Hiking Dude Blog
2023 - Apr Jan
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I'm off on my next hike in a week.
The plan is to hike from Harper's Ferry, WV south on the Appalachian Trail to the terminus on Springer Mountain, GA.
After checking out buses, planes, trains, and automobiles, I've decided to go by rail across the country. Bus was $90, plane was $100, and train was $150. So, why did I choose train?
First off, I will only ride a bus if it's the very last possible option. My Greyhound experience last year was enough to last a loooong time.
Even though the plane was less money, it got me to Washington, DC so I would need to take a commuter train to the trail, and it landed at night so I'd need to pay for a place to stay.
The train takes a bit more than a day and costs more than flying, but I step off the train right onto the trail, I can pack all my food and gear at home, it arrives at mid-day, and I stay on the ground. Plus, I've not been on a long train ride in many years so it will be more of an adventure.
I've looked over the AT Guidebook, set up resupply spots, figured out how far I'll hike each day and where I'll spend each night. Of course, as soon as I set foot on the trail, the plan goes out the window but it's a good exercise to get a general idea of what to expect. You can check out my rough hiking schedule if you're interested. If it all works out, I'll reach the end by Oct. 15, but I can take as long as I need.
If you know someone along the trail that would like to visit with a hiker, send me an email. I'd always prefer a home over a tent or shelter any night on the trail. And, I'm hoping some Scouts might be able to join me hiking for a couple hours or days.
Check out my current location on the map. Did a short hike around Ft.Snelling and pike island yesterday and found this elusive wood nymph along the trail. It was only about 4 miles but today I did my hill climbing and a little bike ride. I'll mow the yard and that will be enough exercise for today.
Since January, I've been preparing for my half-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I leave in 2 weeks, and I'm just about physically ready for the trek. I'd like to share how I went about ramping up for the hike - not that it's the best way for everyone, but it's what I planned and completed.
Starting in January, I started walking 3 days a week. I started with 2 miles the first two times out, just to make sure my legs weren't atrophied after being pretty sedentary since Thanksgiving. It was very cold, for me as well as the animals along the trail. I moved up to 4 miles per day and walked that distance until February.
During February, March, and April, I just walked 5 miles most mornings on the trail. The goal was to just keep muscles moving and being outdoors. I believe walking year round is certainly a good thing to do, but I don't think pounding out 10 or 20 mile days months before starting a long hike helps prepare for that hike. So, I just made sure I was active for at least 1 hour each day. My long-term goal was to cover 1000 miles before starting on my 1000-mile long hike - not an important number, just something to shoot for.
With the spring, came thawing trails, new leafs, and migrating birds. Reducing the layers I had to wear, I increased my daily hike distance to 6 miles and spent about 90 minutes each morning on the trail. May was nice, and we were fortunate to have a cool, dry June, so the walks were beautiful. The trail got more busy with bike riders, runners, and dog walkers.
One thing I've done poorly is weight training and upper body exercising. Many long distance hikers see upper body weight as just extra weight to move up the trail. That's true, but I think keeping the entire body toned makes all the muscles work better together, and that's something I need to work on before my next long hike.
With a couple weeks lost to vacation and family visits, I've spent July doing longer walks. Anywhere from 8 to 12 miles, at least twice a week, with 6 miles other days. To help get ready for the strenuous, rough, steep nature of the Appalachian Trail, I've added hill climbing. I walk 3 miles to the closest steep hill of only about 120 feet, walk up and down as many times as I can, and then walk home. I'm now up to walking it 10 times in 1 hour which is my goal. I'll do that a few more times before leaving for the A.T. but I know I'll still be woefully under-prepared for the climbs on that trail. :-)
Fortunately, the A.T. doesn't have high elevations so oxygen will be available in the air. My challenge will be getting it into my body for my legs to use. Forcing myself to take it easy for the first week or two will also be a challenge since I tend to push myself each day to cover more miles.
