With temperatures climbing into the 40's here in Wisconsin, it was either time to hit the beach or trek the trail. We opted for the latter.
Heading out to one of our favorite area segments, Loew Lake, our daughter started the hike a bit whiny and requesting to be held. Of course, that all changed when the first blaze came into sight. Even though it has been a few months since she last visited the Ice Age Trail, bopping blazes for her is like riding a bike.
We enjoyed checking out the tracks, investigating the pine needles, and testing out different walking sticks. I am also glad our mandatory pit stop at every bench now consists of only a snack rather than a diaper change.
We weren't the only ones out on the trail. In our hike, we met a stunning Siberian husky, stepped to the side while a dad pulled two boys on a sled, and enjoyed giving love to a dachshund named Huck and a black lab named Hank. Huck and Hank on a hike. Love it!
Luckily for us, the blaze bopping season has only just begun.
Keep Hiking Forward!
It's the dead of winter here on the East Coast, and we are spending a lot of time planning and daydreaming about our upcoming backpacking season. With so much down time, we have had the opportunity to test some items to see if they will make it into our packs this year. We camp too far away from civilization to carry anything we don't love, so anything that we bring has to have a purpose and make our lives better. Here are a few of my favorites so far!
Lifelements Healing Honey Stick
This is a great product that I actually got to test out on the trail at Mount Rogers on our last trip there. It's a lip balm, it's a salve, it's a moisturizer. There's not much these sticks can't do. I tested both the chapstick size and the larger 2 oz size. The chapstick size is perfect for backcountry trips where weight is counted in ounces and every bit counts. I am a bit of a chapstick addict, I have Burt's Bees in pretty much every backpack and jacket pocket and at home I have an Eos collection that could fill a shelf at Target.
I like this because I can put it on in the morning and I don't find myself reaching for it constantly to reapply as I do some other chapsticks. I also really like that it is a multi function product, and I've used it on dry skin, bug bites, and other small annoyances with good results. I also love the fact that it is paraben free and cruelty free. It does contain nut butters though, so if you have a nut allergy, this is not the product for you.
Crispy Green Crispy Fruit
After years of just existing on apples and strawberries that I dry myself in my dehydrator, I was excited to see some freeze dried fruit at the local grocer that was a bit different. I immediately fell in love with their tangerines. They have 6 other flavors, including pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, asian pear, apple, and banana. I've tried most of them and while I'm not a big fan of the cantaloupe (not their fault, it's good, just not for me!), the others are amazing and I can't wait to bring some along this season. They are super lightweight and delicious. One thing to consider is that most of the flavors are only around 40 calories per package, so they won't fulfill much in the way of caloric needs, but they will still be a welcome snack and a nice little blood sugar boost out on the trail.
Snotty Brat Handkerchiefs
These aren't exactly new to my kit, as I've been carrying them for a couple of years now, but I finally broke down and ordered more for me as well as some for Mike. After spending time and money looking for soft hankies, these fit the bill and they come in great colors too. She will also customize them with a number of fun designs or your initials. I have used these for their intended purpose, blowing my nose, but they have also been super handy at wiping sweat, drying my feet after a soak in a cold creek, washing trail dirt off my legs, drying out our collapsible bowls, and more. They are reusable and have held up perfectly to many washings. They are also a much greener option than using baby wipes for everything. Baby wipes still have their place, but we use a lot less of them thanks to these babies.
Have you found any favorites this winter that you will be putting in your pack? Let us know in the comments!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike and Melanie
I along with a few of our Hiking Forward Correspondents are taking to the woods on January 1st to help in leading New Year's Day hikes. This is a great way to start the year off outside and help those around you to enjoy what nature has to offer all us on day one.
I will be leading my local Sierra Club's Stone Soup Hike in Central Illinois. Everyone brings something for the two pots (one vegetarian and one meat). The soup simmers over open fires as we all hike. When we return we share in the soup, fellowship and great conversation. The hike has continued to grow each year and become a family tradition for many.
According to the National Association of State Parks Directors almost 28000 participated in First Day Hikes throughout America's state parks hiking over 66,000 miles total. The family nature club that I started in 2012 has held a First Day Hike annually since it's inception. This year is no exception, on January 1st I will be leading a First Day Hike with the South Mississippi Family Nature Club along the Black Creek Hiking Trail.
