Let’s talk turkey! I don’t know about you but jamming thick peanut butter sandwiches loaded with candy bar nuggets, cereal, trail mix and whatever you happen upon -> gets seriously tiresome. 3500 or so calories a day is hard to squeeze into your backback and more importantly you are limited to the amount of weight you can carry. Trust me you will really need a break somewhere along your route … what I do is mail a few dehydrated Mountain House Packs every so many stops along the trail. I don’t eat them there at the post office or general store because there is usually decent food close by … but I keep them for the 2nd and 3rd day back on the trail. They weigh next to nothing and heat up in a jiffy. The downside … holy my goodness they can deflate your wallet quicker than a teenager going back to school. I buy mine in bulk from Amazon and mail them to strategic stops along the way. Its hard to convince yourself that the cost is worth it but there are a couple of things most long distance hikers know from experience. Its your Will -> your intestinal fortitude -> that keeps you going. Survival training will teach you the same thing. Keeping your spirits up … getting dry or getting clean or getting fed can get you over the highest peak and will lift your spirits quicker and stay with you longer. Every trail that I’ve ever hiked I find myself questioning if its really worth going on … it may only last a few minutes but after a setback, it can last for a couple of days. A good meal goes a long way in lifting your spirits. I check the maps carefully and look for the most difficult sections … I send the packs to the closest stop before the problem areas. I don’t know if every hiker is on a budget but I know that I am. Social Security barely covers the basics. Add that to the skyrocketing costs of good equipment that is made from all the space-age materials … you see where this is going. Food; you’d think it wouldn’t be a high percentage of the overall cost of that trek from A to B. (Loud buzzing) Wrong. Its hard enough looking at your poor blistered feet … so covered with Moleskin patches that they look like a quilt made out of bad fabric swatches. Your toe rot, your wrinkled and stinking feet are enough to keep the mice away -> when your thoughts start sounding like this -> you’ve got to put something in you that is going to HEAL your spirit. Often quoted is the phrase “an army runs on its stomach” a simple little quote that contains a great deal of truth. Your will is directly proportional to the way in which you fuel your hike … a snickers may get you up the next hill but a hot meal will get you over the next mountain. Don’t be as stupid as I’ve been on occasion … (brain says – hey its only a few days – all that food is going to break your back in the long run … they’ll be food you can get on the trail … you need to lose a few pounds anyways). Just stop right there and slap yourself … turn off the sing song in your head … put in a can of good soup and a means to heat it up. It may mean a pound or two but trust me … two days in when it starts raining and that store you were depending on is closed … you’ll open a soup can with a rock if necessary. Half way through a long hike you’ll be smiling remembering you forced yourself to settle for the tarp that was a few ounces more, or the tent that was not the best anyone could buy … but adequate … if it comes to “the latest and greatest doodad” or decent food for the trip … go with the food … you may be a bit less comfortable but you’ll have the strength and the will to make it. Trust me, spending a couple of hours thinking up some reason to text your significant other so they can meet you somewhere and bring you a bandaid
or some more bug spray and … oh by the way can you also bring some McDs or some -> fill in the blank – after all its your fantasy). Your rational will be as thin to them as the toilet paper you’re packing. Balance is necessary; it comes from experience … weight versus gear versus food versus water versus safety … seek balance and your journey will be easier, more enjoyable and provide you with a lifetime of great memories.
Sometimes we act like little kids. Its the happiness that a hobby or interest should bring to you. After receiving a nice sale item from REI the Dash 2 – I had to set it up in the front yard. I have several tents but was wanting something that gave me a bit less leg room and a bit more rain fly and ease of assembly. The price was right, its certainly adequate in the heat and rain as I had both on its inaugural outing. It was hot, lots of flies, and it poured almost all night. I was warm and dry. The rain fly works great and gives you ample room to protect your backpack. I really liked the 1/2 moon entrances on both sides. This tent has since had a few modifications and the newest version is “Quarter Dome 2”. I sleep on a fold out pad, as well as, a blow up – inside a sleeping bag. I was snug as the preverbial bug in a rug. Ez to setup, ez to take down and ample room for two folks as long as you’re both not over 200 lbs. There is much to be said for an light tent. What you sacrifice in durability you certainly make lighter. up for in weight. Compared to my previous 2 man (I have to have a bit of room – can’t do a one man – I like to stretch out) this tent was 1 1/2 lbs lighter. That is huge in packing weight. That’s 2 days worth of food, extra clothing, the list is only limited by your needs and imagination. So pack light … get it on sale and happy trails.
The Rails to Trails conservancy http://www.railstotrails.org is always looking for support. The concept: turn the hundreds and hundreds of miles of abandoned track in the USA into hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The abandoned lines run through some of the most pristine wildernesses we have in this country. There are bridges in place over most of the bodies of water and only need to have some minor changes to make them safe for human traffic. Drop by and see what is going on; send them a clam or two; reach out into your community and watch the time your share blossom into the healing of our great nation and get a slick T in the process. Tell em Dave sent you.
Hikers generally follow a trail or path that has been trodden upon to the point of developing a bare path of clay or sand or rock. Yet the beauty that surrounds them; often within inches of the most well traveled path, is breathtaking. When I think about the billions of years it took to bring about such beauty and to find it growing where it may never be seen; the diversity and complexity of this island home takes my breath away. It feels like I am an intruder, a visitor that has stumbled into Eden. When I think of the people that have passed this way; some days, some years, some millennia between their passing … I cannot help but feel responsible for the preservation of this fragile Earth we call home. Although nature has shown itself to be resilient to our presence I fear we will overwhelm even the complexity of life that exists today. It is my fervent prayer that someday we, and I’m talking species, may adopt the hiker’s creed; leave no trace. I don’t know that it is even possible for us to reign ourselves in and place our needs second to this whirling blue ball but I do know that if we do not; nature will reclaim it for us and specifically from us.
