Friday, July 13, 2012

Photos: CT and NY Section Hike

We're back from this years southbound section hike from Kent CT to Dennytown Road, NY. We inflamed a knee around Canopus Lake on the poor quality trail and loose talus on the blue blaze trail to the beach area, so we decided to cut our hike short by several days. Still we covered about 50 miles of trail. We're busy updating our TrailJournals log, but have gotten our photos loaded into our TrailJournal album. With our notes, photos, and experiences, we should have plenty to blog until next years section hike in Shenandoah National Park.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

National Trails Day 2012

Just got back from a full morning at the Arkansas Trails Council's National Trails Day event at Burns Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Too many events and not enough me's to attend them all!

Theo Witsell (backpack) teaching Arkansas Master Naturalists
We started our morning with an 8:30 a.m. plants walk led by Theo Witsell of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Theo is amazing! Its not enough he knows there are five species of wild blueberries in Arkansas, but he managed to point out and help us identify each in just the first half-hour. There wasn't a blade of grass or green leaf Theo didn't know the name of and how to differentiate it from other look a likes. The walk was well attended with most of my fellow walkers being Arkansas Master Naturalists or Naturalists in Training.

The shock of the morning was when Theo spied a small three leafed plant at the base of a tree, snatched off a leaf, and shoved it in his mouth. (Yeah, we thought what you're thinking! Is he an idiot or just not allergic to poison ivy?) Turns out that Fragrant Sumac is non-toxic and looks very much like poison ivy. Don't try this trick with friends until you learn poison ivy's center leaf extends longer than sumac's center leaf and can identify both plants with 100% accuracy.

We left the plants walk early due to it overlapping an edible plants walk on the schedule. Heading back to the Scouts trail head we discovered Friends of the Ouachita Trail had set up an informative display. Bill Mooney was representing FOOT. Nearer to the trail head, two more Arkansas Master Naturalists had a Backpacking 101 display set up. Visitors had the opportunity to handle everything from snow shoes to dehydrated fruit to various backpacking stoves. Several nearby EMT's on bicycles where practicing tying the knots shown on a nearby display panel. We showed the friendly medics a trick for tying the bowline that an old salty Coast Guardsman had shown us in our youth. We also demonstrated how to tie an overhand knot in a rope with a single, quick flick of the wrist.

Turns out that due to Arkansas' lingering Spring drought, the edible plants hike was delayed and relocated to a better wetlands area. We quickly followed our new Master Naturalist friends and met up with Mike Thenes and Steve Fortin, our edible plants guides for the morning. We've attended one of Mike's walks before as he is a regular presenter at our nearby state park. We quickly set off down a new trail built by the Arkansas Master Naturalists to be used for future naturalist walks.

Mike Thenes (left) discussing the four leaf cross vine (inedible,
but useful for basket weaving).
For those who have never been on an edible plants walk, this is the least strenuous outdoor adventure you can engage in besides sitting in a lawn chair and admiring fireflies. There's really no walking. Its more like: take ten paces, stop, and stand for several minutes. Repeat until one hour has elapsed. We never got more than 50 yards from the parking lot at our farthest. We also didn't graze as much as we have on previous edible plants walks. We did discover wild garlic, wild onions, hickory nuts, many grasses (all grass seeds are edible, but watch out for purple ergot fungi lest you perish by St Anthony's fire.) We were also reminded that everything on the Pine tree is edible, but it all tastes like turpentine. (Start with pine tea. Chop the green needles very small for more intense flavor.) Had early Americans known how rich pine needles are in vitamin C, many hundreds of deaths from scurvy might have been prevented.

Finishing up our edible plants walk, we hustled down by the Arkansas River Trail where the Arkansas Trail Riders Association was hosting horse rides for kids and there was a scheduled Leave No Trace (LNT) demonstration. The LNT demo was being disassembled as we arrived, but we did receive a waterproof set of front country and back country ethics cards listing all the best practices for leaving no trace in the woods. As most of the kids in the immediate area were still engaged in soccer games on nearby fields, we wandered over and talked with a few horse owners. Most were busy with a potluck picnic lunch and feeding the sole park ranger. It's good to be the ranger! More so on National Trails Day.

