Category Archives: trail talk

50 Hikes In 50 States By 50 Years

As someone who likes to hike and backpack, I decided a number of years ago that I wanted to hike 50 trails in 50 States before I was 50 years old.  I’m certain that I’m not the first to do this – although I made the decision without any outside influence and with two basic rules:

    1. The hike has to be on an established trail (signed or blazed) that is known to the hiking public.

2.  The trail has to be at least one mile in length, and I have to hike the distance (or more) for it to count

 

USA Map

 

Pretty simple, right?

Well I just finished the States of Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas this past weekend and have officially knocked out 47 States.  The Dakotas are all that remain – and my hope is to finish them with a group of hiking buddies next summer.

Until then, here’s a recap of States 46-48 – and I’ll start with Kansas.

kansas-plate

 

KANSAS

My traveling companion (who goes by the trail name “Therm Rider”) and I got a late start out of Kansas City, KS on Saturday morning after discovering the night life at Westport – a historic and vibrant area near downtown that has fantastic restaurants and bars.

With a little coaxing, I rousted him from the all-you-can eat breakfast at Embassy Suites.  Then with full bellies, we hit the road for Wyandotte County Park which is located northwest of Kansas City.  Here we found a bunch of trails that were situated around a nice lake.  The winter views made for some scenic ridge hiking which was a plus.

Wyandotte County Park

The temperatures hovered in the 30’s, but were welcome and woke us from the haze that lingered from the previous night.  We stumbled on to a few stone grills that were literally in the middle of the wilderness – and were likely once part of a now relocated picnic area.  On occasions we saw rotting picnic tables only a few feet from the trail.

But there were plenty of newly built and well maintained facilities in the park, and I expect they are heavily used in the warmer months.

IMG_3599

We returned to our rented truck after a 1.5 mile hike and fortunately didn’t need the 4×4 this weekend.  A foot of snow pounded most of South Dakota and Iowa on Friday – but we managed to stay South of the winter storm.

IMG_3580

 

NEBRASKA

From here, we drove northwest in to Nebraska and over to Indian Cave State Park.  It is situated above the Missouri River and was the biggest surprise of the trip.  After checking out the views from an overlook on the ridge, we took Trail #3 down to the river.

IMG_3619

The trail dropped through a lightly wooded meadow with prairie grass that was lit up in the late afternoon sun.  It was a pleasant descent which leveled off as the trail reached the Missouri River.  I noticed a shelter on the ridge and talked Therm Rider in to the steep climb to check it out.  It turns out that there were three shelters – two of which were occupied by backpackers tonight.  They looked a lot like the old pre-90’s Appalachian Trail shelters – some which you can still find on the A.T. today.

IMG_3634

Two of the guys camping here had a proto-type of a four pound camping toilet that they wanted us to check out.  I think I’ll stick to my backpacker’s trowel until a lighter model hits the market, but it was an interesting concept to say the least.  After the product review, we got them to snap our pic on the ridge overlooking the river.

Indian Cave State Park Overlook

Then we made it back to the trailhead just as the sun was setting.  Despite the fact that we have camped frequently in sub-32 weather – I didn’t feel guilty about heading for a hotel in Omaha tonight.  Nebraska complete!

nebraska-plate

 

IOWA

On Sunday (the final day of our trip), we got up a little earlier.  Yet we still managed to explore another great historic restaurant and bar district the previous night – this time the Old Market of downtown Omaha.

IMG_3714

We had another hearty breakfast at the local Embassy Suites, then drove southeast to Iowa.  I picked out another ridge hike with views of the prairie at Waubonsie State Park.  It has a beautiful view of the valley floor from the Sunset Overlook Trail and is just east of the Missouri River.

Waubonsie State Park Overlook

The travels of Lewis & Clark are well documented in this area and the Parks on both sides of the Missouri tell of their numerous adventures as they traversed this land.  I chose a more hospitable route, however, and followed the ridge line to explore the park to the west.

IMG_3718

Therm Rider, defeated by two nights in the city, stayed at the scenic overlook and rested up a bit.  So I hiked solo and enjoyed the peaceful walk through a mix of hardwoods and grasslands.

