Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy New Year, Hope You Got New Gear

I'm time pressed to keep up with everything, but that's no excuse. Hope you all had a great series of holidays and look forward to the New Year like I do.
2015, bring it on. Do your damnedest.
Now that we've recovered from the sugar hangover, we're scoping out seasonal sales. Post Christmas madness should net decent gear.
Ok, the wish list includes lots of basics, cause when you're living basic, those things wear out.
Things like waterproof gloves, and tights, leggings and fleece tops.
No turtle necks, they make me feel like I'm choking. Nice long scarves for double wrapping head and neck.  Gotta love those serious wool socks.
But, hoods and pockets are prime selling points, with real zippers, not wanna be coil calamities. Unless I'm dancing in a gym, I need pockets.
By the way, that's something I learned about having a smart phone! That baby requires a serious soft pocket. Don't dare scratch the face throwing it willy-nilly in beside the keys and loose change.
Thanks for reading me this year. New adventures await.
Happy Trails.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beefing Up Winter Sleeping Bags

I loved this picture I saw on Facebook. The caption said, "Pack Light, Freeze at Night." 
My reply, "No skills, lot of chills."

When new, this sleeping bag was rated at 15 degrees and lived up to its potential. After several years of constant use and decreasing effectiveness, I washed it per manufacturers directions. However a week of testing it in the Gila, New Mexico proved it no longer kept me warm in sub- zero temps. 

With winter coming on, I've decided to utilize a second layer to beef up the bag rather than buying a negative-degree monster. I'd rather own components that can be added as the need arises, thus maintaining a versatile minimalist lifestyle.

I placed the quilt bottom side up, on top the sleeping bag for discussion purposes only, showing you that it doesn't have a hood and the footbed is significantly tighter. Previously I used this quilt as a 'topper', or alone during the summer. The lacing keeps the quilt snugged up around a sleeping pad or main bag.

As you can see, the quilt is red for easy visibility in rescue situations, and gray for stealth. Its reversible, is rated for 40 degree nights.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trip Report-Gila Wilderness in December

My friend picked me up at the Albuquerque Airport for a week of intensive survival experimentation, scoping out the Continental Divide Trail routes and some R& R.
While at the Gila Hot Springs, we met a wonderful couple touring the southwest in a blue bus 40 feet long.

I was invited to view my new friends living quarters and was amazed at the wonderful transformation from school bus to cabin. Native American jewelry and artwork, wood floors and an extensive kitchen created a fantastic ambiance.

But, off to more remote locations. Off at Apache Creek Campground, Brian and I scouted a rugged setting and found this ponderosa pine leaning over a dry creek bed. But it wasn't dry for long so next came the tarp lean-to, created with a 5 x 9 tarp, staked to a back log, secured above. Damp leaves were piled under the overhanging blowdown. Below you see the spacious emergency shelter. Sorry for the rain drops on my camera lense.

Next, Brian strung a massive blue tarp and built a Dakota fire pit, which proved to be quite welcome as the rain continued drenching the land. New Mexico in December? Bring warm clothes and rain gear.

We slept in the shelter that night, with sleeping bags and pads, after drying out gear over the fire. My gram weenie rainsuit was hung to dry after being my mainstay all day long.

Nearby hiking provided welcome relief from gathering firewood and leaves. We saw pictographs 600 years old, elk carcass gnawed by wolves, hawks and a rattle snake casing shed earlier this fall.

I highly recommend the Gila and Apache National Forests. Camping is free at many locations. There were fire pits, picnic tables and privies.
The Columbia Jacket proved very valuable when temps dipped to low twenties after skies cleared.It made a great pillow and its generous, zippered pockets came in handy when navigating airports.

Other major needs proved to be: several LED flashlights and head lamp, matches and lighters, fleece and wool socks, fuel for backpacking stove and a warm hat. I ate a lot of enhanced trail mix which I brought from Idaho, while Brian ate lots of fresh fruit and cooked on a camp fire utilizing all his truck camping equipment.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Serious Winter Jacket

This Columbia jacket has become my go-to choice for serious winter expeditions.
I love the many generous pockets, snaps and heavy duty zipper, Velcro on the cuffs and inner pockets.
I actually found this jacket while browsing a thrift store and snapped it right up. 

