Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AT Hiking

The Long Green Tunnel

It is all so true what some might say about hiking the Appalachian Trail in wooded areas for long periods of time, these hikers say that they get bored while traveling long distances looking at that same scenery. I look at it as another piece of God's creation. There are so many people who will never see those long spans of cool shaded trails. There are others that cannot physically walk the trail and would give anything to see that same scenery that some might see as boring.
I look beyond the obvious for the hidden surprises like animals, plants and rocks that tell the story of the AT. The following videos tell a story of what I found along one of my recent AT hikes in Virginia and Tennessee.





Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pentatoma rufipes- Mountain Stink Bug

One of the most pesty pests on the Appalachian Trail is the stink bug. September and October are the worst months for the hiker. The bugs are everywhere. They seem to like to stay in the shelters in very large numbers in the hundreds. In camp they like to try to attach to you everywhere. I was eating and one tried to fly into my mouth. The SB prefers to host on all wild plants. The SB likes to feast on plant seeds. They overwinter as adults and become active in the spring. The female lays several hundred eggs on leaves and stems. It takes five weeks to go from egg to adult. Birds are the SBs natural enemy. They emit an unpleasant odor which repels most enemies. I recently hiked from Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania to Harper's Ferry and encountered hundreds of SB's along the trail. When I returned home I discovered SB's attached to my tent and auto. In the past people have used animals or parts of animals as money. The scalps of woodpeckers and the tails of giraffes have been used. Since we have so many stink bugs in the east why not use then for money. They are plentiful in Pennsylvania but absent in other places. They could be referred as to as "bug money." I think we shall have dominion over the insects.

Genesis 1:26 .......... and let them have dominion over .............every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The sodium connection

In the past some nations went to war for salt and where it was scarce it was used for money. In Greece a hard working slave was said to be "worth his weight in salt." In Rome a portion of a legionnaire's monthly wage was paid in bricks of salt and the word salary is derived from the Latin word salarium or salt money. Salt or sodium performs many functions in our body:

1. It regulates the amount of water in our body governing the passage of fluids in and out of the cells and helping the cell membranes remain elastic.
2. Salt is needed in the digestive system for metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins and by the nervous system to aid in the transmission of nerve impulses.
3. Sodium also interferes with regulating the electrolytes into cells.
4. It helps maintain the electrolyte balance of the body also helps in muscle contraction.

Table salt is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. If you eat 10 grams of table salt 4 grams(g) are sodium. A large amount of sodium leads to high blood pressure. One gram of sodium is less than a teaspoon and more than meets the daily requirement. The average American eats 8 to 12 grams a day. Often the excessive salt is passed out of the body by the kidneys but in 30 to 50 % of the people the kidneys can't keep up. If the sodium builds up in the blood water will also build up restricting blood flow and high blood pressure results. As we grow older our kidneys become even less efficient.

Many manufacturers of foods add salt as a preservative to add shelf life. Many doctors believe that 77 % of the salt in our bodies comes from commercial additives (ca).

Some examples of ca are:

1. Food additives -
a. Soft drinks - sodium cyclamate
b. Preserved fruits - sodium sulfite
c. Desserts - Sodium citrate
d. Antimold in cheese - Sodium propionate
e. Meats - Sodium nitrate
f. Sweetener - sodium saccharin
g. Ice cream - sodium caseinate
h. Skin softener - sodium hydroxide
i. Condiments, dressings - sodium benzoate

2. MSG - monosodium glutamate - flavoring and tenderizer

3. Dry skim milk - heavy in salt

4. Baking powder - kitchen favorite

5. Brine - pickles, olives, feta cheese, corned beef

So the secret is to avoid the salt in prepared foods.

Lets look at a few samples:

Clif Bars

The average clif bar contains 130 mg (milligrams) of sodium and 310 mg of potassium. Potassium can act as a substitute for salt but does not increase the amount of water in the blood. A good ratio of sodium to potassium is 1 to 3.

Organic Trek Mix
Sodium is 0 mg.

Most prepackaged backpacking foods are very high in sodium. Many hikers eat the whole pack but you must remember it contains 2 helping and twice the listed sodium per helping. Try to prepackage the pouch into 2 separate bags and only eat the meals that are around 800 to 900 mg.

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are very high in sodium if you add the flavor cube provided in the package. Instead add a low sodium bullion cube.

I have tried to give you some information on sodium, extend your hiking years by staying away from sodium.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hiking Boot Weights

The weight of hiking boots make a big difference when hiking long distances. To me every extra gram makes a difference in the total weight when carried or worn. In the past five years I have tried an assorted group of hiking boots. Of course the anticipated weather may make a difference in boot selection. The following are some of the hiking boots/shoes I wear.