If you have any hints, tips, tricks, or secrets to help prepare for long hikes, please feel free to comment about them. One thing I've not done before, but just started for this hike, is drinking chocolate-flavored whey protein right after my daily walk. I don't know if it's helping, but I like the taste and the expectation is that it will help recover and strengthen the leg muscles that have been fatigued.Hike On
I've accumulated almost 800 miles on my daily walks this year. Hiking pretty much every weekday for 6 to 8 miles in the early morning doesn't sound too interesting to share online, so I've not been blogging. Since it's getting close to time for my next long hike, I figure I need to make sure the blog stuff still works.
It has been fun watching the trail change over the months and I've seen many animals along the way. Here's just a few pictures of my little friends and I'll share some more over the next few days.
Now that it is mid-summer, everything is in full foliage, flowers have bloomed, and fruits are ripening. It's nearing the best time of year for hiking, so I'm preparing to leave in two weeks.
Last year, my try at the northern half of the Appalachian Trail didn't go as hoped but I'm ready to take a shot at that tough trail again.
This year, I'm going to do the southern half with a more casual schedule and not push so hard. Well, I expect I'll wind up pushing it but I'm hoping to at least pull in the reins for awhile and take it a bit easier.
Over the next couple weeks, I'll share what I've done to prepare for my long hike, what my plan is, challenges I expect to encounter, and anything else that folks ask about.
Back home and walking in -15°F yesterday. That's just 80° lower than my last walk down south. ☺
The vacation to Marco Island in Florida is over, and was a great time. It ended with a walk through the Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers before catching a plane home. Those two guys were amazing, and left legacies that huge parts of our current way of life are built on. Batteries, music, movies, automobiles, and much more were created, improved, or made available to consumers through their efforts.
If you're looking for an escape from cold winter, the Ft. Myers, Naples area has a lot to explore. The one thing I missed doing was visiting the official southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail. I plan to be hiking it soon - "soon" being arbitrarily relative.
Now that the manatees, alligators, seashells, and birds of all sorts are just things to fondly remember until next time, I'm enjoying the local trails again. Yesterday was the coldest hike of the winter for me. I thought this steam coming out of a sewer cover and freezing onto the branches above was very interesting. The upper branches are about 8 feet above the opening and still covered in frost. You can click the photo for a larger view.
Even though it was quite cold, I was comfortably warm for the 90-minute, 6-mile hike - all except my toes which started complaining after an hour.
I've developed a clothing scheme that works well for me based on the air temperature and wind. I don't want to be too hot or too cold, so different layers for different temperatures are important. I'll share that in a couple days.
Just like the steam from a sewer, -15°F does a great job of frosting up a lone hiker. I even got frost on my eyelashes and inside my coat. With projected warmer temperatures (today it is 30 degrees already), this will probably be that last really cold walk about.
Oh, if you are admiring the scarf, I'm sorry but it's not available in any stores. It's a one-of-a-kind, custom knit creation that I got for Christmas!
To close, I just had to share this bit of trail trash. Someone was a wonderful valentine, getting a balloon for his sweetie, but it escaped. A week later, I found it in the brush along the trail. I wonder how long of a flight it had? But, now it's in the garbage can outside waiting for pick-up.
So, tether your balloons! And don't be afraid to pick up and properly dispose of trash you notice along your trail.
The big arctic cold blast that has been setting record lows around the country even reached this far south the last couple days. Instead of highs in the 80s, it's only been in the 60s - but that's fine with me since there's still been lots of sun! You can see I had a jacket on today.
On this last full day, I got to hike a couple miles on the beach. They call this the 'west coast' even though I'm in one of the states on the Atlantic Ocean. I'm actually on an island just off the west coast of this eastern state, so that's weird.
We found lots of seashells and enjoyed the sunshine. We also walked 3 miles roundtrip to the store to get food for dinner this evening. So, it was a pretty relaxing day, but I did get in a few miles.
Last things left to do are visit a museum and see a few more manatees this morning before catching a plane home.
Brrrrrr. I'm not really looking forward to doing my hikes all bundled up again. Oh well.
