Hiking the Smokies: Part 2

Happy Sunday! I finally stopped slacking and finished my post on he second half of our Smokies trip. Enjoy!

We arrived at the Russel Field shelter at around 12:00 pm on Sunday, where we first made some lunch and then spent most of the day resting.

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Thea sitting at the shelter

Unfortunately, we did not bring a water filter, so we spent most of the day bringing up water from the spring .2 miles away and boiling it 16 oz at a time. I would say we had to run down to the spring about 8 times to refill water so we could stock up water for the walk back down the mountain on Monday.

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After about 3 hours, other hikers started showing up to the shelter from the Molly shelter to the east. The Molly shelter didn’t have any water, so many of the hikers coming to Russel Field had hiked 5 miles further than originally planned just to be able to have water and food.

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We had about 12 people stay at the Shelter that night, 2 of which decided to stay in tents. We gathered some sticks and made a fire in the cozy fireplace within the shelter to keep warm through the night since it was forecasting to rain heavily all night.

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Sleeping in the shelter was unlike any experience I have ever had. I have never slept in the middle of the woods in an open structure with 10 other random people I had only just met. The only things that kept me awake all night were the fear of  a bear coming into the shelter and the extremely uncomfortable wooden platform I was sleeping on. Needless to say I woke up with a very sore neck and back. Waking up was a great experience though, as the fog moved through the trees, the other campers were cooking their breakfast and I worked on starting a fire to warm us up after the cold and rainy night. One of the campers even took a shower in the water funneling down one of the valleys from the shelters roof. After about 10 minutes of making the fire, Thea exclaimed that she saw a bear, and all of the campers looked up in surprise as an adolescent black bear strolled nonchalantly through the campsite, stopped and looked at us, and then continued to walk down the AT. I only barely got my camera out in time to snap a picture of him walking away. It almost made me feel like i wasted by $50 on bear spray just before the trip.

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After we had eaten breakfast we decided it was time to descend down the mountain back to Cades Cove, which was surprisingly just as hard as the trip up. The rain was off and on, but that meant that the roots and rocks on the trail (Of which there were MANY) were all wet and slippery. I was extremely happy that I thought to make walking sticks for Thea and I because we basically used them as a third leg going down the mountain as we twisted both our ankles about 5 times on the descent.

 

On the way down we actually came across a black snake, which coiled up and watched us, we had to wait about 5 minutes for him to calm down and slither away before we could pass. After that, we made it back down to the split in the path that marked just 1.6 miles before we were back to Cades Cove. The last 1.6 miles were a downpour, which is why I don’t have any photos of it. Thea came close to crying out of just being absolutely void of any energy.

This trip was one of the hardest trips I’ve ever taken in my life, and yet the most rewarding. The feeling of accomplishment I felt after making it up the mountain was something I don’t feel too often, as well as the opportunity to get away from all technology and communication with the outside world. If you ever want to go on a trip that challenges you and is something you will always remember, think about hiking up the smokies, you wont ever forget it.

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Hiking the Smokies: Part 1

So to preface this post, we had our plans dramatically changed on our drive down to Tennessee.

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Remember how I said I was a bad planner in a post a couple weeks ago? Well keep that in mind while you read this post. We were about 3 hours out from Cades Cove when we realized we still hadn’t arranged for a shuttle to pick us up after our last hike to Mt. Leconte. So we called about 3 shuttle companies (all booked up) before we called the Appalachian Conservatory and spoke with a representative. That representative told us he was a little worried since we wouldn’t arrive in Cades Cove until around 6, and it was a 5.1 mile hike up the mountain to Russel Field.

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Since we would have to rearrange our first night and stay at a halfway point called campground 10, we wouldn’t even make it to Mt. Leconte when we had planned, which means we would have to route the trip so that we returned to Cades Cove on tuesday, a day earlier than we had planned.

Our new route was a hike up the Anthony Creek Trail about 2.5 miles to campsite 10, where we would stay for the night. The hike started out well, but I quickly realized that we packed too heavily and didn’t wear the right clothes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After about 1.5 miles we were joined by another hiker named Cordell, who surprisingly was staying at the same campsite as us. He was relieved of course, because his friend who was supposed to hike with him had flaked out in the last second, so we were both a little happier having some company for the night.

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Cordell told us he was from Florida, and he too had about a 10 hour drive to Cades Cove. He was more prepared than us however, as he had walking sticks and told us that they are a must have on a hiking trip like this, which we soon discovered was true, but more on that later. As we got to campsite 10 to settle down for the night, we tried to start a fire, but the wood was too wet. Instead we just tried to eat one of our dehydrated meals. We boiled up about half of the water that we had left, and poured it into our beef stroganoff. Right afterwards, we saw water spilling out of the package and discovered that somehow the bag had a 2 inch gash in it, so we ended up wasting an entire meal as well as 8 oz of water.