Feel free to comment below and discuss any National Trails Day events you attended or what you might like to participate in at next year's events.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Section Hike: Kent, CT to New York 17A

This summer's Appalachian Trail section hike is across New York. Last year we section hiked all of New Jersey and stopped at NY 17A due to damaged feet. As we want to continue sectioning north, but don't want to tackle the hardest part of New York first, we're jumping ahead to Kent, CT and hiking southbound (SOBO) to NY 17A. This should give us a week to get our long distance legs and lungs developed to tackle Bear Mountain, the Lemon Squeezer, and Agony Grind the last few days.

Below is my hiking plan much as it looks on my cell phone. My safety person will also have a copy of this schedule to monitor my progress. Noting approximate times, mileage, major features, and notes on water and privy availability have proven useful the last few years. I also carry a printed copy of this hiking plan and review my progress before bed each evening.

Kent CT to NY 17A (93.1m)


Grand Central Station

Depart NYC ($22)

10:30 Southeast Station (transfer)

Arrive Wassaic NY (shuttle $20)

1p m1455.9
Kent CT 06757

2p m1455.5
Algo shelter - W PRIVY

4p m1452.7
Schaghticoke Mtn Campsite - W

4:30p m1452.1
Indian Rocks

6p m1448.1
Trail to Bulls Bridge

7p m1447.4
hand pump (w)

7p m1447.2
Ten Mile River Lean-to - W PRIVY

DAY 2 (12.7m)

11a m1444.4
Ny/CT State Line

Noon m1443.2
Wiley Shelter - w

4p m1437.6
N.Y. 22, Appalachian Trail RR Station 12564
Native Landscapes & Garden Ctr (W, shower, mail drops)

4p m1435.2
Dover Oak

County 20/West Dover Road

7p m1434.5
Telephone Pioneers Shelter - W PRIVY

DAY 3 (7.8m)

10a m1434.0
West Mtn

Noon m1431.2
Nuclear Lake - W

2p m1430.0
N.Y. 55, Poughquag, NY 12570
E - school bus deli/hot dog stand

6p 1,426.7
Morgan Stewart Shelter - W PRIVY

DAY 4 (10.3m)

10a m1426.6
Mt. Egbert

2p m1422.8
N.Y. 52, Stormville, NY - (E–0.3m G, M)

5p m1417.7
RPH shelter - W PRIVY

6p m1416.4
Shenandoah Tenting Area - W

DAY 5 (9.4m)

Noon m1,414.9
Shenandoah Mtn

2p m1,412.0
Canopus Lake, Clarence Fahnestock State Park - W SHOWER

4p m1,410.7
NY 301

7p m1,407.0
Dennytown Rd - W
(Camping W 500 ft, S dirt road to hill)

DAY 6 (12.3m)

10a m1404.3
South Highland Rd

3p m1399.7
Graymoor Spiritual Life Center
W PRIVY SHOWER (donation $10)

4p m1398.3
US 9/Shell station/convenience store - W Meal FUEL
7p m1394.7
Hemlock Springs Campsite - W

DAY 7 (7.2m)

9a m1393.3
Bear Mtn Bridge

USPO, Ft Montgomery 10922
(dropbox) RESUPPLY

10a m1393.2
Bear Mtn Museum/Zoo/pool

Noon m1390.7
Bear Mtn - W Wx

6p m1387.5
West Mtn Shelter - NO WATER

DAY 8 (9.2m)

10a m1385.9
Beechy Bottom Brook - W

10a m1385.7
Palisades Interstate Pkwy

11a m1384.4
William Brien Memorial Shelter - NO WATER

1p M1381.6
Seven Lakes Parkway

3p m1379.4
Arden Valley Road - w
(Tiorati Circle/Lake)

6p m1378.3
Fingerboard Shelter - NO WATER

DAY 9 (6.9m)

10a m1377.0
Lemon Squeezer

Noon m1375.6
Island Pond Outlet - W

2p m1373.6
Arden Mtn, Agony Grind

3p m1372.1
Orange Tpk - W (E–0.5m)
(NYC vista)

5p m1371.4
Little Dam Lake - W

Day 10 (8.6m)