Its a medium and over-sized, not intended for dinner out, but for hours in sub freezing, below zero even, winter here in Idaho. The sleeves are generous and I can layer fleece underneath. Its quite comfortable and light, excellent for driving, too.

Previously, I wore a jacket that fell below the waist, but now, hoping for a call-out on Idaho's search and rescue unit, I moved up to brand name outerwear.

I like this color scheme as well because it blends with various environments.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Calorie Meltdown

Monte Belle Wilderness Map check

Active rain or shine, hikers know they can pile on the calories and stay in shape.
But, what happens during the holiday season, post long distance hike?

You eat. And eat. Seems the body is making up for days of ramen and oatmeal by stuffing down turkey and pie.
So what's a hiker to do if they want next season to open without an extra ten or twenty pounds around the middle? That extra load will kill your knees, fight you every ascent, and demoralize you when your favorite pieces don't fit.

Its a struggle. A hard one. Your stomach is growling. All those muscles you put on last summer want Food!

Time for activity. Get out and ski, walk, lift weights, snowboard, swim. Yeah, right.
Somehow I can eat a million calories and wear off 423.
Stevenson Island Ski (Lake Yellowstone, 325 feet of thermal hot spots surrounded by square miles of water)

I get it. 
Food choices.
Find the food you love, but portion control that baby. Eliminate the butter, oil and gravy. 
Stay away from beer. Beer makes beer guts.
Wow, and wine. Wine is sugar left to its own devices. Perfect. Just what I need.

No, seriously. Home made vegetable soup, lots of hard crisp apples, butter free popcorn (dry filler, I know), rolled oats (not the prepackaged cereal with 160 calories per infant serving.)

It's hard, but way harder to get those pounds off. 
Happy holidays. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Life and Death in the Backcountry

While researching for my upcoming book, of Moose and Men, Ridgerunning in Maine's Hundred Mile Wilderness, I started wondering what the web says about accidental administration of adrenalin via an EpiPen. Among various links, I found this page Allergic Reactions and EpiPens

Last summer on the Gulf Hagas Trail, we had a nest of hornets that would get riled up when dogs were off leash. Turns out, the paper nest was at black lab nose level, right on the easier Pleasant River Tote Trail.
Once, while hiking the loop, I met a mom whose daughter had just been stung for the first time in her short life. Her father was allergic and after the incident, she headed straight back to the parking lot.

Of course, Benadryl can be purchased over the counter and carried as an emergency response to allergic reactions. Some use it after encountering poison ivy.
It doesn't always work and can cause drowsiness.

Untreated, a severe reaction can cause shock followed by death. If you know you're allergic to bee stings, carry a pen. You'll need a prescription, but its worth it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Search and Rescue Basic Pack

On my person is:
appropriate footwear (solid boots)
a watch (yes, cell phones don't count, sometimes there's no service or the battery dies)
pen and paper, for copious notes on subject and search area
layered clothing including official Orange shirt

My Lightning 50 forms the base of my system. The inner pouch and extra straps have been removed to keep the system light and tight.

In the pack, as required by the unit:

whistle, compass, mirror, 
rain jacket and pants
layered clothing as weather dictates
tarp, bivy sack
2 liters of water
enough no-cook food for 24 hours, at least 2,000 calories
50 feet flagging tape (for marking areas)
25 feet rope
sleeping pad
jack knife
two independent light sources, with spare batteries for at least 8 hours
metal cup and spoon
first aid kit consisting of ace bandage, gauze, bandages, neosporin, mole skin, scissors, tape, 
sunscreen, chapstick, sunglasses, pain reliever
medications you use
personal hygiene (toilet paper, hand sanitizer,tooth brush, tooth paste)
for me: reading glasses, pair of binoculars, camera
hiking poles, hat

Saturday, November 8, 2014

New Passions

Sorry its been so long since I posted.
After driving from Maine by way of Chicago, avoiding all tollways and thoroughly enjoying the trip, I headed back home to Idaho.

