Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter Hike To Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls

  The trail begins at the southwest corner of the parking lot. For the first two-thirds of a mile you'll climb steadily over a boulder-strewn pathway, while LeConte Creek cascades down the mountain on your right. There are many opportunities for some great picnic sites along this section of the trail.
The trail crosses over two footbridges, one at 1.7 miles, and the other at 2.4 miles, before reaching the 80-foot high waterfalls at 2.7 miles. Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. It receives its name from the rainbow that's produced by mist and becomes visible on sunny afternoons. During extended winter cold spells, an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. You may notice a little bit of ice just to the right of the falls in the picture on the left.
To continue on to Mt. LeConte, cross the footbridge at Rainbow Falls. Over the next 3.2 miles you'll climb more than 1700 feet before reaching the Bullhead Trail junction. This section of trail will take you past rhododendron, sand myrtle and mountain laurel that offer hikers beautiful mountain blooms during the spring.
At 5.4 miles, you'll arrive at a side trail, which loops back to the main trail after a short distance. The loop leads to Rocky Spur, an outcropping of rocks that offers nice views of the valley below.
At just under 6 miles from the trailhead you'll reach the Bullhead Trail junction. Turn left to continue on to the summit of Mount LeConte.
In another 0.4 miles you'll reach the Alum Cave Trail, which forks in from the right. At this point you'll have your first views of the LeConte Lodge.

Hike to Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls 11-06-10

Hiking through the snow on Rainbow Falls Trail

Very slick log bridge on way to Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls in the beautiful snow

Hiking through 8 inches of snow on the way to Mt.LeConte

Trail on the way to Mt.LeConte

Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Trail Junction

Almost at the Lodge of Mt.LeConte

Steps going down to the lodge and kitchen of Mt.LeConte

Winter Hike To Mt.LeConte

The Adventure Hiker Speaks: Crawford Notch Hiking Part 2

The Adventure Hiker Speaks: Crawford Notch Hiking Part2 Heading up to Bugle Cliff after Elephant head. We went another .6 miles up the main trail called Webster/Jackson Trail and came across a sign that had a little arrow, with a saying on the side about a Cliff View. I knew this had to be Bugle Cliff so we went up the side to check it out. It was so worth the hike up! Amazing Views and so beautiful in the winter months

Monday, December 12, 2011

How To Build A Survival Shelter

First of all, location is key. Aside from the normal criteria which includes avoiding low spots, steering clear of standing dead trees, etc….proximity to materials can save a lot of time and energy. Take the time to find a spot that feels right.

For construction, the first thing you’ll need to build a survival shelter is a strong ridegepole that is at least a little taller than you are with your arm stretched above your head. You’ll also need something for one end of the ridgepole to securely rest on—a stump, boulder, fork of a tree, some kind of prop. The other end rests on the ground. At the high end, the ridgepole should be at about hip height.

Once your ridgepole is in place, you’ll need ribbing. Lean the ribs against the ridgepole fairly close together leaving a door at the high end. Once ribs are in place, crawl inside feet first checking to see that you have a little room to move, but that it is still snug and cozy. If your survival shelter is too big, you will have trouble staying warm. Imagine you are making a sleeping bag out of natural materials!
debris hut

Next, add a layer of lattice, something to act as a net to hold debris in place when it is piled on next. Brush and twiggy branches may work well. The debris that you have available can help determine how small the spaces in your lattice can be.

The structure is now in place and it is time for the essential component of insulation. Of all the things you’ll learn about how to build a survival shelter, not having enough insulation on a cold night will teach you quickly what is required. Get ready to shuffle your feet or make yourself a rake and start gathering debris! For good insulation, you’ll want material that can trap air. Obviously, dry material is optimal. Pile on your leaves, ferns, grass, or other available debris.
Keep piling, keep piling, go for TWO FEET THICK or more if you might get rained on. Be sure to close up the door area so that you have just enough room to squeeze in without disturbing the structure. Crawl in to see how your cocoon feels. Finish up your insulation by adding some small branches that will hold the debris in case of wind, maintaining as much loft as possible.

Now that the outer layer is complete, it is time to stuff your primitive survival shelter with dry soft debris. If you only have wet leaves, use them anyway, you may get wet, but you can still be warm. Once your shelter is full of debris, wiggle in to compress a space for your body. Add more debris as needed, and don’t forget the foot area! Fill up the spaces if you are concerned about being cold. Before you crawl in for the night in your primitive shelter, gather a pile of leaves near the door so that you can close yourself in most of the way.