10a m1367.8
Mombasha High Point

1a m1366.6
Fitzgerald Falls - W

Noon m1364.8 (13.5m)
Wildcat Shelter - W PRIVY

2:00p m1362.8
NY 17A - Bellvale Creamery

2:10p NJ Transit Bus ($15)


Note the above plan can easily be modified for a shorter hike by starting at Pawling, NY; at Peekskill NY; at Fort Montgomery NY; or at Lake Greenwood NY. These are all bus and commuter train access points for the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rapid Blended eLearning Course: Hiking the Appalachian Trail

We've been studying blended learning and rapid eLearning professionally for the office. As information doesn't become knowledge until acted upon, we have started an after-hours project. We are developing our first online blended learning course using rapid eLearning techniques. We decided to build a hiking course as "playing" is how programmers learn to use their tools of the trade.

For those unfamiliar with rapid eLearning, its a development process that uses subject matter experts to author learning materials using off-the-shelf technologies. As there is already a diverse supply of articles, blog posts, videos, lectures, and other materials for the Appalachian Trail and backpacking, we are actively building activities and links to quality resources. With luck, we shouldn't need to develop any new materials.

We'll update this post to keep you advised of our progress.

4/5/12 UPDATE: We're about halfway through our course development. Have had numerous "Ah-hah!" moments. We selected and organized a nice set of video, blog, and other resources to instruct you on hiking the Appalachian Trail. We've also thought up and added some practical hands-on exercises for you to do as well. We're still moving things around and hope to invite everyone to visit in about second weeks time. (We've also had the idea to use this course as the base for our first Pinterest hosted course.)

5/25/12 UPDATE: Done! We've got the content finished. We're having some trouble with Blogger/Blogspot removing internal links and need to make the links handicap accessible. Feel free to bokmark and tell a friend!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Appalachian Trail Weather from Google

Just discovered you can get Appalachian Trail weather via a cell phone by sending a SMS text message to Google. Google offers an SMS Search service. You can text various short texts to Google and receive detailed text search results on your mobile phone. One of the SMS text searches is for weather.

To get Appalachian Trail weather reports, just open a new outgoing SMS message and send "wx" and the nearby zipcode to 466453 (GOOGLE). You'll receive a weather forecast for the next 24-48 hours from Google.

I usually depart for the Appalachian Trail with a ten day forecast from the Weather channel. One of my peeves about the trail is the lack of current weather data along my hike. Often there's a bulletin board with warnings and admonitions, but no one seems to pin-up a 72 hour forecast for long distance hikers.

This year I plan to annotate the zipcodes of nearby towns on my hiking schedule so I can get updated weather from Google as I work south along the Applachian Trail. When I send an SMS text message to my safety person following my hike, I'll take a moment and get updated weather from Google!

In addition to adding the Shenandoah NPS 24-hour emergency center (800-732-0911) to your phone's contacts, give strong consideration to adding Google SMS search.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trail Food: Market Pantry Nutrition Bar

Midway in our 2011 section hike of the Appalachian Trail, we lost our appetite and felt a bit lethargic. If you followed our adventure in our TrailJournal, you'll recall we were concerned about a lack of nutrition. We thought perhaps we were too low sugar and low salt and the wilderness EMT suggested low potassium.

We've long noted the nutrition bar aisle at our local Target department store. Looking through the racks of various nutrition bars we noted that calories and content varied. We long wanted to taste test some of these, but recall our first taste of Gatorade many decades ago. Foul! Salty! Since then we have shied away from anything related to sports nutrition and went with everyday nutrition as practiced by ordinary citizens.

So, it was with some trepidation that we selected and purchased a Market Pantry nutrition bar. Target provides individual nutrition bars for purchase, so we were relieved not to have to purchase an entire box, only to find us holding an expensive box of what we refer to as "wood chips". To improve the chances of our taste buds accepting the strange new food, we opted for a nutrition bar marked "chocolate peanut butter".

The wrapper on our bar stated it contained 210 calories, so we decided to eat half one day and half the next. Late in the day when we normally have a wee bit of carbs we tore open the wrapper and bit in.

Not bad. Not bad at all!