Then, the next day, I attended my first Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue meeting. Held every Tuesday evening, this general meeting allows people to join, ask questions and listen to debriefings by specialty teams, including the K-9, Technical, Logistics and Man-trackers.

After putting in an application for full membership, one goes through the SAR Academy, three sessions totaling 10 hours of instruction. A pack check is required so that if called on a mission, they know you have all the gear to be self-sufficient for twenty four hours.

I passed the test. Its not necessarily an Ultralighter's dream, but I'm well equipped for nearly anything I might encounter. My survivalist skills may come into play. I'm sure to learn from the highly skilled team members as well.

Hopefully, I'll be on missions and training all  winter, eventually completing Winter certification.This is a highly skilled organization. It works with authorities to find and rescue anyone, and charges no fees. Donations and fund raisers provide the necessary capital.

I'll post my 24 hours pack list next week. See how much of it you carry on your outdoor adventures. The 48 hour pack list adds a few more items, and the 72-hour Search and Rescue pack basically just adds more food to be mission ready. Stay tuned for a full list.

Meanwhile, I'm working through the second draft of my non-fictional book: Of Moose and Men-Ridgerunning in Maine's Hundred Mile Wilderness. Also I'm shopping for a motor home to use as my base camp. See my other blog:// to read the rant and warning about buying from online scammers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

End of Season Controversy

Between June 9th and October,I held the coveted position of Gulf Hagas Ridgerunner. I came to love the place like my own back yard, and could often tell if something was wrong before I saw it. Smoke, human feces and overly sweet perfumes alerted me to situations that required Leave No Trace education on the double. I packed out orange peels, beer cans, abandoned gear, sunglasses, socks and scraps of candy wrappers. One of the best compliments I received often: its pristine. 

Billings Fall, above, is just one of  dozens of outstanding views seen from the Rim Trail on the Gulf Hagas Loop. Every Friday, I hiked this loop, picking up micro trash, talking to day hikers, inspecting the location for blowsdowns and other concerns, including illegal campfires and camp sites.

The loops is part of the Appalachain Trail Corridor and protected by federal law. No camping is allowed two miles north after crossing the West Pleasant river. The camp sites just south of the crossing are actually very flat and heavily used, although according to an AT contact, they sit too close to the water to be approved.

At the End of Season debriefing, I recommended a designated campsite be established in this treasured area, just 30 miles into the Hundred Mile Wilderness. Apparently, according to the e-mails I'm receiving from the powers that be, this is deemed both nearly impossible to achieve and a great insult to the 'resource.'

My answer is based on over four months residency in this location.
Keep in mind, this "wilderness" is logged regularly. Heavy logging trucks laden with trees rumble down the Katahdin Ironworks road. 
The Falls are considered Class 5 river. Kayaks shoot these falls when the river is up, often running the series twice if the water is high enough. 
Hunting is allowed. I've even had a guy cross the river carrying a shotgun. After looking up the regulations, I found that one may hunt 300 feet from the trail. It wasn't unusual to hear gunfire this fall as grouse came into season.
Fishermen wade the streams, camping in paid sites along the river. Or not. The locals know all the places a ridge runner is unlikely to appear and request fires be extinguished. 
Keep in mind, a much used parking lot sits .2 miles from the crossing, and tons of day hikers trample down that access trail, cross the river and proceed to hike the Loop. I'm so in favor of public exposure, I try to encourage all LNT principles with a smile and good story. If people love something, they will protect and support it.

The place is heavily used by many groups. The Hundred Mile Wilderness sees youth groups taking on the challenge, some ill equipped, often under-trained and over-loaded for the journey ahead.
Now, the problem.

