Archive | March 2016

5 Tips For Hiking

download (39)1. A GOOD MAP STUDY – Start your trip weeks or days prior to hitting the trail. You don’t have to have an exact grid coordinates for where you will camp, but knowing the general area will make the entire trip easier and more comfortable. Buying large general maps and detailed topographic maps of the area will allow you to determine the large general area and then pinpoint the area in which you will hike and camp. These maps will show you which trails you can use, bodies of water, terrain features, elevation lines, etc. Just looking over the map for 15 -20 minutes will help you tremendously. Not knowing your cardinal directions and general land features can turn a causal relaxing hike into a survival situation. Although many people might consider it cheating, a GPS is also a great way to prepare for your trip. A GPS can download topographic maps and do most of the work for you, but don’t rely on them. Every form of technology will eventually fail, and it will probably happen when you need it most.

2. STUDY WEATHER CONDITIONS – I can’t emphasize enough how important this step is. Countless times I have watched the weather change dramatically from a sunny day, to dropping 20-30 degrees with a storm rolling in, before you have time to prepare. At a minimum, look at the weather forecast for the days in which you are on trail, but don’t rely on that forecast. Weathermen are the only people in the world who can fail at their job everyday and not get fired, so do your own secondary research. Determine where the weather reader station is located. Sometimes these weather reading stations may be 20 miles away from your campsite and at a totally different elevation. Elevation and terrain play a major role in changing weather conditions. You may be fine camping in 40 degree weather at 10,000 feet nestled in the tree line with zero wind. However, a camper a 1/2 mile away on the other side of the mountain, may have set up camp at 11,000 feet out of the tree line and directly in the path of 30 mph winds. (Temperatures decrease 3.3 degrees when it’s overcast and 5.4 degrees when its clear for every thousand feet gained and the windchill will always drop the temperature.) Also, try looking up old archives and averages of weather in the area for the time of year you will be visiting. This will help you determine if you need to bring that extra layer of clothing or an extra liter of water. By studying your map, choosing a good campsite, and understanding the weather where you are camping, you will be more prepared and comfortable.

3. MAKE A LIST OF ITEMS TO BRING – Everyone has the intention of packing light, but ends up with everything but the kitchen sink. The fist step in taking as little as possible is to buy a smaller pack than you think you may need. If you read a guide book that says you need a 60 liter pack, buy or bring a 50 liter pack. Second, make a list of all the camping, survival, and modern amenities you want to bring on the trip. Third, go down that entire list two or three times and try to remove 2 items each time. Depending on the trip, you can more than likely leave home without several items on your list. You may think it is impossible to leave home without water, food or shelter, right? Well if you plan accordingly you can leave it all behind. Now I’m not saying to run out into the wild with only the clothes on your back and a knife in your teeth, but I am trying to save you from carrying unnecessary pounds. Items like water, food, and shelter may already be on the trail if you use a little ingenuity. Collect fresh water from lakes or creeks and catch fish for dinner ever night!

4. DETERMINE PACK LAYOUT – The perfect pack layout can only be determined by you, and you alone. Once you have narrowed down the exact items for your trip, start mixing and matching where they fit best and try on your pack each time. I have never packed my bag right on the first try. Try turning the lights off and test the difficulty of finding essential items in the dark. Can you find your extra batteries in the dark when your headlamp goes out? Plan for the worst, know your gear, and your backpacking trip will be that much more enjoyable.

Of course there is the tried and tested way to pack, but each person has a different pack, different physical fitness level, skill level and body type. What works for the best hiker in the world may not work for you. Get out and test your pack loaded up before a long hike. I follow the basic routine of lightweight items at the bottom (sleeping bag), heavy items in the middle (tent, water) and medium to lightweight items at the top (camp stove, ground pad).

5. TEST AND MAINTAIN EQUIPMENT – Multiple times on trail I’ve come across someone or been the one with a broken backpack strap, an empty canister of cooking fuel, or a broken tent pole. Sometimes these events can’t be avoided and it adds to the fun/challenge of the adventure. But most of the time, they are due to poor planning, and not testing your equipment prior to getting out on trail. Every essential item such as your CamelBak, cooking stove, tent poles and backpack straps must be checked prior to any hike. Checking your CamelBak for leaks, making sure your stove works, checking tent poles for cracks/bends, and checking backpack straps for wear and tear can eliminate the risk to discovering these issues on trail. Not only is checking and testing your gear important, but maintaining is even more essential. Every time after that long weekend in the wild, I just want to throw my pack down and crash on the couch. But being lazy now, and not taking 30 minutes to air out and clean your gear can spell disaster for your next trip. Items hold in moisture and dirt which can turn into mildew and ruin your gear, costing you money, time and comfort. Rinse out items like your CamelBak and cooking equipment, and dry out your tent and sleeping bag. You will be thankful at the start of your next trip.

