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!

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New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail–3

This post will complete my recollections and comments about New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail.

Some of you have asked about a passport. A passport is not needed unless you plan to go into Canada. The trail starts, or finishes, behind a maintenance building just before the customs building, which is at the border.

There are only three shelters on the trail. Old Hermit Shelter, off the Sugarloaf Arm Trail in Nash Stream Forest; Baldhead Shelter, also in Nash Stream Forest off the Gadwah Notch Trail; and Panorama Shelter, on the Mount Sanguinary  Summit Ridge Trail near Dixville Notch.

Another great place to camp is at the old fire warden’s cabin on the top of Mt. Cabot. This little cabin is beat up and weathered, but someone took the time to nail bed pads (just like you put under your sleeping bag) on the bunk frames. The cabin is just off the summit but you can hook the door to keep out strong winds and rains.

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On the Cohos Trail

Another camping option is the hiker’s shelter at Coleman State Park. The Cohos Trail runs through the park and the shelter, pictured below, costs $26.00 a night. The park provides showers, a laundry room, drinks and snacks, and other needs. Final camping options include numerous tent sites along the trail and other campgrounds both public and private.

The Cohos Trail Association maintains a website offering all kinds of information on this relatively new hiking trail.  www.cohostrail.org  My thanks to this organization for the fine work they have done.

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New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail–2

English: * Snowmobile coming down the Mississi...

English: * Snowmobile coming down the Mississippi River to Hastings. Location no. GV3.78 r2 Negative no. 52567 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This is a follow-up to my last post.

I started south on the Cohos Trail from the Canadian border, near US Customs, which is north of Pittsburgh Village, NH. There is a sign leading you to the trail, but it is confusing because the trail is little used and covered with waist-high weeds at the starting point. A customs official explained the route follows a snowmobile trail and that it would thin out after a while. It did, but the trail was wet and mucky from earlier rains. I followed CT signs and an obvious snowmobile trail for miles. Much of the Cohos trail, especially in the northern sections, follows snowmobile trails.

I had read somewhere that one of the trail founders saw a moose a day when he blazed the Cohos Trail. I didn’t see any, but there were moose tracks everywhere, some of them huge. I tried to take pictures of tracks imprinted in the mud, but my I-phone camera locked up on me. Because I was alone most of the time (not recommended, my bad) I hoped not to encounter moose right on the trail. I saw many deer tracks and one set of bear tracks.

There is plenty of water on the Cohos. The guide says some sources aren’t reliable in hot weather, but I found water available for treatment everywhere. Although this trail is isolated, it nears several NH towns, and it is easy to hitch out or in at four-by-four paths and access roads. I was able to hitch from Fabyan to the AMC hostel on Rt 302 without a problem.

I regret that I couldn’t do the entire thru-hike with a friend. I believe I hiked through areas that haven’t seen people since Indian times. I was extra careful.

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Near US Customs–Canadian border

New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

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One of three shelters on New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

A few years ago, I spent three weeks hiking New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail. This relatively new trail is an isolated path that runs from the Canadian border, just above Pittsburgh, New Hampshire down to Crawford Notch, in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I trekked from north to south so I could build up to the more strenuous climbs in the Whites.

If you are looking for a new trail to hike and don’t mind not seeing many (if any) other hikers, then this is a good challenge for you. I didn’t see a soul. Only when I neared Mt. Eisenhower and the ever popular Mt. Washington, did I spot other hikers.

In most sections the blazing is good; in some sections, the blazing is weathered and can be confusing. I used my compass often to confirm direction, and I suggest you bring separate maps of the White Mountain trails you will encounter. The Cohos Trail website store sells a set of Cohos Trail maps, and these are an absolute must if you are planning to thru-hike the Cohos.

My next two posts will detail more of this newer hiking trail.

