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

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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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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

 

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 Triple Crown Hiking Trails

Continental Divide Trail-New Mexico

Continental Divide Trail-New Mexico

Hiking the A.T.

Appalachian Trail                      

        Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail-the High Sierra

Long-distance hikers commonly refer to America’s triple crown hiking trails. The pictures, top to bottom, follow the order below. If you want the newest (May 20, 2016) and best update of the Triple Crown I’ve seen, click here:  https://marmot.com/love-the-outside/the-lowdown-on-the-triple-crown-of-hiking?

Appalachian Trail (AT)  This is the grand daddy. It runs through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is 2178 miles long. Many aspiring thru-hikers start with this trail. Most begin in Georgia, in Spring,  hoping to follow seasonal weather as they plod north. You should allow six months to hike the AT. By general consent, the toughest parts are the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Mahoosucs in Maine. It is still the  most popular long-distance hiking trail in America–maybe the world.

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)  Incredibly scenic and gaining in popularity, the PCT runs from the Mexican border into British Columbia, Canada. It is 2650 miles long, longer than the AT, but most thru-hikers finish it in less than six months. This may be due to the long, wide, scenic traverses along the “crests” of mountain chains, which make for easier hiking. Where much of the AT is dense, the PCT is more open. The PCT includes part of the Mojave Desert, Yosemite, and the Cascade Mountains.

Continental Divide Trail (CDT)  Still a work in progress (almost complete) this rigorous but rewarding trail also extends from the Mexican border to Canada. It is about 3100 miles long and has a spectacular run through the Rocky Mountains. Navigation skills–map and compass–are needed to thru-hike this trail. Many sections are not well marked and one needs to constantly focus on bearing to avoid getting lost–lest you end up like the bones above, which I hiked by in southern New Mexico.

For a thorough description of these three trails, I suggest the book Hiking the Triple Crown, by Karen Berger.

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

Self-inflating mattress or Foldout Pad

hikinggear009

Most hikers on an extended hike will carry either a self-inflating mattress, or some type of non-inflatable pad. The pictures show a purple mattress (not inflated) and a yellowish foldout pad. Either item goes under your sleeping bag.

If you are looking only for comfort, the self-inflating mattress (this one from Therm-a-rest) is the way to go—hands down. But there are advantages to the pad, and this Z-lite pad (also made by Therm-a-rest) is very popular.

I’ve settled on the non-inflatable pad, and here’s why.

Light weight–Pads weigh less than inflatable mattresses; this pad weighs less than a pound.

Indestructible–No worries about puncturing it, or wrecking the valve.

Convenience–Shake it loose and it’s ready to go. When I take a meal, especially in wet or rocky areas, it’s the first thing I grab to sit on.

Pack Support–As more hikers go ultralight with frameless rucksacks, this pad provides pack support.

I admit that I miss the cushy comfort of an inflatable mattress when I sleep. For convenience, however, especially on breaks, when you want to smother ants and insects with something other than your pants, when you want to rest and air out your socks and footwear, nothing beats the pad. So why not carry both? Well, one day I may.

Shelter or Tent?

The Tricorner Knob Shelter, just below the sum...

The Tricorner Knob Shelter, just below the summit of Tricorner Knob (el. 6,120 feet/1,865 meters) in the Great Smoky Mountains. The shelter is one of the most remote structures in the state of Tennessee, being a 9 mile hike from the nearest parking lot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IMG_0187

hiking shelter registers

A.T. Shelter

In January 2012, I posted about whether it’s better to shelter or tent. I’ve reproduced the discussion below. But now there may be a big disadvantage to sleeping in a shelter versus choosing a tent. Hantavirus! This nasty affliction is spread by rodents, especially mice. Mice habituate shelters, and hikers tolerate them.

In the picture above, hikers can hang their food, but hikers are exposed to mice scurrying around during the night. Hantavirus is a severe illness.  http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Case-of-hantavirus-in-Adirondacks-confirmed-3973769.php

Most hiking trails don’t provide shelters. The Appalachian Trail and The Long Trail (Vermont) have many shelters.

