jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Author: jupiterhikes (page 1 of 6)

10 Tips For An Ultralight Backpack – How To Thru Hike ep3

Today were going to talk about how to get a lighter backpacking kit!

Obviously not everyone wants a lighter backpack, so why would you?

  • a lighter backpack is easier to carry while hiking since whatever you bring, you then have to haul up mountains for miles and miles on end
  • it’s more comfortable on your back, shoulders, and joints carrying less weight
  • it allows you to do more and see more, since you can walk more freely without pain or stress
  • and in many many ways it helps to avoid potential injuries you might see with people toting a heavier load

Climbing Mt Shasta in Northern California with John Zahorian 2017

baseweight is a term you may be unfamiliar with so we’ll cover that quick, it is the weight of your gear, excluding water and food, since that varies on a day to day basis.

It is essentially as light as your pack will get on a trip, and is a standard for comparison if you’re ever looking at anyone elses kit

I have done almost all of my thru hikes with a 6lb baseweight, give or take

So although I really enjoy traveling super light now, I didn’t always. In 2012 on my first Appalachian Trail attempt I was actually carrying upwards of a 70lb backpack

I had multiple guidebooks, maps for states I wouldn’t be in for months to come, hardcover books that I never touched or read, a 7lb bag of trail mix, three yoyo’s, and the list goes on…

As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun, but I also quickly found myself in a lot of pain from the crushing weight of my pack

Pain that soon became the reason I had to quit and get off trail so early on into my hike

I think this is one of the reasons I’ve since gone so light on all my trips, it’s the prospect of getting injured in a way that can be prevented

In 2016 when I came back to do the Appalachian Trail again my pack was super light, and I walked comfortably the entire way enjoying every moment

 

You don’t have to go anywhere near as minimal as I did, but I do think it’s good to at least be aware of what you’re carrying because maybe there’s some heavier things you could leave at home and still be just as happy without them

So as you’re going on your shake down overnight hikes near home this is stuff I want you to consider.

A thru hike upwards of 2,000 miles is much more than just a camping trip, in reality its a walking trip.

Often times you have deadlines either set by when you need to be back to work, when you might run out of money, or something every last person has to deal with on trail… when impassible weather is going to roll in and ruin the finale of your hike forcing you to quit

Few thru hikes could you average 10 miles a day and still go the entire distance due to the eventual wall of weather you will face. Thats why most appalachian trail hikers do it in 6 months or less, and most pacific crest trail hikers do it in 5 months or less. If they were to take any more time they would inevitably run into far too dangerous of conditions to continue.

so we hike, day in and day out, waking up near dawn, and stopping near sunset or even after. all trying to race the weather north or south.

This would be made much more difficult with a heavy backpack, so these days most choose and aim for a more ultralight system while thru hiking.

Something to carry more comfortably on their walking trip

There’s loads of information out there on how to lighten your backpack

probably on any hiking blog or website in existance you’ll find various tips of this sort

So I’d like to take a different approach

to give you the tools to do this and understand this yourself

so instead of just going over a hundred items i find worthless that you may really enjoy lets talk about some tools to get you that lighter backpack

since everybody has different needs and desires, and there’s a million different ways to do this anyhow

here are 10 tips from my point of view

1. Use what you have

start with the gear you already own, I know it’s tempting to buy new things but the best way to learn and grow is to simply get out there and try things.

This way you can get a better idea for what you really want when later on if you choose to go and buy some new stuff.

If you don’t currently have gear ask around with friends and see if you can borrow some stuff. This may not be possible but it’s worth a try instead of buying things you may not like, or buying things you would soon want to replace

When you do go out with your gear, take notes on what you would like to be different. Maybe there’s a different tent shape you would prefer, or your sleeping bag isn’t warm enough

Really scrutinize everything you own.

2. Take out everything you have, weigh it, and write it all down

preferably using a website like lighterpack.com with a little kitchen scale

It’s one thing to go backpacking and know that your kit feels heavy, it’s another thing to know exactly where that weight is all coming from.

For me this was a big eye opener as when I went online to look at getting new things I could see exactly how much weight I would or wouldn’t be cutting by spending that money.

With websites like lighterpack you can play around with your setup by removing things, or weighing different things and seeing how that changes your list overall

I had found early on by weighing random things around my house that some simple kitchen pot was lighter than the one I had for backpacking, I found that the warm clothes I had bought many years ago were lighter than what I had been using while being equally warm.

You never know the types of things you may find and be able to replace.

Categorizing things in this way gives you the ability to scrutinize further, and often times for free, lighten your backpacking load

lighterpack.com is a wonderful tool for any backpacker looking to step up their game. Looking for other peoples gear lists you’ll surely being seeing this website a lot.

3. Everytime you go out, reevaluate your gear

So you’ve got a day here, or a day there off work where you can go on an overnight trip…

Take as many of these as possible, and everytime you come home, really think over your trip, and reavaluate the things you brought.

What did you use, what didn’t you use, can anything be changed.

Did you love something but felt it could be lighter weight, did you hate the design of something but still feel at its core it’s necessary but could replaced for something better with the ame function

Everytime you go out, pay close attention to how you’re doing things, and do this over and over and over again

the only way you’ll figure this stuff out is by doing

Before hiking the appalachian trail in 2016 I had already done about 2,000 miles worth of hiking trips near home. Learning, growing, changing, and refining. I learned more on those trips, than I ever have since on any thru hike I’ve ever done.

4. Make a distinction between what is actually necessary for your survival and comfort, and what is purely luxury

then decided if that luxury is something that you would even use

often you get out there and find you’re too tired to read at the end of the day, or like me on the florida trail with the fishing pole I carried for 1,100 miles, I only used it once

Remember in many ways thru hikes are more of a walking trip than anything else.

It’s good to make this distinction so you know exactly what you can leave behind and not truly suffer for it

Have fun and use those luxuries on shorter trips with friends, and have fun on your thru hike by carrying less and walking up that mountain more freely

But this doesn’t only apply to items like books, or fishing rods, this applies to everything

If it isn’t purely for your survival then at least for the thought exercise, consider it a luxury, and that it could be left behind

5. Modify everything

This is pretty common when trying to push the limits of what you carry. To go through all your items and see if you can modify them in anyway to be lighter. Are there any unnecessary features you can cut off

You’ve probably seen people cutting their toothbrushes in half, or even smaller. And that’s the idea. Do you really need a full handle on your toothbrush? Do you need those random straps on you backpack? Do you need an  entire bottle of sunscreen or could you package it in a smaller bottle. Modify everything

This is awesome to do because again, its free! And you’re actively making the gear you already own lighter in the process.

6. Find the value in the absolute bare minimum, and then add back things you want from there

In the world of backpacking there is the term, shakedown. Generally refering to shaking out all the unnecessary gear in someones pack, and seeing what sticks.

You could perform a shakedown hike yourself, like we talked about in some of the last steps with little overnight trips, or you could have someone more experienced go through your pack, and give you a shakedown from their perspective. What you need, and what you could leave behind, in an effort to lighten up.

When people ask me for a pack shakedown I make a point to show them what the bare minimum is with the gear they have. The least amount of items they need to survive, and then let them add back things from there that I had removed.

I think it’s extremely important to know what just how little you could get away with, to make a true distinction between luxury and survival.

So that’s what I’ll ask you to do, find the bare minimum, the least amount of things you need to survive, and then add back from there

I encourage anyone that wants to, to take a trip near home with that extremely minimal kit, and see what it’s like

See what you miss, and what you didn’t

Personally the things I’ve added back into my kit have been a camera and a yoyo since those items really help to keep me going on long days

My gear from the Pacific Northwest Trail

7. Campsite selection

Good campsite selection means you can get away with less gear

replacing that gear with knowledge and skills

for instance you have less need for a full tent and can get away with a tarp if your campsite selection is good or you know the trail you’re hiking has a lot of vegetation to shield you. Thus saving a lot of weight with a smaller shelter.

Same goes for warmth, if you’re constantly setting up in really exposed areas, near water, or at the tops of mountains then you would need a lot more insulation than someone who is being more choosy about their campsites.

If you’re able to find campsites with really plush ground like grass, leaves, or pine needles you can get away with a much lighter and more minimal sleeping pad while retaining that natural comfort

This is how I’ve always been able to go so light. I am extremely choosy with where i camp, and I don’t let what others are doing dictate how I do things.

