Friday, August 31, 2012

Bug Off!

This summer, I have found the bugs in the woods to be much worse than I can remember them ever being. I truly dislike using bug spray, especially the ones that work; the ones with a high percentage of DEET. In the past, I have simply hiked with the attitude that bugs don't bother me, and they wouldn't. I know that sounds weird, but it worked for me.

This year, the mosquitos especially, have enjoyed a good laugh over my positive thinking bug deterrent. There have been times when I felt like a Gulliver with the bugs as Lilliputians dive bombing my head in Sopwith Camels. And I swear I could hear them laughing at me. So I started wearing bug dope. I have used several Off! products over the course of the summer. Here is a review of each one I tried.

The first one I tried was Off Smooth and Dry. This is an aerosol, making it impractical for extended backwoods travel, though it is fine for day hikes. This spray is almost a powder. Though this is 15% DEET, there was no DEET burn at all, except when I sprayed my hands and rubbed it on my sweaty face. It was very effective against the bugs. I did have to reapply it over the hike as sweat diluted it, but that is the case with all bug repellents. The only downside to this product is that it stains clothes white, though the stains come out in the wash and I have the attitude that if I am not dirty on a hike, I am doing something wrong. I found this product to be effective against mosquitos, deer flies and ticks.

The next product I used was Off Active. This non-aerosol spray contains 25% DEET and claims to be sweat resistant. I did not have to reapply this product over the hike, so as far as I am concerned this product is sweat resistant. However, there was a pretty good burn with this spray, especially on my face, but I could feel it on my arms as well. On the plus side, it was effective at keeping the bugs away.

Next up was Off Botanicals. This product was in the form of a moist towelette. It is a "plant-based" repellant and contains no DEET. I was walking through tall grass the day I tried this repellent, and put in on after I had started. Before I put it on, I had removed three ticks that had bit me enough so that two of the spots bled when I removed them. I rubbed the towelette right over those spots when I applied it. There was no burn of any kind. Though the packaging appears to suggest that it is a mosquito repellent, as opposed to a bug repellent, I found it to be effective against ticks and deer flies as well. I might consider this product, but I am not a fan of the moist towelette application method.

Finally, I tried Deep Woods Off. This pump spray repellent contains 25% DEET like the Off Active. I am not really sure why, but I felt no burn with this product, even on my face. I have had this bottle for a while so I thought maybe it had expired, but I can't find any thing on the packaging to suggest it ever expires. This product was effective against the spectrum of bugs in the Maine woods, I was not bothered, though I did have to reapply it over the course of my hike.


I still don't like bug spray, and would prefer not to wear it. I carry a small bottle of Ben's 100 in my backpack that I may have had since I was no Outward Bound in the seventies. That will stay there. My day pack, however, has had the Off Active in it. That will be replaced with the Deep Woods Off, because in spite of needing to be reapplied, it provided both comfort and effectiveness.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Do You Have What It Takes?

For the past few years, I have read, with great interest, the trail journal of an AT thru-hiker (someone who hikes the trail from Georgia to Maine (northbounder) or the reverse (southbounder) in one hike). Last year I read the journal of "Portrait"; most long distance hikers adopt trail names.

Portrait on Katahdin at sunrise- the end of his journey.
Portrait is one of the most poignant writers I have read. He is obviously very intelligent and his writing reflects that. He comes from a family of thru-hikers- he mentioned both his brother and his sister had done the AT in previous years. He also is a pretty good photographer, taking one my favorite hiking photos ever.

This year, I read Dos' trail journal. Dos has been a great read as well, but for different reasons. She is older, and has done the hike carrying some baggage; she is suffering from PSTD, which has reared its ugly head a couple of times during the hike. Dos just finished the hike a couple of days ago, so, "Congrats, Dos!" I like to think I have what it takes (physically and mentally) to do a thru-hike, but who knows?

Here is what I think a thru-hike would take:

Patience. An AT thru-hike takes an unsupported average hiker between five and six months. You walk until you are done, eat, go to bed, wake at dawn or thereabouts, and do it again.