First Day Hike – Friday, January 1st, 2016 – 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Hosted by the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Get outdoors and begin the New Year with a hike at Lapham Peak. First Day hikes take place throughout the nation. Be part of this celebration of the country’s parks and trails. This moderate level family friendly hike will be about 3 to 4 miles in length. Dress for the weather. Bring snowshoes and hiking poles if you wish. Park fees will be waived for the day. The hike will begin from the Hausmann Nature Center parking lot. Warm up with hot beverages and snacks at the Center afterwards.
Are you planning on hiking on the 1st day of the year? Comment below and let us know where you are hiking.
Keep Hiking Forward!
For years within the backpacking community there has been debate about carrying a firearm on the trail. I myself have struggled with an internal debate both for & against the practice. In all my years in the backcountry, I have never had a run in with an animal (even the two legged kind) that required even a moments consideration to act with deadly force. I make the decision not to carry a weapon, long gun or concealed handgun, knowing that things can easily go sideways. It is a personal choice and I will likely continue hiking and backpacking without a firearm.
Having said that, I completely understand why one would carry a weapon in the woods. Far from help, predators of all types, ne’er do wells taking advantage of isolated areas for various illegal ventures all come into play. Geography plays a part too. If I was hiking the hills of Patagonia, Arizona, a stone’s throw from the US/Mexico border, I would absolutely sling my carbine. My intent of this blog is to just bring some considerations up if are considering bringing a firearm into the backcountry.
Assuming you are an existing gun owner or are going to make a purchase to arm yourself, I advocate doing the research on all federal, state and local laws. Educate yourself on the rules of law regarding not only ownership and carry, but use of the firearm in a confrontation. What you are committing yourself to is a responsibility that can far exceed anything you’ve taken on in your life to date. Ensure you understand how your travel plans to / from the backcountry will impact your decision to carry and know the rules in all parks you may be going into / out of during your trip. Since 2010, firearms rules have been significantly relaxed in National Parks, but there are still expectations on your conduct in the park. Ignorance is not a defense.
Safety goes without saying. You need to be able to safely manipulate the firearm regardless of being wet, dirty, tired and scared. Please don’t think for a moment plinking on the range with a .22 while following the four firearms safety rules makes you ready to carry a weapon in the backcountry. Assuming you have purchased a reliable, appropriate firearm for your need (I am not getting into type/caliber etc that is too expansive a topic for this blog) seeking out professional training is critical to make you “responsible” in responsible, armed citizen.
Learning how to operate your weapon safely under a level of duress (shot timer, peer pressure) in a class is a terrific start. Understanding both the weapon and your limits and true capabilities will also be a likely result by training’s end. Once training is received, practice in a safe, reasonable manner with the weapon you will protect yourself with and DO NOT watch Instagram “gunfighters” performing derring do. Brilliance in the basics and consistency is the secret to good firearms practice.
As backpackers, we love gear and firearms open you up to a host of gear needs for practice (hearing/eye protection, range bags, optics) and carry considerations. At the end of this article, I will provide a list of gear companies I believe are strong in design, quality and reputation for rifle and pistol use.
One thing I will discuss because it goes to employment is holster selection and method of carry. A rifle sling on a long gun is a given. From a simple adjustable carrying strap to a tactical two point, the sling on a rifle is akin to the holster for a handgun; absolute must for carry, practicality and as an aid in marksmanship. As for a holster, I am not a proponent of open carry at all. I understand the virtue of getting to your weapon in a “time is life” scenario, but you need to accept the fact that a gun draws attention and you do not want unwelcome attention when you are dealing with strangers in the backcountry. No reason to show what you are carrying to someone you don’t know. Also when you are carrying a firearm, any altercation you may find yourself in is NOW a “gunfight.”
Do not advertise that you have a gun and understand how to retain that weapon (again, go train) in a fight. Select a holster that is easily concealable and has a decent level of retention, but works with a backpack’s hip belt and will remain tight to your body to allow not only concealment, but comfort in hiking/movement. It is your choice for “inside the waist band” or “Appendix carry,” but I would advocate a strong side, hip holster or even a chest/fanny type rig like Hill People Gear sell. After your selection of carry method, ensure you practice with your choice both with a pack on and without. And always carry a small light with you to identify targets and background. Shooting a firearm is 100% visual.
