Ever thought that backpacking would be a lot more fun without having to lug a tent everywhere and sleep on some ridiculously-priced, flimsy mat? A hammock is the answer you’ve been looking for. Mine is practically weightless and sets up between two trees in a snap.
I know you are thinking "that sounds great, but I sleep on my side and could never be comfortable all curved in a hammock." I thought the same thing until I found on the internet that you are supposed to sleep diagonally in the hammock, and then you’ll be able to lay flat. Here’s how I do it:
How to Sleep On Your Side in a Hammock
First, roll over on your side as close as you can get to one edge of the hammock. Then back your head up until you are lying diagonally in the hammock. By positioning yourself diagonally, you will be able to lie flat in the hammock which is very comfortable.
Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock
My Tribe Provisions Adventure Hammock sets up easily using the included ropes. When my family went camping recently with some other families, some of the dads took a turn in the hammock for a few minutes. They all said it was very comfortable. When the dark crept into our camp, I went to sleep in the hammock with a friend’s tent almost right underneath me to keep me company. I had a good night's sleep. For my birthday, my parents bough me the Adventure Hammock Mosquito Net to go with my hammock, so now I can sleep in it even in the middle of the summer when bugs are the worst.
I usually sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed. Since my brother has a hammock, too, I think it would be fun to try sleeping between the same trees in our hammocks so it would be kind of like being in our bunk beds.
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Jr. Hiking Forward Correspondent
2016 has been a pretty amazing year for my family and our outdoor adventures
This year has also been wonderful for my own growth as an outdoor educator and volunteer.
I've got plenty of ideas and plans to keep me busy in 2017. Most importantly, the arrival of a second Tyke Hiker to join Embry, due in March. Until then, we enjoyed a few hikes over the last few days to celebrate 2016.
We kicked off at the Retzer Nature Center. Embry loves clearing the trail so she did her best to make sure the trail was void of pine cones. Of course, we had to stop at fallen trees and stumps along the trail for some easy natural play. Embry especially enjoys the stump jumps as long as they don't lead to rump bumps.
We walked through various habitats. From prairie to the pond with woods along the way, we always enjoy a good trip to Retzer.
Them to cap off the year, we enjoyed a trip to our neighborhood nature spot, the Weiland preserve.
Embry always enjoys being the hike leader, though her tendency to want to stop and explore everything she sees does make for an interesting hiking pace. It compares to stop 'n go traffic, but with a lot more enthusiasm.
We took our usual route, enjoying and not avoiding what Embry calls "slip sloppy" ice. We saw tracks, scat, and collected every stick we could handle along the way.
I absolutely love the winter scenery. Being able to see into the woods from this barren perspective makes it seem the trees go on forever. There's just something so serene and calming about a winter walk.
Of course, the chuckles and silliness of a three year old tend to break the serenity quickly.
Near the end of the trail, Embry was mesmerized by the ice. She counted the leaves trapped in the ice and was especially enamored with the frozen footsteps and the bubbles trapped inside.
But, nothing is more fun than "ice skating" on the curb line ice and cracking as much as possible on the way home. Bring on more adventure 2017! We'll be ready!
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Though I was bummed I accidentally left my John Muir shirt at home, it didn't take too much time in Muir Woods to forget about my error. The hilly drive through San Francisco bumper to bumper traffic while crossing bridges and winding around serpentine roads was adventurous, but the sights and sounds of this national monument made all the travel troubles worth it.
When we saw the "Muir Woods parking full" sign on the freeway a few miles from our destination, we knew the woods were crowded. It's always a blessing and a curse when so many people take over nature. While it is great to see people out and about enjoying nature, it sort of takes away from the tranquility and serenity offered by the woods. However, the crowds here were quite respectful and the overall feel of the park was still very natural.
As we ventured into what Embry called the "red woods," the amazing smell first caught our eyes, or noses. So fresh. The amazing collection of trees was impressive from ground level, bit as we took the hillside trail, a trail that took you among the canopy of these towering giants, you got a whole new perspective and appreciation of just how skyscraping these beauties were.