  • Look for areas that are naturally sheltered from wind
  • camp away from water as those areas are always colder
  • find a spot with good tree cover above you to avoid condensation and provide warmth
  • don’t camp on the tops of exposed mountains or in the bottoms of valleys
  • find a spot that has good natural cushion for ground

doing all of this whenever possible and you’ll be amazed at how little you can carry and still remain comfortable

of course you don’t need to do each and every one of these things every night but pick and choose depending on the weather you’re going to experience

Sheltered from wind, plenty of extra cover from trees, and a relatively comfortable ground to sleep on. This was a very fine campsite

8. Use others as inspiration for your own gear choices

This is something I do constantly, searching online for others that have been successful on their thru hikes, and comparing their gear to mine, or taking notes on what they use and why it would be helpful to me

Is it lighter weight? Is it going to keep my warmer or dryer? Is there some special reason they chose what they did instead of something else?

and of course, is this a person who had highly scrutinized their own gear choices that I can actually trust with my own

Looking for ways I can lighten my own kit with theirs as inspiration, or ways that I could live more comfortably on trail

Don’t just do this with one person, look at many different folks out there and take notes. This I find is an incredible way to learn whether you’re a beginner or an expert

Though you can look at any gear list ever for this type of inspiration it is helpful to specifically look at soeone who is hiking the same trail you’re going to hike. As things like warmth, shelter, water capacity, and rain protection can vary wildly from trail to trail

9. Spending money

Lets say you know you really love backpacking, and that maybe you’re looking to spend money, and are wanting to make an investment to many trips in the future…

the biggest area to save weight is probably by replacing what is known as your big three

Your shelter, your sleeping bag, and your backpack

This will undoubtedly cost you and may not be money you need to spend when all these other tips are pretty much free

but you can almost certainly shed some pounds with lighter gear, instead of just becoming a minimalist

Something you may notice about this list is I hardly if at all mention that you need to go out and buy something lighter, I think really the trick to a lightweight kit is skills and learning, rather than spending a fortune. Realizing what you don’t need instead of replacing everything you have with a fancy new version.

Enlightenedequipment.com makes great quilts

Zpacks.com makes great tents

Palantepacks.com makes great backpacks

All off this is an exponential process. As you lighten your pack further you’re then able to use lighter and lighter gear made to carry less. So by taking steps towards a lighter kit you can then use a lighter backpack for instance

So these three places, your shelter, quilt, and backpack are where the biggest weight savings can come from by spending money. But be sure you’re aware of how much the gear you already have weighs, and consider if any of this is actually worth the money to you to save that extra bit

10. Don’t pack your fears

research, plan, and understand how you can overcome your fears

a game i would play with my mom was using her fears of what i would run into on a thru hike, and how i would deal with it to my own learning advantage.

I’d ask her what she was afraid of happening to me, as there were always so many things she was afraid of, and then i would explain to the best of my ability why that wasn’t a problem because of this technique, this understanding, or the gear i was bringing and how i am using it.

if you can’t explain it to her or don’t know yourself then it’s a topic you need to research and learn about.

Often times the fears she would have were not even sort of applicable to the trail I was hiking, or time of year i was hiking, but you need to know that. What the temperatures are like where you’re going, and how your gear will work with that. Animals, bad weather, everything pertaining to the trail you’ll be on.

The fears you have, the fears your friends and family have are often times very valid and real. That’s why we play this game, to learn, and find new things to prepare for

the more you understand your fear, the less frightening it becomes, and instead turns into a strength

Remember it may seem silly to save an ounce here or an ounce there, even fractions of an ounce, but you do that enough and you suddenly have shaved pounds off your back.

*Bonus Tip*

The biggest area I see where people carry to much is clothing. The fear of being cold, the fear of being dirty, or not knowing what will be warm enough. Studying what others have used before you, or using your own personal experiences is important here.

So those are my 10 tips and one bonus!

That’s all I have for you today, I’ll catch you in the next episode of the how to thru hike series where we’ll dive deeper into more specific gear categories, and things to prepare you for your long walk!

super ultralight with a bear can even

6 Tips to Prepare – How to Thru Hike ep2

Last time we talked about which trail you might want to do, and maybe you’ve already decided. Maybe you’ve already gone off and done some shake down hikes

Today we’ll talk about how you’re going to prepare for your ultimate journey on a long trail

The type of things I look into and the type of things I research first

These are just preliminary things I do every time I’m beginning to plan a thru hike, the first steps I take to eventually heading off on a long walk in the woods.

What are the towns like, what’s the resupply situation, historical weather data, gear I may need, training I should possibly do, who else is out there, and past experiences I should read up on

Pacific Northwest Trail, Olympic National Park

Basically what I’m going to tell you is to do a ton of research, and we’ll talk about what specifically you want to research

The more you know the better!

Later on in this series I’ll have videos on how to train physically, and things to do before you go

This is more along the lines of a first step

Mental preperation in the way of investing yourself in this endeavor. Investing yourself in the knowledge, and the trail you’ll later be hiking

So lets dive right in!

You could do these steps in any order but lets start here,

1. Who else is going to be out there?

I find that it’s a nice thing to follow a bunch of other peoples hikes on the same trail I’m doing

Not only does this give me people to look forward to running into, but if they’re ahead of me I have the added benefit of seeing trail conditions before I get there.

or since you’re doing this before you start you get to see how everyone else prepares, and ask if you should do the same

Is there a bunch of snow? Has the trail not been maintained yet? Is the trail flooded or a river very dangerous? Maybe there’s some trail magic you would hear about in this way, or specific spots you may want to stop

So not only do I essentially have some “friends” out there, I can also gather all sorts of information that may help me in my own journey.

You can find others to follow on youtube by searching the trails name and the year, on facebook in groups by searching the trails name and the year, or on instagram through hashtags

For instance, #at2021 or #pct2021

This all may seem silly to some but more information is always a good thing

2. Look into past trip journals

Similarly I also look into past trip journals, either videos people have posted from past years, or actual trail journals people have written and published online

Trail conditions can change from year to year but generally the trail itself stays the same.

By reading past accounts you can see what’s gone wrong, what’s gone right, places of interest, towns that could be fun to plan a zero day in, potential hazards or things you need to account for, and again all sorts of other information

Before I started the Pacific Northwest Trail I watched videos from the past, and even read a journal from 8 years prior to when I was hiking.

In some ways the videos scared me as to what was to come, but ultimately if I’m scared in some way, it’s better to plan and prepare for why before I go than to find out and be surprised while on trail.

The journals I read on the otherhand were very reasuring, and ultimately I was extremely happy I had read them

If you don’t want to spoil the trail for yourself, I fully understand. Before I did the uinta highline trail I didnt read or watch anything about it, and left all the surprises for actually being out there.

This can work, and can be more exciting, but in the end I did get slammed with some conditions and hardships that I would have been more prepared for had I done more research.

So by not doing this stuff you’ll likely be fine, but I do think you are increasing your chances of success if you do take the time to research in these ways.

As I always say, before the trip begins, I want to do everything in my power to increase my chances of success.

Because once you’re out there all of this becomes a lot harder, and in the end having that extra familiarity with the trail is a very good thing

3. Pay attention to towns & resupply options

So while I’m reading others journals or watching videos I also try and pay attention to the towns they mention, if there’s anything strange like a really long food carry between towns, or if they needed to send themselves a box because it’s a very small town with limited grocery options

This fits into the bigger category of food resupply and we’ll cover this more deeply in a later installment o this series but for now just make a mental note

If it’s a trail that’s very remote and you need to send yourself boxes you’ll want to know that early on in the planning. While a trail like the Appalachian Trail the resupply situation is very easy, and you only really need to be aware of the first couple towns as you can easily figure out the rest while you’re out there.

Most trails you can easily buy food from grocery or convenience stores so it’s not much of a concern, but being aware of how far it is in between towns is still important

The backpack you use, and how much weight you’re going to carry will vary wildly if the trail hits a town every 60 miles vs a trail that hits towns every 200 miles

Hikes like the AT and PCT have great resources online for this type of information, but pretty much every long distance trail out there has some kind of guidebook which you can learn this type of info from as well

I often go through a guidebook before I leave, and highlight all the towns I plan on stopping in, and again checking out the distance between them

So this brings up another great thing you can do at this point

4. Buy Guidebooks, Maps, & Guthook

Go online and see if you can buy maps and a guidebook for the trail you’re going to hike

Not only is mail sometimes slow, but you’ll want these early on to start flipping through and gaining a familiarity

You don’t have to go nuts, but every once in a while look through it

For most trails these days there are also gps apps, you can sometimes get gps tracks for free online and sometimes this is your only option but most of the time you can download the app Guthook

Guthook has many trails loaded onto it, is pretty affordable considering what you get, and also comes with the added benefits of having town info, food establishments, water sources, pretty views, hostels, and pretty much everything you would ever find in a guidebook, but in an easy to read application for your phone.

It is an invaluable tool

I personally prefer to plan using maps and a guidebook, then while I’m on trail to switch over and use guthook exclusively

I cannot recommend getting this app enough, and 99% of the people you see out there will also be using it for navigating and information

One word of caution about Guthook: Dont get lost in it. I see so many people looking at the app, and agonizing over the climb they’re about to do, or agonizing over the distance to the next town when if they had just kept walking they would likely be done with it already

A really incredible tool, but try not to lose yourself in the details, and instead enjoy the trail

5. Look into the gear others used

So lets talk about gear!

At this point you may not want to dive into spending a bunch of money on gear just yet

We will have a few episodes coming up on gear itself, but what you can do now is start looking at the gear others brought, what worked for them, and take some notes.

Maybe they did reviews and you can see what they liked. Just be sure to find people that did the trail you’re doing, and started around the same time you are

Say they started a month earlier, or a month later, the gear they needed is possibly different from what you’ll need. Still a good exercise to look into what worked for others.

I do this a lot!

Say you’re going northbound on the PCT starting in April, you’ll likely learn from seeing gear lists that you’ll want a 20 or 30 degree quilt, you’ll want to start with about 6 liters of water, and that bugs aren’t an issue until the sierra. Among many other things you may notice

Fortunately we all have this amazing resource in the internet, and we can learn from others who have been successful and stand on their shoulders

I personally try to upload a gear video for every trail that I’m doing because I know how valuable that information can be, like my girlfriend Lotus’ gear list from the Florida Trail that I recently posted

6. Look into historical weather data

Something else that may influence your choices in gear is looking into historical weather data. Another trick I use before every trip I take.