The content above is simply a primer; a start to a longer conversation. Carrying on the trail, as in life, offers a host of complex considerations that should not be taken lightly. Understand the law, act in a safe, responsible manner and train like your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it. Do your research, think about it and practice.
Gear List (recommendation based on experience with the company):
● Range Gear:
○ Ares, Jones, Milt Sparks, Safariland Concealment/Soft Clothes
○ AWS, Ronin Tactics Duty/Military Style
○ Raven Concealment, Off the Grid, Safariland, GCode Kydex
○ Milt Sparks, Greg Kramer, Mitch Rosen Leather
○ Hill People Gear chest rig (haven’t tried this myself, but it’s on the list)
As with any gear “Buy cheap, buy twice”
Do you carry a weapon when hiking or backpacking? We'd love to know why or why not.
Drop us a comment!
See you on the trail and be safe.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike & Melanie!
This was my very first blog post back in June of 2013. I was visiting North Carolina for a 2 week long training in the mountains outside North Carolina and the first weekend I was there I stayed with a friend in Asheville. Spending 2 weeks in the NC mountains left quite an impression on me. There was one experience in particular that changed the way that I view the world when I travel and you are about to read it. Even though this is an older post I wanted to share it because it will help to communicate how I relate to nature and the great outdoors!
I started out jogging. I left my friend’s house in Asheville, NC with only my cell phone. He had given me verbal directions to the local trail head for the Carolina Mountains to Sea trail that ran very near his home. I started my journey down the driveway and turned left. As I passed house after house I looked for familiar plants in the front yards. I recognized some, some I didn’t. I continued on my way. While crossing a bridge that spanned interstate 40 on the south side of Asheville I looked to my right and was stopped in my tracks.
If I was previously unaware (and to a very small degree I was) at that moment I realized that I was no longer in Mississippi or that type of landscape so familiar to me in Mississippi. To my right and left I could see mountain tops; lush, green and teeming with life. To the east the sun was just beginning to peak over the mountain’s horizon and shone bright orange against the heavy gray clouds looming overhead. Having my own small but far from insignificant spiritual experience, I wanted to exist in this moment forever, but I knew that there were more wonderful surprises waiting for me on my trek. I gathered my thoughts and continued on my way.
I found East Porter Rd. turned left; proceeded down the hill towards the much anticipated trail head that was my destination. Along the way I fought the urge to stop and admire a group of Tritoma or red hot pokers. These are some of my favorite flowers that I previously had never seen in person. I have planted seeds on several occasions but to no avail as I have never been successful at getting them to grow in MS. I pushed on.
At last I reached the trail head. I hesitated a bit contemplating the richness of the moment. I was about to set foot on the North Carolina Mountains to Sea trail; following in the footsteps of countless other Americans. In this way I was about to share this experience with thousands of total strangers even though I was completely alone. The forest seemed so calm and serene. It beckoned me to explore all the natural awe and splendor that was contained within its borders. I felt as though I was being extended an invitation into the forest.
The very first thing that greeted me when I stepped into the forest was a small group of dainty red flowers. Their petals seemed to wave at me as they swayed in the breeze. I now know this flower to be fire pink. I didn’t stop jogging and pushed on. Every few steps I wanted to stop jogging to admire this alien but somehow strangely familiar forest. I had planned to continue and finish my run unimpeded but Mother Nature had other plans. After jogging on the trail for about 10-15 minutes I decided to head back.
The moment that I turned around I came face to face with an extremely familiar sight. Right before my eyes was a single flame azalea in bloom. I’d seen these back home in MS. It was not the largest or most ostentatious specimen that I’d ever encountered but for some reason on that morning it completely grabbed my attention and refused to let go. I realized that I had run right past it just a few seconds before without even noticing. Seeing this plant in full bloom I realized how/why it got its name. The yellowish orange flowers stick out like a sore thumb in the vast sea of greens and browns in the forest just as a flame would. I thought about what other sights I missed because I was so focused on running. I decided to slowly walk the way back to the trail head.
I began to realize all the details of the forest that I had missed while jogging. While jogging I noticed groups of plants and on occasion individual plants and the colors associated with them. While walking I noticed the leaves on the plants, the shapes of the leaves and how they swayed in the breeze.