Along the way, small cascading streams guided the way. Huge crayfish scoured the stream in search of lunch. Many trees had "caves" at their bases, perfect for exploring and mugging for the camera. There were also many rocks along the way that our daughter just had to climb and jump off of. One of Embry's favorite tricks was being able to "squeeze the trees" as she walked between trees along the trail.
When we reached the end of our hikes for the day, we stopped by the gift shop. Besides getting a new shirt for my nature kindergarten wardrobe, I posed with John Muir himself and Embry rode a bear and we enjoyed some natural artwork.
Muir Woods was a beautiful and popular place I look forward to returning to and exploring again someday.
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This is the first post of our newest Hiking Forward Correspondent Denise Archetto. Learn more about Denise on here Profile page.
Between 1.5-2 hours from Boston, grab your swim suit, your hiking shoes, and get ready soak up the sun at Chapel Brook Falls.
First, park your car right next to the trail and begin hiking the roughly 1.8 mile trek. For those more experienced there is a large rock wall to climb. After climbing and sweating (on a hot 90 degree day), take a nice cool dip in a quad-level water fall. Great place to meet friends and have a few drinks or take the kids for an experience like no other.
Around 20 minutes south there is a cheap kayak/canoe/paddle board rental shack at Barton Cove in Gill, Mass. called Barton Cove Camping and Paddlesports. For two hours you can rent one of their vessels for $26. Definitely worth the rent even if you can only last an hour. With great views and a small island to jump out on and go for a swim it is perfect for an afternoon paddle.
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When my daughter was born, it was clear right away she loved being outdoors, especially on our family adventures on the Ice Age Trail. As her trips on the trail moved from her infant carrier to her own two feet, my viewpoint of hiking changed from focusing on quantity to quality. When I carried her, it was all about getting in every mile I could. When she was trailblazing at a toddler pace, I realized the real joy came from the discovery.
These toddler treks brought about the creation of the Tyke Hike program. On Thursday, July 24th, 2014, nineteen hikers enjoyed a nerve wracking but exciting inaugural Tyke Hike at Lapham Peak. On Saturday, April 23rd, at that same location, Tyke Hike broke its' own record and had an amazing 103 signed in hikers out and about on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail. Add in nearly 75 at a second special hike later that afternoon and nearly 200 friends of all ages came out to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous spring day.
With our focus being general information about the Ice Age and the trail in general, we dug into topics such as the evolving mileage of the trail, the reason for the trail being called the Ice Age Trail, and of course, landforms and glaciers. Going back to my 4th grade teaching roots, I offered up these concepts in a quiz format and the hikers aced them each time.
Mojo, our Tyke Hike mammoth mini-mascot, was loved by many children on our 1.5 mile trek through rocky and rooty Lapham Peak. When we scaled the 120+ steps back to the tower, Diane, our new librarian friend from the Delafield Public Library, shared Lisa Wheeler's wonderful picture book, Mammoths on the Move, with some of the tykes.
In just two short years, the Tyke Hike program has taken amazing steps forward in providing opportunities for families to enjoy this tremendous trail. I can't wait to see what the next two years bring!
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Maybe it was punishment for missing church on Easter Sunday. Maybe it was poor timing. Maybe it was just dumb luck, Either way, the rains we endured on our holiday hike through James Island County Park in South Carolina made our trek wetter and wilder than expected.
Though we primarily stayed on the paved path, encountering an alligator warning sign so early in the journey definitely raised some eyebrows.
Paraphrasing Seinfeld here, "As the rain poured down on us, we thought to ourselves: there must be a better way!"
The girls didn't let the weather dampen their enthusiasm. They frolicked through the forest, climbing Spanish Moss covered trees and splashing in every puddle they could find. Embry's hikemate, Ruby, reiterated a saying I've had to tell my forest kindergartners on more than one occasion:
"You know what they say about water??? It will dry." I also enjoy my favorite outdoor saying (though grammatically incorrect), "Dirt don't hurt!"