Extra Tip: BRING SMALL COMFORTS OF HOME – Each time you step out into the unknown it should be a life changing, learning, and memorable experience you enjoy. If you aren’t having fun then you need to change some things up. You don’t have to live off the land or not shower for weeks to feel like you are one with nature. Small amenities from home can mean all the difference. Items I always pack include a small containers with a few different spices, a lemon for flavoring on fresh caught fish, and a small cup of pre-made buttered rice or vegetables. These items can make a huge difference in your on trail meal. If you have a vice, don’t choose this hike to quit or you will never want to go back. If you are a smoker, addicted to chocolate, or sour patch kids like myself, make sure you bring them along. Smokers just pack out your butts, no one behind you wants to see that in nature and the risk of starting a fire is also a reason to be cautious. Get creative and mix your sweets into your trail mix. Bring some flavored Gatorade or tea packets to mix with the clear fresh mountain water. Whatever your heart desires, bring it with you to make an enjoyable hike into the wild that much more enjoyable.

 

This entry was posted on March 24, 2016 and tagged .

10 Items You Should Leave Behind to Make Your Pack Lighter

images (14)1 – Leave Water Behind

Water is essential to all life, but just one gallon weighs 8 pounds. If we plan to head out into the wild, we don’t have to bring that store bought bottled water with us. Where do you think that clean crisp bottled water comes from? It comes from wild springs and clean mountain creeks. If we are in an area with plenty of fresh water, we can ditch that bottled water and save several pounds. Maybe you aren’t sure if the water is drinkable in the area you’re hiking, but you know there is water in the area. Bring a water pump or water purifier you can easily pick up at your local outdoor store, and it weighs much less than a gallon of water. Using snow for water is another easy technique. You can collect snow in your cooking stove and melt it to make drinkable water. If you are going to use this technique, you need to make sure you have just enough water to coat the bottom of your cooking stove or it will burn the snow and the stove.

2 – Leave Food Behind

Another essential to life is food! Once again, a good understanding of the area you are in will make all the difference. Every time I go out, I pack in a few meals and plan to catch or harvest a few on trail. Packing in Mountain House meals can also add up very quickly. One mountain house can weigh nearly 6 ounces. If you eat three meals a day over a weekend camping trip, that can add up to almost 3 pounds of food! Catching fish, trapping wildlife, or harvesting berries/nuts can go a long way. Study your map for good fishing locations. A simple 30 dollar pole and reel can catch more than enough fish to sustain your appetite. Study the local plants in the area and determine which ones are edible and which ones are in season. Eating what mother nature provides, makes us feel amazing, and one with nature.

3 – Leave Shelter Behind

The last of the BIG 3 essentials for sustaining life is a shelter. Depending on the quality and material of the tent you own, it could weigh as much as 5 pounds! I’ve personally seen people hike in 8, 6, and 4 person tents and only sleep 1 or 2 people in the tent. All that extra tent is just pounds for you to carry. Maybe you have some 600 dollar, state of the art, one person tent that weighs two pounds right? Start thinking of some options to ditch that expensive tent. An item like a Bivy Sack, is a good alternate to tents and still gives us shelter but for almost no weight. If you are really getting adventurous, bring a tarp or hammock to string up from tree to tree. If we want to harness our inner Mick Dodge, and the area permits, we can make our own forest shelter. This can be really fun if you have kids, they will really get into making a fort/shelter for the night. But remember to rip it down after, in order to Leave No Trace.

4 – Leave the cooking stove Behind

A cooking stove is one item I love to bring, but it can be completely obsolete if you are permitted to have fires. First you need to check the area in which we are camping. We may need a stove to cook our fish or boil water, if camp fires aren’t permitted. Some people don’t care about a hot meal before bed, and living off trail mix and beef jerky for a weekend should be an easy alternative. For most of us the camping stove is a major part of making the outdoors comfortable. If you’re like me, and you need that warm meal before the lights go out, start practicing cooking over an open flame. Making an adequate cooking fire and hiking a simple cooking pan in can make all the difference. The pan you bring may not weigh much more than a camp stove, but may be lighter than multiple fuel cans. Place your items on a scale and see what works best for you. Since I don’t mind packing in a little extra weight, my camping stove always comes along. Most of the time I cook my main meal (fish, meat) over the fire and cook a side dish (rice,veggies) in my stove at the same time. Decide and practice whatever works best for you.