I thought to myself that I might still be missing something so I decided to stop walking and sit in one place for a while. I found a large log, made myself comfortable and sat there. I made a conscious effort to clear my mind and just exist, there in that moment.
Being sedentary I could see small insects scurrying around on the ground. I touched and manipulated the leaves of the plants nearby. I inspected the veination of the leaves, noticing the different patterns of the different plants. I noticed how the ground along the trail differed from the ground just inches away off the trail. Off the trail the ground was covered with detritus and leaf litter. I could find several bugs just by disturbing a small area of ground.
As I sat quietly the birds began to flit about nearby. The only birds that I could identify were Eastern Towhee. There were several of these nearby along with countless that I saw and heard; birds that I’d never seen before. I did not have my binoculars so I couldn’t get a good look in an effort to identify them. I slowly realized that in order to truly know a place you can’t have just traveled through, you have to stop and “visit” for a while. I can truly say that I have an intimate knowledge of that section of North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea trail right there near “my” log. From this moment forward I intend to obtain “an intimate sense of place” where ever my travels may lead me to. I already long to return to the North Carolina mountains and to “my” log.
This winter Tyke Hike was anything but winter-like. With temperatures approaching forty degrees, there was no chance of the wintry walk as advertised in the promotional materials. Still, nearly forty hikers enjoyed a walk through the paved Homestead Hollow path at beautiful Lapham Peak State Park.
We all trekked the trail and discussed the power of glaciers, "found" the future of the forest, and searched for active animals, especially at the peaks of the pine trees. With every hike, we try to provide some off-trail exploration to get the hikers in nature, not just around it.
In our explorations, it was wonderful to see the curiosity and intrigue of the children. From finding frost-covered leaves to investigating under logs, each twist and turn along the trail offers a new learning point and a new way to fall in love with nature.
When we talked about how wood decomposes and helps turn into rich soil, a few children found some fallen, rotting limbs and offered up their karate chop services to hasten the process. When searching through the blanket of leaves, one child found a stick covered with moss and lichens. After peeling off the moss, he politely asked his mother, "Can you please hold my moss?" You knew never know what you will see or hear in the forest.
Keep Hiking Forward!
By definition a Go Bag is created to care for emergency situations of unknown origin and severity. Consider Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina as an example of situations anyone of us can find ourselves in with little or no warning. As we have learned from those disasters, people in an urban or city environment are just as at risk as those in rural areas, maybe even more so. We as humans tend to get comfortable with our living conditions and can easily forget how disastrous it can be when infrastructure fails and there is no heat, electricity, or clean water. Our hope is that you take this advice and apply it to your lifestyle and environment as best you can, and hopefully you will never need to utilize the information or equipment. As the famous quote from Ben Franklin reminds us "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail".
We realize it is unrealistic to think a gym bag or backpack would be large enough to accommodate all the needs of every "what if" one can imagine. The subject of this blog is to provide some guidance on the basics of a "Go Bag." From this template, you can modify or enhance based on the environment, threat or situation.
As a backpacker, I go to a pack type configuration as my favored option. Any sturdy day pack of 30-35Liters is sufficient for the basics of a Go Bag with room to spare for your situational needs. By choosing a pack from a reputable company that offers some features like robust suspension, hydration bladder compatibility and multiple pockets you are ahead of the power curve. You just never know when you will have to be foot mobile so the better the load carry capability the more flexibility you have. For that reason, I do not recommend a gym bag or box of some sort (rubber maid, ammo can, etc).
I look at first aid as a three tiered system:
Purification of water when facing the unknown is critical. I become obsessive about water when we hike (everything is linked to when do we get to the next source; caring for my filter like a newborn) and in an extreme situation the last thing you need is coming down with the Mung or other stomach funk that drains you, dehydrates you and eventually can kill you. Another thing I am a believer in is redundancy so mixing into your Go Bag two of your preferred purification methods is recommended. These can be a filter, SteriPen, LifeStraw, purifying tablets, or any of the other purification gadgets currently available. Ensure you have equipment that will sustain you for a significant length of time, easy to use/practical and you have confidence in its function and maintainability. REI carries a wide variety of options, just make sure whichever option(s) you choose, you know how to use them properly.
