Power naps

nap timeWhen I start dragging on the trail, I unfurl my Z-Rest and take a short power nap—maybe 20 minutes or so.

Most of the time it’s just me in my sphere on the trail.   So I lie down in the middle of trail confident that no one will be coming along.

I need to be careful  of doing that right out of town because there are often day hikers around.   One time I  felt sleepy coming out of town, so I laid down on the trail and went to sleep.  I woke up to a day hiker screaming because she thought I was dead.

A hiker on the Appalachian Trail told me this story:  She was hiking along when she saw a man lying on the trail.  He had his tent laid over him and a “Do Not Disturb” sign out.  “Odd place to take  a nap” she thought as she carefully slipped by him mindful of not disturbing him.   A little ways down the the trail she met a sheriff who said the man was dead.

Haitian Woodstock on the Appalachian Trail

There is a monastery on the Appalachian Trail. The guide book said that the monks allow thru-hikers to camp there.  I was going to stop there and take a couple half days off to meditate and enjoy monastic life while I waited for another hiker to catch up with me.

First clue that this wasn’t going to be the retreat I had hoped for was the used diaper and the empty half rack of beer laying on the trail. As I tried to find my way to the place where the hikers were allowed to stay, I was met with loud live music and about 10,000 Haitians. I kept asking people where the ball field was but no one spoke English. There was trash everywhere.

I finally found the ball field. One of the monks showed up and welcomed me. He seemed totally oblivious that 10,000 Haitians had just trashed his monastery. He said that they usually would leave some food for the hikers, and sure enough a woman pointed at a barrel of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a bag of rolls. A couple hours later everyone was gone and I pushed some trash aside and put up my tent.

The next morning the sun that I had seen little of, came out. I woke to looking out at the trash strewn ball-field. I had some time to kill because I was waiting for another hiker to catch up, so I started to pick up the trash. As I was picking up the trash, one of the monastery people drove up and waving his arm out at the trash covered field shouted, “Did you do this!” and then laughed.

It felt so good to be walking without a pack, in the morning sun, and doing something useful after all those months of doing nothing but hiking, that I just kept going and in a few hours I had the whole field cleaned up.

Waterproof socks: A bad idea

I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2003. It was a wet and cold year. I hiked exclusively in Chaco sandals. To keep my feet from getting too cold, I often wore neoprene socks. My neoprene socks were wearing out and all the seams were splitting. In one small town, I tried to replace them at an outfitter. He didn’t have neoprene, but assured me that waterproof socks would work just as well.

I bought the waterproof socks and discarded my worn out neoprene in his trash. It wasn’t long before a horrible odor started emanating from the waterproof socks. After aimg_2556.jpg week or so, the smell was enormous and putrid.

I was meeting up at nights with another hiker. In the mornings, I would start hiking before her and by the end of the day; we would meet up and camp together. One afternoon she said to me, “I knew I was getting close to you; I have been smelling your socks for awhile now.

One night we were camped under a huge open covered area. I placed the socks as far as I could from us without throwing them out in the rain, probably 35 feet or so. Once we laid down, she turned to me and said, “Where are those socks? “Way over there, I pointed. “Well, I still smell them. she scowled.

When we got in town, we visited the Appalachian Trail Society. She felt bad because they didn’t want to take our pictures for the thru-hiker wall and they shooed us out of the hiker box. I said, “Don’t feel bad, I think it’s the socks they don’t like.

She was meeting her husband in town. After we did laundry, where I washed those stinking socks twice, they gave me a ride to my motel. In the car, he said, “What’s that smell? With a voice and face that conveyed the message, “Do you see what I put up with?  she sighed, “It’s Crow’s socks

After a night in the motel, where I kept the socks encased in a plastic bag and still they stunk up the room, I decided I was going to send them back to the manufacturer and ask for a refund. I had to hitch a ride, though, and I had visions of the ride stopping and kicking me out because of the stink, so I threw them away.

To the manufacturer of waterproof socks: You owe me 40 bucks.

Trail names.

The first time I hiked the PCT, I didn’t use a trail name; I felt it was a tradition that belonged to the social, more goofy, AT hiker.hello.JPG

The problem is, if you don’t have a trail name, other people will try to name you–as if you are some woodland orphan they found and get to name.

If you are a woman over 40, young men will try to tag you with a name that has ma, mother, mom, or granny in it. Other hikers will try to name you after some mistake you made or some insignificant detail about yourself.