Teva sandals are very comfortable to hike in and give you plenty of room for swelling feet. You have to be careful not to stub your toe or turn your ankle. Disadvantages are that small rocks will occasionally get wedged under your foot and that your feet will get dirty even if you wear socks. Weight 694 grams.

Keen sandals are a bit more rugged than the teva. The toe is reinforced to protect from stubbing toes. There is plenty of toe room. You have less of a chance to get small pebbles under you foot. Your feet will still get dirty. They are not very comfortable in hiking in the snow or in cold temperatures unless you wear a neoprene sock. Weight 828 grams,

Low cut hybrid keen sandal is a cross between a sandal and a hiking boot. It has a closed body with a reinforced toe. Your feet keep clean with the closed body but you still have plenty of toe room. The disadvantage is that you need to keep tightening the shoe strings. The weight is 986 grams. There is a high top version of the hybrid that gives you more ankle support but you have to tie them in a special way at the top to keep them comfortable around the ankle. The weight is 1035 grams.

The older version of the Montrail HardRock low cut trail shoe is a very good hiking shoe. If you don't have to worry about ankle sprains and you want to move faster with a lighter weight shoe it is a good choice. It may be hard to find because it has been replaced with a slightly heavier shoe. It has good cushioning and it weights 790 grams.

A newer version of the Montrail HardRock trail shoe is another shoe like the one above. I have found that it doesn't last as long as the original and weighs 830 grams. Montrail has newer versions of the above shoes and they continue to improve on them every year.

The Montrail Gortex True ankle high hiking boot is the tank of all of my boots. It gives me great ankle support and it is water proof. The disadvantage is that it is heavier. It weighs 1725 grams.

I have learned over the years that a lighter shoe helps my knees last longer before I have to stop and it keeps my daily mileage high. I tend to stub my toes less with a lighter shoe when I am tired. In colder weather with snow or rain you can still wear a sandal or trail shoe if you wear a neoprene sock.

I pray that you won't have to go through all of the trials and tribulations of buying and trying all of these shoes before you find the best shoe for you. Don't let your shoes become old laying in the closet. Good hiking; Joshua 9:13 ......and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer day hike

There is nothing like taking a good summer day hike. Just recently I hiked about 8 miles on the AT from Petites Gap to Apple Orchard Falls in Virginia. The trick of a good day hike is to start early and end early before temperatures rise and take and drink lots of water.

I try to take a camera to document my progress along the trail. If something happens to me and if someone finds my camera they can tell approximately where I stopped hiking.

Look around you as you hike and observe the flowering plants:

Thin leaved sunflower

White boneset

Sweet Clover

Luna Moth

Wedged Rock Bridge

Highest point on the trail

Trail Magic

Spider web coated with moisture from clouds

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Backpacking stoves

Many long distance backpackers carry a stove to cook or warm their meals on the trail. There are a few that like to carry foods that need no preparation to eat, like nuts and dried fruits and vegetables. I prefer to carry a stove to help rehydrate dehydrated meals. There are lots of different makes and models of stoves on the market. You can even make your own stove out of soft drink, beer or cat food cans. The type of hike will help you determine which stove to carry. On a short hike you are not restricted by weight but a longer hike requires you to lighten up on weight. There are trade offs using lighter weight stoves. Lighter stoves often have longer times to boil or to cook foods. I like to keep my pack weight for a 7 day backpacking trip under 11,350 grams (25 pounds) including food and water. I have tried many stoves and each stove has its own advantages and disadvantages.

It is a matter of preference to the type of stove you want to carry on a backpacking trip. I try to carry the lightest stove I can and with the least amount of fuel. I have found that carrying alcohol is safe and light. I have used the beer can stove in a blizzard and had no problem. The Bush Buddy uses wood for fuel but it has to be dry to burn. In a down pour I had to use a solid fuel cube to get a boil. The caldera cone works great but I don't have the patience to keep the seam from bending and binding.