A hydration bladder is a terrific option for a Go Bag and I recommend you consider adding one. They are virtually weightless when empty and offers hands free hydration options and ease the purification process. Camelbak, Platypus and Osprey have all engineered the bladders to be extremely robust and tough; however, I am a proponent of adding a Nalgene to your bag as well. It can act as a waterproof storage container and will not puncture or crack under even the most extreme abuse. The Nalgene also offers true extreme water collection in the use of solar stills, capturing rain, etc.
Fire, Shelter, Food and Signal:
Like purification, you have a myriad of fire starting options and as mentioned earlier redundancy is value add. Both my partner and I have magnesium fire starting/striker style tools and we both carry dryer lint in a ziploc. This is a terrific mix for starting a fire under almost any condition. Like the medical piece, I do recommend you enhance your soft skills by YouTubing some basic fire starting methods (the primitive ones are good to understand as well) and practice on a day hike or in the back yard when the pressure isn't on. I also carry disposable lighters and waterproof matches.
Before meeting Melanie, I never slept in a tent while backpacking so I base my recommendations for a Go Bag on this experience. A military style poncho (material is bombproof) or a tarp with 550 (para) cord and some lightweight bungees make a terrific lightweight shelter that provides a variety of options. It can also be used as a litter and water collection point. Dental floss with a small sewing need inside the case made it into my Escape and Evasion kit for Afghanistan. It is virtually unbreakable, can be used to sew / repair materials and lash shelters together.
Supplementing shelter with good, multi use garments (waterproof/water resistant and insulating) are critical. I recommend an Arc Teryx Atom jacket or like layer as the one go to. Additional socks from DarnTough or Smart Wool are also a good add and can not only act as their intended function but as gloves, bandages or pot holders. A pair of light trail pants, preferably with DWR finish, should also be considered. As a bald guy, I always go with a wool watch cap. We all know when your feet are cold put on a hat - enough said. Wool and its synthetic brethren over cotton for its wicking and insulating properties is the best material. Wool not only insulates when it's wet and dry, but it also repels odors, so you can wear the same base layers for days without grossing out anyone within 20 feet of you. Remember "cotton kills." Throw in a couple of space blankets as well, they can add extra warmth to a sleeping bag or be used as a shelter or windbreak.
For food, we as outdoors people understand the virtue of high calorie nutrition in small packages, and this holds true for both hiking/camping and emergency situations. Refer to Melanie's extensive discussion on the subject here. Adding fuel and a Jet Boil to the Go Bag to accommodate the dehydrated food recommended is a good idea, but realize that it will be difficult to sustain (fuel) in a protracted situation/incident or extreme environment. Depending on the length of emergency, consider food alternatives and rationing as part of your planning. Adding a titanium/lightweight pot to your bag will assist in mitigating this longer term risk. It can also act as a water collection receptacle and signal device (bang on that joker). Lightweight is key here, remember you may be carrying your stuff for unknown distances over unknown terrain. Ramen noodles are light to carry easy to cook, and high in calories. The tuna salad kits they sell are great too and come with crackers to help give a nice balance of protein and carbs.
Light is a terrific signal device. Travels incredibly far and in modern flashlights comes in bombproof, light packages. I am a huge fan of Surefire, having employed one in combat under a variety of conditions. With an investment of a little over $100 one can have 600 lumens in a package a little bigger than a roll of quarters (buy extra batteries too). A good light like this can also scare animals, act as a striking device and blind a ne'er do well. Additional signal devices in small packages include strobe lights, "Glow" Sticks and a signal mirror (Walmart ones are about $5). With some of the 550 cord you bring, you can tie a "Glow" stick on one end of the string and create what we call a "buzz saw," by swinging it around in a circle over your head. Perfect to signal rescue aircraft or foot mobile search parties. Of course, the ultimate signal device of the modern age, our cell phones will always be with us in a bad situation. Add to it a charger with multiple recharging usage and a solar panel if possible. It is always good to consider that in many situations cell service or even electric may not be an option so cell phones are a terrific tool, but not one to rely on.