As the darkness fell, we tried to sleep, however the birds chirped all night. I don’t mean pleasant chirping either, it was extremely loud and annoying chirping. And remember how I said I was going to make a post on how to make the sleeping pads? Well that is being post poned, as we discovered very quickly that the ones we made were not at all comfortable.

The next day, we packed up quickly and started our remaining 2.6 miles up the mountain to Russel Field. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I guess I underestimated just how rough this trip would be, as the hike up the mountain easily took us 5 hours, which were 5 of the hardest hours of my life. Unfortunately I decided to put my camera away in favor of not falling down and breaking my leg while climbing the mountain. So I have no pictures of the rest of the way up.

Preparing For The Smokies – What I’m packing for the Appalachian Trail (Part 1)

One thing I have learned from the last couple trips I have taken is that I really need to spend more time packing. I have been severely underprepared for those trips, which have caused me a little trouble on the trails. So in today’s post I want to outline 5 of the most important things I’m bringing with me on the trail.

Backpack

The backpack is arguably one of the most important items you will bring on a hiking trip. The thing is, I don’t actually own one. Well…I don’t own a new one. My personal bag I own is a vintage back pack with an external frame. Needless to say, its not super comfortable. The backpack pictured is a Sierra Designs Ministry 40, borrowed from my dad. This is a 40 liter pack, so its big enough to fit all of my gear easily for a 5 day trip. This pack is designed more for ice climbing (which my dad uses it for) and rock climbing. However, when you are on a budget and someone offers to let you borrow their gear, you don’t say no.

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https://www.amazon.com/Sierra-Designs-Ministry-40-Backpack/dp/B004KQ9MTK

 

Dry Sack

This thing is amazing. I mean, you could find a lamb carcass and rig it to do the same thing, or you could spend less than 20 dollars to have an extremely water tight bag. I am going to be using this as my food bag. It easily compresses and keeps water out, so even if it pours rain and this is hanging outside to keep away from bears, your food will not get wet. This is definitely a must have for any hiking or kayaking trip.

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https://www.amazon.com/Unigear-Waterproof-Kayaking-Swimming-Snowboarding/dp/B01LZBV5AV

 

Sleeping Pad

I have never used a sleeping pad, but from my experiences without one, i cannot wait to finally use some sort of sleeping pad on my trip. Of course I didnt want to spend upwards of 50 dollars for one, so i tried my hand at making one myself. (Ill have a separate blog post of how i made it and how much it cost.)  A sleeping pad is important on hikes for several reasons. One, they give you a little cushion to make your sleep more comfortable, and two, they provide extra insulation to keep your back warm. If you have a sleepless night on the trail, the next day’s hike will be that much harder to finish.

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Knife

Of course, a good knife is always essential on any type of trip in the wilderness. I picked up a relatively affordable Kershaw Brookside for 24.95 from Dicks Sporting Goods. This knife has a nice 3.25 inch blade that has assisted opening, which makes it fast to whip out the blade in case you need it for protection. (Don’t think that means you don’t need to bring bear spray)

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https://www.dickssportinggoods.com/p/kershaw-knives-brookside-drop-point-folding-knife-16kshubrksdxxxxxxcut/16kshubrksdxxxxxxcut?

 

Compression Sack

Obviously, using space efficiently is one of the most important parts of a backpacking trip. To that end, backpackers use compression sacks, which as their name would imply, compress its contents to keep it as small as possible. I like to put clothes into it and compress it into a smaller size than a soccer ball. They aren’t too expensive and can be used for any trip, not just backpacking.

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https://www.amazon.com/Sea-to-Summit-Compression-Sack/dp/B000NQQ56E?th=1
So those are 5 things I am bringing to the smokies with me. Watch for the next post where I explain how I made my sleeping mat, and then I will be posting 5 more things I am packing for the trip.

Preparing For The Smokies – One Night Hike

New Era Michigan

7-21-2017

In my last post I mentioned that I am an inexperienced hiker. To this end, I decided it would be best to acclimate myself to the hiking and camping I will be doing in just a few short weeks.

We decided to hike to pigeon lake, a small pond near my hometown. My brother and I started the hike from the end of the main road (the beginning of the two track) to the lake, which is about a 1.5 mile hike.

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We arrived at around 6:00 pm, after a 45 minute hike in, where we immediately realized we did not bring a lighter. Luckily, we had a flint and steel with us, unluckily however, all of the starting material we had would not light. It was 6:00, we were really hungry, and we couldn’t light a fire to cook our food.

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After an entire hour of grinding the flint down to a thin rod and going through tinder, toilet paper, fabric, pine needles and dead leaves, we gave it one last go with some pages I ripped out of my Game of Thrones book. (don’t worry, it was just the first chapter of the next book). Apparently it was blessed by the Game of Thrones Gods because it lit up right away!

…And then went out immediately after…..