They are convenient, but a tent, especially for sleeping, has advantages.

Privacy – You aren’t a stuffed sardine when it gets crowded.

Warmth – A tent with a rain-fly is warmer than an open shelter.

Better Sleep – You are not poked, or kicked, or outsnored.

No Mice – Those critters can drive you nuts!

So why choose a shelter to sleep in?

Convenience – Less hassle. No need to unpack and set up a tent; no need to dismantle and re-pack the tent in the morning, possibly in the rain.

Clothesline – Many shelters have them already. Easy to rig up, or simply hang garments from nails and hooks provided. Clothes are protected from outside weather.

Ease – Can sit and lean against a wall to read, journal, contemplate (I’m sore, I’m tired, I wish I had pizza and beer.)

Camaraderie!

“THE Trail”

 

TheTrail_designsB1 for Patriot Ledger                                                           IMG_1505[2]

I hope my readers will permit me a departure from the usual post. Happy to say that my Appalachian Trail thriller, The Trail, from Turner Publishing, appears to be doing well. It was a long siege from first draft to publication, and the easiest part was the actual thru-hike of the A.T.

This is a thriller. I’ve put a mean and nasty fugitive, wanted for murder, out on the trail. In my afterword, I explain that I had a wonderful thru-hike and did not meet any problem characters. Nevertheless, it’s always wise to remain alert in the wilds. No one wants to meet my villain “Moonwalker” anywhere.

As many of you know, I conceived and fleshed out the plot as I thru-hiked. When I started out in Georgia, I had no plans to write a book, much less a thriller. But three weeks in, I was hiking alone in dense forest. The wind picked up and the sky darkened as a storm brewed. I felt vulnerable and nervous, and wondered if I could defend myself if I were attacked by another human. And that’s how this all started.

My research revealed that 11 documented murders have occurred on or near the A.T. since 1976. Sad but true. I advise anyone not to hike alone; go with at least one friend. That way you can look out for each other and be there if someone gets sick or injured. With friends you can enjoy those special moments and record them.

You can order The Trail by clicking here:   http://www.turnerpublishing.com/books/detail/the-trail

To all hikers everywhere–Happy trails!

IMG_2591       katahdin

The Triple Crown Hiking Trails

 

Hiking the A.T.

Mt. Katahdin-Maine

Yosemite Maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail

Yosemite Maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail

CDT--New Mexico

CDT–New Mexico

Long-distance hikers commonly refer to America’s triple crown hiking trails. The pictures, top to bottom, follow the order below. If you want the newest (May 20, 2016) and best update of the Triple Crown I’ve seen, click here:  https://marmot.com/love-the-outside/the-lowdown-on-the-triple-crown-of-hiking?

Appalachian Trail (AT)  This is the grand daddy. It runs through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is 2178 miles long. Many aspiring thru-hikers start with this trail. Most begin in Georgia, in Spring,  hoping to follow seasonal weather as they plod north. You should allow six months to hike the AT. By general consent, the toughest parts are the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Mahoosucs in Maine. It is still the  most popular long-distance hiking trail in America–maybe the world.

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)  Incredibly scenic and gaining in popularity, the PCT runs from the Mexican border into British Columbia, Canada. It is 2650 miles long, longer than the AT, but most thru-hikers finish it in less than six months. This may be due to the long, wide, scenic traverses along the “crests” of mountain chains, which make for easier hiking. Where much of the AT is dense, the PCT is more open. The PCT includes part of the Mojave Desert, Yosemite, and the Cascade Mountains.

Continental Divide Trail (CDT)  Still a work in progress (almost complete) this rigorous but rewarding trail also extends from the Mexican border to Canada. It is about 3100 miles long and has a spectacular run through the Rocky Mountains. Navigation skills–map and compass–are needed to thru-hike this trail. Many sections are not well marked and one needs to constantly focus on bearing to avoid getting lost–lest you end up like the bones above, which I hiked by in southern New Mexico.

For a thorough description of these three trails, I suggest the book Hiking the Triple Crown, by Karen Berger.