It _is_ easier to remember people who have trail names. So when picking out a trail name, you may want to try for something unique.

If it is unique you are after, animal names don’t work well because there are always too many “Crows” and “Bears” on the trail. The names of the characters of the Hobbit are usually over represented as well. Cross off anything to do with feet; there are always lots of people named after their sore, tired, stinky, clumsy, blistered, or swift feet. Having references to how slow, fast, light, or heavy you hike is also overdone.

I think it would be awkward to introduce myself with a long or excessively goofy name. Foreign words that are hard to pronounce aren’t a good choice either; I once hiked with a woman for 2 weeks before I could pronounce her name and even then I could never spell it right.

Once you have a trail name, people will stop trying to name you. Making up a story about how you got your tail name is a plus.

Build a shelter and they will come.

The shelters on the Appalachian Trail often host the most unlikely campers. One guy I saw in a shelter, carried a duffel bag full of cotton clothes, a folding chair, and a cell phone from which he made and received many phone calls. Someone else who camped with the same guy said he woke up in the middle of the night screaming her name. That would be freaky.

Another thru-hiker, I talked to, said he was at a shelter, alone, when another person showed up. They talked for a bit, then the guy stepped out of the shelter and started screaming as loud as he could, “Help!…Help!… Help!” Then he turned to the surprised thru-hiker and said with a smile, “No one can hear us here.” The thru-hiker packed up and moved on.

The coal miners on the Appalachian Trail.

On the Appalachian Trail I met two coal miners in their 50’s who spent their vacations, hiking a section of the trail.  Starting at the begining in Springer, they were working their way through the whole trail.  They were lots of fun; always laughing at what ever was happening. In the short time they were on the trail, they made  lots of friends. Every year, they said, that they would go back for trail days and meet up with all the folks they had met the previous years.

It made me sad to think of them leaving the trail and spending the rest of their summer in the dark mine.


I’m pretty much ready to head out to hike the PCT(Pacific Crest Trail), but I won’t be leaving for well over a week.

I’m going to just buy my food along the way. I’m not at all picky and like the challenge and freedom of resupplying at little stores.

The last time I hiked the PCT, I bought all my food before hand and put it in 28 different boxes and paid someone to mail them to me. What a lot of work.

At first, half of the stuff from my mail drops was going into the hiker boxes because I didn’t need that much food in the begining. Then, after my appetite kicked in, half of my food ended up in the hiker boxes because I didn’t like it anymore.

It got pretty common for me to walk into town, find the post office not open, resupply with what ever I could find in town and just forget about the box. Even at Timberline Lodge where people say you can’t resupply from, I didn’t want to wait around for my box, so I just bought some stuff out of the vending machines and hiked on.

At the end of my hike I had a bunch of boxes returned to me and waiting for me at home.

On the Florida trail I had a drift box that was supposed to follow me up the trail. It had all my maps and fuel and stuff but it got lost and I didn’t get it until I got back.

On the AT I just bought along the way and only used Wingfoot’s book for navigation. I didn’t go into one post office the whole trip.

I don’t want to carry all the maps and guide books for the whole PCT so I have made up a drift box that I will keep mailing to myself, 500-700 miles ahead of me. In it I have supplements, pain relievers, socks, ice ax, water treatment, lithium batteries, guide books, maps, data sheets, etc. I really hope the post office doesn’t lose it.

For a bear canister, I can’t decide between the Bear Vault 350(2lbs 1oz) or the Bearikade weekender model(1lb 15 oz). I will decide some time up the trail. Probably order it from Agua Dulce, and have it shipped to Kennedy Meadows. I think most people are carrying the Bear Vault 450(2 lbs 9 oz) but I think it’s too heavy.

For fuel, I’m going to use what canisters I can find in the hiker boxes and stores along the way. I will start the trip without fuel, because you can’t bring it on the plane. I’m not really that into instant mashed potatoes and ramen anyway. Though, hot beverages are one of my favorite things, but, “the path is easy for those without preferences.”

For shoes I plan to hike mostly in Chacos sandals but I’m bringing along a pair of running shoes too. I really don’t want to but I know the PCT is very hard on feet and I want to have the option of giving my feet a change, when they get tired. My feet were my weakest link, the first time I hiked the PCT, and I’m hoping for happy feet this time.

I have said I was bringing the running shoes before, but when it came time to leave, I just couldn’t bear to carry the extra weight and ended up leaving them at home.

How much does it cost to hike a long trail?