Those of us City Slickers get to enjoy a myriad of hiking opportunities. The photo I took this morning is a good example. Tampa is blessed with one of the world’s longest contiguous sidewalks. At 7 miles it weaves it way adjacent to Bayshore Blvd and walkers, runners, hikers & bikers are all treated to Tampa Bay; a mere foot away. Sometimes its crowded, mostly its sparsely populated with folks of all fitness levels. Backpacks, fanny packs, headphones, bicycles, bottles of water and occasionally a dog on a leash. Its brutal backpacking in the heat of the day, absolute bliss in the early a.m. and twilight hours. Along the path are fitness stations where you can do pull ups, chin ups, sit ups, etc. Once you begin the journey to oneself you will find that there is no limit to the possibilities that surround you. There is discovery amidst even the loudest of NYC’s streets. If you take the time to look for them … the avenues that will provide you the opportunity to train and to succeed in your goals surround you, you just have to look. We all don’t have a place like Bayshore; what we do have are opportunities waiting to be discovered. You can start by looking on the websites for the city you live in for hiking opportunities, sponsored walks, runs and local clubs. Reaching out is not diametrically opposed to “hiking solo”. Its a term that is easily misunderstood. “Hiking Solo” means that you and only you can define your path. You can ask all the folks in the world … its your feet that you put in front of each other. You walk the walk. If I can succeed in only one thing on this entire site … my hope would be that it will motivate you to go out your front door. Find a rhythm that matches your fitness level and strike out. Its not the destination; its the journey. They are all different; all filled with adventure; all filled with a greater sense of peace and harmony with yourself and those around you. “I like to move it move it” Madagascar 3
Toesocks? Who the hell wears toesocks? After countless trips to the Podiatrist … I do. It finally dawned on me that all the toenail fungus, blisters between my big & hammer toes, callouses, corns ad infinitum … that maybe my socks were causing some of these problems. I was reluctant to believe that anything so simple could resolve so many maladies. I know this -> My feet have never been in such good shape. After years with UPS and on my feet all day in the rain and heat I finally took the plunge. My wife’s badgering helped as well. Born on Okinawa and no stranger to two and five toe socks she finally talked me in to trying them out. But let’s ask the experts.
The Answer Is Surprisingly Simple
We created a sock anatomically designed to your foot, and the five-toe sleeve design allows your toes to splay naturally and align properly, enabling greater stability and more comfort.”
I won’t wear anything else on the trail now. They come in cotton, synthetics & Merino wool. Couple these with the right type of shoe and you’ll be one happy camper.
It’s not that hard … really.
Well unless you want to be a Navy Seal or an Army Ranger. Most of us use a compass to get general headings and to help us get back on track if we’ve missed a signpost hiking at night in the desert or in the rain when the visibility is not optimal. I’ll link a great video that goes over declination, line of sight etc. It covers how to use a compass and a map at the same time. I’ll link another video for using a compass with and without a map. Right off the bat I’ll say a basic Orienting compass like a Suunto M3 is simple and great for outdoor navigation with a map. If you are not going cross country and you’re hiking a trail … the simplest compass like the one displayed is sufficient. If you learn to use it correctly. You can find compasses with multiple functionality. Temperature, whistle, flint & even a pocket knife. Your basic Swiss Army compass. You’ll be sending me some love from the trail if you take my advice and leave that 1 pound Lensatic type mirrored lead weight at home on your desk. In the thousands of miles I’ve backpacked I can count on my fingers and toes with digits left over the number of times I had to use a compass … well not counting the times I’ve played with it finding out how it worked. But even with an expensive GPS device attached to my Ribz front pack I carry one. The ten second explanation … sorry there isn’t one. I cannot stress the importance of understanding compass basics if you are going out into the wild on your own. I may joke about it but it is a skill just as important as finding water, finding shelter, understanding hypothermia & knowing your limitations. In my university days I was stupid enough to take Celestial Navigation and yes there was a young lady involved in the decision. OMG this was before all the great calculators they have now. Took you four pages of calculations to find your way across the street. Compared to that, following basic line of sight compassing came easily to me. Its not that way for everyone. You’ll have to discover your comfort level while hiking and carry the equipment that meets your needs. I carry a Delorme In-Reach Explorer when I’m on trail but that’s another post. Like an American Express, costly at the end of the month but you won’t leave home without it.
The following YouTube video will help you with the basics of using map & compass to get you where you’re headed.
The following YouTube video has a great deal more content. Very thorough, but you will be ready for any hike, if you watch it enough to understand it.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5
“Altra’s take on their shoe.”
“Updated and improved to make a best-seller even better. With drainage holes to keep your feet dry, a 4-point gaiter system to keep dirt and rocks out, and an upgraded mesh upper for enhanced durability, this shoe is ready to tackle the trail. Run with confidence and conquer the gnarliest terrain with the fully cushioned Zero Drop™ platform, FootShape™ toe box, and MaxTrac, TrailClaw outsole.”
What’s my take?
My daddy always told me … if you buy the best – it’ll last. His anecdotes are as true today as they were 50 years ago. Stand on any trail and take a poll of the shoes folks are wearing. Altra will be at the top of the list. IMHO Their shoes are more durable, more comfortable, and they’ll give you the best length of service. I’ve tried so many brands of shoes from the $30 to the $200 range. For my money, there is no better shoe out there. Whether its hiking or running … Do yourself a favor … save up and buy several!
Your feet will love you for it. Mine regularly send me movie tickets!
What’s the Hiking Nerd’s take?