Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking: Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hike To Indian Flats Falls In GSMNP

Trailhead of Middle Prong Trail the way to Indian Flats Falls

A beautiful hike that follows Middle Prong Creek

This is a really cool water slide to go down in the summertime

Trail bridge going over a small creek

Very old fire place out in the middle of no where

A small group of butterflies

Mother natures art work deep in the woods ..... so beautiful

Old service road bridge across the creek

Almost to Indian Falls

Indian Falls Waterfall ... 3 waterfalls in one

Second falls down from Indian Flats

I love waterfall hikes so much

This was spooky a rock that spelled out my intials in moss ...... M G

Monday, November 19, 2012

Time in Nature is the real “Smart Drug” Children Need

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog: Time in Nature is the real “Smart Drug” Children Need: The following is a guest blog by Dr. Mark Ellison:

Many children and their parents are looking for ways to increase academic performance to prepare for college admission and a future career. This pursuit often ends in seeking “smart drugs” such as Ritalin or Adderall to improve concentration. Even adults without symptoms of ADHD are now taking these drugs to work longer hours.

The current trend is to medicate children, not considering that changing the environment where they spend their time could have more positive health consequences. Children are often in places full of artificial stimulants including video games, television, music, smart phones and other devices that grab attention. Replacing this with time in nature can have positive health outcomes.

The Natural Learning Initiative led by Dr. Robin Moore, a professor in the landscape architecture program at North Carolina State University, is helping to educate about the positive health benefits of children spending time in nature. The purpose of this initiative is to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information. One of the intriguing developments of this movement is the creation of natural play areas that encourage the use of creativity and imagination, as well as longer and richer play experiences in a natural setting. Reedy Creek Nature Preserve in Charlotte, NC recently added one of these play zones.

Research is now revealing that time in nature reduces symptoms of ADHD in children. The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) at the University of Illinois is a multidisciplinary research laboratory dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health. Recent research at LHHL has found that nature has a calming and restorative effect on children and adolescents with ADHD, reducing symptoms and having a positive effect in cases where other treatments offer only limited help. The lab continues to research in this area and is currently examining the effects of schoolyard nature on children’s learning and academic achievement as reflected in standardized test scores.

Innovative programs are needed to get children and families in nature. An example of this is the Kids in Parks Program developed by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, which is helping to get families out on nature trails. The mission of this program is to promote children’s health and the health of parks by engaging families in outdoor adventures that increase physical activity and foster a meaningful connection to the natural and cultural world.

Another program, sponsored by The Children and Nature Network, is the “Lets G.O.!” (Get outside) initiative in April 2013 designed to get people out into nature.

All of this aligns with the Child’s Right to Nature and a Healthy Environment Initiative which states that every child has a right to connect to nature in a meaningful way; that every child has the right to be prepared and equipped to help address environmental challenges; and a right to a clean and healthy environment.

We have a responsibility to preserve natural areas so that the next generation can experience the beauty and health benefits that are associated with it. This is especially important for children who grow up in inner city environments, with no access to nature. How can you help to get children out in nature more?

Dr. Mark Ellison is an educator, researcher and author on using the restorative power of nature for optimal health and effectiveness. While earning a doctorate in adult education and human resource development from North Carolina State University, Dr. Ellison's dissertation explored the restorative benefits of hiking in wilderness solitude and the relationship to job satisfaction. He's recently started a second research study focused on hiking and the relationship to psychological well-being and reduced stress. He is also the founder of HikingResearch.com.

Hiking in the Smokies

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hike On Spirit Ridge Off Of Cherohala Skyway

The paved 0.3-mile Spirit Ridge Trail, perfect for wheelchairs and strollers, leads to a spectacular overlook along the Cherohala Skyway in the Nantahala National Forest.

Layers of mountain ranges greet you from the perch just below 5,000 feet. Along the path are three signs that explain the northern hardwood forest, tell the American chestnut story and describe a history of transportation. Two picnic tables are neart the parking area.

From Robbinsville, take US 129N, turn left onto NC 143W and go 10 miles to Cherohala Skyway. Follow the skyway for eight miles to the trail's parking area.