The first long trail I hiked was the PCT(Pacific Crest Trail). I quit my good paying job and planned to return to work the following spring. I looked at the hike as a “trip of a lifetime” and spared no expense. But, like a lot of people that complete a long hike, once I finished the trail, I wasn’t so willing to sell my summers anymore and I still haven’t made it back to work.

Since then I have tried to practice a more sustainable hiking style. If I’m disciplined enough I will keep track of my PCT expenses this trip and see how much I spend.

There is a rule of thumb that everyone throws around that says 1-2 dollars a mile, but, Weathercarrot wrote this article on how he hiked the AT on 1,100 dollars: that’s freedom.

I was reading journals today and found a hiker who is paying for her trip by selling plasma.

Update: I spent about 3,600 dollars. That included buying a couple new pairs of shoes, a new backpack, and new rain gear.  I don’t drink and I tried to get out of town as quickly as I could but sometimes got a room.   I bought lots of fresh food no matter the cost.

Resupply at the Wilson Creek Shelter.

When I was in a shelter on the AT(Appalachian Trail), waiting for someone to come see about the abandon pack that was left there, we joked about who they would send. We thought for sure they would send search and rescue or a trail runner. But we laughed that they might send two sheriff deputies through the dark woods 2 and one-half miles to the shelter with one of those huge flash lights that work really well for about 40 minutes. And that they would arrive knocking on the bottom of it trying to get it to work better There was probably over 100 lbs of gear left there and we laughed about the the local deputies putting on the pack and walking back out with that huge flashlight about to go out.

About 1 am they arrived, it was two sheriff deputys and sure enough they had one of those big flashlights that was about to go out. One was a big rotund friendly guy and the other was a very skinny guy with slicked back hair and a lot of after shave on. After they found the note that was left with the pack that said the owner had murdered his father and gone to the woods to live, they called in. Even though one 16 year old boy had carried all that gear to the shelter, they told the office that there was 100’s of pounds of gear there and that there was no way that they could pack it all out.

There were probably fifty trail bars. One fell on the ground while they were looking through the pack. The big guy picked it up and said,” I think that one will just have to find it ‘s way into my pocket.”

They decided to just take the knives and the note with them and send someone in the morning to pick up the rest of the gear. They had a little spare flashlight with them to get them back out. Before they left, the big guy pointed to the bag of trail bars and said to us, “If some of these trail bars are gone in the morning, well, I guess that would be all right”

Related post: Bears and murderers

Barking shelter rat.

On the AT, as I got to a shelter, just before dark on a rainy day, someone inside yelled “we’re full“. I said, “I’ll just get some water and hike on then”. I filled up with water, put on my pack, and as I walked past the shelter, with all the beady little eyes of the LED headlamps looking back at me, one of the hikers, a guy that looked to be about 50, started to bark.

Emergency fire starting kit.

This is my emergency fire starting kit. It’s a spare Bic lighter and two Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets in a plastic ziplock baggie. It weighs 1.6 ounces or 47 grams. I’m thinking of trading one of the Esbit tablets in for a tea light. emergency firestarting kit

I have never had to start a fire on the trail, but I have needed an extra lighter when my other one stopped working. Also I figure I could cook dinner on the Esbit tablets if I ran out of fuel or my stove quit working.

When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah’s, it had been rainy and cold for days. It wasn’t just vertical rain but this thick wet mist that would roll into my tent and get everything wet.  Supposedly, there was a camp ground with a laundry mat, showers,  and a store off the trail a bit, but it was so foggy that I couldn’t find it. Walking through the campground, I was yelling, “Hello?, Hellooo?? Finally I found the camp store, laundry mat and showers.    After buying food for the next section, I did laundry and took a shower. The laundry mat seemed so cheery with the bare Fluorescent bulb buzzing away.  While I waited for my clothes to dry I dreaded going back out into that wet cold fog.

Another hiker and I camped at the campground by the bathrooms; they were heated and had one of those lovely hand dryers. We had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the hand dryer.

Day after day it rained, and night after night I crawled into that wet tent.

According to the guide book there was a cabin coming up. It was a cabin that thru-hikers were not supposed to camp at, around or even stop at. I decided to check it out. It was a locked up cabin with a covered rock porch with a fireplace. There was another hiker there checking it out. I called to the woman I had been hiking with and told her that I had found accommodations for the night The other hiker decided he was going to build a fire in the outdoor fireplace.