IMG_3655

But our flight was scheduled for a 4:55pm CT departure and we had to hustle back to Kansas City for the trip home.  I met up with Therm Rider at the trailhead, and then we headed for the airport.  Iowa complete!

iowa-plate

The original plan was to squeeze in a hike in South Dakota this trip, but with the good times that Kansas City and Omaha had to offer – coupled with a foot of snow an hour north – we opted to visit the Dakotas another time.  States 49-50 … see you soon!

Episode 25: Flip Flop Flippin'

Flip Flop Flippin

In Episode 25 of the N2Backpacking podcast series, I speak with Scott “Squatch” Herriott about his three part series Flip Flop Flippin'.  The films were shot on the Appalachian Trail during the summers of 2011, 2012, and 2014 and they follow the thru-hiker community as they make their way along the nearly 2200 mile trail.

In the show, “Squatch” talks about his first ventures in to the wilderness, some of the thru-hikers and trail angels that he met on the A.T., and his experience as a filmmaker in the backcountry.  His skills as a stand-up comedian come across in his videos and on the podcast.  So I am sure that you will enjoy both.

Squatch

For more information on Squatch and his films, click here!  For the audio interview click below.

Subject: Flip Flop Flippin'

Interviewees:  Scott “Squatch” Herriott
Interview Date: 
November 21. 2014
Runtime: 
1:20:46
Download Now: 
Flip Flop Flippin' (WMA format 55.1 Meg);
Flip Flop Flippin'  (MP3 format 75.7 Meg)

You can follow or subscribe to this podcast if you click here (via Blubrry, Facebook, Google+, iGoogle, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, Stitcher, Yahoo, Zune). Or click this link for a complete list of N2Backpacking podcasts.

Episode 24: Backcountry 101-Rookie Mistakes

In Episode 24 of the N2Backpacking podcast series, we satisfy a listener request for a show on backcountry basics.  Recorded at a remote campsite on the Chattooga River, I speak with Therm Rider and The Camel about some of our rookie mistakes in the backcountry and smart things that we've done since our first ventures in to the wilderness.

“Backcountry 101” is the first installment in this mini-series where we sit around the campfire and discuss the fundamentals of backpacking.  In this episode, we talk about the times when we've taken too much, hiked too far, and or put members of our group in terrain that was way above their skill level.  Enjoy the show and have a laugh at our expense.  And yes, this is a photo from the hike with “Bob”!

Subject: Backcountry 101 – Rookie Mistakes

Interviewees:Brett (Therm Rider), Roger (The Camel)
Interview Date: 
October 25. 2014
Runtime: 
39:34
Download Now: 
Backcountry 101 – Rookie Mistakes (WMA format 37.1 Meg);
Backcountry 101 – Rookie Mistakes  (MP3 format 37.3 Meg)

You can follow or subscribe to this podcast if you click here (via Blubrry, Facebook, Google+, iGoogle, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, Stitcher, Yahoo, Zune). Or click this link for a complete list of N2Backpacking podcasts.

 

#7 Listen to music

Just read an article at Appalachian Trials on “9 Things A Former Thru-Hiker Wishes She Had Known Before Hitting The Trail“.  And what was on the list?   My personal favorite….

#7 Listen to music:

” It will help keep you positive in the present as you hike and afterwards the music you listened to will become a time machine back to exact moments on the trail. You may not know the place or even the state but the song will bring back a perfectly rendered memory. “

Many go in to the woods to leave technology behind.  I work in technology, and I promise you that when I go in to the woods there’s nothing more that I want to do than leave technology behind.

But when you are hiking ~ 2200 miles to Maine – it’s a long, long way to walk.  Yes, music helps – believe me.  Actually, everything helps – hiking in silence, listening to the birds, talking with a day-hiker or fellow thru-hiker, and  ….. even listening to music for an hour or two.  (It’s an 8-12 hour thru-hiking day, you get that.)

So this week, I’ve been listening to cassette tapes that a group of friends made me for my hike in 1994.  I summited Mt. Katahdin 20 years ago this October, and the music does bring me back – as the article states.  There truly is a soundtrack to a thru-hike (and your life.)  And yes … all the memories do come flooding back.

Even if it originated on cassettee tapes that were played on a yellow waterprooof Walkman.   On a thru-hike … the music does matter, maybe not today – but tomorrow.

