Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Perfect Day . . . . Well At Least It Started That Way

I woke up this morning a Bobblets Gap just before light.  I laid there and reasoned that since this was a little shorter day, I could sleep a few minutes longer.  It felt so good under my quilt.  Finally when I did rise I got a very pleasant surprise.  The spring at the top of the hill was flowing water!  Most of the time you need to look a little ways down from the shelter and with all the dry springs and streams I was sure this was a good omen.

About light I started up the hill to the trail.  My legs were a little sore but I knew they would loosen up in a couple of miles.  At Peaks of Otter Overlook I stopped to watch the sun come up.  The temperature was already coming up so I striped off a couple of layers and headed on up the trail.

Just before Cove Mountain Shelter I saw an actual live person hiking.  I had not seen another backpacker since before Daleville.  He was out for the week also and asked a lot of questions about my Gorilla.  I told him I would email him when I got back give him some information on lightweight gear.

By 11 AM I was at Jennings Creek.  I had planned to have an early lunch here but I wasn't hungry.  I filled my water bottles and headed up on Fork Mountain.  That's when I started noticing things were not right.

Just before the summit I started feeling week.  Okay, I really hadn't eaten a lot today, so I stopped at the top and pulled out lunch.  The fruit leather seemed to revive me a bit, and the jerky was okay but as much as I wanted to eat, food just didn't go down well.  Even the almond butter seemed to stick in my throat.  I ate as much as I could, which was not a lot and then moved on.  After a little ways I felt better.  May be all I needed was some food.

Two miles later I was at Bryant Ridge Shelter.  I made a quick stop there but I was still moving at a good pace.  It was just five mile more to Cornelius Creek Shelter.  There I planned a break and refill my water bottles one last time before going up to Thunder Hill.

About half way up Floyd Mountain it hit.  Gut wrenching nausea.  It didn't take my long to figure this one out.  I'd been drinking water but not eating much.  The same thing happened to Trail Trash on our thru-hike in 2010.  Okay all I needed to do was eat.  Easier said than done.  I had no appetite at all.  The thought of eating repulsed me.  I knew this was only going to get worse.  I decided to get to Cornelius and force down some food, spend the night and see if things were better in the morning.  My pace got slower and slower.  The pain got worse and at the top of the mountain I called Trail Trash.

The conversation was something like this.  "I am sorry that I was not more understanding when you got into trouble in Shenandoah.  I thought all one needed to do was eat but now I know you really couldn't swallow anything but water".

"I know this because it is happening to me right now".

We discussed a couple of options and in the end he called his mom and she headed out to rescue me.

Mean while back on the trail I was trying to get to Sunset Field Parking Area to be picked up.  I called Guthook to verify the mile marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway so my wife would know where to find me.  It was going to be dark I didn't want her looking at every overlook.  Guthook was only too happy to help.  He added at the end of our talk "the AT has really beat you up this year".  I agreed, but then I also set ambitious goals so I bring a lot of it on myself.

Sometime after 6:30 PM I found the side trail to the parking area.  I spread out my ground sheet and balled up next to my pack to wait.  I dozed off and on until my phone rang about 8.  Susan had arrived with a Pepsi and a large bag of chips.  Both were gone before we made it back to the access road off the parkway.

What I'm pretty sure happened to me is called hyponatremia.  It is a condition caused by the sodium levels dropping in your body.  It is characterized by thirst but no appetite.  Nausea and headaches and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.  The victim is usually confused and makes poor decisions because of swelling of the brain.  If it progresses to far there will be muscle spasms and coma.  It has caused death.    

Fortunately for me I identified the problem early and I have an excellent and loving support team that sprung into action.  If I had spent the night on the trail the outcome my not had been as good.  In the future there will be a bag of crushed potato chips in my pack.  Maybe two!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

McAfee Knob and Beyond

I've been on the trail since Friday night.  My Scouts, four leaders plus myself drove up to the McAfee Knob trailhead late Friday night. I'm always concerned about hiking to a shelter with a group. I've been woke up by Scouts in the middle of the night and don't appreciate it. Fortunately my group once again was able to set up their tents and hang their food without disturbing anyone. One of the campers told me on Saturday morning he got up at 2 AM and was taken by surprise that eight additional tents were there. I like to hear compliments like that on my boys. 