My friend and I gave a half hearted effort to help him gather wood but we were both thinking it was futile; the woods were so wet. He gathered his dry kindling from the lower dead branches on trees. He also shaved the wet bark off some of the wood. I scraped wax from the mantle left from past resident’s candle burning and he used guide book pages for paper. Soon he had a nice fire going. It was so cheery and we were all so happy; never having imagined that this wet cold day would end up like this. We all laid our bags out in front of the fire and laughed and talked while the fire warmed our bodies and spirits.

Other things that you may have can be used as fire starting aids. For example any petroleum products like Neosporin or Chap Stick. If you carry alcohol gel you might want to try that.

Lyme disease on the trail.

Hiking through Connecticut on the Appalachian Trail, I got a lot of warnings about Lyme disease. They said when I got done with my hike that I should take 4 weeks of doxycycline because the chances of getting it were so high. They told me stories of how they were not treated or under-treated with antibiotics and had serious complications from Lyme disease. They said to get 4- 6 weeks of antibiotics.

I wasn’t feeling well for awhile, tired and achy but that is sort of normal for being on a long distance trail. One morning I got up and started hiking… I hadn’t been hiking long when I laid down on a big rock in the sun and went to sleep. I just wanted to sleep, but after awhile I forced myself up and started hiking, after a couple of miles I laid down again for a nap, and then hiked a couple of miles with my knees aching and laid down for another nap ; I was so tired. I looked at my guide book and saw that from the next road crossing I could hitch-hike to town. I sat down on the road, too tired to stand and hitched a ride to a big old three storied B& B.

I told the women at the B& B, that I was more tired than I had ever been in my whole life. She said “I’ll show you to your room?. She walked me up all these flights of stairs each landing I would hopefully think we were there. Finally we got to the room and I went to lie down, but she said, “No, you need to check in first? so back down all those stairs with my aching knees and so tired it was really everything I could do to concentrate on getting down them. I checked in and walked back up all those stairs. I wasn’t there 5 minutes when she called me on the telephone and said that she hadn’t charged me enough and that I would need to come back down and pay her 5 more dollars. I said, “I can’t. You can come up and get it, or I will pay you in the morning but I’m not doing those stairs another time.? Even in my weakened state, I thought it was sort of comical making a sick person climb all those stairs.

I took a shower and looked in the mirror and found a tick on me. I scratched it off. There is no telling how many ticks I had had on me. I found that one because I was at atick.jpg hotel, I wouldn’t have found it had I been on the trail. Now it wasn’t just my knees that ached but every joint in my body. I called my son and through looking on the Internet he determined that I had Lyme disease. My neck ached terribly and I would get chilled and be looking at my sleeping bag on the floor, yet I would be too tired to get it. Then I would get really hot and look at a glass of water but I was too tired to reach for it.

The next day I climbed down the stairs and called a taxi to take me to Great Barrington Hospital. I slept in the chair in the waiting room. The nurse practitioner said that she would not prescribe antibiotics unless she was positive I had Lyme disease and that the test was not valid unless you had it for a long while and sometimes even still if wouldn’t necessarily be right. She took my temperature, and said, “See you have a temperature, that’s why you are tired.? I said, “what about my joint pain?. She shrugged her shoulders and charged me 125.00 dollars.

That night I moaned all night long from the pain in every joint. I had chills and then fevers. The next morning I had a bull’s-eye rash. I called that nurse practitioner and she said that she would have to see it before she would prescribe any antibiotics. I had taken a bus to another town and told her I was very tired and couldn’t make thebullseye.jpg trip back. She still refused me antibiotics. I made an appointment with a doctor that was closer to the motel and he looked at the rash and said it was a textbook picture of a Lyme disease rash. When he said that he would prescribe 2 weeks of doxycycline. I said, “No, everyone says 4-6 weeks.? But that is all he would give me and I was too tired to put up much of a fight. Then he charged me 85 dollars and sent me on my way. I took the antibiotics and in a few days, I was ready to head back out on the trail.

After I finished the trail I started getting hot achy knees, I read in the Merck manual that that is a sign of the kind of arthritis that you get from Lyme disease that hasn’t been treated fully. Also from reading stuff on the internet I learned that you should have 4 weeks of doxycycline. I found a Lyme disease specialist and went to him. He said that I was under-treated and that it may be too late. He prescribed 6 weeks of double doses of doxycycline and amoxicillin and charged me 175 dollars. I took them all and since then have not had the hot achy knees.