 

 

Episode 22: Walk In The Woods, Life As An Extra

Walk In The Woods

In Episode 22 of the N2Backpacking podcast series, I speak with Ken aka “The Weasel” about our experience as extras in the soon to be released movie Walk In The Woods.   It is based on the best-selling 1998 book by Bill Bryson, and stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte – both who were on set for our scene in the movie which was filmed at Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Georgia.

Ken and I record the podcast 2 years to the day of an  interview we did on the Chattooga River Trail (Episode #5).  We talk about what it takes to get the casting call, discuss life on the set, review some scenes from the movie, and talk about the impact this Hollywood production may have on the Appalachian Trail and other long distance hiking trails in the future.    

Want a shot at your 15 seconds of fame?  Hurry, because they are wrapping up production of Walk In The Woods in June.  But you can follow this link to CL Casting to see the Atlanta casting calls that remain.

Subject: Walk In The Woods, Life As An Extra
Interviewees:  Ken (aka The Weasel)
Interview Date: June 10, 2014
Runtime: 1:09:40
Download Now: Walk In The Woods (WMA format 50.3 Meg);
Walk In The Woods (MP3 format 66.8 Meg)

 

 You can follow or subscribe to this podcast if you click here (via Blubrry, Facebook, Google+, iGoogle, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, Stitcher, Yahoo, Zune). Or click this link for a complete list of N2Backpacking podcasts.

 

From movie set to backcountry set, a Walk In The Woods on the Appalachian Trail

You may have heard that Walk In The Woods is filming now in the Atlanta area, and Friday I was cast as an extra in a bunkroom scene with actors Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  True to the book, it was set at Rainbow Springs, N.C. after an April snowstorm.  Needless to say, I had the Appalachian Trail on the brain and talked two friends in to a hike this weekend on the Trail.  Took my backpack straight from the set, and arrived at Hightower Gap on the A.T. on a beautiful spring day.

We had sunshine and cool temps with mountain breezes all day and climbed ~500 feet to the shelter with leaves just beginning to break out on the trees.

 

Campsites are plentiful at the shelter, but with kids in tow – we opted to camp on the ridge at the junction with a blue blazed side trail.  The bonus – many hikers passed by and had interesting stories to tell.

 

After setting up camp, we walked down to the shelter to chat with some of the other backpackers.  Two were hiking to Damascus, VA but we only ran in to one thru-hiker this trip who intentionally waited until late in the season to start and miss the masses.

 

Then back to the campsite where the dog relaxed …

 

And the kids entertained themselves with making bows and arrows…

 

A great night in general and a beautiful evening in the backcountry – with a spring sunset through the trees and stars and a cresent moon lighting the sky.  No wonder we stayed up until after 1am.  

 

Hopefully, Walk In The Woods captures this kind of Spring magic on the Trail.  And from what I've seen so far … it will.

 

 

And the monsoons came. A tale from Good Friday…

The kid's were out of school for Good Friday recently, so we took them backpacking on the Appalachian Trail near Tray Mountain.  Here they are at Tray Gap about a mile from the summit.

Even the dog was having a great time at Tray Gap and went straight for a mega muddle puddle at the cross-roads.  Three 4×4 Jeeps did the same and entertained the kids before we hit the Trail.  All got a good smattering of mud as you can see below…  Uh, I gotta sleep with that? 

We considered camping closer to Tray Mountain Shelter (where I slept during my thru-hike – 20 years to the day), but with inclement weather coming in opted for a campsite South on the A.T. with this view back to Tray Mountain.

We had about an hour to get our tents set-up, but the wind and heavy rain came as predicted.  So off we went to Helen, GA for dinner – we might as well dine in comfort!

 

True to the Bavarian tourist theme, you can get a bratwurst and beer in this town.  And we did…beats cooking in the rain, eh.

Then back to our oasis in the monsoon.  Fortunately, Ken gathered and covered wood in advance of the storm.  Damn that fire feels nice!  

But will the kids make it through the night??  I'll let you guess on that one.

20 years ago today, I left Springer Mountain in North Georgia…

20 years ago today, I left Springer Mountain in North Georgia for a ~2200 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. Met these two guys (Bull and The Red Rainman) the night before at Amicalola Falls State Park and climbed 8.1 miles to the start of the Trail where we snapped this pic. It's the journey – not the destination. True on the A.T. and true in life…