Saturday's hike was up to the Knob. We broke camp about 9 AM and headed north on the AT.  We had a couple of new boys and the steep inclines gave they a little trouble. They hung in there and we mast it to the top for lunch. 

It must of been McAfee Knob day. I've never seen so many people up there. Most all of them were day hikers and a few asked the boys about their chilly night. It had dipped below 25 degrees. 

The original plan was to hike part way to Tinker's Cliff and camp where some rocks form a shelter. I decided to save that for another outing and we headed for Campbell Shelter to camp. 

Water was the first order of business.  We past three dry springs on the way to the Knob. The one at Campbell was not flowing but there was water still in the spring box. We filtered enough for everyone. 

After everyone was settled I hiked on alone to Lambert's Meadow. There were a couple of tough climbs and by the time I got there I was soaked in sweat. Not a good thing in the cold. I quickly changed into my dry sleeping clothes and ate supper so I could warm up in my quilt. 

There were five others in the shelter with me. All of them were nice but they built a fire. I don't have a problem with fires. What I do have a problem with is smoke. It gives me a Teri le headache. That's funny since I spent a career fighting fire. 

This morning I left out at 6:15. The headlamp was on for about a mile and then the sun was up. Breakfast was a Paleo bar I had made at home. I can eat and walk at the same time. The hike took me past a huge reservoir. The leaves still had a lot of color at that elevation. By 10 AM I was in Daleville. I took advantage of the convenience store next to the trail and bought some chocolate milk and a couple of liters of water. 

I made to Fullhardt Shelter for  lunch. I was still undecided about my destination tonight. I wanted to make Bobblets Gap but I was concerned about daylight. 

Just before Wilson Creek Shelter I found two streams actually flowing. I refilled both my water bottles at Curry Creek.  At Wilson Creek I drank one bottle and refilled it again. I past Wilson Creek Shelter At 3 PM. I decided to take a chance and go for Bobblets Gap. 

Late afternoon I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail was craggy and I was getting tired so I really didn't check out the views. I'll be on it most of the day tomorrow. I got to Bobblet's Gap just after 6. The bear bag is hung and I'm ready for a good nights sleep after my 27.9 mile day. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This Time Will Be Different

Every time I return from a trip I always look back and wonder what I could do to make it better.  Could I have gone a little lighter?  Did I have the right gear? Did I prep a little better?  You know, all the hindsite things we ask ourselves.  Some of it is regret of opportunities missed.  However a lot of it is to increase my arsenal of knowledge to prevent repeating the same mistakes all over again.

I'm leaving Friday night with my Scouts to hike a section of the AT near McAfee Knob.  It has the reputation of being the most photographed place on the entire trail.  We will hike into John's Spring Shelter late on Friday night and will have plenty of time to enjoy the view from the knob on Saturday.  Some of the older boys have expressed an interest in hiking all the way to Lambert's Meadow that afternoon.  It may be toomuch for the younger scouts but I have a lot of adult leadership on this trip so we may split up and have a group go long and one go short.  There is a good camping spot just north of Campbell Shelter so we can plan to meet there for the night.

Sometimes the stars do line up just right.  My wife and I are planning to attend a wedding the following weekend in Pennsylvania.  With the extra adults on the trip, it has worked out that I can leave camp on Sunday morning and hike another section of Virginia before I get picked up on Friday.  The only negative to the whole plan is the distance.  It's about 153 miles from trailhead to trailhead.  But then again life is about turning problems into solutions.

Since we are back to Eastern Standard Time and it is mid-November, the amount of daylight is a big concern.  Of course I like to hike early in the morning and it is light enough to start hiking not long after 6 AM.  So the challenge is to maximize my hiking time each day.  Since I only carry a small amount of gear, packing and unpacking will only take a few minutes on each end of the day.  The other activity that takes time on the trail is cooking.  For sometimeI've been continplating a stoveless trip.  This looks like a perfect time.

Here is a list of the food I'm carrying on this trip.