It’s really hard to find decent medical care when you are sick on the trail. It’s hard to get to the doctor and it’s hard to fight with them when you are sick. Many of the hiker’s doctors would prescribe the doxy for them. If you have a doctor see if you can get a prescription before you leave in case you need it. It’s criminal that the medicines that we need are locked up. I’m willing to take the consequences of my incompetence but it is so frustrating, unfair, and deadly to be at the mercy of incompetent doctors.

sawyers.jpgThis year, when I went hiking, I soaked my clothes and my tent in Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent Military Style Clothing Treatment, Soak System It’s supposed to last for 6 washings. I don’t like deet and would rather the insect repellent be on my clothes then on me.

Hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail)

The Appalachian Trail is a a 2200 mile(3500km) trail running from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States. The only book I used for the entire trail was Wingfoot’s Thru-hikers handbookhandbook.gif. It has all the data you need: water sources, shelters, towns and the services the towns offer, and the mileages between them. I brought the entire book, minus the cover, and ripped out and threw away the pages as I used them. The whole book, I think, weighed 7-9 oz(226grams). I ripped out the days page and kept it in a small plastic ziplock in my pocket and the rest of the book was kept in a gallon size ziplock in my pack. The trail is very well marked with white blazes painted on the trees. I didn’t need any maps or any other guide book.

I came to the trail with enough water to get me to the next water source and enough food to get me to the next food source. That’s how I hiked the whole trail and it worked great. I found that buying my food along the way gave me more freedom. I didn’t have to wait for my packages in towns or stop at towns that I didn’t want to stop at. I would usually buy food every 3 days or so. For one stretch in New York there was some source of calories every day. Sometimes I would hike out of town with a whole pizza wrapped up in foil in my food bag. Town food has a lot more power to it then a box of old dry food that you send yourself.bb.jpg

To prepare for the AT I would suggest reading Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardines Guide to Lightweight Hiking and getting your pack weight down. My base weight ( all my stuff minus food, water, and fuel) was 11-12lbs(5kg) and probably never weighed more then 25lbs(11kg) fully loaded with food, water and fuel. My load included a tent with full bug and rain protection, a warm sleeping bag and a good stove. I had everything I needed; that’s important, don’t go so light that you don’t have the gear you need to take care of yourself. So many times I have put the rain poncho shelter, the 1lb sleeping bag, and the 13oz backpack on my gear list only to be hit with the reality that the pack hurts my shoulders, I get wet in the tarp and the 1lb sleeping bag is too cold.chaco.jpg

For foot wear I wore Chaco Z/1 Sandals for the entire trail. I wore socks with them and when it got snowy or cold I wore them with neoprene socks. In the snow my feet were cold and uncomfortable, but they survived. Buy the right size for your foot and don’t worry about stubbing your toe. I have hiked over 4000 miles (6400km) in sandals and though my toes go right up to the end, I have never stubbed them.

I also read books by people that had hiked the trail and read online journals about people who had hiked it. It helps to kind of know what to expect.

Odd woman on the AT.

cabin-231-1.jpgIt was a rainy day on the AT (Appalachian Trail.) It was where the AT comes closest to New York City. Not far from this shelter there was a train stop right on the trail that would take you in to NYC.

I stopped at the shelter to get out of the rain and take a break. There was a thin middle aged women in the shelter and she screamed and jumped out of her thin blanket- bag and ran around the shelter in her underwear, grabbing at her clothes she had hung up to dry. I said, “No need to dress on my account?. So she got back into her bag. She was cold and had this thin blanket bag that she assured me was what all the “campers? were using, now. She had a metal bowl full of flaming wax in her lap that she was using to try and warm herself up with. I offered to make her a hot cup of coffee but the only thing she had for a cup was a really big plastic Big Gulp cup that was apparently holding her entire water supply.

She told me that the people in Kent, Connecticut don’t like campers and that if I tried to resupply there “I wouldn’t be served?; she was English. I told her that I was going to resupply there anyway but she kept saying, “you won’t be served. So, now where will you resupply?? Then she told me that there was a place on the trail where the air would sometimes turn bad and you could suffocate. And that emergency service will not respond to cell phone calls. She also told me that right up ahead there was a hot dog stand. “Well, that’s a good one,” I thought; Wingfoot, in his Thru Hikers Handbook, lists every possible source of calories on the trail from pop machines to fine dining; I don’t think he would leave out a hot dog stand that was right on the trail.

My break finished I walked on and in a few miles, right off the trail, there it was: the hot dog stand.