And without a phone how will one find their way? Waze isn't working you say? Land navigation is a critical skill to us as backpackers, but we even lean on technology with GPS use. Remember our brains and a Silva Ranger don't use batteries. Have in your Go Bag maps of the area at the least and a good solid compass and like medical skills, you need to seek training on this perishable skill. If you live in an area prone to certain types of natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), you should plan ahead and choose at least two places you could evacuate to if necessary and know how to get there by car and by foot.
Weapons and Tools:
Now when I thought to write about this subject I wanted to lean heavily on our backpacking roots and avoid the "Doomsday Prepper" feel that many Go Bag articles lean toward. That being said adding a firearm to a Go Bag does provide protection from animals (two legged kind included) and can put meat on the table so it should be considered within the packing list. You can debate on type and caliber all day and like any tool there isn't one "go to" firearm for every situation.
Training in the safe operation of the weapon selected is paramount. After that an understanding of its capability and having it "zeroed" (where you aim is where the bullet will hit at a determined distance) is next. From there I advise you become proficient with your selection with realistic practice. Shoot against a time standard with paper targets to record your shots and progress. Shooting beer bottles in the lot out back isn't going to cut it here.
A good knife is important too. A heavy, fixed blade knife can be used as a striking tool, firestarter and overall cutting tool. It can be used for protection and skinning game as well. I do suggest staying away from the "Rambo" foot long pig sticker. Gerber, K Bar and Benchmade all make variants that balance size, weight and utility. A sharpener is always a good add and is light weight.A folding saw and multi-tool should round out your tools for the Go Bag.
The Go Bag has the equipment you need to stay alive, but if you don't know how to implement that equipment, you are still at risk. The most important thing you have is your training and knowledge. Throughout this blog, I reference a need for training in medical skills, fire starting and firearms training. Sustained training in these type skills can easily be the difference in a bad situation. Overall mindset is important as well. Realize that you are planning for contingencies involving worst case scenarios of various origin. You may be called upon to make choices and do things that are well outside of your comfort zone, even as an avid backpacker and outdoors person, and realize that you can't "set your clock" on the incident that prompted you to go to the "bag." You need to be prepared for a protracted event of unknown origin.
It's tough. Also consider not only your tools and skills, but your role as a leader for your family and loved ones. Do they know the plan? Have you selected and communicated rendezvous points in case of a situation? Think about our days in elementary school during a fire drill. We assemble at the flag pole for a headcount and NO TALKING! Have a plan that is clear, concise and communicated. Collect your party at the rendezvous and then implement your overall plan applying your skills and Go Bag.
If you choose to take this information and build out your Go Bag try and have fun with it. Consider being a minimalist. How much can I get in this bag of value? What training would apply? Get your kids involved and consider having a survival themed camping trip Think about things like The Walking Dead and how they overcome certain challenges and what obvious challenges they ignore (as is the luxury of being a TV show and not real life). Keep it fun and educational for yourself and your loved ones and practice often. You'll definitely be glad you did if disaster ever strikes!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike & Melanie
Fifteen hikers battled the brisk winds on a bright November morning to take to the woods for some outdoor exploration. Focusing on animals and plants and their preparation for winter, we all had a wonderful time finding evidence of our furry and feathery friends throughout the forest.
Stopping regularly to talk about hibernating, migrating and activating animals, we also learned about trees and their sleeping while dormant. But talking doesn't compare at all to exploring. We explored fallen limbs, trunks, and stumps, searching for signs of animal life.
We stopped at a very special tree, one I have called the reading tree as it is a usual resting spot dedicated to reading a picture book connected to the theme of the hike. We enjoyed Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows before continuing along the leaf-covered trail.
As is a tradition of the Tyke Hikes, our turnaround point is usually some tree. The tree I usually stop was about a 15 foot tall, limbless, barkless tree that stood out right against the edge of the tree surrounded by towering lively tree cousins. As we approached, this tree was not what it used to be as Mother Nature and Father Time combined to down it. While it didn't stand out visually like it once had, the fallen tree made a great lesson and search for bugs, chipmunks, and other exciting finds.
We also took a breather on the way back to view a few nurse stumps and a stump we affectionately called Chipmunk Hotel. While we watched, a chipmunk caught our eye and watched us as we watched him. We saw him test out a few leaves, stuff his cheeks with an acorn, and finally choose a leaf that he puled down into his decomposing stump of a den. Of course, when the kids and I moved on for a closer look, we saw that the stump seemed to have a variety of different openings and cavities, so Chipmunk Hotel was born.
