The Moffat tunnel, Continental theft of water. A Limerick

Len Bilén's blog, a blog about faith, politics and the environment.

What flows through the tunnel of Moffat?

It’s water for Denver’s own profit.

When South-West tries to sue.

Will they win, get their due?

I never was much of a prophet.

The Moffat tunnel in Colorado, built in 1928 is a six mile railroad and water  tunnel that goes under the continental divide. The water tunnel carries up to 105 acre-feet of water per hour to the City of Denver. The water is taken from the Colorado river watershed, which leaves the South Western states with nearly one million acre-feet less water per year.

When the tunnel was built this was not much of a problem, Nevada had less than 100, 000 inhabitants, Arizona less than 350,000 and California about 3.5 million people. Now Nevada has 25 times as many people, Arizona 15 times as many , and California 10 times as many people, all thirsty for more water.


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Hammocks for Hiking

Hiking with a hammock

Hammock on the Appalachian Trail

I’ve never overnighted in a hammock, but some of my hiking friends swear by them. Once you try it, they say you will become a convert. Most often used in fair weather, hammocks are becoming more popular. Hikers using them bring up some good points:

1) You sleep or rest off the ground, which may be soaked, damp, and cold.

2) You are away from creepers and crawlies.

3) Animals will get into tents, not hammocks.

4) A more comfortable and better way to sleep  I emphasize this last point because it’s what I hear most often from hammock lovers. They claim it is a better way to experience deep sleep on any hike.

What about if it rains? Got ya covered. Take a look at this hammock, which sports a tarp and mosquito netting. I like the idea of keeping gnats and mosquitos out, but letting air in, all under a protective rain-fly. Here’s another model designed for tall people. Seems like you will find a hammock for even the fussy among us.

This website, Hammock Forums, surprised me. It is the first and last word on hammocks. One article details how hammocks are used in winter conditions! I won’t be testing one anytime soon, but I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who uses a hammock regularly on an extended hike.

Hiking the A.T.

Hammock in Sunrise on the Appalachian Trail

“SIERRA” and the Pacific Crest Trail

sierra-launch  sierra-launch0   sierra-launch-1

Last October, I launched my newest AWOL thriller, SIERRA, which takes place along the Pacific Crest Trail. Right now many hikers are preparing for a long-distance hike, and I’m taking this opportunity to reach out to the backpacking and outdoor community.

My hike of the PCT was completed in 2008, and I will never forget the awe-inspiring beauty of this magnificent hiking trail. As many of you know, the PCT is contiguous with some of the John Muir Trail and goes from one end of Yosemite to the other. In other posts, I’ve shown some of my pictures.

While Sierra is a thriller and has the typical violence of drug cartels, it is fiction; I saw none of that out there. My novel should in no way impede you from planning this awesome hike. Having said that, it is always wise to stay alert in the wilds. We all know about the things that can happen near the Mexican border. What you may not realize is the lack of security at the Canadian border. I hope fellow hikers and general readers will check out Sierra. It’s sold at Barnes & Noble and is available at independent bookstores.

If you click on the link here, you have many options. Thank you!

Available October 2016

Available now.

“THE TRAIL” novel

TheTrail_designsB1 for Patriot Ledger

Permit me a post on my hiking novel, The Trail, a thriller which takes place along the Appalachian Trail. As some of you know, I conceived this novel while thru-hiking the A.T. using the trail name Hamlet. I used my journals and in this novel take the reader from GA to ME.

My book is not just another walk in the woods! And I didn’t encounter anything like the evil I wrote about therein. I had a wonderful experience and returned with a positive outlook on humanity in general and on our young people in particular. However, it is always wise to stay alert in the wilds, and I urge women to not hike alone.

This is the time of year hikers prepare for a long-distance hike so, I’m reaching out to the hiking/adventure community. The Trail is available at any bookstore and on Amazon-as a traditional book or as an ebook. Check it out on my website below.  I’d love to hear your comments about my story. Thank you, and happy trails!


Packing Out Trash

Take a look at this:

These two hikers are doing a tremendous service. With all the turmoil in our world, it is good to see two members of the hiking community doing something decent and positive.

During my long-distance hikes, I’ve picked up some trail-side and campsite trash, but honestly admit that I ignore most of it. I’ll try to do better. Wouldn’t it be nice if all hikers packed out their own trash? That’s what hikers and campers should do. Every time. All the time.

Hats off to hikers Seth Orme and Paul Twedt.

trail shelter Vermont

The Long Trail–Vermont

blog AT

Hiking Tip–How to avoid blisters

Hiking without blisters

Pacific Crest Trail

Most long-distance hikers, at some point, will get blisters on their feet. The usual precautions are: break in new footwear, start slowly and build up to bigger mileage, wear a liner sock, or don’t wear a liner sock, keep band-aids and bandages handy. All well and good; do whatever works. But if you really want to head off blister problems, practice the tip below.

Tip: Air out your feet. Yep, that’s the best advice I was ever given on avoiding blisters, and I learned it at a seminar in New Hampshire that prepared AT thru-hikers. The advice has served me well. In the photo above, I’m at Kearsarge Pass in the Sierras on the Pacific Crest Trail. My boots and socks are airing out; my feet are absorbing air and sunlight. After break, I will put what was my left sock on my right foot and reverse the process during my next break. I will also wear my socks inside out after the first break and reverse this several times a day.

This may seem like overkill, but I’ve never gotten a raw blister on my feet. Bacteria thrive in moist, stinky, air-deprived spots. And these are the spots that chafe and turn into blisters. The trick is to air out your feet, and keep your socks dry. I probably carry too many socks, but I change out of wet socks, hang the wet ones on my pack straps, and put on new socks. Like you, I hate blisters.

Trail Maintainence Crews: Lots of work; very little credit.