Jetboil cannister stove

Good : Can boil one liter in a short period of time - 1 to 5 minutes, needs no windshield
Bad : Large size and weight 434 grams, needs gas cannister to work

Snow peak cannister stove

Good: Small size, short boil time 2 to 5 minutes
Bad : Needs wind shield, needs gas cannister, heavy 132 grams, unsteady unless a cannister support is used

Small cannister Isopro

Good: I can get about 9 to 10 boils per container
Bad: Gas under pressure, you have to carry it out when it is empty, heavy 236 grams - the 113 gram weight on the
can is the weight of the gas only

Large cannister ProIso

Good: Holds 220 grams of Isobutane/Propane almost twice the small container. Maybe you can get up to 15-20 boils per container.
Bad: Gas under pressure, heavy at 330 grams, you have to pack out the empty container

Brass alcohol stove

Good: Very indestructable, brass, you can regulate the burn
Bad: Heavy at 110 grams, must carry liquid fuel, alcohol

Bush Buddy

Good: A wood or solid fuel stove, you don't have to carry fuel
Bad: You need dry fuel (wood) to burn, heavy at 138 grams, large in size

Caldera cone

Good: Very light at 14 grams (minus cone) , primer plate, cone acts as wind brake and pot holder
Bad: Carry alcohol, one ounce can boil water, the cone tends to bend and is hard to put together

Soft drink can stove

Good: Light and efficient 8 grams
Bad: Must carry alcohol fuel and use a wind screen

Beer can alcohol stove

Good: You can use the soft drink can stove or the solid fuel cube
Bad: You can only boil only about a half liter of water, you need a wind screen, 80 grams

Proverbs 30:8 - Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Measuring backpack contents

How can we go light weight?

It is essential when backpacking to determine the best pack weight you should be carrying comfortably on your back. Pack weight will vary from season to season. Again I emphasize that you should strive to obtain the lightest pack weight possible and to maintain as much comfort as you can while hiking. I am older and I need to keep any extra weight off of my knees to keep from injuring them. Many people feel comfortable with 50 to 60 pound packs. But for the most part I have seen an abundance of extra hiking gear left in shelters to lighten distance hikers packs. I have determined that you should weigh every item that goes into the pack and on your body to get the lightest load possible. In this blog you will see the measuring scales I use and the units of measure that I believe are most accurate.

In order to get an accurate measure of the weight that you are carrying in your pack and on your body you must be able to accurately measure all gear.

I measure heavy gear on a larger scale purchased from Bass Pro Shop that measures gear from 0 to 44 pounds or 0 to 20 kilograms.

To weigh the lighter smaller items I use the Weight Watchers scale. With just a push of the button on the top you can toggle from ounces/pounds to grams/kilograms.

Weight Watchers scale

You must first decide which type of measurement you are going to use to measure your gear. Do you want to use tenths of an ounce, ounces and pounds or do you want to use grams and kilograms. I prefer to use grams and kilograms. The metric system is based on a scale of ten and it contains units (decigram, centigram, milligram) that are units of measure smaller than an ounce. Many pieces of gear may weigh less than a tenth of an ounce but combined with other like items can have a significant cumulative weight.

Weights and Measures

Kilogram 1,000 grams kg
Hectogram 100 grams hg
Decagram 10 grams dag
Gram 1 gram g
Decigram 0.1 grams 1/10 gram dg
Centigram 0.01 grams 1/100 cg
Milligram 0.001 gram 1/1000 mg

1 gram is equal to 0.035 ounce
1 pound is equal to 0.454 kg
1 ounce is equal to 28.35 grams

Everything in your pack and on your body adds weight. The less weight you carry the longer and faster you can backpack. The smaller the measuring unit the more accurately you can determine your carrying weight.

Lets look at some examples:

If you use the metric units of measure and you want to set you pack weight at 30 pounds you do the following:

Convert your base weight to kilograms.

30 pounds X 0.454 (kg/pound) = 13.62 kg

Convert to grams.

13.62 kg X 1,000 grams/kg = 13,620 grams

Now all you have to do is weigh all of your gear in grams until you get to 13,620 grams.

A 25 pound pack will weigh 11,350 grams and a 20 pound pack will weigh 9,080 grams.

On my next blog I will weigh some of the backpacking gear I carry on an extended backpacking trip.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tennessee hike

In order to put some joy back into hiking after my freezing experience on Roan Mountain in Tennessee I decided to do some day hikes. I hiked a 15 mile section of the AT south of Damascus Virginia and a 6 mile section farther south of that. It was a real joy to hike with a 15 pound backpack compared to the 30 ponder I usually carry. I seemed to fly down the trail passing other backpackers for a change. Hiking in the sunshine was a treat. It had rained just days before my hike and rain was expected again after my hike. Every hiker I met had that "I am soaked" look about them. I recorded a few videos as I hiked along for your enjoyment.

Moving the AT

Going through cow pastures

Spittle bugs are insects that go through a nymph stage where the bug attaches to a stem of a plant and with their bodies produce a frothy mucus for protection, temperature control and to keep from drying out.