Am I hiking the sheltowee trace trail in April? By looking up historical weather patterns I can learn and prepare for what temperatures and rain I will likely see later

I would find that in april in kentucky temperatures can still get down into freezing, and that rain is something to concern myself with. I can then buy the gear that will keep me warm, and dry

VS if I were hiking the Arizona Trail in October I no longer have to worry about rain, but I’m in for a lot of cold, and I better pack for that

You can also do this type of searching regarding bugs but generally I find the spring and summer is typically the worst for bugs unless you’re in the desert, and the fall is always the best as a rule o thumb

So basically the point of this episode is that information is power.

You have that power, and it will aid you in your journey, and can exponentially increase your chances of having a better time and a more successful time later when you’re on trail

If you can do this now while you’re at home, why not?

So I encourage you to take some time, watch some videos, buy some guide books, and immerse yourself in the trail you have chosen to hike

Many don’t do this type of research but when you’ve quit your job and have been dreaming of doing this for years, I personally would want the best chances possible at success when unfortunately so many don’t make it

I will say that many do go the distance without any of this, but it does make things harder

Just as well some trails are a lot easier than others

How much of this you choose to do is up to you! I think the planning is fun, but can see it from both sides

So for now that concludes todays episode! I hope it has been helpful, and a good window into some of the pre trail planning that goes on

As always I look forward to what type of adventures you find youself in, and I look forward to seeing you for the next installment of the how to thru hike series

Which Trail Should You Hike? – How to Thru Hike ep1

backpacker magazine map (somewhat inaccurate but good for reference)

Some of these trails aren’t so much ‘trails’ but again great for reference or ideas

So you’ve decided you want to do a thru hike!

That’s awesome! I’ve found love in these types of trips.

Hiking across the country, the small towns I get to experience, the animals and plants that I see, the epic views, the people I meet, and the community I’ve become a part of.

It’s really an amazing world to be in.

The first question you’re probably asking yourself is, which trail should I hike?

Now maybe you’ve already decided on a trail, I still recommend you watch this video as I take maybe a different position than most do on this subject

There are mega long trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail

Both over 2,000 miles, take months to complete, and are really a standard in the long distance hiking world.

But there are also shorter trails, I have done the 300 mile Sheltowee Trace Trail in Kentucky, The 300 mile Pinhoti Trail in Alabama, The 100 mile Uinta Highline Trail in Utah, and the 60 mile Ocean to Lake Trail in Florida, among others

In many ways hiking a shorter long trail you get a very similar experience to going off to hike something 2,000 miles. But you also gain a lot more than that, and that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

I would never tell anyone to not hike the AT or to not hike the PCT

I and many others have had incredible experiences on both

But what I will say is,

Hike a shorter trail first

Something that’s in the range of 40 to 200 miles.

A trail like the AT or the PCT that is upwards of 2,000 miles is a massive commitment. Often times you have to quit your job, sell your things, leave your family and friends behind for months

and the problem here being, these trails aren’t guaranteed. Only 1 out of 4 people that attempt the appalachian trail, are actually successful.

Imagine leaving everything behind, and then within that first week, or for many, that very first day…

you realize this isnt what you thought it was, its harder than you thought, its not that fun… and you wind up going back home.

After telling everyone in your life, that you’d be gone for months doing this thing, that would be pretty depressing

It’s a very unfortunate thing! But it can be avoided!! And here’s how…

Start small and then go big.

Do a trail thats shorter first, less of a commitment, something that can be done in a brief vacation from work, and then plan the big hike after you’ve seen how much in person, you actually want to do this

For many, the AT or PCT is their first ever overnight trip. It works for some, but of all the reasons to quit a thru hike beyond injury, or finances this is something that’s very much in your control

So why hike a smaller trail first?

1. Less of a commitment

we’ll we’ve mentioned that it’s less of a commitment, you can easily the take time off work to do a trip near home, in the 40-200 mile range, vs something that will take months upon months

this way you’ll have the opportunity to see for yourself and ask yourself, is this even something i would enjoy doing for months. Maybe the shorter hikes are truly what you enjoy! And that’s awesome, I love these shorter trails.

But it would be a hard lesson to learn early on in a super long distance trail

Less of a commitment to see where your heart is, is a big one.

2. Get used to your gear

Beyond that, doing a short trail first is also a great opprotunity to get used to your gear!

I personally had attempted the appalachian trail in 2012 as my first thru hike, and not only did I fail as that was one of my very first backpacking trips ever, but also that was the very first time I was using most of the gear that I had brought.

This is a similar story to many. My first night on the AT was my first night ever using my camp stove for instance. Your first night of a multi month backpacking trip, should probably not be the first time you’re ever using your gear.

This is actually known as a shakedown hike, to go hike something smaller prior to your big trip, and get familiar with your gear.

Or to see that maybe some of this gear you have you don’t actually like

vs finding that out later on the big trip, which would be much harder to swap things out or change what you don’t like.

3. Learn some new skills

These shorter trips are also a great opportunity to learn some new skills!

How to deal with the rain, how to use your gear, becoming more comfortable and confident in the outdoors, how to deal with blisters, what foods you like and how much you should be eating…

and generally just a proper backpacking 101 course for yourself before you head to the big time

try to find a short hike near where you live that would be great for doing this and learning

4. You can easily bail

you then also have the massive benefit of being close to friends and family should anything go wrong

it would be very hard to deal with gear failure, or crazy weather on your first ever trip if you were far away from home.

in other words it’s good to learn when you’re not that far from those that can help you, and those that care about you. it’s good to learn, close to home.

As a Floridian it would be much easier to learn and practice near home than say here, in Washington state, deep in Olympic National Park on the Pacific Northwest Trail

Some trails to consider

In the past I had done a video about some shorter trails out there that I felt were really awesome, you can check that out here

Maybe you live in the southern appalachian area, the foothills trail is only 77 miles and would be an incredible jumping off point

If you live in Florida the Ocean to Lake Trail is a wonderful 60 mile trail

If you live up near minnesota the 300 mile superior hiking trail may be the one

Or lets say you’re in northern California, how about the 40 mile timberline trail, or the 165 mile tahoe rim trail

Or for those in washington the 90 mile wonderland trail would be incredible!

Even things like the 200 mile vermont long trail

or the 100 mile uinta highline trail in utah

Texas has the 90 mile lone star trail

and the list goes on!! Nearly every state has some cool short trail for you to go find your legs on, and later tell others about when you are doing that massive 2,000 mile journey.

But you don’t have to necessarily do an entire trail from end to end, maybe you live close to a much longer trail!

A section hike is also a wonderful option.

Getting out on that super long trail near home, and setting aside so many days, and seeing how far you can get!

I know doing a section hike doesnt have the same romantic aspect as doing a thru hike, but I promise no matter the distance, or trail that you choose to do you can have a life changing experience.

Hiking the 100 mile Uinta Highline Trail in Utah

So what long trail should you do!

So lets get back to the original question here, which trail should you do? I dont mean which short trail, as I think the one closest to home is probably the best one for that.

But I mean which uber long trail

This may sound obvious but I think you should do the trail that calls to you the most.

Hear me out on this one, most people that hike the triple crown start with the appalachian trail, because in a lot of ways it can be the most convenient and accessible thru hike of the three.

But maybe you want to hike the continental divide trail, and deep down that’s what calls to you the most…

but maybe you’re afraid of the exposure, the vast wilderness, the animals, the navigational problems…

I think potentially you should go for that one, despite the fear.

I say that because, you may only have one chance at this. Say you go off and hike the Appalachian Trail when you really wanted to hike the CDT instead, you come home, find the man or woman of your dreams, find the job of your dreams, and never get to thru hike again.

That’s a pretty optimistic reason to never thru hike again, but i’m sure you could come up with worse scenarios to never make it back out there.

So you may have had a great experience on the AT, but forever will wonder what it would have been like on the CDT instead.

So I think you should follow your heart, and do what calls to you most. Some may require more research or planning than others, but in the end I think it would be worth it.

Do what you love

after failing my first thru hike attempt, I came back 4 years later, having done loads of shake down hikes, researching a lot, and training hard

I came back and not only hiked the Appalchian Trail but hiked 5,000 miles from quebec to key west florida, including the appalachian Trail.

It was what my heart truly desired, and ultimately I don’t think I would have been as happy if I had settled for something less at the time.

Having to quit your job, and leave your life is very hard. Make it worth it in every way.

Finishing my 5,000 mile walk down the east coast on the Eastern Continental Trail (which included the Appalachian Trail, Florida Trail, International Appalachian Trail, and many others) I did what called to me most, and made the best of my time

There’s a lot of cool trails out there, and I hope this series is useful to you in getting out there and doing them.

As a final little recommendation, in choosing exactly what you want, I recommend looking up a list of trails, then searching for youtube videos of them! The world is vast, and I promise there is something out there, that will totally blow you away

Thanks for watching or reading this first installment, I look forward to having you back for the next one.

See ya next time!

Into – How to Thru Hike Series!