According to some, the Gulf is so precious, Backpackers should not be allowed to camp near the crossing. But, they do, and they will, and no matter how close the ridge-runner's camp, or how late in the evening, or early in the morning, she can't catch everyone breaking the rules.

And, what if she does? Her power lies in persuasion. As a thru hiker, she knows that anyone arriving there to camp at dusk, either from the north or south, has likely traversed 4 mountains. If its raining, if they fell, if their knees are killing them, if its cold, if they are meeting a resupply at the Katahdin Ironworks road or if the river is way up, they may just chose to stealth camp regardless. In other words, very likely they are going to march way back out of site and pitch camp along the river, just before dark and set up anyways.
And, successfully breaking the rules, they'll text the next one coming up the trail of the great site they enjoyed.

That happens time and again.
That's reality. It flies in the face of theory and philosophy. You can rant all day long that  backpackers should plan better all you want, but that won't change a thing.
If we want to affect reality, we have to be there. 
A designated campsite, just as you find in the delicate eco- system of Horns Pond and Sugarloaf Mountain, both of which are now managed by a caretaker, could eliminate all the 'bootleg' campsites that will be scratched out at the Gulf Hagas Crossing, regardless
A managed site insures privies are used, sites don't expand, people are registered, illegal campfires aren't built.

I care about the Gulf so much, I'm making my appeal to the forces that be, publicly.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brooks-Range Gear Review

I've owned this jacket for three years. Its my favorite jacket for both traveling and base camping, mainly because its so light and warm. Its amazing how quickly this one piece of gear could make a difference at base camp, deep in the 100 mile wilderness.

You can read my initial review on the Female Survivalist Blog by clicking on this link:

I like the fact is is so comfortable, I can sleep with it on and not feel bound or constricted. So far, its not been washed, and the down remains fluffy.

The only problem I've had is the pocket zippers. The coil zippers are extremely small and broke a year ago. The pockets are still serviceable, but care must be taken so slippery items, like silnylon ditty bags are not lost. My gloves stay put quite well.

If I bought another one, I would get the hooded jacket.

Friday, October 24, 2014

End Of Season Gear Reviews

Having finished my stint as a Ridgerunner in Maine's Hundred Mile Wilderness, I'd like to report on some of my favorite pieces of gear.

Two pairs of footwear immediately rise to the top of my favorite, much used gear.

I purchased these boots in Rangely, Maine. They cost $130 bucks. I've worn them alot and there's still good tread on them.
Although not as waterproof as I would have liked, these Keen boots felt terrific, regardless of the long miles or steep climbs.

These rubber boots I purchased late in September were wonderful for those nearly frozen water crossings. Sometimes, even though I knew the high water would go over the top, I still used them because the wool socks inside still kept my feet warm. Once on the other side, the deep tread allowed me to slog along the muddy trail, checking campsites.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hundred Mile Wilderness Aflame

The season is done and the color is brilliant. We've packed up the camp, packed up the Geo, and heading out.

Bitter sweet. Hard to say good bye to all my friends. So, instead of good bye, I'll say Hasta la Vista....until I see you again.

Trails tend to cross time and again for wilderness buffs. And so, here's hoping ours do again.

This winter, I'll be working on the book, Of Moose and Men, Ridge-running in the Hundred Mile Wilderness....
and all the notes will remind me what a marvelous opportunity its been.

If I've had the pleasure to meet you this summer, please drop me a line. I'd like to hear how your season went.

Happy Trails

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wrongful Resupply

One last ridgerun north, up and over Gulf Hagas mountain, to Sidney Tappen Campsite. It makes for a sweet 14 mile day. Only a bit of abandoned gear is there, making my day pack just a little heavier because its also soaked.

Parts of Maine look the same, spring or fall. Mossy trunks and roots cover the ground like a surreal fairyland.

Then you have the combination effect. Mossy roots surrounded by tons of fallen leaves. 
Once I even headed down a water drainage bar, the leaves were so thick it obscured the trail. Not to worry. No white blazes are on the water bar trail. I return, head south over padded ground.