And after a couple more rounds with it we finally were able to get a fire going that stayed lit. Luckily i had prepared for our supper and brought potatoes, carrots, broccoli and beans. We had planned on catching a fish to fry with the veggies, but we forgot worms (go figure) and we were unsuccessful with using crickets as bait. If you had seen that pond though you probably would feel unsafe about eating anything that had lived in it.

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As night fell we cooked our dinner and turned in early at 10:00 pm since we were so tired from starting that fire…

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As we turned in we realized just how bad of a spot we picked to set up the tent. I had a root right in my lower back and Weston was all around just uncomfortable. We spent the entire night questioning  why we were out there in the first place and wondering if we should just pack up and leave. I would have, except I am pretty sure there was a bear right outside our tent from the sounds i could hear. At around 3:00 am, we ‘awoke’ (I use that word lightly because we couldn’t have been sleeping for more than 5 minutes) to the loud sound of thunder. We sat in the quiet for what must have been only 5 or 10 seconds before we heard the sound of distant rain. We scrambled to get the rain cover on, and no sooner than we got it on and Weston dove inside the tent did a torrential downpour start.

Needless to say, that kept us up for a couple more hours with no sleep.

Somehow in the course of the night we fell asleep and woke up at around 6 am, packed up our things and hitched it out of there to get a good breakfast.

My Conclusion: Never forget your lighter in the wilderness.

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Trail Map

Smoky Mountains Trip – Planning

Norton Shores Michigan

7-18-17

To start off, i am a terrible planner. Needless to say I had ‘planned’ (if you can call it that) a trip for four to hike a 25(ish) mile long portion of the trail in Tennessee ending near Gatlinburg.

Now here is what I didn’t do. I didn’t register campsites for the hike until yesterday, which was only 3 weeks before the trip. Now if you haven’t ever registered for campsites on the Appalachian trail in the middle of the summer, they run out fairly fast. So our first nights stay is at Russell Field (left most marker), where we then would hike to Silers Bald, which is about a 13 mile distance. Trail Map

From there we move to Mt. Collins (right most marker) and then to Mt. Leconte, which isn’t pictured but is only about 5 miles from Mt. Collins.

Needless to say this is a tough hike for inexperienced hikers. I really shouldn’t have planned such a long hike for amateurs, but like i said, I am a terrible planner.

So my plan is to hike every weekend and camp out in a remote place near my home to get ready for the strenuous hike. So look forward to a post this weekend on my one night hiking trip.

PJ Hoffmaster Park

Muskegon, MI

July 8th, 2017

6:00 pm

I really like hiking. Something about it helps me forget about my anxiety and everything that is stressing me out. One great thing about living in muskegon is all of the great hiking trails that are literally within 5 miles of my apartment. Since we had never hiked on muskegon trails, we decided to try the “walk-a-mile” trail, which is as you can guess, one mile long.

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The trail was fairly easy, especially for someone who doesn’t usually hike like me. (except for the constant mosquitos.) Thea and I quickly walked through the trail, although we stopped a few times to look at all of the chipmunks running in the leaves below, and one time to walk on a tree 15 feet above the ground. (See below).

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The trail winded around until it came to the beach, (after climbing this sand beach of course), and we walked on the beach until we reached a spot adequate enough to hang our hammock and read while the sun went down.

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Sometimes reading at the beach can be a much better use of time than staying home. Ive found that when I stay at home and try to get rid of my anxiety by watching tv or playing games, I really only delay my anxiety. When I go to the beach, it helps me slow down and reflect on my life and really forget about the problems in my life that plague my mind. This is one reason I love nature, it really forces me to focus on the moment, the wind on my face, the sound of rustling trees and crashing waves, and he smell of fresh air. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, constant stress or anything related, try to get outside at least twice a week. Try to enjoy nature, feel the sand in between your toes, the sunshine on your face, the wind through your hair. Feel alive. Remember that no matter what is plaguing your mind, you are alive here, in this moment, and the choice to be happy, to forget everything, is all yours.

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It’s a short trail, so there isn’t much to say about it, but if you are ever in the area its a great place to visit.

 

Welcome to my blog.

July 12th, 2017

10:51 pm

Muskegon, Michigan

I have been meddling around with the idea of writing a blog for some time now. I am currently going to school to be a photo journalist, and decided that a blog will give me an opportunity to practice my writing. Let me say this before i get too far into this, I struggle with depression. Writing and photography are both ways i deal with my depression and anxiety issues, especially when it is writing about how I feel. I ultimately decided that a blog was something I needed to do for myself, as the last couple months I have really been coming to terms with the gravity of my depression.

So if you are reading, this blog is going to be a little of everything. Some of it will be an adventure blog, some of it will be my day to day life and struggle with my issues, and some of it will just be me documenting the lives around me in search for the beauty in humanity.

So as you read, just keep in mind that at its heart, this is a blog about a post-graduate male struggling with depression and anxiety, trying to find meaning in his life.

Thank you.