Hi I’m Jupiter!

I’m starting a new series here on my website and also youtube about how to thru hike! It’s mostly focused on the videos on youtube but I know some people really prefer to read things instead of watch or listen, so felt I should have it in both places.

The first installment comes out tomorrow

So in the near future, check back here for more, or subscribe to my channel on youtube!

http://www.youtube.com/jupiterhikes

This will be the lessons and basics I’ve learned over 10,000 miles of hiking long trails around the united states to hopefully help others who also want to come out and thru hike a trail themselves

We won’t cover any one trail in specific but instead the knowledge you might need to get out just about anywhere, and certainly all of the basics! This will be an overview

We’ll cover topics like

  • which trail should you do
  • how to prepare
  • tips to lighten your backpack
  • shelters
  • electronics
  • cooking
  • clothing
  • luxury Items
  • how to stay dry
  • footware & footcare
  • how to train
  • leave no trace
  • how to resupply
  • financing a thru hike
  • pacing yourself & avoiding injury
  • things to do before you go

Some added bonuses might pop up in there as well as I may remove something if it happens to get covered inadvertently in a different episode.

I really look forward to doing this! I just want to create something useful for the community that has given me so much joy over the years

I personally have had many successful thru hikes, and I’ve also failed a couple for reasons that I think could help in advising others not to do that themselves

So I’ll see you next soon!

Florida Trail Thru Hike Statistics

Florida Trail statistics from my second thru hike! The first go around I was a bit preoccupied with simply hiking, and enjoying the world Florida backwoods has to offer. So I certainly wasn’t taking down numbers or counting things as I went, other than miles. Mostly thanks to my hiking partner Lotus, this time we actually paid more attention beyond just enjoying the scenery and motion! So here are a few numbers from our thru hike, and a bit of explanation behind them.

 

  • Miles: 1,108 – We went southbound starting at Fort Pickens, on the Pensacola Beach. Went East around Orlando, and West around Lake Okeechobee. Ending our hike at the Big cypress Oasis Visitor Center, the official terminus. Other than going southbound this is the most typical route to take, while there are many alternatives. One could even increase the distance by 200 miles by starting or ending their hike in the Keys, at the southernmost point of Florida! I had done that in 2017; it’s mostly a road-walk, and very unofficial, and we did not feel a need to do that this time. We took these routes even though I had done them before because in part I feel they are the best ways to do it occasionally, but also I wanted to see them again for nostalgia, and to better help others with information.
  • Jan 3 – March 10 – Part of the beauty in this trail is that you can hike it in roughly two months, over the winter. It’s not as big of a commitment as something like the Appalachian Trail, and you can do it while the rest of the country is covered in snow!
  • 68 days – I feel our 68 day hike is a pretty average time it takes for someone to complete the trail. I’ve seen some take as long as three months, and the first time I did it in only 28 days. The two to three month range is common, and what should be planned for, though you can obviously do it faster if you are extremely motivated or slower if you wish as well! The hiking season here runs from December to March so that’s the time frame you’re working with.
  • Zeros: 6 – Some of these zeros were for leisure, and few were because we felt we actually needed them physically, though mentally it was great to take a break! Early on we took a zero to help our bodies adjust to the constant exercise. Another zero early on to dodge out of a storm, as at the beginning of a long hike we were less interested in walking all day in heavy rain. Later on we took zeros to go to Billy Goat Day, an awesome Florida Trail hiker event. A zero to see Lotus’ friends in the Orlando area, and a zero towards the end around Melbourne to go see a movie with my friends. It was nice to take the time off, but it eats money which I was definitely feeling, and eats time which means by the end of our hike it was getting hotter very quickly.

  • Avg miles between town: 61.5 – Many were shorter distances, and we were never very far from a town, or food. Some stretches were a bit longer carries, which is what leads to this number being higher than I would have imagined. Often times we were able to stop for food multiple times in a single day for instance.
  • Avg miles per day: 16.3 – We started out slower, taking more days off, and more short days to try and find our legs and groove hiking. Towards the end it was extremely uncommon that we had a day under 20, and we had a handful of days near or over 30. The thing with Florida is you hike it in the winter when days are shortest, so getting miles is hard if you don’t want to wake up early, hike into the night, or do both.
  • Avg miles per day w/o zeros: 17.8 – Overall not the biggest change, we stayed pretty consistent throughout the hike, and generally between zeros would do a bigger day to make up for the day off.
  • Avg miles per day / first half: 15 – Starting slow to find our bearings! A smart idea, especially when hiking with someone else as more can go wrong.
  • Avg miles per day / Second half: 17.8 – Picking up pace as the trail went on, this still included multiple zeros or neros.
  • Days w/o seeing anyone: 3 – As states go Florida is pretty populated, and those populations are very dense. It’s amazing first of all that we even have this massive hiking trail that spans the whole state, and it’s amazing again we actually went quite a few days without seeing a single other person. This number doesn’t account for the days we had a single car whiz by us at some point, or days we maybe saw someone off in the distance.
  • Days w/o cell service: 5 – Rejoice, you can stay in touch with your loved ones, if you wish. Though you may not use it, or need it, it’s nice to know that if something goes wrong you can phone a friend. The places we had no service or very little were Appalachicola NF and Ocala NF.

Town Days

  • Motels: 5 – The Florida Trail doesn’t really have hostels so it was motels all the way for us! Though in White Springs there is a very hiker friendly bed  breakfast that we stayed at. Certainly the closest thing to a hostel out here.
  • Showers: 10 – Surprisingly you can find showers fairly often, more often than we actually used. Various recreational areas have them, trail angels, motels, the 88 store has a nasty one, and even one of the trail shelters has a shower along the Suwannee River.
  • Laundry: 7 – Laundry was mostly done at trail angels homes, though there are a few laundromats around towns, and at a few motels we were able to. A lot of the towns you pass through on trail are so small basically the only thing there is a gas station.
  • Resupply: 18 – The vast majority of this was gas stations, convenience stores, and the very occasional Walmart or super market. If you’re willing to hitch a ride (which isn’t so easy on the FT) or rely on trail angels to get to bigger towns you could get better food. Truly there are so many gas stations on trail, or places you could send a package that’s just my preferred way. Stay on trail and make due.
  • Resupply boxes: 3 – If I were to do it again I’d *almost* entirely send boxes. We sent boxes to the JR Aucilla store, 88 Store, and River Ranch.

Foot Problems

  • Feet wet: 11 – Everyone’s biggest fear when heading to Florida: the swamps, and wetlands. This year was a dry year, and we only got our feet wet 11 times. Nearly all of those times, the wet section was so short lived I took off my shoes and socks and just walked it barefoot. I only actually got my shoes wet once or twice the entire trail. You may hike in a dry year as well! 2017 when I hiked last it was also a dry year, so really they are quite common these days.
  • Blisters: 1 – This was very early on in our hike, within the first 3 days I got a blister on the side of my foot. My shoe was rubbing funny, and with a little leukotape over the hot spot that problem was handled nicely, and never came back.
  • Shoes: 2 – I went through two pairs of shoes this hike, swapping them out at the 88 store which is roughly 650 miles into our hike. Lotus waited a little bit longer to exchange shoes but she also went through two pairs. I think the southern half of the trail can be harder on the feet and on footwear so that’s why we did what we did, swapping where we did.
  • Socks: 6 – I exchanged socks more frequently, just because when a sock gets a hole I can pretty much guarantee I’ll get a blister there. Fortunately I was able to buy the socks I liked at Walmart’s along the way, and in one of the boxes I had sent.

In general we didn’t have much in the way of foot issues, Lotus in the beginning had some pain, which was expected given learning how to walk on totally flat ground, unvaried like many trails. I had a little blister, and we cruised comfortably most days. The northbound hike is a much harsher beginning, so we were glad to have gone southbound and have the plush beach walks, and the wilderness of Eglin to ease into. Many a hiker quits the FT in the first 200 miles NOBO.

Hikers!

  • Day hikers: 20 – Most day hikers we saw south of the Orlando area along the Little Big Econ River.
  • Section hikers: 15 – Most section hikers we saw in Ocala NF, or the Suwannee River, though there were two in St Marks NWR.
  • Thru hikers: 39 – Nearly every thru hiker we saw was around the halfway point. There were many more we didn’t directly cross paths with, just by how town stops worked. Them still hiking, and us resupplying elsewhere. We imagined there were more than 70 people thru hiking this year. Almost all of them going northbound.

The vast majority of our hike we saw no one, no other hikers, the occasional hunter, and of course when we were on a road or in town is when we saw life. The southbound journey is one of solitude.

Animal Sightings

  • Coyote: 1
  • Deer: 34
  • Raccoons: 6
  • Armadillos: 12
  • Snakes: 7
  • Alligators: 118
  • Bald eagles: 7
  • Turkeys: 16
  • Pigs: 16
  • Otters: 3
  • Turtles: 13
  • Owl: 1 

These numbers account only for the animals we directly saw with our eyes, and specifically these are only my numbers of the ones I saw. Sometimes we could hear armadillo, knew it was armadillo, but didn’t count it as a sighting. Same goes for owls, heard many, but only saw one.

All of the alligators we saw were over the course of two days. 35 of them in St Marks NWR and the rest along the canals south of Lake Okeechobee. None of these alligators were a threat to us, none were in the trail, and we never really felt concerned by them.

Similarly for the snakes, most of those were non-venomous, and got out of our way long before we were even close to them. In Big Cypress however we did come across two water moccasins that were very near each other, directly in the trail, and not planning on moving. Still, compare this to in 2017 I didn’t see a single snake non-venomous or otherwise my entire thru hike.

Thanks to Lotus for the idea of keeping track, and for helping me with some of these things I personally wasn’t paying attention to! Without her this likely wouldn’t exist.

For anyone planning a Florida Trail thru hike, I hope you go for it! It’s a great trail, and it’s only getting better as the years go by.

 

Jupiter

The Sheltowee Trace Recap

I finished my hike! I didn’t get the record or fkt(fastest known time) on the Sheltowee Trace I wanted, and actually gave that up maybe 4 or 5 days in but did still finish in 11 days and 4 hours. Somewhat of a quick pace for a 323 mile trail. So now what! Well I have a story to tell and something I’ve thought a lot about is I want to help the next guy or girl going out there with the same intention as me. Provide beta on the trail from the perspective of someone making a lot of miles.

First I’d like to give a couple shout outs.

Billy Sherlin helped me out on multiple occasions. He runs hiker shuttles for a very reasonable fee and lives near the trail, for instance he drove me a short ways to a restaurant once, and then the much much larger task of driving me from one terminus of the trail to the other where my car was parked over 300 miles. The Sheltowee Trace Association does offer shuttle support but ask that you get in touch with them 5 days in advance. Personally I hardly know where I’ll be hours in advance let alone days! Billy was there, and more than willing to help me out. I can’t thank him enough. If you are looking for a ride get in touch with him or the Trace Association. The alternative is what I call the ultimate rejection, standing by the road with your thumb out, visibly seeing the disgust on peoples faces as they wiz by you. Instead you can send Billy a message, he’s more than happy to shuttle and is even pet friendly. You can get in touch with Billy here:

(859) 398 – 9907

https://www.facebook.com/billy4shuttles/

City Gone Country Inn is a bed and breakfast in McKee, a trail town just off of the Sheltowee. After a bad couple of days, giving up my record attempt, and in very much need of some rest, relaxation, and a shower I needed a day off. I still made maybe 12 miles to town, and even with a dead phone Rick and Teresa still managed to find me. Waiting at the trailhead eventually finding me in town trying to charge my phone at the local park, they picked me up, brought me to dinner, a large grocery store outside of town for a real resupply, and back to their home to clean up. I felt like Michael Shummacher rolling into a pit stop. They had everything I needed. The bed and breakfast is on a very large property, I believe 100 acres if you so wish to explore. Rick drove me around in his ATV to see his goats, cows, chickens, and the most beautiful view I saw in Kentucky on top of their very own mountain. I had the whole house to myself though I believe it sleeps 19 complete with snacks, food in the fridge, laundry, shower, television, wifi, and everything I could have ever wanted. It was my most comfortable stay on any of my long walks beating out any hotel by a mile. They are incredibly nice people and even though it was Easter went far out of their way to help me and show me around. You can find them here:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17465016?guests=1&adults=1

http://www.citygonecountryinn.com/

And of course the Sheltowee Trace Association, and its community. The volunteers, and locals do a phenomenal job with maintaining, promoting, and organizing hikes as well as providing information! Coming from a background on the Florida Trail I know the struggle of not being, say the Appalachian Trail, with a seemingly endless supply of everything. I was constantly amazed with the bridges built along the trail, how clean and well maintained everything was, the trail was very well marked the entire way, and there were even a few shelters! I’m sure I’m leaving stuff out but given a 323 mile trail(which I hear is in the process of being extended) is no easy feat. Organizing chapters, crews, and work parties is a massive effort and they seem to have done it extremely well. Coming into a lesser known trail I had worried about markings or resources but was met with more than I’ve seen on quite a few other trails! The Association offers shuttles on their website, guidebooks, maps, trip reports from previous hikers, current trail conditions, and even notes on things that may have changed. As well as a bustling community on facebook full of experienced hikers, STA members, crew, and veterans all willing to help, offer information, or cheer you on. I think all of this is very important for those out of state looking to come hike the trail like me. It has been more than a positive experience and really adds a lot to the trail knowing there’s so many rooting for you and working behind the scenes to make your experience a good one. While you’re preparing for this trail consider becoming a member of the STA!

https://www.sheltoweetrace.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/STABigTurtle/

So! Lets get to some information

Weather & Start Date

I started the trail April 16th and found that was a PERFECT time to be out there. It was frankly just when I was available, while I had originally planned to hike the trail in March. I feel mid April is that happy medium, some days it was hot but the nights were always cool, in 11 days I only experienced two days of rain. And most importantly I think any sooner and I would have frozen using the sub 5lb kit I had. Going fast often means carrying less. Mid April suited that objective wonderfully. I used a 40 degree bag, wind pants, beanie, synthetic jacket, and rain jacket. Temps ranged from upper 30s into the high 70s, I was never cold but felt I was right there on the edge as if I had planned this out perfectly. Starting any later and I imagine it gets hot very fast. On the trail there are a couple unavoidable dry sections which extra ambient heat would have made a lot worse. I think 13 miles was the longest without a water source. Possibly the fall would be a prettier time to be hiking with all of the changing of the colors but in April I got to see spring in action! In the north all of the trees were still barren, with little flowers just starting to come out of the ground, and by the time I got to the southern terminus everything was in full bloom, all of the trees were lush, and I even thought to myself once that it felt like I was hiking through some jurassic age jungle. Fall may also present another issue you won’t find in April, streams, creeks, and springs may be dry. This could be a question to ask elsewhere but I was very happy for the snow melt and to have water sources all over. I personally only had a total of 1 liter carrying capacity so this was a huge win. Water is heavy, and April made it so I didn’t often need to carry much of it.

Shelter & Bugs

I used a tarp and ground sheet as my primary shelter. No bivy, and no bug protection, this is mostly because I’m a stubborn Floridian and down here we have some serious mosquitoes. However! Not a single darn time did I even see a single mosquito! Again maybe since I was hiking in April this played a big part, but often I was near standing water, lakes, rivers and no bugs ever gave me trouble. So leaving the tent or the bivy at home was a great choice for me. Maybe a small headnet as a backup would do you right just in case. Now there is one issue with bugs, and that is ticks. In the first three days I found a total of three ticks on me. In the next 8 days I found quite a few more, I feel because it was warming up as I headed south, and the trail is more overgrown in the south. All of these ticks I found on my legs, none anywhere else on my body. This is thanks to treating all of my clothing with permethrin beforehand, which you can buy in a big yellow bottle at just about any Walmart. Most of the ticks were big and easy to spot before they grabbed on, but I did find at least one very tiny one. This was honestly my biggest fear heading into this trail, I know the north east can be extremely bad, and often I was afraid to sit down. However given my experience now I think that fear is gone, and once again I have my chosen time of year to hike to thank. Any other time of year and for the ticks alone maybe you would want a tent. This said I never found one on me in the morning even though I was totally exposed under my tarp, only during mid day when it was hot, and I was moving, I believe they must have grabbed me from some trail side brush. Something I did extra to combat the fear of ticks was wear a white shirt, it got very dirty but I was happy with the peace of mind knowing anything out of the ordinary would be very easily spotted should I get something on me like an unwanted intruder.

Animals

Keeping up with the animals theme I got a lot of messages warning me of bears, snakes, and dogs. I didn’t see a single bear, I only saw 4 snakes all non venomous, but the dogs are another story. As for the bears, even locals I talked to said they have been seeing less and less on their game cameras. Some campsites(not many, I personally only saw one instance) had bear boxes to store consumables in but I didn’t really worry about sleeping with my food as a pillow. I don’t worry about bears generally and don’t think its a huge problem even for Kentucky. If this were a blog post about Yosemite or the Great Smoky Mountains I would be singing a different tune. A rule of thumb for me is avoiding established campsites. If you see trash there that means some animal has probably found food there and may come back to check for more another time. Sleeping in random places off trail where no animal has ever found food I felt perfectly safe. Now as for the real threat. Dogs. I have never in all of my long distance hiking(8,000+ miles with more than a thousand of that on roads) seen so many dogs while roadwalking. This trail has some road sections, the majority being in the north, while the south is more rugged and remote. You will run into some unsavory dogs in the north, off leashes, protecting their homes. I feel in just the first 100 miles heading SOBO I saw and dealt with more than 100 dogs. I cannot recommend enough carrying a small bottle of pepper spray. Wacking a dog on the head with a stick or trekking pole is likely just going to anger it further, unless you are trying to kill it. This is all much harder to actually do in person when the dog may just be coming up to you barking like every other dog, and by the time you realize you need to do something it’s right up on you too close to even hit accurately. There is one long roadwalk in particular where all of your troubles will come from, maybe in a few years the trail will be routed off of it, and into the woods but for now it’s just what you gotta do. For the most part it was very pleasant, very few cars if any, and nice views of the country. This roadwalk was maybe 17-20 miles in length. After that you can throw away the pepper spray as that is the end of your problem.

Resupply

As for food I know it can be tempting to go for an unsupported record of 7-9 days but you seriously walk right past so many stores it just seems silly to me. Heading southbound you walk right through the very big very small town of Morehead which has a lot of options just 26 miles into the trail, then there is Miguels, a pizza place and hangout for climbers(that may offer showers) less than a mile off trail by Natural Bridge State Park and the Red River Gorge. On that roadwalk mentioned above you pass a very small convenience store halfway through which is good for some Gatorade and a lot of candy with a small selection of chips. The 49er truck stop you walk right by, which has burgers and the like, as well as a fairly common selection of gas station foods as well as the option to shower. Arnold’s Grocery which is by Laurel River Lake, probably a mile off trail, again serving burgers as well as drinks, candy, and generally more than the other convenience store had. And for me the last place I noticed was the Cumberland Falls State Park has a small restaurant you walk by, or a much bigger one by the resort a very short walk away, as well as a store just across from the first restaurant with very limited stuff(more candy!) As you can tell I stopped at all of these. By the time I got past that long roadwalk I gave up the record attempt and decided I was going to get french fries as often as I could. As for a record though you walk right by 4 of these which means you could conceivably carry very little food the entire time and still be totally fine given your threshold for eating mostly junk food is high.

Water

I never had much problem with water though on that long roadwalk water was quite scarce, you will come across some easily accessed streams here or there but it’s something to be wary of. It’s incredibly easy to get dehydrated and electrolytes as well as keeping water consumption up as often as you possibly can is incredibly smart. Most of the water in this state I feel does go past some sort of farm land so filtering it is a good idea. I didn’t and am not sick yet, but can’t recommend my method seeing what I’ve seen. This isn’t the Appalachian Trail, and you won’t be drinking from mountain springs every mile. A lot of the water is from very fine rivers, but considering the potential run off means bring a filter to me. The heat often got to me so even though I was ok with just 1 liter total capacity, 2 liters is the way to go just in case. Better carrying an extra 2 pounds than dehydrated. The only thing that caught me off guard is just north of Morehead there is a 13 mile dry stretch, you are mostly following a ridgeline and there isn’t any water to be found. I didn’t realize this until I was well into that section. Bad news and really slowed me down requiring a very long break in town to regain myself. So make sure to have real electrolytes, fill up as often as you can, and drink as often as you can! I found in my guide most sources weren’t marked and feel I sometimes got lucky. An interesting thing about this trail is how many rivers and streams you cross. Some are on bridges, but most have to be done the old fashioned way, by getting your feet wet. If you’ve walked through one river, don’t stop to dry things out there! Keep going, I found I often crossed the same river many many times over in the course of a mile. This came as a surprise everytime as I would nearly always stop after crossing to take a short break, only to find myself crossing again, and again! Fun, but something to note. I never once had to swim across a river, but at Horse Lick Creek, the water did get all the way up to my waist. That creek in particular there are two marked trails to cross, pick your poison. I think in the past the trail used to cross in different places so you may find yourself if you get off track walking through the higher water 3 times over.

Navigation

I personally only used the GPS app for my phone, in the app store it can be found if you simply search Sheltowee Trace. For the most part it was excellent! However! You will definitely want more than this. Though it did help every single day with minor decisions the gps track loaded on there is somewhat old, I figured at least from 2016, maybe even 2014. Sometimes I was way off trail according to it, yet still following the blazes in person. This brings up an excellent point. Always trust the blazes! This trail is changing, just around Cave Run Lake for instance there is a huge reroute that maybe adds 5 miles, it is way prettier and follows much more closely to the lake. Had I followed the GPS disregarding the actual trail I would have essentially missed out on something really beautiful as well as cut the official trail. The Sheltowee Trace Association does offer a guidebook for both south and north bounders on their website, as well as maps. I’ve even heard the guides are currently being re done so rejoice! Through the Associations efforts you get an up to date account of the trail. I used the guide for planning but often wished I had it because the GPS just doesn’t provide any information on water sources, if I’ll be roadwalking, sights to see, or anything other than you are here and the trail is there. If the phone application is updated that would be the greatest thing I think the trail could do in regards to accessibility. In this day and age of technology where most long trails now have some sort of app there will surely be more like me who use it exclusively despite the pitfalls of trusting such things. Even if they charged money for it, I would happily buy it, as for now it is a free service. Beggars can’t be choosers. In that sense, consider becoming a member of the Sheltowee Trace Association while you’re at it, a membership goes a long way! You should especially do so if you are hiking this trail. As for navigational problems most of my issues weren’t on trail actually, it was on roadwalks! The trail itself is wonderfully blazed and marked, though I felt at times the roads could use a couple more signs.

Footwear

I went with a fairly minimal setup, thin nylon dress socks, and shoes with a pretty minimal stackheight, the Altra Superiors. If I were to do it again I would beef it up a bit. Certainly the Lone Peaks which have a little more cushion, and probably Injinj Toe Socks which are a bit thicker and might have saved me from a couple blisters I got between my toes. Though I was happy for thin socks given the sheer amount of times you have to ford rivers but given the rocky terrain, and the roadwalking I was definitely wanting more, and the quick drying was not nearly as important as the ache in my feet after a long day. I would however avoid anything crazy like Hoka shoes or the Altra Olympus, anything with a super high stack, that’s just asking for a rolled or even broken ankle. Something quick drying with a medium not minimal cushion would have been perfect.

Getting to the Trail

I chose to drive up from Florida, you can park your car at the conference center in Morehead KY and if you let the Sheltowee Trace Association know in advance they can give you a ride up to the trail head from there, or you could call Billy Sherlin. This is by far the safest place to park. Alternatively you could park at the northern terminus itself but your car would be left in plain view of a road, and I may not have heard of anyone’s vehicle being vandalized I don’t think you would want to worry about that for a week or two while you’re hiking. As for flying to the trail I think easiest is to book a flight to Lexington and again message either Billy Sherlin or the Trace Association to give you a ride from there. This is all considering you would be starting in the north and finishing in the south. The other way around and I imagine flying into Knoxville or flying out of there would be the way to go. I don’t know where you would park a car at the southern end that would be safest but the trail head is again an option just assuming the risk of doing so is there. This parking lot in the south is far more busy, though the road is not! But the trailhead itself is. There’s a big river right there which kayakers and rafters use, as well as multiple trails that all spring off from roughly that point.

My Time On Trail

Now information is out of the way, how was my hike? It was great! I was thoroughly surprised by this trail. I purposely hadn’t done a ton of research beyond weather, and where I would get food because I wanted a completely fresh experience and perspective. I’m happy I did as I could have spoiled a lot. Though I do love the extensive research it’s nice to break away from that once in a while. My record attempt was more in the sense thinking I could take it just hiking the same way I always do. 30 mile days are not at all unfamiliar so just an extra hour or two each evening isn’t that bad right? Right, but things can always go awry! And they did. With proper planning I think it would have been easier but after a few exhausting days, and low appetite leading to low energy I gave in and slowed down for a few days. Though quickly realizing I still had to be home in time for work, I wound up speeding back up to the pace I was on and then some! Some of my last few days on trail were some of my biggest just to meet a deadline. Ultimately robbing me of what I love most about hiking, the freedom. Typically I quit my job and have nothing really tying me down when thru hiking but this time I had a looming date I needed to finish by, I had to somehow get back to my car, and then drive 15 hours straight home. Exhausting! But hey I did it, and got for the most part exactly what I wanted. To experience a trail outside of what most are doing. I gravitated initially towards the Sheltowee because I wanted to support a trail not many are doing, or at least not many who don’t live in Kentucky! I hadn’t heard much about this one prior to starting, other than Zoner who had attempted an unsupported record a couple years back which put it on my radar. Then, I saw a climbing film, that featured the Red River Gorge, and that was it. I saw all of the crazy geology and the natural rock arches, and knew Kentucky had something special. Similar in a way to what I imagine Utah would be if it was covered in trees and lush green forests. It really interested me, and I was not disappointed! There were so many giant rock walls and boulders on every section of trail, at every river, along every road, it was exactly what I wanted in regards to scenery. The rocks were oftentimes humbling, which I think can be seen in my videos or in my photos. Me this tiny little human absolutely dwarfed by these giants protruding out of the land surrounding me. Now beyond this I also knew the trail wasn’t complete and honestly that was actually a draw. I kind of like roadwalking, it can be a nice break from hiking up and down mountains all day. More often than I’ll admit I question if maybe I should walk the American Discovery Trail, a route spanning across the United States as I understand it, almost entirely on roads. I enjoy seeing the country from a different perspective, and roads certainly give you that. Often times more so than a trail can. From a third party perspective you can see how the locals live, their towns and architecture, you meet more people on roads, and they are easy to travel. While in the woods it is certainly a more rewarding experience, with more opportunity for enjoyment, but it’s just a different experience. I appreciate both for what they are. I would definitely rather be on trail but a road here or there is nice too.

In recent years I’ve become more and more aware of those like me quitting their jobs, or putting their life on hold to go off and do a long trail. Now one thing that gets me though is that everyone seems to go to the same places. The Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, John Muir Trail, or Long Trail. While there are hundreds of trails out there just waiting to be walked other than these! When I was on the Pacific Crest in 2018 that was the thing I liked the least about it. The sheer amount of people. Thousands upon thousands, every single day seeing upwards of 100 other hikers. It was truly something, and I know a lot of folks enjoy the camaraderie and I do too, but it was a little much for me. I like the solitude and really enjoy the fact I’m getting away from all of that on these trails. Not running into the same in a different form. So my sights have been set on trails that aren’t as known. The Sheltowee Trace was very high up on that list and I’m very glad I went for it. This isn’t to say I won’t go hike one of those other ones. I can guarantee you I will! I would love to go back to the Appalachian Trail for a very late season sobo, maybe start in September. Or do the PCT as a sobo, which I gather very few do it that way still. I’m sure in the coming years I’ll become a repeat offender. But coming from Florida and spending so much time on the Florida Trail here as a hiker, and volunteer, I see how some of these trails that aren’t as well known deserve the love equally or probably even more so. Maybe they aren’t quite the same level of wow as hiking through the high sierra on the John Muir Trail. But still provide that solitude I feel may be lost in other places. Still provide that life changing experience, and still provide that look into some fantastic new place you couldn’t even dream of previously. So here I am, I have a large list, it definitely still includes the big ones, but it also includes a lot of small ones. Particularly the Ozark Highlands, and Ouachita in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Among many others. Numbers rising is a good thing, as some of those people will finish their hike, and be looking for another, and another. Certainly they will find the Sheltowee Trace at some point like I have.

I hope this post helps you or maybe inspires you to get out and try something new. Of course I’m open to any questions you may have but if it’s directly trail related consider these options as well.

https://www.sheltoweetrace.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/STABigTurtle/

https://thetrek.co/hike-sheltowee-trace-kentuckys-323-mile-long-trail/

https://trailrunnermag.com/destinations/south/fkt-appalachias-sheltowee-trail.html

https://fastestknowntime.com/route/sheltowee-trace-ky

Don’t forget, a membership to the Sheltowee Trace Association goes a long way and I’m sure they would really appreciate it! If you do get out there to hike the trail, let them know!

Jupiter

Sheltowee Trace

via NPS

I’ve decided to attempt a speed record on the Kentucky long trail known as the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. Coming in at 323 miles total it is somewhat smaller than what typically interests me, but I feel regardless of the length getting to it is what’s important. You don’t need months on end alone in the woods to have a transformative experience, in this case it will be just a little over a week away from work. That is partly after all why I’ve chosen this one. I have a job and right now can’t afford the time off to do something larger, which I think should resonate with a few out there.

So why the Sheltowee Trace Trail? I know, Kentucky may not be the first choice of many when they’re booking a vacation, but from what I’ve seen in photos and video it looks absolutely beautiful and exactly what I’m looking for. From an aesthetic standpoint it may not be the Sierra Nevada but neither is the Florida Trail and yet I found a greatly understated beauty that I wanted to share. I feel Kentucky will offer that same experience.

And let’s be real, I really love hiking alone. My least favorite aspects of the bigger trails has been the sheer amount of people. Does the wonder of the trail make up for it? Yes certainly, and I know most love the community and I do to, but from a short distance. The solitude is something I look forward to. Ever since starting this hiking journey on my home trails nobody wanted to hike with me, mostly because of the prospect they would have to walk through some form of swamp land. Which was true. But it led to my ever growing appreciation for being alone. It seems to bring out feelings that aren’t often found in modern hustle and bustle of living in a city, and dealing with people. To escape for a little while and to have that is something special. Given the Sheltowee is relatively unknown at this point I see it as a huge upside. To meet the locals, travel through their land, and come away to tell the rest of the world about their splendor.

The most popular of the trails are popular for a reason, they’re exceptionally beautiful, there is massive amounts of support surrounding them, and absolutely no shortage of media coverage or information on them. But this can come with its downsides. Before starting the Appalachian Trail I knew of every little nook and cranny already, every little town, and even the majority of the most scenic points I had already seen in both photo and video. While in turn hiking through Canada I knew nothing. I had a vague understanding of where I would get food each week, and that was it. This added so much whimsy and excitement, to know I was having this alternate experience. I was one of the few out there, and I was walking through places few had before. Even in the trail registers on one page you could often see all the way back to 2009. While on the AT multiple pages of check ins get filled in a single day. Probably the best part of this is the people. On bigger trails the locals know who you are essentially, they know what you’re doing and sometimes it can feel as though there is no such thing as having the ability to make a genuine first impression.

So really I hope my story in Kentucky inspires others to venture out and come see it for themselves. I hope my stories from Quebec and the International Appalachian Trail inspire others to go there too. Looking back my best experiences and most authentic moments come from those tracts that are out of the way.

So why do I want to set a record on it? For me it’s exciting. Not knowing whether I’ll be able to, pushing myself in ways that inspire growth instead of remaining in comfort all of the time. Beyond that I really have some high hopes for Kentucky and this trail, it seems like everything I want, and though maybe a record isn’t the most optimal way to experience that it is my way at least this time.

I’ve been preparing and soon I’ll put my best foot forward to walk across the state.

The current record stands at 9d 8h 24m

I’m going for 8 days or less

You can follow my progress here:
https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0gQKJCTYkHTJ3Qyae1aoWjqMqc2Czre6a

That link should go active Tuesday morning with live updates every 10 minutes for the duration of this hike.

The Next Chapter

I’m off trail. I broke my foot in two places around mile 200, and proceeded to walk on that broken foot for roughly another 800 miles. Very much so determined to achieve my goal, mentally 100% in it, but not knowing why my foot was in so much pain for an entire month.

You can watch the whole story unfold through this video: https://youtu.be/WdVskPFiLJU

Walking on a broken foot is rough. Some days I’d be in excruciating pain, then other days I figure where my bone was more aligned like how a doctor will ‘set’ a bone, weren’t so bad. This drastic difference in what I was feeling everyday added to the ever lasting confusion that was, “what’s wrong with me?” I took 5 days off at an unplanned stop in Tehachapi to see if things would get better. Looking back, I don’t think anything would have changed even if I took a month off right then in there, which would be unacceptable to still achieve my goal. Sitting in that hotel by the second day without the adrenaline of the trail I found I could barely walk from the bed 10 feet to the bathroom. I had to hold onto the walls and prop myself up limping just to get there. A friend who was hanging out saw me do this and I could tell he knew something was seriously wrong, but who knew what.

I made it almost entirely through the Sierra Nevada beyond that, which I’m very happy about. It is by a large margin the most amazing place I’ve ever been in my life. Mountains surrounding towering over everything up to heights of 14,000 feet. This sense of energy and wonder surging through the landscape. Snow still at high elevation even though it was April, and at the valley floor well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This area absolutely amazed me, just across from the Sierra you have the White Mountains, the Inyos, and Death Valley. How could one small section of this planet get so many cool features? Regardless of the pain, I was happy to be there.

I intended on getting off trail for a short break. I had taken 5 days and that didn’t seem to do the trick so I decided on 10. Finally I got off trail to rest, saw a doctor, had some xrays taken, and my worst fear was realized. I thought maybe the problem was an overstretched tendon, or at worst a stress fracture. Come to find I broke two bones. I remember the moment it happened clearly, descending Mt San Jacinto, getting up from a short break, and tripping. Catching myself with my right foot, and putting all of my weight on it. Immediately feeling a very sharp pain. Some days were ok, and some days were absolutely horrible. Still walking as many as 30 miles a day to stay on track.

I had still fully intended on coming back to the trail to finish what I started, I even had purchased a plane ticket to return after those 10 days. Learning what I did at the doctors office threw that plan for a loop. I skipped my flight, and decided after a full month I would see how I feel and maybe return then. No dice, after an entire month I felt no better. Coming to the conclusion that I need to rest, and focus on what’s next.

Now this isn’t all bad. I’ve now had a lot of time getting a head start in my next adventures. Things I had planned for after this hike. Though I’ve been recovering and unable to hike I have been able to work on a lot of art, a lifelong passion beyond hiking (even getting a job as a local painting instructor.) As well as continue to edit more videos! So a lot of my focus has been on those two things, and I’m happy to report that I have a large stock of videos to share with you about hiking. A ton of new artwork, and a video series surrounding it I’m very excited to begin posting!

Beyond that I’ve made future hiking plans, and have in general been setting myself up as best I can to do a lot of hiking this next year. My big focus will be on shorter trails, and going for speed records on them. There’s a lot of really amazing trails out there that interest me greatly, and it’s been impossibly hard to stay away while recovering.

Plus my wonderful girlfriend Nicole who has been so incredibly supportive and understanding through all of this is certainly happy to have me home, and I’m certainly very happy to be home with her too! In the coming year beside my own personal pursuits of records on long trails, her and I plan to do a lot of hiking together as well. After all she is a long distance hiker herself.

A lot of good to come.

For info on my paintings I just posted a lot of what I’ve been working on that I’m very happy with you can check out here: jupiterhikes.com/art

So I’m back! Hey!!

 

Here’s to a speedy recovery!

Jup

The Desert

The desert? Sort of. The upper end of a thousand miles through arid dry country with little reprieve from the sun, and even less natural water.

I started my hike up the West Coast on May 10th. Heaps, John, and I slept under a bridge the night before near the terminus, near the Mexican border. We knew it was going to be extremely hot the next day so the goal was an early morning start. Unfortunately this type of environment is not just known for the heat of the day, but also the frigid nights. Waking up wasn’t easy, but my excitement to begin had me moving. John was there to shuttle, and see us off. He’s a great friend, and also happens to be an amazing cinematographer. He’d later proceed to follow me the following week filming. I’d cross a road, and he’d be there. I’d hike past a thick bush, he’d be in it. On the toilet, he’s there too. OK, not that last one but you get the idea. I’m nearly impossible to get ahold of so it was amazing he caught me so many times, and it was great to see him.

The water here is scarce. If it weren’t for kind locals there may be sections of trail without a running spring, stream, or lake for upwards of a hundred miles. Liquid is heavy so I try to plan my next stops well. Not well enough because I keep coming up short. The weather has been so strange from hot to cold that I can’t figure out how much I need yet. These things come in time. So naturally I’ve been quite thirsty some days. No water to fill up on for 6 miles and I’m running on empty? Sucks but I thank my Florida hiking experience, pushing what I once knew what was possible, and becoming quite intimate with the feelings of heat stroke and dehydration. At least with this trail there’s tons of people around hiking so worst case isn’t all that bad. Won’t find that in Florida. Due to the unpredictable nature of people, even when the maps say there’s no water for 20 miles chances are someone has left some along the way. A good and bad thing as this is almost encouraging to push what I should or shouldn’t do.

As I proceed I can feel myself getting stronger. My muscles hardly ache climbing. My lungs, though still working very hard, I’ve gotten mostly used to. And my joints all feel good. If it weren’t for a pesky tendon issue in my right foot I’d be in heaven. Though it hurts I know all to well that the light on the other end shines so incredibly bright. I remember spraining my ankle 400 miles into my 5,000 mile Eastern Continental Trail hike. It swelled up to twice the size and turned purple. I think we all know how that eventually went. I recovered, and continued to do what so many told me I couldn’t. Literally a guy at mile 0 sitting near the terminus in Quebec said I’d never make it. Suck it, guy on bench whom I wish I asked for an email address. This reminds me of a sentiment I had then. While others look for reasons to leave, I look for reasons to stay.

The trail has been beautiful. Winding and snaking the hills. Open and clean with views of the all encompassing surrounding mountains and valleys. I move on my own choosing to experience this without hiking or camping partners. It’s just not that kind of trip. Not for me, not now at least. Every morning I’m walking by 6 and stopping around 8. Searching for ridge tops to catch the first and last light of the sun, and sleep among the giants.

Though most have a hard time finding me I try and try every day to call my girlfriend back home. Nobody said being in a relationship while out here would be easy, and I knew that, but I love her. I know that this time here is finite and overall very short in the grande scheme of the cosmos. This first month I’ve collected post cards from towns I’ve visited, wildflowers from the trail, and little trinkets I’ve found along the way to send so she knows I’m thinking of her. Though I love being out here I love being with her too, and very much look forward to a long hike together. Among all the other things I’ve been dreaming about while I walk.

One of the best parts of these hikes is all the head space, the time to think and consider what’s important. I make lists and take notes. I know these thoughts can be fleeting and I want to remember everything.

Into the Sierra I go. Serious mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail Yoyo 2018 – Introduction

I want to do something big. So I guess I will.

Welcome to the Pacific Crest Trail, in itself shorter than my 2016 Eastern Continental Trail hike, but if you do it twice! It’s quite long then, huh?

So I guess I will.

In reality, welcome to my 2018 Pacific Crest Trail Yoyo. Named such because the motion of the hike mimics the toy. First up, then back down again, or two continuous thru hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail back to back. Starting at the Mexico border, traveling up through California, Oregon, and Washington to Canada, then back the same way I came finishing my long walk just outside of Mexico again where I started 6 months prior. A total of 5,300 miles for the round trip.

Now the length in itself is somewhat daunting, but it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with mega long distance hiking as the ECT was 4,800 miles, and I completed that in just under 7 months. Feeling stronger than ever as I hit the half way mark, and topping it all off with a self supported speed record on the Florida Trail to complete my journey. This trail however has much harsher conditions. I start in the desert come May with extreme heat, exposure, and less than promising water sources. Thrown upward into the high country of the Sierra with the threat of many miles of snow travel, elevations reaching nearly 14,000 feet, treacherous stream crossings, and long distances between safety or being able to get more food. Swarms of mosquitoes will welcome me into Oregon, and Washington brings its own extreme elevation gain. All to turn around and do it again! Which should be it’s own fun mental experiment seeing the same things twice. I know of at least one person who quit this endeavor just after halfway for that reason.

This is all fine and dandy, I think there are much harder trails out there, and it is all perspective, but to complete this specific goal I have to go fast! Really fast. I’ll need to average 30 miles a day for 6 months straight, racing the unpredictable seasons. Should I fail this I’ll get snowed out on my way south in the Sierras, and either seriously risk my life or call it a day. This is without a doubt the hardest aspect of the journey. Hiking so hard to beat this fluctuating unknown date in October when the first big snow storm hits, coming more than 4,000 miles, and having to quit. However If I get through I’ve basically done it, and the final 700 miles will be somewhat of a victory march.

Though I’m mostly focusing on the difficulties in this post it’s because not everyone is familiar these trails. So long as you come prepared I think some of these conditions are overstated, but they are there. I don’t think just anyone could simply get up off the couch and successfully complete this hike once, let alone twice, as I’m attempting. As the trail goes it’s actually known as having much easier tread than its weird east coast cousin, the Appalachian Trail, which throws you around in every which way via rocks and roots in truly sadistic ways seemingly never evening out, only going straight up a mountain or straight down a mountain. The Pacific Crest Trail was made for pack animals, so it’s extremely evenly graded, and clean. In other words, if the conditions surrounding the trail don’t get me, miles should come easier, and I’m very excited for that.

DSC_0100-02.jpeg

PCT yoyo watercolor depiction

I left you all in 2016, with my last public writings here about the 4,800 mile Eastern Continental Trail, and that faithful walk across America. From one point far away up in Canada, 7 months later finding myself in the deep south, Key West Florida. I knew it, I had been working towards it, maybe you saw it too. That was less so much a “trip of a life time” for me.It was more of a beginning. So here I am, less so much beginning again, and more so continuing what I started.

So why am I so driven to continue my journey along this particular trail?

While hiking over the mountains in Quebec, and again in New Hampshire I was left above the trees for many miles at a time, through storms, clouds, wind, rain, and sun. I was exposed, often given the opportunity to see forever. I was filled with glee, feeling as though I truly was on top of the world. But the Appalachians are best known for its dense forest, and relatively small mountains as opposed to the majestic, endless views that define the West. Thus these two points in time were the rare chances I had to experience that euphoria, bar a couple sections far south in Tennessee. I knew this, and though I loved all the rest, that was feeling above all the trees was where my heart suddenly felt strongest. I laughed at myself, resigned to hike this massively long trail that only shared a few key moments with that alpine environment. I joked while skipping on rocks above the trees that last time, maybe I should have just done the Pacific Crest Trail instead. Known for its sweeping views, exposure, and exceedingly tall elevations. No, this was what I needed, and this was ultimately what I had dreamt about for years prior, meticulously planning each step forward. It was right. It was a good beginning. If you could say that about a 7 month hike which nearly reaches 5,000 miles in length. A good beginning.

So here I am. The West calls, it did then, as it does now. Engraved in the human spirit maybe.

IMG_20170813_134346_065

Northern California on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Trinity Alps looming in the distance 2017

On this hike I’m following some self imposed guidelines.

  • I will avoid any sort of support from vehicles. This means no hitch hiking, or rides to and from town. I will walk the entire distance, and walk in and out of any town I choose to stop in, or pick up food.
  • I will carry all of my own food, water, and gear between towns as a backpacker. Or in other words I won’t partake in what is somewhat commonly known as ‘slack-packing’ where someone shuttles your gear ahead a days length away for you so you can do the same distance without the burden of your provisions.
  • Should there likely be a closure for fire, or otherwise I will walk any official detour around back to trail, connecting footsteps. Again, not accepting rides.

The point of all these rules is to stack the deck against myself. Each and every time you set your sights on a new objective, it’s about giving yourself an obstacle. Instead of seeing it as 500 laps of punishment for losing I see it as the path to beating the odds next time. By leaping that hurdle it’ll be that much easier to achieve my next goal. This is, as I like to say, self imposed suffering. If I should deviate from these rules in some way I’ll be honest about doing so, as I think it goes towards my own purity in this endeavor.

Only 3 people before have done a yoyo of the PCT. Most notably Scott Williamson, the only person to do it twice. To say he’s well known out west is an understatement, having hiked the trail 13 times as of 2011. Then there’s Eric D, who has done it fastest in 183 days. And Olive McGloin most recently, becoming the first woman to do this.

I’ll be aiming to beat Eric’s time this year with a goal of less than 180 days, and become the fastest to ever do it.

Interestingly enough all 3 hikers have started, hit the half way point, and finished at very roughly the same dates give or take a week. I think this is a testament to the extremely tight time frame to which one must adhere. This is also why being the fastest is so appealing. If I am to complete a PCT yo-yo, I might as well be the fastest. If you followed my ECT hike, you know I do love those long lonely days, and I never was much for being normal.

I start walking May 10, with an ambitious goal I’m eager to take on. And let’s be real, there’s much more ambitious journeys out there, but this is another good step in that direction.

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John Zahorian and Castle Crags on the Pacific Crest Trail 2017

You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Jupiter

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