The next morning, just after daylight, I notice two plastic bags on the south side of the river. I cross in my black rubber boots. A bit of river overcomes the top. The West Pleasant is nearly knee deep and cold as Hades.

I groan. Can't believe my eyes. Here, on the ground, is a resupply. The receipt is inside. Thirty five bucks of food. A name it taped to one bag. Now conflicted, do I remove this animal attractant? A resupply should always be hung, off the landing, in waterproof bag, as you would a bear bag.
But, if I remove this, if/when the hiker shows up, she will not have her food for the next 70 miles.

Its not right. We've been warned, if this were "trail magic" I'd probably remove it. This is completely against all Leave No Trace Principles. 
Inspired to make a video, Wrong way to resupply I talk about the issues behind random food drops.

And really, the Hundred Mile Wilderness should be treated as such, in my humble opinion. Its the grand finale, leading to the Holy Mountain. I'm wondering, if a poll were taken, how many have done it this year without a resupply.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Color Has Arrived

Almost overnight the color has exceeded expectations.
The leaves descend like huge snowflakes, building up a carpet on trails and campsites.

Hiking the Gulf Hagas is like taking a walk in my own back yard. The logs over bogs make a sweet walkway, unless it's wet! Then its slick as ice.

Bear season, deer, grouse and turkey arrives soon. I've got my orange hat, though with all this color, can it even be seen?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Its Cold in These Here Hills!

Its time for the orange vests and hot cider. Colors are changing, crossing the river is a warm jacket and gloves affair.

The Mountain, Katahdin, closes October 15, so my focus now is to encourage hikers to make tracks and get it done.

Actually, Baxter State Park officials can close the Mountain any time they please, but chances are, if you get there before the posted date of 10/15, you'll be good to go.

Aches and pains are adding up for thru hikers. There are services and vendors for the 100 mile wilderness trek. Ask me, when you cross this river, if you have any concerns. One poor gal hiked up 5 miles, then retraced back to the river. Possible diagnosis? Stress fractures in her right foot.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

News From the Hundred Mile Wilderness

Its getting cold out there. I'm building a rock hop across the West Pleasant so that, come October, those of us still on the Trail have some relief from the near freezing water. Its usable now, with any amount of hopping talent, or two good hiking poles. You might get your feet a tad wet in the middle. Its still deep and flowing strong. Hard to get big rocks this time of year. Its like stacking ice cubes. One Mainer told me that slimy stuff on the river rocks is called Rock Snot. I thought he was pulling my leg. Not so. For real!

I'm still stationed in the Gulf. I sit at the crossing at various times of the day, listening to those treading the water. Usually they start off o.k. But then, a shriek comes, and low grunts of heavy displeasure. I wipe the grin off my face. They're numb, every last crosser.

Just the other day, I met a group of 5 from Vermont's Green Mountain Club hiking the 100. They told me they had started with ten members in Monson. Two dropped out after the first day. They were now sitting in Chairback Lean-to, waiting for three to catch up. Well, I said, going over Barren, Fourth, No name, Third, and Columbus was no easy feat.
They agreed, and a bit concerned, I headed back north, to my Gulf Hagas home, expecting to see them at the crossing before dark.

By that afternoon, I met one in the parking lot who was driving somewhere to get cell service. I told him the best place, then crossed the river.

Next morning, four of their party came through. The rest baled. I know, knees and feet.
But basically, its really cold and you need alot of food and determination.

I have one month left on this much coveted job.
On my days off, I catch up with the journal of this rewarding experience. The book Of Moose and Men,---Maine Ridgerunner, will be my compilation of true stories of thru hikers, section hikers, beaten down hikers, gear lists and wish lists, daily adventures and mishaps, Leave No Trace ethics and downright shameful behaviors, plus...drum-roll,  an embedded horror story straight from the Gulf.

