Hiker Killed by Grizzly

A lot of you are out hiking trails now, so I’m running this post again, which appeared last year.

YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY KILLS HIKER.  An autopsy confirmed that a 59 year-old man was killed while hiking near the Mary Mountain Trail in Yellowstone National Park. This is the second fatality from a grizzly at Yellowstone this year (2015).

Grizzly bears are aggressive. Black bears, which are found in the east, are smaller and shy away from humans. Being attacked by a black bear is unlikely, but there have been 63 fatal black bear attacks in the United States and Canada between 1900 and 2009.

In any case, grizzly and black bears will do anything to get food. Because of this, there are two things you need to do when you hike in the wilds.

1) Camp for the night several miles beyond where you cooked your last meal.

2) Hang your food at your campsite.

grizzlyAs the sign in the picture says, Food Odors Attract Bears. If you cook and tent in the same spot, you’re asking for trouble. Always. Bears zero in on the odors and will wreck a camp looking for food.

I realize that on the Appalachian Trail and on other trails, hikers will congregate at some of the shelters to cook and camp for the night. I do that also. That brings us to the second point. While there is safety in numbers, you must hang your food, and hang it sufficiently high, out on a tree limb (not next to the tree, which a bear will climb). We picked limbs away from tents and shelters, so we could sleep in peace.

From all that I’ve read and seen (saw black bears on four separate occasions while thru-hiking the A.T.), bears simply want food. If you practice these two things–camp beyond where you cook, and hang your food–you will greatly reduce the chances of a bear encounter.

Hiking Tip-Navigation

The Long Trail-Vermont

The Long Trail-Vermont

Look at the picture above. A good trail path, easy to follow, right? But say it’s mid-day and overcast, and you’re not paying attention. You stop to break and remove your backpack. You void on the right side of the trail, come back over the trail and snack on the other side. You grab your camera, cross back over again and take a picture. Back and forth you go, cropping pictures, poking around, and when you pack up to leave, you head off in the opposite direction from which you came.

Happens more than you might think. Especially when everything looks the same, as in this picture.

Tip: Pick the same side-always-and lay your poles, or something, on that side. I’m right-handed, so I always lay my poles on the right. When I pack up, I’m never confused about direction.

And the most important time to do this–when you tent at night. Have one pole tip pointing in the direction you want to head out in the morning. Twice, on thru-hikes, in the morning, I saw another thru-hiker poling to me, as I hiked toward him. We both knew one of us was heading wrong, because both times we knew each other and our mutual goal. One of those times I was wrong. Not anymore.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Hammock in Sunrise on the A.T.

BAY CIRCUIT TRAIL

BCT

                                                                                          

IMG_0187

A couple of years ago, I thru-hiked the BCT (Bay Circuit Trail) in Massachusetts. I started from the northern trailhead at Plum Island near Newburyport and three weeks later finished at the southern point at Kingston Bay in Duxbury. It was a pleasant hike, flat and easy the entire way. Although about a third of the hike was on country roads, the state and town forests along the route provided scenery and seclusion.

The signage was good except for when I approached the southern terminus in Duxbury. I couldn’t find the white blazes near Kingston Bay. But you knew how to go by reviewing the map. You can print maps and get all the information you need for hiking this trail at:   www.baycircuit.org

I’m impressed on how the organizers and maintainers were able to “circuit” the trail around metro Boston and immediate suburbs. Hikers are routed via bridges over Rt. 93, 95, and the Mass turnpike.

I was fortunate to have backup support from my wife, Nancy, and from a fellow Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. “Lumberjack” and I, “Hamlet” had hiked the AT the same year (’03), but had never met. He heard about me hiking the BCT and reached out and hosted me in Medfield, Mass. My thanks again to him and his family.

One neat thing about this hiking trail is that you are close enough to main roads to get food and supplies, as well as lodging. I believe the chairperson of the BCT is gathering information now on places to lodge or to camp.