I walked 6 miles around the island early this morning, and got to this nice spot just as the sun rose at 7:00am. A couple of hopeful pelicans were keeping an eye on someone hunting in the rocks below the tideline - I assume for something edible. There were also a few fishermen nearby casting into the bay.
Without a cloud in the sky, the sun was beautiful, but a strong wind from the north dropped the temperature down below 50. Other people out walking were bundled up, but I felt just fine in my t-shirt.
I even saw one lady wearing gloves, earmuffs, and a down coat!
Exploring the area later in the afternoon, I ran into this little fella in the swamp along the trail. Actually, he's about as long as I am tall. He was getting all the sun he could soak up since it was such a cold day. I also saw a few manatees, but photos of a snout surfacing isn't that exciting. :-)
Yesterday, I went on a canoe tour led by a couple park rangers through some backwater mangrove forests. It was very interesting to learn a bit more about the area. Today, our hope for doing a kayak tour on our own was squashed because of a small craft advisory and big waves, so we stuck to relatively dry land.
I have a couple more days here. It's not Louisiana, so where do you think I might be?
These birds are a big change from the shivering deer on my last post. Obviously, I'm someplace new!
On vacation in a warmer place for a few days, I'm still walking each morning but with fewer layers and more perspiration. I hiked the morning before leaving home and it was -15F windchill. When I arrived, I went for a short walk and it was +76F - that's quite a change for acclimating.
Any idea where I am? Go ahead and take a guess.
The deer were smarter than me this morning. How many can you see in this picture that I zoomed in from the trail?
While they were bedded down, I was walking my 5 miles through ice pellets. It wasn't freezing rain and it certainly wasn't snow and I couldn't really call it hail.
Starting as a few light pings on my exposed windward cheek, it gradually became sharper twinges as the wind picked up and the size of pellets grew. By the time I got home, I had my scarf around my face - not for warmth, but for protection from the BBs bouncing off my head.
You can see what had piled up on the sidewalk here. Smart deer, waiting it out under the trees. At least it made a very interesting noise as the millions of pellets bounced through the bare tree limbs and onto the dry leafs across the forest floor. I guess it was similar to a rainmaker tube that you may have seen created by school kids.
PS: There are three deer in the photo.
It took just a bit over an hour of walking this morning to develop this cool frost layer. It was -5°F and about 5mph wind but I was comfortable the whole time.
At -10°F, it takes about 30 minutes to get frostbite on exposed skin, but less than 15 minutes at -20°F. Above about 15°F, there is much less concern about frostbite, but hypothermia remains something to watch for as people slowly lose their core body heat over hours, not minutes.
Keep these points in mind to prevent frostbite:
- Keep Moving - muscle activity keeps warm blood flowing to your extremities. Sitting, or even standing in one position, can reduce circulation which increases frostbite potential. Don't move so much that you sweat and get your clothes wet.
- Wear loose layers - this provides dead air space which means more insulation. A big fleece crushed under a tight-fitting windbreaker loses loft - wear an oversized outer layer.
- Cover up - Exposed skin freezes fast so cover everything but your eyes.
- Convection cools - a 0 degree windless day is less dangerous than a 15 degree day with 15mph wind. A windproof outer layer makes a big difference. Even a thin wind/rain jacket hood over your stocking hat helps a lot.
- Winter Gear - a scarf or balaclava protects the face; mittens instead of gloves keep fingers together and warmer; insulated boots, especially with thick soles, keep feet warmer than hiking boots. Chemical heat packs in boots and mittens can be a big help.
- Limit Exposure - if you expect frostbite temperatures for your outing, plan a shorter hike or use shelters along the way to warm up occasionally.
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Feb 13, 2020 - Jason Berklund
Feb 13, 2020 - Hiking Dude
Getting to the northern terminus is expensive (in my mind). If you can schedule correctly, Arrowhead Transit is cheapest to Grand Marais, but then Harriet Quarles is the only shuttle I know of. You might find a good ol' boy in Grand Marais willing to drive you the 35 miles to the end for a few $$$.
It's a 3 hour drive from Duluth - that's 6 hours and 300 miles round-trip. Maybe your friend would like to drive up the north shore for a day.
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