I expect to have it completed before Christmas.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let Us Remember

This is a day all old enough to remember, will. 
Where were you when you first heard the news?
I was 89 miles from the Canadian Border, in the little town of Stehican, heading to a breakfast buffet.
I remember we were starving. Everything closes early in that last little town on the Pacific Crest Trail.
A fellow hiker met us. Told us. It seemed a joke. Surely not, surely not.
Both towers had been hit. The Pentagon had been hit. A fourth landed in a field, the Ranger told him, in Pennsylvanian.

A thought crossed my mind. Yeah, War of the Worlds, the fake alien invasion broadcast like it was happening in a play by play scenario. People actually believed that fiction in those days.

Once inside the Lodge, we paid our $12, lined up, got coffee. No cell phones back in those days, not on the PCT. No t-vs, no wifi.

Pretty remote. But the radio in the little store was on. It was true. 

We cleaned out the buffet, along with other starving hikers. They brought more scrambled eggs. Those became history.
The border is closed. No planes are flying. We didn't have our passports on us. Of course not.
But I'm heading to Canada. I've been on the trail 5 months. My hiking partner joined me at Crater Lake. He is determined to see this to the end, if it means walking back.

We are not leaving the trail. No one is.

Back in the store, we listen to live reports. People are jumping out of windows. New York City is bedlam. I feel the lump in my throat growing to unmanageable proportions. Nauseated, I leave. Its too much to grasp.

The next day, we headed north. As you can see, despite the terrorist attack, we kept on with our lives, finished the trail and made it back into the United States.

May we always remember, regardless of which political ideology  we embrace.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Base Camp Basics

I've been in camp, off the grid for three months now. My camp is quite comfortable. This video shows how I live on location as a ridgerunner. Sorry, it is a little long. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's Next?

With two months left at the Gulf Hagas, people are starting to ask me, What's Next.

Wished I knew!
One thing for sure, this has been the most eye opening job I've ever had.

Dealing with the public in what many consider a dream job, I've learned there are so many ways of doing any particular thing, one never quits learning.
I meet people from around the world hiking the "100 Mile Wilderness." Thru hikers, both north and south bound, day hikers who've never walked through the woods before, babies, dogs, crew maintainers, fishermen, on a daily basis I see a good sample of all of these particular groups.

Sometimes they'll see me walking to work, mug in one hand, day pack and one hiking pole, in flip flops or water shoes, ready to cross the same West Pleasant river multiple times.

Pretty amazing, this study of self as well. Turns out I love to write and would rather do it directly on my hard drive than transcribe pen and paper illegible scratchings made on the fly.

So what's next? Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kayak Lessons at the Island

Here on my days off, with a friend from Texas, I'm learning how to chose and navigate with a kayak. True, I'm only learning on a lake, but the lake is bedeviled by strong currents and wind sweeping down from out of nowhere, or so it seems. Yesterday, while plodding along in the shortest yellow one (second from the left) I struggled to return. My friend suggested the next day I take a long sleek vessel, and choose a longer paddle.

Upon putting the kayak in the water, I immediately sensed the difference. It was fast but initially quite unstable. He quickly pointed out that mine had no groves in the bottom and also my weight wasn't enough to settle deep in the water.
After heading across the lake, read turbulence, I took cover behind a secondary island. Much better. We landed, checked out the various artifacts (plastic, feathers, charred fire ring, fishing lures) then headed onward. 
Now I put my life jacket behind my back, so I could sit up straighter. He said, its all about your butt staying centered. 
How true!
Eventually I got the hang of things, able to navigate in and out of inlets, stands of water lilies and arrowroot, around fallen logs, off submerged rocks. By applying a brake with one paddle, and stroking deep with another, a quick about face is possible.
Who knew?
Perhaps an extended voyage is in the making. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Down and Dirty at Horns Pond Mixer

From left to right, Ian, caretaker at Horns Pond, Dan, Care committee Chairman, and me, Brawny, getting ready to mix a load of human feces with wood chips, so it can be put in the composting bin and "cook" to a germ killing heat.

