Backpacking Lite

Pacific Crest Trail logo

Pacific Crest Trail logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take a look at the backpacks in the pictures. Both packs are empty, but the red one, with external frame, is already twice as heavy as the green one. And, because it is much bigger, you will cram extra stuff into it.

The red pack is almost identical to the one I used on the Appalachian Trail in ’03, and it topped out around 47 pounds (including food, but not water). I don’t think I ever got it under 40 pounds, and this contributed to a knee problem I had out there.

I learned the hard way to buy a light pack and to pack light. I used the smaller, no-frame pack on the Pacific Crest Trail and topped it out at 31 pounds. I doubt my knees would survive the A.T. today carrying over 40 pounds plus water. Today you will find ultra-lite long-distance hikers who carry less than 20 pounds!

Ray Jardine was the early guru of light backpacking. I studied his 1999 book Beyond Backpacking and learned a lot. And I’ve since read his later one, Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking. Reducing pack weight is the number one issue for any long-distance hiker. If it isn’t a necessity, don’t haul it. Modify what you have. Rather than the old Boy Scout metal fork and spoon, buy a plastic spork. Think tarp rather than tent in milder weather. Get a tiny stove. Do you absolutely need a stove?

What a difference a light pack makes.  Happy Trails!

Hiker Jargon

Hiking the Long Trail, Green Mountains, Vermont

Vermont–Long Trail

Appalachian Trail lovers in the White Mountains

New Hampshire–White Mountains

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abbreviations of trails abound. But here are some other words and terms (in no particular order) commonly used by long-distance hikers.

Thru-hiker: A hiker who will attempt to hike the complete trail in one go, or in one season.

Section hiker: A hiker who hikes a trail in small sections; he or she may not plan on completing the trail.

Nobo: Northbounder

Sobo: Southbounder

Trail Name: The catchy moniker a hiker chooses to go by for an extended hike. Examples are legion—Yogi, Vagabond, The Mad Viking, AWOL, Skittles, Dreamwalker, Hamlet (that’s me), etc. Choose a name before someone tags you with one you may not like.

Camel up: Quench your thirst; fill your water bottles.

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen, or similar pills to ease joint pain and treat other aches.

Gorp: Typically, a combination of mixed nuts, dry cereal, raisins, chocolate chips or candy bits, and such. Usually homemade and eaten from baggies. Designed to give quick energy.  (Eat too much gorp and it will begin to taste like birdseed.)

TP: I saw this on everyone’s gear list and couldn’t figure it out. TP stands for Toilet Paper.

Bushwhack: Blaze your own trail

Flip-flop: Hike in one direction, then leap ahead by other means and hike in the opposite direction, back to the former spot. (used in dealing with snow, fires, bad weather)

Zero day: A no mileage day.

Trail angel: Anyone, usually a non-hiker, who helps a hiker—ride, food, a place to stay, etc.

Yogi: To not quite ask for food, but get it by looking hungry, forlorn—use your imagination.

For a comprehensive list of trail terminology, see Michelle Ray’s How To Hike the A.T.

The Pacific Crest Trail and “Sierra”

sierra-launch-best-pic    sierra-launch   sierra-launch-old-buzzard

Here are a few more pictures from my Sierra launch. This is the second novel in my AWOL thriller series. As many of you know, Sierra is about hard drugs muled by released prisoners along the Pacific Crest Trail. Drug cartels play a major role as I take the reader from the Mexican border to Canada. The main action occurs in the High Sierra, and although I didn’t see anything like this on the PCT, I had fun making it up.

I’ve completed the next novel in the series, which involves the Continental Divide Trail. A fourth thriller is planned.

Let me know how you like Sierra. Thank you and happy trails!   http://www.turnerpublishing.com/books/detail/sierra

 

“SIERRA” and the Pacific Crest Trail

sierra-launch  sierra-launch0   sierra-launch-1

On Wednesday, October 26, I launched my newest AWOL thriller, SIERRA. The pictures above are from the event, which took place at the Hingham Public Library, with Buttonwood Books. Thank you if you were one of the 65 people attending. It was a great evening as I quizzed the group, gave out PCT prizes, showed slides from my actual Pacific Crest Trail hike, took questions, and read a brief excerpt from my novel.

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 it out there. My novel should in no way impede you from planning this mighty 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 available from any bookstore and is also available from Amazon, in book or Kindle format.