This was certainly not the nutrition food of our 1970's youth.

Our first taste was similar to a less sweet candy bar. After two or three bites, we definitely could taste the difference.

We do note the taste was not so inspiring that we weren't able to resist folding up the remaining half of the bar and leaving in front of us until the next afternoon.

Bottom line: Its a keeper. We plan to buy two boxes of the bars for our planned 2012 section hike in CT and NY. We'll update you on our field results after our trip.

UPDATE 5/31/12 - We bought one box of bars for our upcoming 10-day section hike of New York. Plan to eat them on one long day and the three ending mountainous days. Most will be mailed ahead in a resupply dropbox.

Disclosure: We select and purchase the product(s) reviewed. We have no material connection to either the manufacturer nor the retailer(s).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Trail Food: Justin's Honey Peanut Butter

While shopping at a local Target department store, we were browsed the food aisles looking for possible backpacking fare. While standing in front of a wall of peanut butter, we noticed some small boxes with individual packets of peanut butter. From the four boxes we selected a small packet of Justin's Honey Peanut Butter to sample at the office. Today was the day.

The packet of peanut butter stated to knead before opening. Being a military veteran, this brought back memories of little green packets of peanut butter in the ubiquitous Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs). We once failed to knead and were punished with oil and a thick peanut flavored nougat. We rolled the packet between our palms rapidly.

Finding a small nick along the side, we opened the packet slightly and squeezed a dollop onto a waiting cracker. We definitely tasted peanut butter, but not a heavy taste of peanut butter. On our second dollop we distinctly could identify the taste of honey. Finally, we tore open the pouch and dug in with a small plastic spoon. The peanut butter was tasty, but a bit mealy feeling in the mouth. Perhaps we had not spent enough tie kneading it before use.

The packet indicates Justin's Honey Peanut Butter is kosher and gluten-free. A 1.15 oz. (32 grams) packet provides 190 calories. The very high calories to weight ratio and the good taste makes packets of Justin's Honey Peanut Butter a new inclusion on our backpacking meal plan this year. Last year we flagged a bit after a few days out, so we'll toss in some peanut butter packets to see if that helps us maintain our appetite around day four.

UPDATE 5/31/12 - We bought ten packets of Justin's Honey Peanut Butter for our upcoming 10-day section hike of New York.

Disclosure: We select and purchase the product(s) reviewed. We have no material connection to either the manufacturer nor the retailer(s).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Video: Ultralight Hiking

Rather unusual video by "lint" who has hiked the Appalachian Trail twice and is a triple crown (AT, CDT, PCT) hiker. Lint hikes a 8 pound pack plus food & water. We like his idea to use an umbrella with a bug net and his use of raw foods, such as carrots and brocolli. His "knife skills" while preparing food is extremely unusual (gross to some).

Want to read more about Lint’s adventures? He kept a trail journal of his Continental Divide Trail hike. Online:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pinterest Appalachian Trail Board

Have you been invited to join Pinterest?

If not, you may not know about this rapidly growing new social media site.

We received a Pinterest invitation and have added an Appalachian Trail board to our many Pinterests. Interestingly, even though Pinterest is populated largely with women users (83%), we found a number of people using Pinterest for their gear lists for a future hike. Pinterest allows for easy commenting, which we did to aid our fellow Pinterest users in making good buying decisions.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bear-resistant Storage Containers Now Required in Blood Mountain (GA) Wilderness

Beginning March 1, 2012, anyone camping overnight along the five miles of Appalachian Trail from Jarrard Gap to Neels Gap on the Chattahoochee National Forests must bring a bear-resistant container to contain personal garbage, toiletries and foods. The new regulation was issued by the USDA Forest Service in response to public safety concerns and repeated bear-human conflicts in the region.

Bear-resistant containers trap odors inside, eliminating the lure of food, and they are designed to be tamper-resistant against extreme force. These containers can be purchased at most retail stores and online sellers that stock camping gear.

“We’re taking this measure to protect campers and make our campsites less alluring to the bears that live here,” Blue Ridge District Ranger Andy Baker said.