After Dan starts the rototiller, I blend the ingredients. Ian has been well trained in this procedure, and supervises to insure the correct texture is achieve. We all wear "haz-mat" suit, because in the end, we do have Sh** smeared on it. Talk about Contaminated!

Here Grace, caretaker at Piazza Rock, shovels from beneath one of the privies. It was quite fresh and ripe. The odor was outstanding.....yikes!

Below you can see the freshest batch of human waste. Each privy door can be locked to prevent a bin from becoming overfull. 

I am quite fortunate. At the Gulf Hagas, I do not have to manage a composting privy. North Maine Woods does the two located there at the parking lots.

To see the video of this process, check out my Youtube channel or my other blog,

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Light Situation

Here in the Gulf, I'm learning a lot about base camp lighting in an off grid situation.

The reflector sheet is actually an emergency blanket tucked around my two burner propane stove. It seems to really help and the warmth it generates is remarkable. I can really tell the difference when some of the panels are zipped shut on the vestibule. Of course, my candles are short and in no way damage the tent.

This base campfire is about 12 inches in diameter. Take a look on my YouTube channel for more details. For some reason, embedding those videos here seem to crop them.

Far in the upper left hand corner, you can see two yard lights, each with a solar panel designed for recharging the batteries, embedded on top. Recently purchased in an effort to provide a bit of light during the long dark nights, each one emits one lumen of light. Its actually enough. However, sometimes during the day, its so dim at my base camp, the lights go on and wear down the battery. I found I must carry them to the river to recharge the batteries. But for a total of $9.47 (including tax) I feel its a decent deal.

This base camp has proved to be very comfortable and weather proof. So far no mice. I credit that blessing to keeping a meticulously clean camp, sweeping my vestibule and washing my tent floor often, never eating in bed, keeping all foods in plastic bags, then sealed in solid containers with tight fitting lids.
When ever I return from a ridgerun or days off, I check all my gear, clothes, bedding, and kitchen compartents for new critters that may have birthed in my absence. Keep your fingers crossed for me.....
A previous ridgerunner reported mice had set up housekeeping in his stove. That would really piss me off!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shoe Review On Location

I spend 10 days off grid and in my spare time, analyze what's working, what I need, what could be useful information. Here's a short video of the shoes I had on location as of a week ago. Then, when someone abandoned a set of blue crocks, my size, I adopted those as well. As a ridgerunner, I find my pack must be light for the return trip to base camp. Often I'm carrying abandoned gear or trash. Please, if you pack it in, pack it out, even if its broken. Most trails are maintained by volunteers who spend time cutting blowdowns and improving drainage so the tread way is passable. By removing your trash and unwanted gear, carrying it to the next town, you help others enjoy their time in nature.

Monday, June 30, 2014

News From the 100 Mile Wilderness

Southbounders are quite different than Northbounders. Stands to reason. Those who left Georgia, some in early February, are not seeing Katahdin, a distant view, but attainable in 4 days. Southbounders are nursing knees, leaving trash, lightening monstrous loads.

I have to hand it to these southbounders, though. The toughest trail, roots from hell, mosquitoes chomping on you despite multiple layers of 100 % deet.

I've seen groups geared up just for the 100 Mile Wilderness. Some from Quebec, some boy scout groups, some couples. Its been on their bucket list.

Now in case you're wondering, like I was as a northbounder in 2002, why there are Roads in a Wilderness, they informed me its not really a wilderness, that's only marketing.
Well, works for me.

Anyways, met and chatted with Skywalker, or Bill Walker, multiple thru hiker and famed author.
He was 3 miles from Chairback Lean-To, I was heading down to my private dry camp, two miles in the opposite direction, in rain....sopping wet. You Appalachian Trailers know how that is. No one wants to back track.

Friends in Millinocket are telling everyone to keep an eye out for Brawny, the ridgerunner, so its been fun being called by name by total strangers.
But, seriously, are there any strangers among AT hikers? Maybe only friends who've never met, yet.