Hiking Tips: Hiking Where Their Is No Trail

There are many things to keep in mind. First, don’t rely on your sense of direction to keep you straight. Very few people walk in a straight line and there is no such thing as intuitive sense of direction. (You can test this by blindfolding yourself and trying to walk in a straight line, or even just from one side of the field to the other.)
What you need to keep from getting lost are good, common sense and attention to detail. To begin with, know where you started from. Take the time to look at a map of the area and get familiar with the landmark so you will recognize them when you see them. Memorize the details as you hike.
Look for streams, unusual rocks, patches of flowers, anything that you will remember. A good trick is to tell a little story as you go incorporating the details you see. You will remember them better and will track them in order as you retell the story on your way back out.
Timing yourself works pretty much the same way. If you know how long you’ve been hiking you can predict how long it will take you to reach certain spots on the way back. Be sure to look back from time to time, as your path can look quite different from the other direction. If you’re really worried about getting lost, you can leave little trail markers in the form of a rock pile or broken stick every thirty paces or so.
Do not leave flagging tape; that encourages others to follow your path and create a false trail. If you leave any kind of markers, be sure to remove them and restore the area on the way out. Track the sun, it gives you a general east/west direction. In the winter the sun stays lower in the sky and tracks on a more southeasterly route. This is particularly so in northern latitudes. You can also use your watch and the sun to get a general sense of direction. If you point the 12 at the sun and draw a line halfway between the 12 and the hour hand it will point to north.
Alternately, pointing the hour hand towards the sun and drawing a line between it and the 12 will give you a line pointing south. You can also, to some extent, use the wind. Wind is very finicky and not reliable on a day to day basis. But you can be aware of overall wind patterns and where the wind usually comes from. In the United States, most of our weather comes from the prevailing westerlies and tracks west to east across the country.
Certain geographic formations, such as lakes or mountains, can also form prevailing wind patterns. You can see this in the trees, particularly in wind swept areas. They are called flag trees and tend to grow all their branches on one side, (The side facing away from the wind). If you see cut off stumps and can check the rings, the tree might actually have grown more, and have wider rings on the leeward side. You can even orient yourself with the North Star if you know how to find the Big Dipper. Naturally, knowing what direction north is doesn’t help much if you don’t know which direction you need to walk to get out.
Take note of what direction you are heading before you go in and every time you change direction. To keep yourself going fairly straight in that direction line up landmarks, even trees and be alert to where ridges, hills, gullies and streams are in relation to you. Count your paces every time you veer off your straight path to avoid an obstacle and then pace back onto your line.

Hiking Tips: Group Hiking

In addition to gear there are several other things we consider when we take groups in the woods.  The first is to know your limits. I don’t take kids fresh from the city up the highest mountain in the state. I give them time to get in shape and work up to it. The same goes for individuals out for a hike on their own. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember that you not only have to get in to your destination, but also back out. Don’t hike until you are exhausted before you turn around. A tired and overstressed hiker easily stumbles and gets injured, or makes a poor decision and gets lost.
The group hikes at the speed of the slowest person. We make it a policy to put this person in front so they can set a pace they are comfortable with. This eliminates the slinky motion of stopping and starting that can be so frustrating. It also seems to help with motivation when they are in the front and included with everyone else.

Slow hikers in the back tend to fall further and further behind and get discouraged. Muscles cramp up when overly stressed or under hydrated. It also helps to know that most injuries happen on the way down the mountain when you are more tired and moving fast, than they do going up. I never let my students go barreling down the hill.
When traveling with a group, trail junctions are important. Always stop and make sure everyone goes the same way. When by yourself, take note of which trail you took or which direction you headed. Don’t let a group get too spread out. Assuming the back of the group is on track and safe when you can’t see them is not a good idea.

Pace is also important. It is better to set a steady pace that you can maintain than to push really hard and wear out quickly. Breaks are shorter this way; long breaks allow lactose to build up in muscles making them stiff and making it hard to get going again. Your stride is lost; it’s like starting all over. Avoid gasping for breath when hiking steep uphills. I always tell my students to blow out hard to clear the lungs.
Gasping doesn’t really clear the lungs out and after a while you’ve got waste build up and no room for fresh oxygen. Proper breathing is a good idea in all aspects of life, but particularly when exerting yourself. If you are on a well-used trail, be considerate of others.

Do not be loud to the point that it disturbs others who have come out for the quiet and tranquillity. When hiking steep trails the general rule of thumb is similar to cross-country skiing: those coming downhill have the right of way over those going up. Step aside and let them pass.
So now you’re hiking along happily with your group when suddenly you come to a stream. Stream crossings can be tricky business. What you remember as a tiny trickle last fall can be a roaring torrent in the spring. Rock jumping is fine, but use caution in colder weather as thin, invisible layers of ice can form on the rocks making them very treacherous. Be wary of logs. Wet wood is slippery and wood near water is frequently rotted and not trustworthy. If the water is high and there are no safe rocks wading across is your next option.