Friends have asked me which parts of the Bay Circuit Trail I liked the most. I wasn’t familiar with north shore towns, so that was new and interesting. For the first time in my life I took a nearby side trip to the “shot-heard-around-the world” bridge at Lexington/Concord, and I visited Walden Pond. The south shore towns drew me because of family in Hingham, Pembroke, and Duxbury.  I recommend this hike to anyone as it can be done in sections as well as a thru-hike. I kind of wish now that I’d done it in the fall. It would be a beautiful hike in September or October.IMG_0846

APPALACHIAN TRAIL-A Complete Summary

Mt Katahdin

Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Begininning of Appalachian Trail--Georgia

Appalachian Trail marker-Georgia

For those of you who are still preparing, about to step off, or who are already on the Appalachian Trail, here is the best summary of what you can expect that I’ve seen.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Because this summary speaks for itself, anything I add here will only tend to dilute the information in it. Scroll through and see for yourself. Whether you are thru-hiking, section hiking, or just out for the day on the A.T., this info will help you. Happy Trails!

 

9/11 2004

9/11 2004

Winter Hiking 2

Traction for hiking ice

Micro-spikes for hiking over ice

In this second post about winter hiking, I need to address one thing from last time. I’d said one of the rewards of winter hiking was losing weight. In this case, however, body weight should not be lost by eating normal nutritious meals. One must eat extra carbohydrates and fats. What’s more, don’t stop for lunch–keep moving and snack, snack, snack.

Proteins take days to metabolize and fats take hours, but simple carbs metabolize quickly. Energy bars, gorp with candy, cookies and crackers, all give quick energy. This is what to snack on during the day, after you’ve had a solid fat-filled breakfast of cereals, toast with peanut butter, or bagels and cream cheese, or french toast with syrup, and cheese, nuts, fruits.

But you will lose weight on a rigorous winter hike because you’ll burn off more than you eat. Because proteins take so much longer to metabolize, you put yourself in danger if you decide to eat “diet” meals. You will tire and get cold faster, which can lead to falls and accidents. Carbs and fats will keep you energized and warmer, especially if you keep moving and don’t stop for lunch.

Here are some more winter hiking pointers:

1) Add Tang or Gatorade to water to reduce the freezing point. You must drink extra liquid to stay hydrated. Drinking water seems counter-intuitive when it’s cold outside, but you will sweat a lot. A flavoring added to water, keeps it from freezing and adds taste.

2) Don’t eat snow. Always melt it before you consume it. Eating actual snow will make you cold and the amount of energy your body expends to melt it outweighs the benefit.

3) Keep spare batteries covered and in a pocket so that they are warm and ready, if needed.

4) Pack a small container of glasses/goggles anti-fog stuff.

5) Fleece is best for warmth. And if fleece gets wet it still insulates. “Down” is warm, but useless when wet.

In winter conditions, keeping warm is a function of keeping dry. The trick is to keep cool. “If your feet are cold, put a hat on, or pull your hat down over your ears. If you are hot, take off your hat, or pull it up over your ears.” Don’t remain hot or cold, stay cool!

Thanks to fellow AMC member Bob Vogel for providing most of this information.

 

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...

Image via Wikipedia

The Long Trail–Vermont

Backpacking camels hump and over Mt Ethan...

Camel’s Hump from the Long Trail (Wikipedia)

This is the time of year hikers begin planning and training for a major thru-hike in the spring. Some backpackers will experience a let-down if they are unable to find the time or the wherewithal to hike the Appalachian, or the Pacific Crest, or the Continental Divide trails. But what about a shorter trail that gives one a long-distance experience? One having sections as demanding as anything you will see on the Appalachian Trail? I submit Vermont’s Long Trail.

I hiked it in 2004, the year after I’d done the A.T. and had no idea the last sections would be so rigorous. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even read up on it, figuring that it wouldn’t be daunting for an A.T. thru-hiker. Some of the scrambles, like the Mt. Mansfield Chin, are downright dangerous. When I made it to the end, right at the Canadian border, I was glad to be done and felt that I’d really accomplished something.

The Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in America, is a 272 mile footpath traversing the length of Vermont from the Massachusetts line to Canada. Shelters accommodate hikers, and the trail is rustic and scenic.

There are advantages to doing the Long Trail before a major thru-hike like the A.T.

1) You will get a good idea of what you are in for if you want to tackle one of the big three thru-hikes. If you can do the Long Trail, you should be okay on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails.

2) The Long Trail is the perfect place to test gear and equipment.

3) You tune your legs and body for the larger adventure.

4) You become familiar with how to re-supply, hitch into towns, and otherwise develop a system of thru-hiking.

5) Because it’s shorter, you can pick the best time to hike it. I suggest late summer or early autumn.

