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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hiker Trash Style


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, 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

My Morning Routine

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!




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Future of the AT

Having thru-hiked the trail in 2011, I can use the changes I've seen on the trail this year to speculate about what the trail may be like in the future. 

Mostly, I see more of everything: more signs, more restrictions, more fees... more hikers! I guess this was predictable. With the release of movies like 'Wild' and 'A Walk In The Woods', more people are going to explore the world of long distance hiking. Friends who started northbound on the trail this year said shelters and campsites were crowded.

The trends that tend to make me nervous are the increase in signs, permits and fees. Signs like 'No Camping' or 'Camping Only in Designated Areas'. Permits are more common, as well. Lots of agencies wanting names, addresses and 'itineraries'. These things fly in the face of thru-hiking culture. We come out here because we want to be free. They want an 'itinerary' of where I'm going to camp every night for the next week? I don't know where I'm going to camp. Can I just write "wherever I'm at when the sun goes down"?


We need more signs like this:


And fewer signs like this:


For the first time in the 78 year history of the Appalachian Trail, hikers will be charged a fee to hike through the Smoky Mountains. Technically, it's a fee to camp in the Smokies, not hike. Four dollars per night or $20 to thru-hike. Never before have we had to pay to hike this trail. Benton MacKaye must be rolling in his grave. 

Additional, federal regulations include the use of a 'bear can' (a cylindrical plastic container to store your food in) for part of the Smokies. Yes, it's a federal offense to hike with your food in an unapproved container. 

If I extrapolate these changes far into the future, I can picture hikers passing through the woods on a moving sidewalk; the kind they have in airports. Huge plexiglass walls on either side keep humans from interacting with nature. A permit to ride the trail will cost hundreds of dollars. Camping will only be permitted... scratch that. Camping will not be permitted. 

For those of you who say that these kinds of regulations are necessary to keep the trail as nice as it is, I agree - to an extent. I just think the pendulum is swinging way too far toward the 'manage the woods' end. It needs to swing back toward the 'let people enjoy their hike' end. 

Mostly, I'm just glad to be out here. Soon (hopefully) I'll have thru-hiked this trail twice. That's plenty. They can restrict, regulate and charge the hell out of future hikers. It won't do anything but make me sad. 

Got an opinion? Leave a comment.