camp until 9 PM. Talk about one worried Mom!

"Did We Ever Want to Quit?" Sure. Me, in the Smokies. Paul Bunyan in PA. Paul Bunyan’s motivation was food. Pizza and a milkshake helped in PA. As did a kind caretaker who opened the concession stand in a park on a very hot day and got us cold sodas. For me, it was the friendly face of a fellow hiker with a Georgia twang who befriended me in the Smokies and kept me going.

"What Was our Favorite Trail Town?" I loved Gorham. After the rigors of the White Mountains going north and before the challenging Mahoosuc region, Gorham falls right at the place where one needs some rest and food. A bus out to the store made it easy to resupply. And friendly folks were there for transportation. Paun Bunyan even got a lift to visit an amusement park. 

Paul Bunyan Enters Hot Springs, NC

For Paul Bunyan, his favorite place was Hot Springs. Why? – “The people, the cool hostel we stayed at, and just the idea of walking into town, smelling like funk, but being welcomed as friends,” he says. That and I gave him spending money, and he loved it. 

My Favorite Food? On my northbound hike, I loved the pizza we got at the Mohican Trail Center and the turkey dinner with all the trimmings in Gorham.  

You can check out the Trail Journal Online

OR better yet - Discover it all in the Book where you can read about north AND south adventures in one easy place!


In Print - Amazon and Barnes and Noble

E-book - Kindle  (only $4.99!)