5 – Leave the sleeping bag Behind

Unless it’s consistently hot day and night where you’re camping, you’re probably not going to leave your sleeping bag at home. Sleeping bags can weigh from 3-5 pounds depending on the design of the bag. You can buy a very light sleeping bag adequate for the area in which you’re camping. If you’re in the desert, where its 90 degrees during the day and 40 at night, a good ground pad, goose down pants and jacket might be good enough to act as a sleeping bag. Taking a thin sheet could also be plenty enough to keep you warm and very easy to fold up and pack. I highly recommend studying the night time temperatures religiously before you leave your sleeping bag at home.

6 – Leave the ground pad Behind

The ground pad keeps us warm, clean and comfortable on those long camp nights, but it also isn’t necessary. Gathering leaves, moss or finding soft ground can be more comfortable than the most expensive ground pad on the market. Every time I set my tent or ground pad up, I add some cushion underneath my ground pad.

7 – Leave the trekking poles Behind

I don’t recommend leaving behind trekking poles if the hike is long, gains extreme elevation, or you’re not a very skilled hiker. Trekking poles can prevent injury and allow a hiker to maintain stamina on the trial. If it is a short weekend hike or you feel strong enough, leave the poles behind.

8 – Leave the Bear Canister Behind:

Some areas may require you to have a bear canister, and in that case we are out of luck if we want to leave it behind. Other areas may allow you to set up a counter balance. In most cases, just carrying in a bear canister is easier than trying to set up a counter balance 15 feet high and 10 feet from the tree. This item isn’t at the top of my list of items I would leave behind.

9 – Leave the batteries behind

We may not have to leave all of our batteries behind, but you can leave most of them. Too many times I’ve watched someone pull a fresh, unopened pack of ten batteries out of their bag. It is just unnecessary useless weight. Why not just bring 2-4 extra batteries for the trip. If it is a long trip, using a solar panel will also help us get rid of battery weight.

10 – Leave the Clothes Behind

I’m not saying to become a nudist and hike off into the wild, but I am trying to make you think about what unnecessary clothes and boots you may pack into camp. Most places in the summer months don’t require heavy jackets or pants. Study the weather conditions, and elevation to determine what you need to bring. Get rid of those old heavy hiking boots and try hiking in lighter more agile trail running shoes. You’re legs and back will thank you later.

 

5 Reasons To Hike To The Highest Point In All 50 States!

download (38)Add the thrill of the 50 high point challenge to your bucket list of life long goals and you won’t be disappointed! Would you believe that America offers a vast array of thrilling high and low mountain adventures? Mt. Washington at only 6,288 feet, the highest point in New Hampshire, once held the highest recorded wind speed ever observed by man at 231 MPH! If you try to take on Washington’s Mt Rainer, you will be hiking on an active volcano just 150 miles from the infamous Mt. Saint Helens volcano. Other states highest “peaks” are literally in the middle of suburban neighborhoods, such as Delawares Ebright Azimuth standing tall at 448 feet! The 50 high point challenge offers both the thrill of a Himalayan expedition and the ease of a, “walk in the park” you never thought existed. Take some pride in our great country and explore these fun adventures in your own backyard. You will be surprised at how many state high points are located on famous trails such as the Appalachian, offer difficult mountaineering challenges, or take you off the beaten path to unique places away from the crowds. Here are the top 5 Reasons why you should climb to the highest point in all 50 states!

1. Another Excuse to Get Outside

Of course the number one reason to start “highpointing” is to give all of us another excuse to get outside, find adventure, breath fresh mountain air and travel this great country from sea to shining sea. When you start “highpointing” you will scratch that outdoor itch every time. Not only will you get a great hike under your belt, but the outdoor adventures surrounding each high point range from kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, camping and the list goes on and on! Each high point offers different wildlife, such as the herd of Bighorn Sheep on New Mexico’s Wheeler Peak, or the wild Grayson Highlands Ponies on Virginia’s Mt. Rogers. National Parks and landmarks are also near highpoints, such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park just 90 miles away from Texas’s Guadalupe Peak or Mount Rushmore only 30 miles from South Dakota’s Harney Peak.

2. Offers Opportunities for Everyone

The second reason is to spend more time with family and friends on trips that you can enjoy with anyone! No matter what age, gender, or disability, “highpointing” can be enjoyed by everyone. Since there are 50 different high points to climb, the high points across this great nation range from a drive up parking lot with wheel chair access, such as Florida’s Britton Hill, to an intermediate family fun hike like New York’s Mt. Marcy, to an all out 14 day expedition with a glacier crossing on Alaska’s Mt Denali (the highest point in North America). Taking on the 50 high points gives you a unique opportunity to spend time and plan trips with an array of family, friends or fellow hikers regardless of their skill or love for the outdoors.

3. Conquering Challenges

Just visiting all 50 states is a challenge all to itself, but actually planning a trip to a certain location to accomplish a certain goal becomes a very hard sought challenge. Some hikes such as Illinois’s Charles Mound are on private land and access can only be granted a couple weekends during the year. Other points offer greater challenges, such as Wyoming’s Gannett Peak, which has the longest round trip of any of the high points at nearly 50 miles. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a goal all the way through to fruition. Whether your goal is to take down the highest point in your home state, all the states in your region, or take on all 50 states, “highpointing” is a goal worth setting. This goal will be sure to keep you going for years to come. The real reward begins while sitting around with family and friends planning the next challenging high point to conquer.

4. Unique Cross Country Travel

Too often we get stuck in our comfort zones and end up only hiking, camping, or exploring in our own regions of the U.S. When we do end up planning a lavish trip, we end up backpacking across Europe or the Australian outback. Make your next big vacation a road trip to high point with more than just a hike, visit a place you never expected to visit, like hiking Louisiana’s Mt. Driskill. The high point is within minutes of where the infamous Bonnie and Clyde made their finally stand in a hail of bullets. Since you’re “highpointing” in the South you might as well eat some good BBQ. Stop in the town of Ruston, Louisiana just 20 miles east on I-20 just off Exit 84, and pick up the World Famous Scatterload sandwich from Brister’s Smokehouse for the best BBQ and sweet tea I’ve ever had. By adding the high points to your goals, you will end up traveling to all kinds of unique locations off the beaten path. Find new unique opportunities for photography, adventure, and places to eat that aren’t listed on yelp, or the cliche locations everyone visits!

5. The Views are Spectacular!

We all love to hike and camp, but nothing is better than adding a spectacular view to an adventure. There is something special that touches the souls of every man and woman, when we can stand atop a mountain and gaze out as far as the eye can see! I never expected to stand atop so many “flat” states like North Dakota’s White Butte that stands tall in the Little Missouri National Grasslands, and be able to take in a 360 degree view. I encourage you not to underestimate any state on the map, because every state will surprise you! From hundreds of waterfalls near Alabama’s Cheaha Mt, to hundreds of high Sierra lakes surrounding California’s Mt. Whitney!

Hiking Alone, a Thrilling Sensation

download (37)The best way for me to enjoy hiking is alone with only my dog for company and to walk for several hours. It takes a little time to reach the ‘hiking sensation’, where I forget time and place and feel somehow grounded – in contact with my surroundings. I feel I have ‘arrived’ when the scents of the plants and trees have reached my consciousness; the magical scents of mastic trees, strawberry trees and pines and the almost paralyzing scents of herbs such as sage and thyme. When I am no longer thinking but just walking with my attention on the landscape, immersed in its scents and colours, then I feel I’m hiking.

When I walk through dense woods surrounded by tall trees in the beautiful nature of Alonnisos island I always get the feeling of being in a cave. It’s somehow like being hidden inside the forest and it creates a thrilling sensation. If the trip continues up on a hill with a wonderful view then the experience changes and the feeling of seeing the whole world from up there fills my heart. If this nice feeling is accompanied by the sound of bells from half wild goats jumping around on the rocks then the height of sensations is reached.

There is a small archeological area on a top of a hill not so far from where I live. When I go there I start following a beautiful earth road and then I continue on the path which rises steeply up through brushwood and trees. Higher when I get out of the brushwood I walk along flat terraces full of green grass. Then opens up an astonishing view and I throw myself on the grass to chill out and enjoy the view of the steep slopes towards the sea. The exciting thing about visiting undeveloped archeological sites is that you can let your fantasy run free. The remains of fortification walls are still intact here with boulders cut at square angles and with small indentations forming a pattern that according to historical sources is characteristic of the Greek classical period 500 BC. So they were built more than 2500 years ago! It seems like nothing has happened ever since in that area, as if the people suddenly broke up and left. With a little imagination I am back in that time feeling the historical whirring of wings. I think this is possibly because I have reached this place on foot struggling up through brushwood and steep paths. The spirit is intact.

On the way down I follow a path through a narrow ravine and when the landscape opens up the path continues down bending its way through high grass. Here the smell of the sea reaches my nose and my psychological condition changes again. The sound and the smell of the sea are as welcome as all the other sounds and scents that I have enjoyed along the tour. Reaching the beach I rest on the sand and as a person who loves to use my body I enjoy how my tired muscles are slightly aching after the long trip – meanwhile the dog is taking a swim in the sea.

 

This entry was posted on March 2, 2016 and tagged .