Though the rain seemed to strengthen as the hike continued, you wouldn't know it by the energy of the girls. They loved reconnecting with their Ice Age Trail roots as they attempted to bop every blaze they encountered. I thought Embry's head might explode when we ran into a triple "rainbow blaze."
And what is the best post-hike encounter when you are already soaking wet. . . a run through the park's fountain and splash pool of course. Just beware of the alligators!
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One time I went camping with my brother Joey and my friend Dan. It was honestly 3 of the best days of my life. It took place in 2006 and was the tail end of 4 years of annual hiking weekends. The hiking trip I took two years before that in 2004 was by far my manliest. But the hiking trip I had went in 2005, not so much. To date it has been my worst hiking experience. To be clear, I’d take that weekend over a week in the office, but nontheless. I had just come off the manly year in which I had an incredibly successful hiking venture in North Carolina. I actually don’t know the exact location of that trip. Odd right? I think it adds to the lore. The idea that somewhere out there is an unmarked trail and I conquered and fell in love with it with no possibility of ever seeing it again (like a Spring break tryst). So the year following this trip I made plans to head in the same general direction with two completely different people and unfairly expected the same result. Let’s do a little comparison: The first trip I’d bro’d up with two dudes I had hiked with previously. One was an Eagle Scout and the other a Raven Scout (I just made that up but he was a man’s man and while not an Eagle, he fell somewhere just below). Either way, I’d hiked with them before and this trip just strengthened the bond and we had a blast.
This trip was with my little brother (8 years my junior so say, he was probably 16) and a longtime friend. But the longtime friend and I had never done any physical activity together with the exception of playing some basketball. Overall, he was a fantastic dude. It’s just hard to judge how someone will act with you when they are schlepping around 50 pounds of gear in 85 degree weather and 110% humidity. Not to mention when he accepted the invitation his first comment was, “That sounds great and I’m in. I will have to stop quite a bit to eat though, my blood sugar level has to be constant,” Or something to that effect. FYI, he was the skinniest dude I know. Now I don’t know if he had some health problems he didn’t feel comfortable discussing but it’s been my experience that most blood sugar problems come from obese people who need an extra little Debbie or they can’t crawl back into their Walmart motorized cart to pick up their diet soda. Anywho, whatever he was eating didn’t stick around long enough to turn into fat with the miles we were going to put in.
We drove up to Cesar Head State Park with the plan of hiking a trail and camping somewhere along the way. We were in the car all through the night Thursday and designated Friday and Saturday to hike. That Sunday we would meander our way (or mosey, whichever you prefer) back home before going back to work on Monday. Our first mistake was the park we chose. Well, the park at which we ended up. See my two previous camping jaunts had been planned by another who told me the concept was drive north until we hit a mountains and scout around for a hike. I can do that and I did. Cesar Head State Park though, like most state parks, didn’t allow trail camping. I get the reasoning in that you don’t want a ton of sorority girls marching out in the woods and causing a ruckus or hurting themselves on Uncle Sam’s back yard (oh… did you think I was going to say frat guys?! It’s 2016, stop gender typing). But we weren’t heavy drinkers and certainly not drug users so it seemed completely ridiculous to tell me I couldn’t sleep in a tent in the woods where no one is going to check anyways. They said we could rent a primitive camping spot for $20. “Ha! Pay you to sleep on the dirt. I’m not a total idiot!” The Ranger suggested traveling the 6.1 miles instead of 6 and camping just past the trail where the government had no jurisdiction (a rare governmental show of restraint). I gave her a little wink, which creped her out more than showed my appreciation and awkwardly left the station. Then it was just me and the two green horns with nothing but trail in front of us.
The best moment of hiking for me is when you start the trail. You set out and each bend in front of you hides the adventure that lies ahead. We did a little desert island and as we walked and discussed what TV shows we would bring on DVD (…dvd…shows it was in 2005) if stuck on an island. I chose LOST (still would to this day) and HEROES. Keep in mind it was mid season 1 and I was fired up. I didn’t realize the free fall of trash it would turn into.