7-  Homemade Paleo Granola Bars  Thes pack over a thousand calories and can be eaten while I walk. 
3- YumButters I love nutbutter and will easily eat half of a package in a day.  I also have some Justin's Chocolate Hazel Nutbutter.
14 - Sticks of Colby String Cheese I like the monzelrella too but yellow cheese has more caleroies per ounce.
24 ounces of homemade beef jerky  One of the markets at some really lean roast on sale last week.
42 ounces of fruit leather  There are two different flavors.  The tropical ginger is about 120 calories an ounce and the chocolate cherry is a little higher than that.
12 ounces of raw seeds  These are from Go Raw  My favorite is (believe it or not) watermelon seeds.

The jerky, fruit leather and granola bars weights were not exact.  They are a little over in the packages I stored them in.  With packaging and OP sacks it weighed out close to 11 pounds.  I'm thinking I somewhere a little over 26 ounces a day.  That may be on the lightside for this time a year (temps from the mid 20's to upper 50's) but I ate real good all summer and there is a wedding at the end of this trip!

Not Too Sweet Fruit Leather

Ever look at the label of your favorite snack bar and wonder if you could make it yourself?  I do it all the time.  So a couple of weeks ago I decided to make a version of a fruit leather bar I had picked up while out ridng my bicycle.  It took a couple of trys to make what I wanted but the two recipes below turned out pretty darn well.  The best part is that the sweetness does not over power the flavors of the fruit.


Tropical Ginger

2           – Apples (sliced and cored)
2 cups  – Chopped Dates
1/2        - Pineapple 
1           - Ripe Mango (cut flesh off the pit)
1/4 cup – Ground Flax Seeds
1/4 cup – Chia Seeds
1/4 cup – Raw Hemp Hearts
1/4 cup – Chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup – Chopped Peacans
1/4 cup – Chopped Cashews
2 TB     - Ground Ginger
2 TB     - Cocoa
1 tsp     - Cinnamon
1 tsp     - Nutmeg
1 cup    - Water

1. If you have a Vitamix, don't peel anything.  That's right, even the pineapple.  Just discard the top, cut into cubes and toss it in.
2. Blend the apples, dates and 1/2 cup of water until smooth.  Pour the mixture in a large bowl.
3. Next blend the 1/2 pineapple chunks and mango pieces with another 1/2 cup of water and add this to the apple/date mixture.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir until mixed completely.
5. Spread the mixture about 3/16" thick onto a dehydrator screens covered with a silicon baking sheets (parchment or plastic wrap will also work).
6. Dry at 125 degrees for about 6 hours.  Using a pizza cutter score the leather into strips.  Peel the baking sheets off the leather and return the leather to the dehydrator until the srips are a leathery texture. 

Chocolate Cherries

2           – Apples (sliced and cored)
2 cups  – Chopped Dates
3           - Ripe Bananas
1 cup    - Unsweetened Coconut
1 cup    - Dark Cherries 
1/4 cup – Ground Flax Seeds
1/4 cup – Chia Seeds
1/4 cup – Raw Hemp Hearts
1/4 cup – Chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup – Chopped Peacans
1/4 cup – Chopped Cashews
2 TB     - Ground Ginger
2 TB     - Cocoa
1 tsp     - Cinnamon
1 tsp     - Nutmeg
1 cup    - Water
1/2 cup - Bitter Sweet Chocolate Chips

1. Blend the apples, dates and 1/2 cup of water until smooth.  Pour the mixture in a large bowl.
2. Next blend the bananas, coconut and cherries with another 1/2 cup of water and add this to the apple/date mixture.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir until mixed completely.
4. Spread the mixture about 3/16" thick onto a dehydrator screens covered with a silicon baking sheets (parchment or plastic wrap will also work).
5. Dry at 125 degrees for about 6 hours.  Using a pizza cutter score the leather into strips.  Peel the baking sheets off the leather and return the leather to the dehydrator until the srips are a leathery texture. 
6. The chocolate chips will melt during dehydration but will harden after the leather cools.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Every trip to a grocery store includes a search for new foods to take backpacking.  Not so long ago I was cruising the aisles filled with rice and pasta.  These days I'm looking for more Paleo friendly foods.  I've found I recover much quicker from a big day eating proteins and fats than if I load up on carbs.  The transition back to my regular diet back home is much easier since it is also low in carbs.