Who paints all the trail blazes? Who clears all the blow-downs and debris? Ever seen the occasional ladder and handhold of rebar? Where does that come from? Trail maintenance crews, that’s where.

Behind all that beautiful scenery is the hard, grunt work of men and women who maintain your trail. My hiking buddy in New Jersey is a volunteer trail maintainer for a section of the Appalachian Trail. He scouts his section regularly, clears debris, refreshes blazes with white paint, notes any larger problems, and files a report to his manager.

Some improvements are major and require the paid (minimum wage) services of restoration crews. Check out this article on the remaking of “Tuck’s Trail” in New Hampshire. As you can see, this is a huge job, which also includes the delicate relocation of fragile plants.

Trail maintenance in Yosemite, on Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail–Yosemite

I took the photo above on the Pacific Crest Trail, in Yosemite. The man riding the lead horse was on his way to saw up a large pine that had fallen across the trail .

The worst hiking day I ever had, was thru-hiking during a windy, late-season snowstorm on the Appalachian Trail. Blow-downs covered the trail everywhere, and hikers had to crawl in the snow, under, over, and around busted limbs and branches. Only two days later, while recuperating in town, I met several hikers just coming in. When I asked them about the blow-downs, they said most of them were already cleared; branches and limbs had been cut and pushed to the sides of the trail.

Hats off to all trail maintainers!

Backpacker Etiquette

hiking and backpacking etiquette


We don’t hear much about backpacker etiquette. We should.

Without public support there wouldn’t be many official trails. Agreements have to be reached with private landowners if trails run on their property. Arrangements must be made with local, state, and federal governments if trails cross those lands. Think of what happens if we are careless and sloppy; property owners and the public will become disgusted with our behavior.

The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) has a good slogan: Hike in Harmony. They’ve also printed a poster to get the message out, and the header says it all: Just because you live in the woods doesn’t mean you can act like an ANIMAL.

This means we hikers store trash in our packs and pack it out. It means we don’t leave litter in shelters but make the effort to tidy them up for the next person. In every shelter I saw on the Appalachian Trail, there was a broom somewhere. Use it. Leave no trace. And if we find occasional litter on the trail, let’s do what’s right; pick up the trash and pack it out.

Hostels. The golden rule applies: Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. Unfortunately, it’s that small percentage of hikers who ruin it for others by their behavior. I know of one case where all the donations to the hostel manager were swiped by a hiker. Terrible, and the hostel has shut down.

A few other points on backpacker etiquette. Just because one is a thru-hiker, that doesn’t mean he or she is entitled to the last spot in a shelter in place of a weekend backpacker. Or anyone else. Shelters are for all hikers.

If you are a loud snorer, sure to keep others in the shelter awake, then tent. And when others call it a night, it’s time for you to journal or read. You get the idea. Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you.

Happy trails!

hiking the continental divide trail

Colorado–view from the Continental Divide Trail

The Appalachian Trail: Is it getting too crowded?

Hiking the A.T.

Mt. Katahdin-Maine

Now is the time when many hikers are planning a thru-hike of the A.T. It’s a heady experience, but I’m reminded of this newspaper article about hikers  overcrowding the Appalachian Trail  I’ve been hearing a lot about this in recent years and, in the south, in spring, it appears to be true. Young people like to socialize and, more than any other long-distance trail in the US, the Appalachian is the trail to meet others and make new friends.

When I thru-hiked the A.T. in 2003, it was crowded then, I thought. The shelters up to Damascus, VA were nearly always full. And many hikers, especially in Georgia and North Carolina, would set up under overhanging roofs to the sides and even in front of shelters. I can remember being in one shelter where we were packed inside like sardines. After that night, I tented, unless I was fortunate enough to arrive early and get a spot next to a wall where I could hang a few things and get a bit more privacy.

So, I can imagine how crowded it must be now. Added to this, the article tells of large gathered groups of hikers summiting Mt. Katahdin en masse, the northern terminus in Baxter State Park. The hikers stray outside the trail corridor into sensitive habitat. I’m sure this is happening on other parts of the trail. I’ve been hearing accounts of more litter simply left by hikers on the A.T. and, sadly, of larger groups drinking to excess and using recreational drugs.

I’m not sure what the answer is to this increased usage of the A.T. The article speaks to the issues and poses a few possible solutions. I’ll leave it at that.

at stone plaque

Re-Thinking The Triple Crown

Begininning of Appalachian Trail--Georgia

Appalachian Trail marker–Georgia

Yosemite Maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail

Yosemite Maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail


CDT New Mexico

If you are a long-distance hiker, you are probably aware of hiking’s triple crown. The triple crown comprises the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.

I tried to become a triple crowner, but the CDT took me out. I went alone in my late sixties after having completed the other two legs–the AT and the PCT. I had no idea, even after reading about it, that the navigation would be so trying. I don’t like using a GPS when I hike, but I should have brought one with me. I got lost a lot. When not lost, I had to take compass bearings and consult my maps continually.

I started in the boot heel of New Mexico, at the border near Antelope Wells. It was mid May. It was hot and water was scarce. By the  time I finished New Mexico, I was well behind in my expectations and knew I would have trouble finishing if I didn’t step up the pace. I wasn’t able too. I did Colorado but had to skip a lot in Wyoming, and I did little in Montana. By that time, it was too cold and snowy for me, and I got out.

I have great memories of the CDT. New Mexico was neat and Colorado was impressive–especially Rocky Mountain National Park. If I had it to do over again, in my quest for a triple crown I would do three things: Bring a GPS for the CDT and the PCT, hike with a friend on the CDT at least. Two heads are better than one and tasks can be shared. Finally, I would do the CDT after the AT and save the PCT (for me, the easiest and most scenic) for last.

Carry on fellow hikers!