Wallets, like all of my gear, eventually wear out on the trail. They get wet, they get abused and then they disintegrate. In my search for a more durable product, I came across Trayvax. They make several models of tough, technical wallets right here in the USA. I contacted them about my upcoming (Feb 2017) hike of the Israel National Trail and inquired about their product. As a result of that contact, I am proud to say that the Trayvax Axis will be coming with me for the entire 642 mile trail. I feel like this will be a real test of exactly how tough this wallet is. I'll be swimming in the Red Sea, crossing the Negev Desert and generally abusing it (like I do all my gear!).
Gotta say, I am especially proud to be associated with a company that manufactures in the US, supports veterans and makes such a fine product. Stay tuned for more of my adventures with the Trayvax Axis.
He's back at it!
People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. My next big adventure will be the Israel National Trail starting in February 2017.
The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Kinda boring, I know. But there's nothing else going on out here. There are no other hikers. I'm freezing. Just trying to finish this trail and get home.
This is the beer that I used to celebrate the end of the AT and the beginning of the BMT. The amazing thing about this beer is that it was stashed in the woods about a month earlier by Sarah 'Two Braids' Hillier. Amazingly, she is of no relation. Just another hiker who reached Springer Mountain way before me and cached this beer. She sent me this map:
I can't believe I found it. Thanks, Two Braids!
The picture above was taken on a very foggy morning but this is the tree in front of the Mountain Crossings gear store. Every year, hundreds of northbound AT hikers hit this store just a few days into their hike and then realize that their feet are sore because they have the wrong foot gear. They re-fit and chuck their old ones into this tree.
This guy was stalking a shelter on the AT. That's a full-size lighter for perspective.
This was a random entry in a shelter journal. For some reason, it just cracked me up. "I have a bag for poptarts now and it's fer sure not okay." What does that even mean? Live!
Frost on my pack every morning. Everything not IN my sleeping bag with me is frozen solid. Every morning. This aspect of the hike is getting old.
My two favorite things.
All sewn up. All these miles have been pretty hard on my gear. One more reason to hurry up and finish this hike.
This means me.
Overall, this is a beautiful trail and I'm lucky to be out here. Many volunteers have worked very hard to keep this trail well-blazed and maintained. I am grateful to all of them for making this such an amazing experience for me. Soon, I'll be back in Michigan and missing the trail like crazy. Best to appreciate these last couple weeks and to spend them reflecting back on what a great adventure this has been.
Please feel free to leave me a comment below.
Monday, January 11, 2016
You know that feeling of doom that pours over you when you realize that you've lost something really important? I'd rather fall off a mountain than ever experience that again.
I was returning to the trail after a successful pit stop in the tiny town of Suches, GA; I was fully resupplied, I had picked up a good paperback book to read and had even scored a ride back to the trail. A father and son let me throw my pack into the bed of their pick-up truck and helped me climb in the back seat. As they were asking me all the usual questions about long distance hiking, I was checking my phone to make sure of the location of the trail in relation to the road we were on. I was excited to be getting back to my hike and engaged in the conversation. I set my phone down on the seat next to me.
To the modern hiker, a smart phone is an essential tool. It's not only my way to communicate, it's a way to navigate, it's my camera, my journal, my compass... even a back-up flashlight. I realize that hikers got along without them for decades but I swear I don't know how they did it.
When we arrived at the trailhead, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed my pack and shook hands with the guys who so kindly gave me the ride. After they wished me well, I crossed a busy road and headed up the trail. Just about a quarter of a mile into it, that feeling washed over me. That dreadful realization that I had left my phone in the truck. I didn't even waste time checking my pockets because I already knew that I had screwed up. Badly.
I raced back to the road but the truck was long gone. I decided my only hope was to stay right there. Maybe they would see my phone in the back seat and come back. Or, maybe I could catch them on their way to work the next morning. I didn't even have any water with me but I dared not leave the side of the road to go get some for fear I would miss them driving by. I had a seat right there in the dirt and tried to prepare, mentally, for a long, cold night on the side of a busy Georgia highway. I felt helpless and angry with myself for making such a bonehead move. I tried to focus on the book but I kept turning over scenarios in my mind: What if they didn't see my phone in the truck? What if they never came back this way again? Should I try to hike on without the phone? Was this the end of my hike?