Though the weather was a bit of a dip from the unseasonal, but appreciated 70 degrees earlier in the week, this autumn-like weather provided the feel like winter is certainly on the way. So too are the next set of Tyke Hikes!
Keep Hiking Forward!
We largely live in a world where medical treatment is only a phone call away. But in the wilderness, there's no 911. When you are injured and miles from help, you have only a couple of things that will help you: your brain and a well stocked first aid & emergency kit. My kit has been a work in progress since I began hiking and camping and I finally feel like I have exactly what I need for minor and major medical issues. I actually carry two "emergency" kits, one is my first aid kit, and the other is for more general emergencies like inclement weather, getting stranded, etc. I will talk about both kits in this post.
I was lucky that when I first started hiking, I had some experienced friends to guide me. One of the most important things they taught me was to always carry a first aid kit. Even on the shortest of hikes, it gives peace of mind and can help treat something that can start as an annoyance but turn into something more painful or dangerous if left untreated.
My first kit was an Adventure Medical Kit, and I still use the cool waterproof pouch, though the contents have changed since I got it. I bought the .7 size which states it's good for 1-2 people for 1-4 day trips. It came stocked with the usual: bandages, gauze, a variety of topicals for burns, stings, cuts, etc., over the counter meds, latex gloves, and a tiny roll of duct tape. Right from the start I added a roll of athletic tape, which was a lifesaver when I twisted and fractured my ankle about 3 miles from the car. I was able to stabilize the ankle and walk out on it without doing more damage to it or being in too much pain.
Over the first year or two that I had the kit, I mostly used the bandages, triple antibiotic, and ibuprofen. The gloves came in very handy when I was on a hike with a group of patients from my former job and someone who I was aware was HIV and Hepatitis C positive needed some wound care. I would restock those items as needed, but felt like I was carrying some stuff that I would likely never use and that there were other things I would need that I did not have. Once I began doing more extreme type hikes, longer trips, and frequent rock climbing, I slowly began adding things to my kit so that it would have all the things I might need while still being light and portable.
The things I always have in my kit no matter how far I'm going:
Mike carries a trauma kit when we go on overnight or longer trips much like the one he uses when deployed. Most of this stuff is probably overkill for your average hike or camping trip, but he knows how to use it and it doesn't hurt to bring it. The kit contains the following items (ensure you know how to use them and have proper first aid training):
For those just starting out, I highly recommend getting a lightweight kit like the Adventure Medical Kits and adding things like extra ibuprofen, moleskin, dental floss, athletic tape, and upgraded bandages like Tegaderm or more heavy duty Band-aids.Especially on overnight trips or long mileage hikes, bring more bandaids than you think you need.
You can then create a second bag with your emergency blanket, matches, flashlight or headlamp, water purification tablets, etc. Check your flashlight and headlamp before each trip and bring spare batteries. Mike's headlamp stopped working in Yosemite, we put in fresh batteries and it still didn't work. I always bring a spare light that clips on to a baseball hat which he was able to use to find his way around camp after dark. We sent the headlamp back to Petzl when we got home and they returned it to us saying it works fine. It's been fine ever since, and must have just been a glitch, but that just shows the importance of checking your gear regularly.
What are your must-have items in your first aid kit? Let us know in the comments!
Keep Hiking Forward!
Mike and Melanie
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With just a few hours of hiking time left before the rental car was due back in the Emerald City, we decided to scan the park map and see what aroused our interest. It didn't take long before the trail named the Grove of the Patriarchs stood out as the trail of choice.
Using the clues from the name of this trail to assume this was part of an old growth forest, I instantly wanted to check it out. I love trees, but I really love BIG trees. Oddly enough, as we arrived, one of the first thing that caught my eye was something quite small. I lovingly called it the Smurf Village, as it was a collection of tiny mushrooms.
There were tons of old growth trees all around us. While a variety of species was intermingled throughout the trail, fallen trees along the path made for excellent pictures and observations.
Standing next to these giants really put into perspective the gravity of how important it is to preserve nature all around us. These trees have seen so much and they need to be preserved so that so many more can see them.
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