Do not wade through water that is much more than waist deep. A strong current can not only knock you over but also hold you pinned down underwater if you are carrying a well-loaded pack on your back. Use a sturdy stick to prod the bottom for holes or rocks your foot could get stuck under. Forming a chain with the other members of your group can help with stability.
To keep your feet dried you might want to take off your socks and go across in just your boots. To can dump them out and put on dry socks when you get to the other side. Alternately, you can wear just socks so your boots stay dry. Bare feet however are a potential injury. Be sure to scout up and down the stream for the best crossing spot. Do not cross at the narrowest point, the current there will be the strongest. Cross at the widest part where water will be slower and not as deep.

Hiking Safety Tips for The GSMNP

■Avoid hiking alone because the “buddy system” is safer during any type of activity. If traveling with a group, never stray from the group. If hiking alone, pick a well traveled trail.
■Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
■Don’t forget to check in with them when you get back.
■Stay on marked trails. Making shortcuts and “bushwhacking” causes erosion and greatly increases your chance of becoming lost. As you hike, pay attention to trail blazes (paint marks on trees) and landmarks. A double blaze indicates a change in trail direction or intersection, so be sure to follow the correct trail.
■Never climb on waterfalls. A high number of injuries and deaths occur on waterfalls and slippery, wet rocks.
■Always carry quality rain gear and turn back in bad weather. If you become wet or cold, it is important to get dry and warm as quickly as possible, avoiding hypothermia.
■Dress in layers and avoid cotton. Today’s hikers can choose from numerous fabrics that wick moisture, dry quickly or conserve heat. Many experienced hikers wear a lightweight shirt that wicks moisture, while carrying a fleece pullover and waterproof jacket in a daypack.
■All hikers (especially children and older adults) should carry a whistle, which can be heard far away and takes less energy than yelling. Three short blasts is a sign of distress.
■Carry plenty of drinking water and never assume stream water is safe to drink. Frequent hikers might consider buying a water filter or water purifying tablets at an outdoor supply store.
■Don’t count on cell phones to work in the wilderness, but if they do, be able to give details about your location. Telling rescue personnel that you’re lost by a big tree won’t help as much as telling which trailhead you started from and how long you’ve been hiking.
■Don’t rely on a GPS to prevent you from getting lost. Batteries can die or the equipment can become damaged or lost.
■Invest in good hiking socks and boots such as those found at sporting goods stores. Avoid blisters by carrying “moleskin” (available at drug stores) and applying it as soon as you feel a hot spot on your feet. Available in the foot care section of drug stores, moleskin is like felt that sticks to your skin.
■Wear bright colors. Don’t dress children in camouflage.In fall or winter always dress in layers to stay warm or to strip off to cool down

Carry an Emergency Kit
Each hiker should have these items:

■Water  or water filteration system
■First aid kit
■Whistle And Plastic Mirror
■Small flashlight with extra batteries( Ultimate Lithium Batteries they last 8 times longer)
■Energy food or extra food
■Brightly colored bandana
■Rain Gear and in fall and winter fleece jacket
■Emergency Bivy in case of bad weather or getting lost in the woods or off the trail
■Aluminum foil. Strips can be tied into tree limbs to reflect searchlights. It can be molded into a bowl for water.

Especially for Children
■Attach a whistle to their clothing.
■Talk to children about what to do if they become lost, no matter what the location (city or wilderness).
■Teach children that they won’t get into trouble for becoming lost.
■Reassure children that people (and possibly dogs and helicopters) will look for them if they become lost. Do not hide from searchers; answer their calls.
■Do not run. Instead, “hug a tree” and make a comfortable “nest.” This prevents wandering even further.
■Do not be afraid of animals or strange noises. If something is scary, blow the whistle.
■Come up with a password that a child will respond to if a stranger needs to pick them up. Searchers can use this password.

What to Do if You are Lost :
■Stay put.Beware of your surroundings at all times and lookout for wildlife and most of all never panic .
■Make shelter.
■Stay warm and dry.
■Be visible and heard.Use your whistle and mirror every 15 minutes someone might see you or hear you from a distance.
■If helicopters are searching overhead, seek an opening rather than thick tree cover. Lie down so you look bigger from the air.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mountain UltraLight: Make Your Own Cuben Fiber Backpack!

This is a very informative article for making your own backpack that is very ultralight !

Mountain UltraLight: Make Your Own Cuben Fiber Backpack!: Warning: Making your own gear can be addictive! If you've been thinking about making some of your own backpacking gear, I say go for it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Adventure Hiker Speaks: Crawford Notch in Snow

The Adventure Hiker Speaks: Crawford Notch in Snow: This past week, I went through Crawford Notch to do some holiday shopping, along the way, I had to take some pictures to share with everyone...