I had a nightmare situation happen relatively early on. I had to use the bathroom. Number one, and everybody knows the rule of using the bathroom when hiking. Unfortunately I don’t. I just look around to make sure no women or paparazzi are hiding in the trees waiting to attack me and then let loose. Sadly, there was a bend a little ways off. I hadn’t seen anyone in hours so I thought, ‘what are the odds that a woman and her dog would come marching up while I was answering natures call?’ Pretty good actually because that’s exactly what happened to me. I’m pretty quick on my feet so I turned away and started pointing my hands out over the mountains as if I was announcing something. I’m sure she wasn’t fooled but she was gracious enough to not say anything. And that was highlight of the trip.
From there we traipsed the 6.1 miles of high and low elevation until just past midday. The end of the government trail and the place we’d unpack for the night. It was less than impressive. No place to sit, no even ground, no Jacuzzi (I was hopeful) and the water was dark and not approachable due to the brush along the banks. We took one look at it and drew one conclusion: ‘We have to go back!’, swallow our pride (maybe some Burger King too) and take the campsite for $20. The round trip would be 12.2. Not record breaking but for us it may as well have been 122.2. We trudged and purchased the land from the government for the evening. Unlike what happened to the Indians, they let us keep it for the night. It was quite pretty with a trickling stream passing next to it. You would think that with us driving all through the night before and hiking the 12.2 we’d sleep like babies. We slept like babies with colic. Miserably I tossed and turned all night. The next day we couldn’t take anymore.
We found a beautiful deep flowing stream with which we could trout fish. At the start we had two options: go right or go left. We had no idea what where either path led. We just knew we were filthy and exhausted and pulling a fish from the stream and cooking it would be the experience that changed the course of our strife. Cut shot to 4 hour later. We had 3 empty trout bags and 3 empty stomachs. Defeated we headed back to the car. But something told me we weren’t done. When we came back to the original cross roads I said, “Let’s just go a bit in the other direction.” 10 feet past the start of the new path we came to a bridge. Not unlike a movie when a break in a hurricane offers the heroes a glimpse of sunlight, we saw a glimpse of nirvana. We had walked right into a state park that had a swimming hole, candy machine, showers, and free back massages. Well…three out of four ain’t bad. When we had showered up and eating a Snickers bar or 4 we had settled into a conversation. We reflected on how bad the trip had been up to that point and shared some laughter. Then, during an awkward pause I said, “Why drag this out? Who’s ready to go home?” Unanimously, we agreed.
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The family and I got out on an unexpected hike today. Enjoy!
Sometimes, the best events originate from altered plans. While on our way to a different location, we came across some unexpected issue that forced us to change the plan. Luckily for us, a Ice Age Trail trailhead was just minutes away. Problem solved!
My family and I always enjoy trekking through trail that is new to us and this was our first excursion on the Milwaukee River Segment. Though a bit muddy and breezy, the sunlight made reminded us of the many hikes ahead of us.
Embry of course made a required stop to bop every blaze, though she changed walking sticks a few times along the way. She's developing great flexibility and innovation as she found a new use for the walking stick, bopping the blazes she can't quite reach.
She also made sure she was the leader, blaring "I want to be the hike leader" every time Mom or Dad stepped ahead. While her fearless attitude is appreciated, it did lead to a few extra stumbles and fumbles in the mud. That didn't stop her though. She still declared that "we're going the wrong way" when we decided to turn around. She hates turning around! She knows that means we are headed back to the car.
To help avoid any more falls in the mud on the return route, she commandeered a second stick for extra balance. She also entertained us with songs all the way back top the car, stopping of course to point out roots, rocks, and every single paw print she could find.
Though today's hike was bit slick and slippery, the sunshine and gorgeous views make a return trip a sure thing this hiking season.
In the backcountry, sleep is a luxury, food is a nicety but water is imperative. When in the wild, one is exposed to the elements and likely exerting themselves in a manner outside the norm. Knowing where to locate water and how to treat it so that it’s safe to drink is a critical skill to offset these realities. Locating the water is only half the challenge however. Having done your map study and read trail notes all over the interweb you know what your route offers regarding water sources (don’t bet on this however) and as you move where to expect the next stream, spring or river. Treating said water to ensure you don’t have any microbes that will give you “the mung” (giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidium, etc.) is the other half of the equation.
Ounces equals pounds and pounds equals pain. For every 1 liter of liquid add 2.2 pounds. This forces us to carry only a finite amount. Any multi day trip or emergency scenario requires a plan to replenish your supply. As a “best practice” in the backcountry, we each carry at least three liters and weather, terrain and consumption dependent do everything we can to stay “topped off” during our trips. Water carry and management is also a consideration. To ensure we can accomplish this, we also carry multiple methods of carrying liquid (Camelbak, Nalgene and collapsible Platypus bottles) and just as importantly pack out redundant water filtration options.
Below are some of the options you have that are proven and all under $100 USD:
A popular method of filtration is the pump like water filter and the 11 oz.Katadyn Pro Hiker is my preference. Easily employed, the activated-carbon core filter is contained in a robust plastic case with a pump handle at the top and two hoses. The bottom hose offers a teardrop like supplemental filter at the end that you drop into the source that is capable of filtering larger contaminants before it runs through the main filter. The other hose is where the filtered water flows through one of a number of adapters that fit different water collection receptacles. From a level of effort perspective, the Katadyn pumps 1 liter of water every 48 pump strokes so it takes no time to fill a larger Camelbak or Nalagene.
For cleaning the filter after repeated use, Katadyn offers their own cleaning solution, but we simply use 1 tablespoon of bleach in one liter of water and run it through the pump. We leave it out in the sun to dry after. Katadyn also sells a replacement element for the Pro Hiker that works with other filters as well. The original filter is effective to up to 1150 liters filtered.
As with all gear that is life sustaining, redundancy is key. Having two Pro Hikers is obviously an option; however, it adds weight and bulk and we have other less bulky methods available. Using ultraviolet technology, the SteriPen Ultra is a good alternative or complementary tool to the pump method. The SteriPen is powered with an internal, chargeable battery capable of filtering up to 50 liters without recharge. The operation of the SteriPen is simple in that you scoop water into a water bottle and place the device into the water and turn it on; stirring the filter for about 90 seconds. The LED screen on the SteriPen will tell you if when it is complete (with a big smiley face). You can set the device to filter 1 liter or ½ liter.
The SteriPen Ultra can be used up to eight thousand times and is 99.99% effective against a host of bacteria and protozoa. It also protects against cholera, dysentery, typhoid and botulism.
Two points that make this not my “go to” option are that fact that it is electronic, thus requiring a charge (car, solar panel, etc.) and an even larger concern, it requires “clear water.” The SteriPen is not effective in “cloudy” water or with high levels of sediment. For the amazing water sources offered at Yosemite, not an issue; however, we have filtered springs that were far from “clear” with positive results using a pump that would have been a non-starter for the UV technology of SteriPen.
To mitigate weight, maintenance and potential breakage or malfunction, one can simply avoid a pump or device and use tablets for water purification. The days of the gross halzone tabs used in the military are over, making way for products like Katadyn Micropur Purification tablets. Promising the same level of protection from the creepy crawlies in your water that UV or pumps offer, the 30 count pack weighs .9 ounces and equals a filtered output of 30 liters (equal to 10 fills of a large Camelbak). One tablet is needed per quart. The biggest obstacle to the tablet option is the wait time for it to take effect. Thirty minutes for Giardia and four hours for Cryptosporidium, so the end user should plan accordingly when thinking of when to “top off” and gauge water stops on their route.
This option is also an excellent “Go Bag” addition due to its three year shelf life, weight and lack of maintenance. Thinking of extreme situations like Katrina, one can find themselves like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” When natural or man-made disaster compromises sewage and water supply simultaneously, one can understand the need to have a simple, light option available to care for your family and pets.
A few other options in water treatment include life straws, gravity filtration bags and bottles with filters installed. Numbers of reputable companies have products that fall into one of these type collection/filtration methods.
Water filtration through gravity is a thru-hiker favorite and allows for multi-tasking. Popular models are the Sawyer Complete Water Filtration System and the Platypus GravityWorks Filter system, although there are plenty of others on the market as well. Boasting all the same capabilities to combat bacteria, giardia etc. the end user simply fills one bag and hangs it up as he or she continues setting up camp. The water runs from the “gray” water bag to the reservoir bag completely filtered and ready for use. It can provide up to 1.3 liters of clean water a minute. We haven’t personally used this system but would love to try it soon.
The Life Straw, which is a back up option on our packing list, is incredibly light and packable. Another “Go Bag” must have, the Life Straw is a mere 2 oz. and easily used. It is also one of the most inexpensive options we found. Simply pull the straw out and drink directly from the source or collect water in a Nalgene and drink. The filter offers the 99%+ protection level against all the same creeping crud the other filters do and is able to clean up to 1000 liters without replacement. To clean and avoid clogs, simply blow into the straw. Cons of the Life Straw include the inability to use with water bladders, cannot filter quantities of water for cooking, inconvenient “on the go” and not helpful for four legged friends.
Several companies offer a water bottle with internal filter system loaded within. The Katadyn MyBottle is a good example of this technology. Just shy of 10 oz. empty, the MyBottle filter acts almost as an Life Straw system within the bottle itself. The filter is married with the mouthpiece, so the user fills the bottle from the source and drinks. Like the Life Straw, this method doesn’t offer the ability to filter clean water for cooking or topping off your bladders, etc and there is a great deal of complaint from people regarding the squeezing required to drink. The MyBottle holds 24 ounces of water and can be used 155 times before the filter needs to be replaced. As all filters reviewed, the MyBottle and other like models prevent the wide majority of bacteria and protozoa.
Taste may be a chief complaint for any filtering options discussed when dealing with backcountry water. This might sound like a small consideration, but if you don’t “want” to drink, you won’t and it WILL cause you issues down the trail. Consider supplementing your packing list with something like Mio FIT or Powerade drops to add flavor and electrolytes.
Water collection, carry, filtering and conservation are all terrific topics for any outdoor person to read up on and research. Go beyond this short blog and dig into the topic. See how it applies to your sport, activity or planning needs, then share with others.
Hope you found this helpful. Stay safe.
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Mike & Melanie
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“Distrusting our capacity to be alone, we too quickly look to others to save us, often from ourselves,” writes Sarvananda in Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View.
Hiking alone often gets a bad rap. What if something bad happens? Well, what if it doesn’t? Some of my most memorable and meaningful hikes have been solo. In the wilderness, with only yourself and the land to think about, you quickly master the art of “being present”, something that is way too easy to avoid these days.
The upsides to hiking alone are many, and powerful. I didn’t realize this until after my first major solo hike. That experience came about largely by accident, when I was sent to Phoenix on a business trip. I had been doing quite a bit of day hiking with friends, and figured while I was in the area that I would take advantage of it and do some hiking in Arizona. I quickly decided I wanted to see Sedona, a place I had always heard great things about. Once I started consulting maps, I realized that I would also be within reach of the Grand Canyon, another place I hadn’t yet been.
So I planned and executed a trip and my trip went exactly as planned, maybe even better. I chatted with people along Bear Mountain in Sedona who told me their son was working at the Grand Canyon and did the route I was planning. They bolstered my confidence that I could do it. Along my hike up Bright Angel Trail, I met another solo hiker who was doing the same route I was. We started chatting and ended up finishing the hike together. If I had been hiking with others, I doubt we would have stopped to chat with other people and I would have missed the opportunity to connect with someone doing the same unusual thing I was doing at the same time on the same day.
So, based on personal experience, here are my top 5 reasons you should (sometimes) hike alone:
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