This past week my wife Susan and I made a trip to Earth Fare in Greensboro, NC.  It's a great store for organic foods, especially pasture raised meats and wild caught fish.  Unfortunately we missed the sale on ground beef but did find our favorite coconut water on sale.  As I walked through the store a display caught my eye.  There were squeeze packets of almond butter and sun butter from Yum Butter.  I checked the calories and ingredients and was amazed.  Total calories for a 7 ounce packet was over a thousand!  The ingredients included chia, hemp seed and goji berry powder.  The only sweeteners are coconut palm sugar and lucuma powder which is high in antioxidants and potassium. Before I knew it there were four packets in my grocery bag.  

Yesterday I had planned to help with a new bridge on the Mountain to Sea Trail.  Plans included a lunch break so I packed one of the sun butter packets with an apple for my meal.  Late morning I decided I needed a little something to get me to lunch.  I pulled out the packet and squeezed a little in my mouth.  It was delicious!  Before I could stuff it back in my pack, one of the other volunteers spotted it and wanted to check the label.  Turns out he is a trail runner and like me is always looking for energy foods to use on the tail.  I pretty sure he stopped at Earth Fare on the way home.

When I got home I checked out the website for YumButter.  The company was founded by Matt and Adrian who both have a love of whole foods and outdoor adventures.  One of their many goals is to "Run the world's most responsible food company".  A portion of their profits are used to feed malnourished children.  At present you can purchase their products online from them direct or from a few select retail outlets (check the map on their site).  There are plans for a bigger distribution system in the works. 

So back to using this as a backpacking food.  With 180 calories in a 1.12 ounce serving plus all the nutrients, I think this has just become a staple in my pack. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Leave No Trace School -Last Day in the Back Country

Ever have a day that just slipped away?  That's how today was. May it was because it's the last day I'll be hiking for awhile or may be it's just because this class is almost over. At any rate breakfast was a quick bowl of potatoes and before I knew it two presentations were over and we were hiking to the parking lot. 

Derrick gave the last mini class on preparing for an outing. I must say he got me thinking about my preparation some. I really what to lead a couple of backpacking trips this fall for a local club and a lot of planning will be needed. 

On the way to the car I spotted a four foot black snake stretched across the road. He was a calmer than most black snakes and I took a couple of pictures of him. 

On the way back to Landmark we stopped at Judaculla Rock. The Cherrokees inscribed pictures on the slab of rock telling about a giant that guarded their sacred hunting grounds.  Weather has eroded some of the carvings but it was still interesting to see the markings and read about the history of the Indians that lived here long ago. 

Back at Landmark we cleaned and dried gear. We also came up with a game plan for theVisitor's  Center on the Smokeys tomorrow.   

After everything was finished a group of us headed into town for supper. We ate at a little Cuban place in Sylva, NC. The food was really good. Of course it was our first meal out of the woods but I think it would have been good anyway. 

Tomorrow night I head for Camp Barstow in South Carolina. Hope my Scouts have had a good week at camp. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Leave No Trace School - Another Day in the Back Country

While I really expected rain most of the night, I think it waited until it was time to get up. I had just crawled out of my tent when the first few drops started to fall. So much for packing a dry tent. 

Jordan had the first presentation this morning. It was on packing out trash. I thought it was clever that he incorporated the campsite clean up in his lesson. 

The first stop on our hike was at School House Falls. There were some kids in the water fly fishing.  I expected the water to be very cold but it wasn't that bad.  I waded out to the falls and took a few pictures from behind the water. 

We stopped for lunch on a rock face. After lunch I got my turn to give a presentation on "Respecting Wildlife". It went well. I have just a couple more requirements to complete for the class. The major stuff is complete. 

At camp we had a four more demonstrations. Guthook's friend Dino did one on alternatives to camp fires. We made luminaries and set them around the fire ring. They were kind of neat. 

Tomorrow we head back to Landmark Learning. After all the carbs I've eaten I'm thinking hArd about a good supper tomorrow night.