The storage regulation is mandatory for all dispersed camping in Blood Mountain Wilderness Area within a quarter mile of the trail, as well as camping at Blood Mountain Shelter and Woods Hole Shelter. It is a seasonal requirement—only from March 1 through June 1. Forest officials said black bear encounters have increased significantly in recent years in the Blood Mountain Wilderness Area. Bears become more active as the seasons and weather change. They are particularly attracted to human food brought into wilderness in the early spring when natural food sources are not yet plentiful. This is also the peak season for northbound Appalachian Trail hikers to begin their journeys.

“Any bear that associates people with food is a dangerous bear because it’s going to be aggressive,” Baker said. “By removing the lure of foods and other odors, we stop giving bears a reason to approach a campsite.”

Traditional food storage methods in the wilderness, such as “bear-bagging,” or hanging food bags between trees, will not be allowed. These methods are not always effective at preventing bears from retrieving food.

This seasonal camping restriction was developed in consultation with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.

Blood Mountain was designated as a Wilderness Area by Congress in 1991. Wilderness designation means the land has been set aside for permanent protection because of its intact natural ecosystems. The Forest Service manages it in a way that allows many recreational activities, but also provides some restrictions to protect the area in its natural state. Wilderness visitors are asked to practice the Leave No Trace ethic, a set of guidelines for minimizing their impacts including planning ahead, staying on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what they find and respecting wildlife and other visitors.

For more tips on how to protect yourself and also protect black bears when visiting the national forest, visit the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests website at or contact the Blue Ridge Ranger District Office at (706) 745-6928. Maps are also available.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Encompassing around 867,000 acres across 26 counties, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 118,000 acres of designated wilderness; approximately 850 miles of recreation trails; and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas and other recreation activity opportunities; these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. The forest supervisor’s office for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Gainesville manages four district units—Blairsville (Blue Ridge District), Lakemont (Chattooga River District), Chatsworth (Conasauga District) and Eatonton (Oconee District).

USDA Forest Service
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests
Release: Immediate
Contact: Judy Toppins, Public Affairs Officer
Phone: 770/297-3061
Forest Supervisor’s Office
1755 Cleveland Highway
Gainesville, GA 30501

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hiking Food: Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola

Laying on the desk atop a pile of used food wrappers is the blue and white plastic from a Sunbelt Fudge Dipped Chocolate Chip chewy granola bar. We've been meaning to post some reviews of hiking foods we've tested, so here's our review of what's become our favorite granola bar for hiking and at the office.

We really like these granola bars. They're preservative free and a 1.5 ounce bar provides 210 calories for 140 calories per ounce. Not as high a calories to weight ratio as Snickers or Butterfingers, but higher than many other popular hiking foods.

You'll want to keep these in the cool area of your pack until consumed as they are fudge dipped and the fudge gets quite messy with warming from a pocket or laying in a sunny spot on a table.

These granola bars aren't for everyone. The package warns for the following food allergies: soy, peanuts, almonds, eggs, milk and wheat. Also, other tree nuts may appear from time to time.

Give these a try. In this day and age when all the food makers are trying to see how low calorie they can go, its nice to discover someone making a good old fashioned high calorie food for hiking.

Disclosure: We select and purchase the product(s) reviewed. We have no material connection to either the manufacturer nor the retailer(s).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Appalachian Trail Journals 2012

The northern migration of Homo Appalachianus has begun.

A few brave souls have already left Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. As more folks start their treks north, we'll review their TrailJournals and blogs and select the most interesting and well written to follow.

Here's our selection of the best of 2012 Appalachian Trail Journals:

Bluevist - This 69 year-old woman is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her 2002 thru-hike. Bluevist's TrailJournal also has a partial gear list. (Off-trail 4/11/12)

Miister & Porcupine - Mindy and Drew started on New Years Day 2012. Haven't updated recently.

Ranger - This is a 64 year-old male who sectioned hiked a lot of the AT in 2011.

UPDATE 4/11/12

If you've found a really good TrailJournal that we should add, please send us a link using the comments below. We're looking for inspiring, well written journals with helpful details. A good gear list with photos, weights and prices are a definite plus.

Related posts:

Appalachian Trail Journals 2011

Appalachian Trail Journals 2010