If you click on the link here, you have many options. Thank you!      http://www.turnerpublishing.com/books/detail/sierra

Available October 2016

Available now.

My Second Hiking Thriller–Mayhem along the Pacific Crest Trail

Available October 2016

Awol thriller-Available Oct 2016

This blog is about hiking, so it makes sense to me to introduce you to my newest Awol hiking thriller, Sierra. But first, I should back up a bit and tell you how these novels all started.

How does a retired Coca-Cola salesman living a quiet life near Boston, Massachusetts become an author of thrillers?  It all started in 2003 when I hiked the Appalachian Trail after taking an early retirement at age 60.  As I walked alone one day, I began to wonder “what if…?” and conjured up a serial killer loose on the trail, stalking other hikers. He collides with a Gulf War vet with PTSD who calls himself  “AWOL.”  That scenario became The Trail, my first novel published last year by Turner Publishing.  It’s doing well and has made Boston’s South Shore top-ten fiction listings several times.

This month, Sierra, the second novel in the series, releases. Sierra pits “Awol” against a drug cartel on the Pacific Crest Trail – which I’ve also hiked. I’m now working on the third novel in the series, set on the Continental Divide Trail. And I’m still hiking.

I hope my blog followers will check out Sierra. It’s available (as is The Trail) from bookstores as well as Amazon and other outlets. I’d love to hear from you about the novel. Thank you, and happy trails!

UntitledMA31117610-0015TheTrailcover4-30-15

The Pacific Crest Trail

new-background.jpg

Crater Lake-Oregon

Crater Lake-Oregon

For awesome beauty and majesty, nothing I’ve hiked compares to the Pacific Crest Trail. Parts of other trails may be as scenic, but for long stretches, such as the PCT’s course through Yosemite, it is, for me, incomparable. All these pictures are from my PCT hike and there were scores of others I could have picked that were just as impressive.

Crater Lake in Oregon is a keeper. Of course all the High Sierra is magnificent. Even the simple act of crossing the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon to Washington is awesome on a nice day. As one walks the PCT over this bridge, just look down at the mighty Columbia River below. You’ll see paddle steamers, sails, and para-sails.

I’ll admit the southern most portion of the PCT is dry and forbidding, but even here the trail is different. I’ll never forget looking up at a panoramic night sky when I camped near the Anza-Borrego desert. I was puzzled by what looked like a large cloud looming over me. Until I realized it was the Milky Way!

Put the Pacific Crest Trail on your bucket list. And remember, you can do it in sections. You don’t have to thru-hike it. Happy trails!

why hike      sierra lake      raging river     sierra brook

My Second Hiking Thriller–Mayhem along the Pacific Crest Trail

Available October 2016

Awol thriller-Available Oct 2016

This blog is about hiking, so it makes sense to me to introduce you to my newest Awol hiking thriller, Sierra. But first, I should back up a bit and tell you how these novels all started.

How does a retired Coca-Cola salesman living a quiet life near Boston, Massachusetts become an author of thrillers?  It all started in 2003 when I hiked the Appalachian Trail after taking an early retirement at age 60.  As I walked alone one day, I began to wonder “what if…?” and conjured up a serial killer loose on the trail, stalking other hikers. He collides with a Gulf War vet with PTSD who calls himself  “AWOL.”  That scenario became The Trail, my first novel published last year by Turner Publishing.  It’s doing well and has made Boston’s South Shore top-ten fiction listings several times.

This month, Sierra, the second novel in the series, releases. Sierra pits “Awol” against a drug cartel on the Pacific Crest Trail – which I’ve also hiked. I’m now working on the third novel in the series, set on the Continental Divide Trail. And I’m still hiking.

I hope my blog followers will check out Sierra. It’s available (as is The Trail) from bookstores as well as Amazon and other outlets. I’d love to hear from you about the novel. Thank you, and happy trails!

UntitledMA31117610-0015TheTrailcover4-30-15

Speed Records on Trails: Good idea or bad?

Appalachian Trail sunrise in Maine's mountains

Appalachian Trail, Georgia's Springer Mountain

A.T. in fourteen states

Hiking the A.T.