Happy Trails

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Hand Crank Weather Radio

While off the grid, I'm testing this hand crank weather radio. It also has a solar panel, which seems to be keeping everything up and running.
It was a gift for Mother's day, perfect for the current adventure, living off the grid for 10 days at a time. Amazingly, internet and electricity are hard to come by even when I return to civilization to resupply. Right now I'm writing this at a McDonalds.

The volume is low on the radio, and seems to wear the battery down much quicker than the light. For this reason, I seldom use that function. It does have an antenna, which helps with reception back in the woods.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Video of Abandoned Gear on AT

Live action with a new ridge runner! I take these photos as a learning activity, showing what people buy and carry on their first week on the Appalachian Trail.

One thing I noticed, alot of bar soap and weapons abandoned. Good! No one needs a Bear Grills machete on the AT.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Abandoned Gear Alert

As the ridge runner, one of my jobs is to pack out gear left alongside the trail and in trail shelters. I am stationed at this time just 14 miles south of Katahdin. Thru hikers are realizing, apparently, they do no need a Bear Grills machete, an ax, a dozen stuff sacks, and heavy waterproof assortment of plastic containers (use zip lock baggies).
Also being abandoned, bars of soap (thankyou) bath salts, sling shot, cordage, dried beans, hats, and serious jack knives.

Clothing and even 8 packages of Ramen noodles, quarters and heavy metal rings, a 2014 data book, torn rainpants.
I post this list to help other hikers re-evaluate their packs, and for goodness sakes, don't let an outfitter sell you this stuff for a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.

The first couple nights on a thru hike are the shake down. Hikers congregate, compare notes and bruises, pack weights and foods. Some plan to get through the 100 mile with out a resupply by local merchants offering such for fees. You can do this, embrace the challenge.

Give yourself 7 to 10 days of travel time. The serious hunger doesn't set in the first week. You'll be in Monson before you know it.

Just a few notes, from my side of the fence to save you some money and aggravation. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Best Stay On the Trail

Here in Stratton, Maine a lovely hostel sits right on Main Street, across the road from the Pines grocery store. Its very clean and friendly, with great beds and firm mattresses. 

The kitchen has everything you need, including a microwave and refrigerator. There's a big screen t-v and books, WiFi and laundry facilities. The rooms are quiet and you can get a great nights rest. If you don't like sharing a room, there are private rooms too.

I love the small town atmosphere, post office right down the street, good restaurants right next door. 

These three hiking bears are carved from wood. You can't miss it as you head down Hwy 16/ Hwy 27.

Sue, the owner, thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Many thanks to her for establishing a great place along the AT. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

First Week As A Ridgerunner

This is the oldest shelter still standing on the Appalachian Trail. Its located at the Horn's Pond Campsite. There are also two other lean-tos there, as well as a dozen or more level campsites, each one marked off with scree walls to help contain each site. As may long distance hikers know, there is a tendency for campsites to sprawl into the forest, even encroaching on fragile alpine growth,

During my first week working on the AT as a Maine Caretaker/Ridgerunner, I helped reset stone into the soggy pathway, remove debris from clogged drainage systems to encourage a drier path. Even if its muddy, hikers are supposed to trudge on through. 

I've met a few section hikers already heading to Katahdin. Theirs will be an icy footpath, although the recent steady rains have made a huge dent in the piles of snow.

At Horn's Pond Campsite, poised in the sub-alpine zone, are two outhouses, composting privies that help break down waste to fertile, non hazardous material.

Its laborious enough, with moving it three times to the final drying rack, before committing it back to the earth. While helping transfer the third batch, which had reached a hot 140 plus temperature during the "heating" cycle, we uncovered a family of mice. I now see firsthand while only human waste, toilet paper and and wood chips belong in this system. Those handiwipes and casings for tampons are nasty to pick out and dispose of properly. They do not degrade at all.

After a day of work, sitting down to record the day's activities, drink a cup of coffee and relax is done on the covered caretaker's platform. We're off the grid. No electrical but there is cell service on top the mountain.

The information board on location has a great hand drawn map. There is no fee at this site, either.