The Long Trail in Vermont is a worthy test for you and a great hiking experience.

restofsavedDellphotos10May11581

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

A couple of 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 forty-five 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 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 hiking--backpacks

Ultra Light Backpack—10-12 pounds

Ultra Light Backpack for hikers

Ultra Light Backpack–sub 5 pounds

 

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Hiking’s Magic Moments

Hikers love magic moments. It’s usually those times when the scenery is perfection. But there can be other magic moments; for example, when you feel extra healthy and fit, or when you become perfectly relaxed and happy.  That’s the way I felt when I camped by the lake in the picture.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail–Maine

But I want to share another magic moment that was completely different. When I began my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I met a young man in the first few days who was shy and unsure of himself. He struck me as the type of kid that would peek around corners. He hiked alone and didn’t ask questions, but I could tell he was not quite up to it. After a few days he disappeared and I forgot about him. Thinking back now, I should have reached out to him.

I was in Maine five months later having lunch at a shelter when a guy and girl showed up with a black Labrador Retriever. I was reading my guide and after a “hello” resumed reading while they fed their dog and busied themselves. They looked like thru-hikers, he with a beard. From time-to-time I heard him speak to his girlfriend. She got out the stove and he fired it up. He told the dog to behave. He studied his map and was in charge.

Something made me look at him more closely. I was stunned. It was the same young man I’d met five months earlier in Georgia. I could not believe the transformation. But it was him, and now he remembered me, remarking about my beard and the weight I had lost. We talked a bit, and after a while I pretended to read. But I watched him as he patted the lab and conversed and smiled with his girlfriend. I remember the girl asking a question about something and his answer was, “Oh, I don’t know, Hon. When we get to Millinocket, we’ll figure it out.”

Later, after he turned to me and said good-bye, I watched him, with his girl and dog, pick up his sticks with gusto—confident, sure. As I write this now, I’m emotional, and I don’t know why. When I finished the trail, I tried to tell my wife about them as we drove home from Maine. I got hung up and couldn’t finish the story. All very strange.

What I do know is that when he, his girl, and their dog walked off from that shelter and into the hopes, and dreams, and unknowns of their lives, I had witnessed humanity.

Hiker Killed by Grizzly

YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY KILLS HIKER.  An autopsy confirmed that a 59 year-old man was killed while hiking near the Mary Mountain Trail in Yellowstone National Park. This is not the first fatality from a grizzly at Yellowstone National Park.

Grizzly bears are aggressive. Black bears, which are found in the east, are smaller and shy away from humans. Being attacked by a black bear is unlikely, but there have been 63 fatal black bear attacks in the United States and Canada between 1900 and 2009.

In any case, grizzly and black bears will do anything to get food. Because of this, there are two things you need to do when you hike in the wilds.

1) Camp for the night several miles beyond where you cooked your last meal.

2) Hang your food at your campsite.

grizzly

As the sign in the picture says, Food Odors Attract Bears. If you cook and tent in the same spot, you’re asking for trouble. Always. Bears zero in on the odors and will wreck a camp looking for food.

I realize that on the Appalachian Trail and on other trails, hikers will congregate at some of the shelters to cook and camp for the night. I do too. That brings us to the second point. While there is safety in numbers, you must hang your food, and hang it sufficiently high, out on a tree limb (not next to the tree, which a bear will climb). We picked limbs away from tents and shelters, so we could sleep in peace.

From all that I’ve read and seen (saw black bears on four separate occasions while thru-hiking the A.T.), bears simply want food. If you practice these two things–camp beyond where you cook, and hang your food–you will greatly reduce the chances of a dangerous bear encounter.

The Appalachian Trail: How To Find Anyone Who Has Hiked It.

harpers ferry atDo you know someone who has hiked the Appalachian Trail? Want to see that person’s picture when he or she came through Harper’s Ferry, home of the  A.T. Conference headquarters in West Virginia? Simply go to www.athikerpictures.org   type in the information, and you can view the hiker.

I tried it for me. On the site, all I typed in was my first and last name—Ray Anderson. I didn’t give my trail name nor did I even note the year I hiked the A.T. I clicked on submit and a screen came up listing my trail name, Hamlet, my given name, and the option to view my picture. I clicked on the picture option, which brought up the picture you see above.

Try looking up some of your friends. They may be surprised if you email them their photo.

blog AT

On the A.T.