Mt. Katahdin-Maine

Not that long ago, Associated Press ran an article about a woman who’d just completed hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes! Then last year, a runner shaved several hours off that time. Now we learn that a new record has been set. An ultra runner has just completed the A.T. in 45 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes.

While I’m in awe of these accomplishments, I’m wondering why they do this. What is the logic or meaning behind it? The article states at the site above that she never ignored the beauty of the 2,180-mile trek from Maine to Georgia. But did she stop to smell the wildflowers, rest by waterfalls, take the time to absorb the landscapes of nature, take the time to observe animals in their habitats? Bombing along at an average of 47 miles a day, I doubt it.

“Fastest is so relative,” the young lady states, “…what are you not going to see at three miles per hour?” That’s like saying, I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace yesterday, every word, so what could I have missed?

Maybe I don’t get it. Many others have tried for speed records thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. And I remember reading about one man who thru-hiked the triple crown (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail), about 7800 miles, in one year! Think of all that he glimpsed but didn’t experience. How much did he really see and absorb in the Rockies, Yosemite, the Sierras?

For all you speed demons, slow down. And take the time to smell the flowers.

Miscellaneous: In my post about cleaning sleeping bags, Carol Chubb of Massachusetts suggests throwing several tennis balls into the dryer with the sleeping bag. This will help break up any down clumps. Thanks, Carol.

Hiker-Hobble: Handling Knee Problems

Hiking the Franconia Ridge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Falling Waters Trail–New Hampshire

On any extended hike, you risk knee problems. And, as mentioned in an earlier post, if you hike without trekking poles, you are asking for a knee problem. What do you do when a knee, shin, or leg begins to fall apart? This happened to me six weeks into my Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

What frustrated me was that I’d used my poles religiously. Further, I had read that an A.T. thru-hiker is at his or her physical peak at the six-week point. After that, it’s a struggle, the book said, to take in enough nutritious food to replace the calories you burn every day. So I wasn’t happy that now I had to baby a shin that felt like a spike was being driven through it.

I did two things wrong: One, I ignored the first signs of discomfort. I was at my physical peak and felt the growing shin pain in my right leg would pass. I kept hiking sun-up to sun-down.

Two, I still kept hiking when I began favoring the other leg. Hikers call this hiker-hobble. I figured I could tough it out. Bad idea, and I had to get off the trail.

I did three things right: One, I went to the nearest clinic for an evaluation. X-rays determined that there wasn’t a stress fracture. Nevertheless, I was told to stop hiking immediately; it would only get worse, the nurse said.

Two, I did exactly what she told me to do. Stay off the leg; bathe it in warm to hot water, then ice it, three times a day; use an ointment like Ben-Gay. I got the cheapest room I could find that had a bathtub.

Three, I started out slowly when I went back to the A.T. one week later.

Although I’d lost my hiking buddies, and knew I’d never catch them, I realized I was lucky. I found out later that some hikers who had developed knee injuries never made it back that season. On my first day back, I hiked only three miles. I’d felt twinges and immediately set up camp. The next day I went five miles before twinges in my shin acted up again. In a few more days I was up to twelve miles and the twinges had left me completely.

The big lesson I learned: If you want to avoid hiker-hobble and worse, reduce your mileage and rest your legs at the first signs of discomfort.

Tip: Before an extended hike, do a shakedown with all your equipment.

IMG_0187

Before leaving on an extended hike, do yourself a favor–take a multi-night shakedown hike with all your equipment.

Unless you hike overnight several times a year, don’t try to wing it. And if you have new equipment, give it a test run. Set up your tent under trail conditions and sleep in it. The best way to make sure that you will sleep comfortably, is to test your pad and bag, and your sleep wear, on an overnight. Fire up that stove, whether it’s old or new. If you bought a new GPS unit, now is the time to learn how to use it.

During shakedown, you can organize your pack and gear the way you want it, so you’ll be ready to roll when you go on that long hike. You will be able to act quickly when the weather turns. You will be surprised at what you learn on a shakedown hike. Why doesn’t this food taste right? Should I bring seasoning? Is this water filter going to work, or do I want another option? How could I forget my packets of hot-chocolate? Yikes–I didn’t bring band-aids! I can never find my head lamp. I’m always losing my map.

You get the idea; it’s better to get the kinks worked out ahead of time. Or would you rather look confused and befuddled in front of your kids, the guys, your significant other?

Happy trails!