One of the scariest times to hike is during a thunderstorm. Just recently a female hiker was killed hiking on the AT near Hot Springs NC. I was hiking in a thunderstorm one time and I got off the trail in a hurry when I felt my hair beginning to stand straight up on my head before each lightening strike.


He who walks with integrity walks securely. Proverbs 10:9

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bicyle trip on the C&O Canal

A group of 7 men from Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond Virginia got together to go on a 35 mile bicycle ride of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O) towpath. The ride started in Washington DC just below the Key Bridge to about 17.5 miles north toward Harpers Ferry West VA.

The trail paralleled the C&O canal and consisted mostly of compacted gravel and was relately flat.

Much of the canal is not in service but there are parts that are restored to original condition.

Our group ranged from the fairly young to some of the more mature.

One member of the group carried a cooler full of water, he converted a child carrier trailer into a camping, hiking and biking equipment trailer.

The trail passes Great Falls a very popular waterfalls in the area.

Many of the restored locks have taken on other multiple uses. In this picture a group of kayaks practice going over the falls of the locks backwards.

In another area a river boat reenacts how goods and materials were transported up and down the river through the lock system.

Great fellowship was had by all:

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Solo hiking

I have been solo hiking for about 5 years. Not that I necessarily want to hike solo but because most people that will hike my pace are either still working or not in shape to hike. My last hike has taught me to always keep some dry clothes to sleep in. Always have a means of communication for times of emergency. I carry a cell phone and a SAT phone. Keep close tabs on the weather. Gloves even if they get wet can keep you from getting frost bite. The chill factor from high winds can drop temperatures well below the freezing point. Force yourself to eat and drink lots of water. Pack as light as possible and then lighten up even more. Keep sun tan lotion on at all times. Smart wool socks are well worth the price. A hat for night time can help keep you warm. A down jacket will save your life at night in extreme conditins. Always keep your hammock dry, the tarp can stay wet but keep the hammock dry. Keep your synthetic clothes away from flames and high heat, they melt. Water proof shoes are great in snow and slush. Be sure to keep God close to your heart. And remember Phil 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Survival on the rail

When hiking long distances a hiker must be prepared for all types of weather. Recently I experienced such an ocassion while I was backpacking from Erwin Tenn to Damascus VA, an eight day hike. The second day I would cross over Roan Mountain over 6500 feet in elevation. I started on Monday with heavy rain which turned to heavy rain and high winds. The second day I put on dry clothes and hours later I was soaked again. As I began to near the top of Roan Mountain it began to hail, sleet and snow. It snowed 3 inches and the trail was a swimming pool of frozen ice and slush. My hands were completely numb and it seemed like hours since I felt my toes. It was snowing so much I missed the shelter on top and had to pitch my hammock half way down the other side. I had nothing dry except my Eddie Bauer down jacket, my down quilt, polar tech hat, and hammock. I hardly slept the night, nude except for my jacket, and I never did gain circulation of my toes and fingers. The next morning the temperature was in the lower teens. Everything I had except what I was wearing was frozen solid. My pants, socks, shoes, and shirt were so frozen I couldn't put them on. I got out my alcohol and esbit stoves. I tried thawing out my clothers by suspending them above the alcohol stove. I managed to get most of the clother thawed out except my boots. Because most of my clothes were synthetic I managed to burn a few holes in them before they were wearable. For my boots I placed the esbit stove inside the boot and melted the ice. But along with melting the ice I managed to melt part of the boot also. I had a hard time untieing the hammock lines and repacking. I hiked to the main road and took a zero day at a hostel in Hampton, Tenn. I continued my hike but I saw very few of the through hikers that I had been hiking with the previous day. They either quit or took several zero days to recoup. When we hike we must always be able to make a decission when enough is enough and with me it ended 3 days early because that night took so much energy from me that I could never regain enough to complete my hike.

Burned holes in my socks.

Burned boots with melted tops.

Esbit stove

Stove inside my shoe

Life saving down quilt by Speer.

Hat for night time wear.

Eddie Bauer Down jacket.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Circuit or section hiking/backpacking can be very rewarding. You usually do not have any time restraint and aren't forced to cover large amountd of milage. It is exiting to be able to take some of the side trails. I recently hiked a few circuit hikes just off the Skyline and Blue Ridge Drives in Virginia. I observed an abandoned copper mine, a male turkey courting his mate, a bird house in a tree in the middle of nowhere, white tail deer and a monuement to Audie Murphy.

Copper mine

Bird house just off the trail on top of Brush Mountain.

White Tailed Deer

Audie Murphy monuement (Actor and most decorated soldier in WWII)

Male turkey doing his mating dance

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they walk, and not faint.