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A view from New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

Ultra Light Backpacking at ALDHA

American Long Distance Hiking Association--Backpacks

Ten Pound Ultra-light Backpack

Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association

Five Pound Ultra Light Backpack

Last week, I blogged about backpacking light. Here is that idea in the extreme. A few years ago, I attended the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) conference in No. Adams, Massachusetts. There is also a sister organization known as the American Long Distance Hiking Association. They meet on the west coast at a different time.

Of the many workshops I attended, one dealt with ultra light backpacking. There are pros and cons about going ultra light, but over the years more and more hikers have gone lighter, and when they do, many become ultra light converts. The person holding the five-pound pack on his little finger is Monty Tam, who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with an average pack weight of less than five pounds!

Backpack weight refers to baseweight and does not include water, food, or trekking poles. But it includes everything else. Monty’s list of gear is shown below. Although I admire monty’s ultra light system, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Probably because I’m older and want more comfort and backup.

Another ultra light backpack was shown by Carl Rush (sp), and I believe he said his pack (seen in the other picture) weighed ten to twelve pounds, depending on options. His gear list is at the bottom of this post. Again, trekking poles, food, and water are not included in baseweight.

Do what works best for you. Many hikers out there still carry close to fifty pounds. I did the Appalachian Trail in ’03 at about 44 pounds. On the Pacific Crest Trail in ’07, I struggled to reduce pack weight and got it down to 35 pounds. Now, with the newer materials and studying what others like Monty and Carl do, I hike with a baseweight of 25-30 pounds. I don’t feel I’ll ever get below 25 pounds.

Stay in your comfort zone. Be prepared for changes in weather and bring backup gear. Most of all, enjoy yourself.

Ultra Light Backpack for hikers

Ultra light hiking--backpacks

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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

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.

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.

Yosemite maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail

Yosemite maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail

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!

Pacific Crest Trail--Yosemite

Pacific Crest Trail–Yosemite

Winter Hiking 3

Snow shoes for hiking

Snow shoes

Winter hiking and backpacking

Winter boots with crampons

This post follows two earlier posts on winter hiking. Northern New England has snow, and some of southern New England got several inches of the white stuff already this month. There are places out west, in the Sierras for example, where the snow and ice never melt completely before seasonal snows arrive again. Prepare now to enjoy cold-weather hikes. If you live in the North and are training for a thru-hike, these winter posts have extra meaning for you.

The key word you hear for winter hiking is layers. And two thin layers are better than one thick one. Even for gloves. Rather than wear one big and bulky glove, wear a liner glove underneath a bigger glove. Same for socks. Don’t wear one extra-heavy thick sock; wear a liner sock beneath a heavier one. Most of all, clothe your body in layers so you can remove and add as conditions change. I get cold easily; I want to keep warm but when I sweat, I need to wick that moisture away. Layers enable me to do that.

For my upper body, I start with a polypropylene short-sleeve undershirt. I top this with a polypro long sleeve garment that has a neck riser. I put a long-sleeve fleece over this. This may be enough if I’m moving, but if I stop for any length of time, or if the weather worsens, I’ll add my Marmot shell, complete with hood to cover everything. Layers! And in an emergency, I’ve packed a puffy down jacket, to keep warm in–if I had to seek shelter and overnight. (On any extended hike, of course, I’d pack a sleeping bag and tent.)

For my lower body, I have polypropylene underpants, polypro leggings, and ski-pants. I don’t plan to hike in extreme weather, so this should be okay. Just be able to remove or add a layer.

Other points for winter hiking:

1) Gaiters. They will keep snow from getting into your boots. Your socks stay dry.

2) Bring a spare hat; pack extra gloves and socks. The wind can sail your hat; you may not be able to retrieve it. You could drop your glove in a stream.

3) Pack a body size piece of Tyvek—the insulation used by contractors. You can fold it up to sit on, and also lay it under your sleeping pad.

Just remember, winter hiking means staying warm and keeping dry. Bring lots to drink and plenty to eat and you’ll be fine.

Hiking in harsh weather

Shell by Marmot