To make matters worse, the temperature was dropping and it was getting dark. I pulled out my sleeping bag and tried to read a book - right there on the side of the road. Cars would sometimes honk. A couple people pulled over and asked if they could help. One guy wanted to take a picture of me; it was rather humiliating.
Eventually, someone must have called 911 because a Fire and Rescue truck pulled up with lights flashing. Great. Just what I needed. I told the officer my sad tale and, while he had sympathy for me, there was nothing he could do. At least he hooked me up with a couple liters of water. He drove off and I went back to my book.
About a half hour later, he returned. This time, no flashing lights. He said he might have some good news for me: Apparently, as he was reporting my situation over the radio, the county sheriff chimed in to say that someone had just turned in a phone at the their office. They were going to bring it out to me and see if it was mine.
I paced back and forth with my headlamp on, eagerly awaiting the sheriff. I supposed that the chances of the phone being mine were slim as they probably had tons of phones, wallets and purses turned in to them every day. When the deputy pulled up and asked how I was doing, I replied, "Not so good but I'll be a lot better if you have an iPhone for me!" He asked me to describe it and to tell him what the background picture was. "My dog, Ruby!" I said excitedly.
He checked the phone and handed it over to me. I was so grateful I almost felt dizzy. I thanked the officer repeatedly and ran to pack up my gear and get off the side of that stupid road. I didn't get very far into the woods before I found a nice flat spot and set up my tent. After so much emotion and anxiety, I slept like a rock.
Early the next morning, I packed up and got busy doing what I do best. I felt great. The miles flew by as I thought about how lucky I was and how grateful I was to the guy who turned my phone over the sheriff's department. Then, from a hundred yards away, I saw a big green sign. Looked like some kind of warning or trail information.
Not only had that kind stranger given me a ride back to the trail and turned in my phone, but he posted this sign where he knew I'd see it. I especially loved this line:
"This way to maybe a fone". That cracked me up. I took down the sign (Leave No Trace!) and hiked down to the next major road.
When I finally got to a restaurant that had a wifi signal, I messaged my dear friend Pam and asked her to call the guy (as I have no cell service) to let him know that I did indeed get my phone back.
The lesson that I learned is a lesson I seem to keep learning over and over: Slow down. Pay attention. Do a 'gypsy check' before leaving a vehicle, a campsite or anywhere that I set my pack down.
Ever have that feeling of doom? Leave me a comment and let me know what happened and how it turned out.
Monday, January 4, 2016
The Benton MacKaye (pronounced like 'the sky') Trail (BMT) is a relatively new trail, having just been completed in 2005. It stretches 286 miles from Springer Mountain (GA) in the south to Davenport Gap (NC) in the north. It crosses through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) following a different route than the Appalachian Trail.
I admit that I don't know much about this trail other than being curious about it when I thru-hiked the AT northbound in 2011. I saw the signs for it and I knew that Benton MacKaye was the man who first proposed the idea for the Appalachian Trail back in 1921 but I really had no idea where it started or how long it was.
I got lots of help with maps and information from the good folks at the Benton MacKaye Trail Association. Check out their website at BMTA.org.
Finally, the only person I know that has thru-hiked it is So Way (from the famous A Team: So Way and E-Brake). He had hiked it with his sister in preparation for his first AT thru-hike. He was able to give me specific advice and show me pictures stored in his phone. To their credit, So Way and E-Brake were the only two people to say "Hell yes!!" when I first told them I wanted to hike this trail. I am grateful to them for their support.
Stay tuned to this blog for pictures and stories from this latest adventure. If you've hiked it before or have any additional information for me, please leave me a comment below.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Let me start off by saying that I love the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). I have visited several times and I'm always blown away by the natural beauty. I also know that it's one of the most heavily visited national parks; I read that over six million people come here each year.
When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011, the GSMNP was certainly one of the highlights but I also remember feeling like it was the most heavily regulated forest I had ever been to. Hikers were required to register - we had to fill out a form and submit one copy to the National Park Service and keep one copy in our possession. Hikers were only allowed to stay in the provided shelters unless the shelter was full and then they had to camp within one hundred feet of said shelter. There were National Park Rangers and Ridge Runners from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy everywhere, making sure hikers were following all the rules.
I was fine with all of that. My thinking was that if that's what it takes to keep this place as beautiful as it is, then fine; I'll gladly do all that they ask.
New for 2013, hikers had to pay for a special permit. All the old rules still applied but now you also had to pay $20 to hike through the park.
This is the first time in the 78 year history of the AT that hikers have to pay to hike the trail.
Now, if you told me that this money was going directly to help improve the trail, I'd be fine with that.
Maybe to clear some of these blow-downs?
Or for new signs?
Nope. This money just goes into the giant federal coffers. It's a shameless money-grab and I find it abhorrent.
Just to be clear: I can drive around the park all day and all night in my '72 Oldsmobile, chugging out thick blue smoke (bad head gasket), blaring the stereo and honking the horn. I can run up and down all the trails I want and poop in all the privies for free. But if I want to quietly walk through the woods, Leaving No Trace, I have to pay $20. Does that make sense to anyone reading this? Cars enter for free but hikers have to pay?
So I'm not paying it. I'm fundamentally against it and I'm not going to do it. I'm going to quietly and carefully hike through the park. I will Leave No Trace (which is an important philosophy to me) and I'll keep a low profile but I will not pay for a permit. I will take the risk and I will suffer the consequences (possible arrest and a fine of up to $3000) if I get caught.
I'm equally disgusted that hikers, as a group, simply caved in to this injustice. They reflexively type in their credit card numbers because that's what the government told them to do. No one asked why? Or, maybe, what do we get for our $20?
I have asked the NPS, via email, what the $20 goes toward and (of course) have received no response.
If you agree with me, please leave a comment below. Or, if you think that hikers should pay to walk through a national park, then please do the same. Either way, I'd like to hear from you.
And to those of you who would say "Oh, but if you look at the website, it's actually a fee to camp, not to hike and you can pay $4 per night instead of $20 to thru-hike", I say, "Tell it to the judge, punk!" *in the voice of Clint Eastwood dressed as a Park Ranger*. The picture above is the sign posted at both the North and South boundaries as of 12/18/15 and that's the law we are expected to follow: $20 for a thru-hiker permit.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Blaze Orange Hat - Given to me by a hunter in Glasgow, VA.
Running cap (brimmed) - Given to me by the Devil's Backbone Brewing Company in the heart of Virginia.
Suspenders made of paracord 550 from the original 50' given to me by Randy Lanning.
Moosejaw shirt - shameless plug.
Medium weight base layer from REI with points gifted to me by Krystele Bodet.
North Face snow pants from Miranda Lanning.
OR gaiters from Kellie Richardson and the Burning Boots Trail Club.
Asolo boots from Jeff Kindy.
Trekking poles belong to Hee Haw. Much of my gear is from him.
The pack, I actually bought in 2011. Kelty Lakota. It's got nearly 4,400 miles on it and it's had a couple major surgeries but seems to be holding up.
That's a Marmot shell that Traci Rink got me on the CDT.
Ready for the cold weather.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
The first thought I have every morning is the same as the last thought I have every night: Holy Moses Roses it's cold!
I'll usually stay snuggled up in my sleeping bag until there's enough light out so that I don't have to burn the batteries on my headlamp. I use that time to prioritize packing up to best make use of my hands while they still work; buckles and snaps come first since they take some dexterity.
Once I let the air out of the mattress and stow my sleeping bag in its compression sack, there's no turning back. I've got to minimize the time between being warm in my sleeping bag and being warm hiking so I need to hurry.
If I have them, I'll open a couple of those chemical hand warmers and put them in my gloves. I'll also use them to unstick frozen tent poles and, eventually, I'll put them in my boots.
While pulling tent stakes out of the frozen ground and shaking the frost off the rain fly, I can feel my hands and feet getting numb. By the time I strap my pack on and grab my trekking poles, they are painfully cold.
That's okay. I'll get moving as fast as I can and get my core temperature up. It will take a while until that warm blood circulates to my extremities. Sometimes, that's the worst part!
Finally, the sun comes up and the ambient temperature starts to rise. Time to stop, de-layer and cook up some coffee. This is my favorite time of day; time to stretch, to feel the sun on my face and to be grateful that I'm right where I belong: On the trail.
Is your morning like my morning? Leave me a comment below!