Trailhead information sign for Spirit Ridge

Great Hiking for the Handicap to enjoy the outdoors

Great Fall stroll and totally wheelchair accessible

Very nice and well maintained trail

Obeservation deck to enjoy views

Pretty view of North Carolina Mountains

Lots of leaves already falling

Lots of golden browns on the mountain

So beautiful and so peaceful

Great trail for all to enjoy !

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vasque Men's Snowburban UltraDry Insulated Boot

New for 2012! The Vasque Snow Junkie insulated boot is ready for cold weather aerobic activities. Using Vasque’s UltraDry waterproofing system and lined with 200 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation, the Snow Junkie is your go-to winter boot for snowshoeing, winter hiking and backpacking.

Made from a combination of waterproof leather and synthetic textiles, the upper of the Snowburban UltraDry boot is durable yet lightweight and a rubber toe cap and molded rubber heel yoke serve to further reinforce the boot and support your foot. The lace system of the Snowburban UltraDry boot allows for a secure fit during longer hikes and the low profile lace webbing over the foot slides easily in and out of a snowshoe binding while the metal eyelets at the ankle offer durability on off trail and deep snow excursions. A D-ring at the toe of the boot lets you quickly fasten gaiters down and keeps snow from bunching up under the toe of the gaiter.

Under foot you'll find a dual density, EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning as well as a TPU instep plate and textile forefoot plate for increased protection. Vasque's Perpetuum Last creates a good fit for steady, long distance hiking. Mid traction lugs help you keep your footing on crusty snow and frozen mud and a soft fleece collar at the inside of the ankle adds a touch of comfort and warmth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hike On East Rattlesnake Trail

This was a very refreshing hike on East Rattlesnake right off of the Cherohala Skyway in North Carolina . If you just wish to get away from it all including people I would suggest this trail .

Trailhead of East and West Rattlesnake on Cherohala Skyway

A very nice fall hike for everyone

Such a beautiful golden yellow leaves on this tree

Lots of  leaves already fallen on the trail

Mushrooms just growning wild on the side of the trail

Beautiful colors throughout this hike

A small creek running underneath the trail

Such deep crimsons and reds in the colors of the leaves

Did not come across a soul on this hike

What a dazzling view of the fall colors

I really love the colors of fall

A view like this makes any hike worth the miles

Band Aids And Blister Treatment

Watch this video on a hikers biggest enemy blisters and how to take care of them . Band Aids and duct tape can be a hikers best friends on the trail .

Backpacking Health: Band-Aids & Blister Treatment -- powered by Atti's Hiking

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hike To Joyce Kilmer

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest along Little Santeetlah Creek is a rare example of an old growth cove hardwood forest, an extremely diverse forest type unique to the Appalachian Mountains. Although there are many types of trees in Joyce Kilmer, dominant species include poplar, hemlock, red and white oak, basswood, beech, and sycamore. Many of the trees in Joyce Kilmer are over 400 years old. The largest rise to heights of over 100 feet and have circumferences of up to 20 feet . The Slickrock Creek basin is coated primarily by a mature second-growth cove hardwood forest, although a substantial old growth stand still exists in its upper watershed.

The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness borders the Citico Creek Wilderness, which lies within the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.

Information board at Joyce Kilmer Trailhead

Dedicated July 30, 1936 by the U S Forest Service

Such a beautiful forest with lots of old trees and growth

This is a very well maintained trail great for kids and the elderly

Lots of trees snapped from a storm earlier in the year

Two more trees that was clipped by high winds

Poor trees took a beating from this storm

Amazing trees growing on top of the ground .Mysteries of the wildreness !

Joyce Kilmer - Soldier , Poet and Author of " Trees "

Some of the trees in Joyce Kilmer are 400-500 years old

And trees measuring over 100 feet tall

Twin giants in the trail .... so huge so majestic
Even trees walk in this forest on the trails

Almost to the end of the hike of the man who felt trees were so important that he wrote a poem about them


I Think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer