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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“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!

12004009_10207978140554153_6055922694178555459_n(1)        http://www.RayKAnderson.com

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

From ALDHA

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

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)

IMG_0187

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.

IMG_0163

Near US Customs–Canadian border

Peak-Bagging

Mt. Washington, NH

Franconia Ridge, NH

White Mts., NH

Peak-bagging is hiker jargon for those who get satisfaction in summiting mountains. Peak-baggers will climb (bag) peaks usually in some type of organized quest. It’s how I developed a passion for hiking.

Some years ago, I met a hiker in the White Mountains who said he was going to summit all the 4000 footers in New Hampshire. There are 48, and he was up to 23. I checked my journals and realized I’d done seven. Over the next years, I finished the ones in New Hampshire and went on to complete all the 4000 footers in New England. There are five in Vermont and fourteen in Maine.

This whole idea can become addictive. There are lists of the 100 highest mountains in New England, the Northeast, and the USA. There are backpackers who try to “bag” all those peaks. I stopped after the 4000 footers in New England, but will begin a quest of the 4000 footers in the Adirondacks of New York state this autumn. There are 46, so it will take me a while.

The landscape photo with the towers is New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the northeast, at 6288 feet. The other landscape photo is from Washington’s peak, looking down on Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. The profile photo shows the Franconia Ridge Trail up to the peak of another 4000 footer, New Hampshire’s Mt. Lafayette (5260 ft).

Most peaks are scenic and peaceful, the perfect place to dream, plan, hope—all that good stuff.

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

A Backcountry Checklist

Former NPS director Mary A. Bomar in her park ...

Image via Wikipedia

Hiker in redwood forest, inside Redwood Nation...

Hiker in redwood forest, inside Redwood National Park, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Hiker in Bob Marshall Wilderness Area...

English: Hiker in Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Montana, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think ahead before you step off on a hike. Leave an itinerary for loved ones, and and list your plans in case of emergency. If you prepare thoroughly before stepping off into the wilderness, you will have the best chance of returning safely. That old “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” thing.

There are tons of hiker checklists; I’ve seen some lists stretch to multiple pages. Some checklists are so involved that a casual backpacker or weekend camper doesn’t know where to begin and will ignore them.

The Backcountry Checklist below, taken from the Adirondack newspaper Embark, covers the basics and includes other reminders. In particular, it alerts hikers, backpackers, and campers to get the short-term weather forecast and to get current information from the local forest ranger. Just think of all the tragedies that could have been prevented in the backcountry if one had done these two things before stepping off. Even if a storm has ended and it’s sunny and mild out, a Ranger can tell you what rivers may give you trouble, what trails may be closed because of damaged bridges, what other problems to expect.

Note the item–non-cotton clothes–on the list. We’ve all seen young people, and children, in cotton T-shirts climbing mountains. Clueless. You need to wick off that sweat, especially if it turns cold and stormy. I once saw a young hiker and his girlfriend, both in commercial T-shirts, heading up a mountain path in the afternoon. I stopped to ask their intentions, and before I got a word out, he asked me if they would be able to make it up to the peak and back before dark. The young woman was drinking from a 20 oz. Seven-Up bottle. That’s the only liquid they had!

I would add two other reminders to this list: 1) Be physically ready if you plan to do serious hiking. 2) Hike with friends.

 

wilderness checklist for hikers, backpackers, campers