Patience. I don't think there is any way to really train for a thru-hike. Sure you can be fit, but there is a difference between training and thru-hiking. My plan for a thru-hike would include a good long period of building up the mileage; going too far, too fast seems like a great way to fail at a thru-hike.

Acceptance. You gotta be willing to accept the world outside of your head. You are gonna be real dirty- accept it; you may be in a shelter with someone you don't like- you can't change that. Some nights sleep is going to be elusive- so what, for tomorrow you walk.

Joy. The trail will present incredible opportunities. There will be physical beauty, there will be human kindness and selflessness. There will be a good showing of Nature's awesomeness. There will be solitude and great camaraderie, sometimes at the same time.

Mental fortitude. You hike and then hike some more; even when it is the last thing you want to do. You are gonna hike through rain and possibly snow. You are gonna get cold and wet. You may have to hike at night. You are going to have aches and pains, but you are going to have to hike through them.

Flexibility. One of the most alluring things about a thru-hike to me, is the way that thru-hikers develop the ability to go with the flow. If the day is hot enough to be dangerous for hiking, they hang out in the shade of a culvert during the day and hike in the cool of the night instead.

Selfishness. At the end of the day, you have to hike your own hike. You will hook up with other hikers and hike as a group, perhaps for weeks on end. But, the time comes when your paths separate- they want to go into town and you want to hike on- and you leave the group to go about your hike.

I am certain that for most people, the thought of hiking for six months non-stop sounds crazy. I am equally sure that for many people who start the hike, the romance of the trail quickly dims, and they leave the trail (a very small percentage of people who start, finish). For me, the grittiness of the trail draws me; the physical and mental test. At the moment, life's responsibilities prevent me from going, but eventually, I hope to create a way to go test myself on the trail.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fat Man Walking

Back in 2008, I headed back out into the woods.

When I was much younger, I had hiked a bit with my dad; I recall two attempts up Big George, one successful (the other in a wild thunderstorm above timberline), two or three climbs up Tumbledown in Maine, Mt. Blue in Maine and Cadillac on Mount Desert Island. I know there were other hikes, those are just the ones I remember.

When I was 16, he managed to send me out to Colorado, for Outward Bound. I had seen a documentary on Outward Bound and thought it looked awesome (from afar) and Dad found a way to send me (as much to live vicariously through my adventures as anything).

I don't recall much hiking with Dad (or anybody) after Outward Bound. He bought me a Kelty external frame backpack for high school graduation and an EMS 15 degree bag at some point, but neither saw any use backpacking.

Then came life; running the family business, marriage, a couple kids, a house, a dog... Though I never forgot how much I loved being in the woods, I didn't get into the mountains. We did manage a few very small hikes with the family, but that was it. (I actually broke my leg on one of those hikes. This might be a good post at some point.) There were also a couple of amazing mountain pond fly fishing hikes with the guys, one to Speck Pond and one to Horns Pond on Bigelow. I was sore for a week after each of them; but those were incredible hikes.

I got fat; and very out of shape.

At some point, maybe 2006, we climbed Sugarloaf with friends. We went up the back side (an actual hiking trail) and down the ski trails. Everyone hiked faster than I did, but as miserable as I was, I was determined, and never stopped. By the time we got to the top, I was soaked (wearing cotton), and mean. I was so tired and angry with myself for letting myself go so badly, I was just plain mean.

The next year, I started hiking (walking in the woods, really); very slowly. That was 2008. I was 50 pounds heavier than I should have been, sedentary and suffering from the effects of fast food for at least one meal a day, five days a week. That first "hike" was at a couple of trails built by Trails LA in Lewiston, Maine. Walking on urban trails made me angry. So I drove to Fryeburg and hiked up to Lord Hill mine. The weather was fairly warm and humid; and very still- there was a "hurricane" coming up the east coast. I remember that there wasn't a sound in the woods; not a bird, not a bug- they were all apparently hunkered down.

At the mine I sliced my finger with a rock. It bled pretty bad. I had nothing in my pack to fix it, so I wrapped a bandanna around it and made a mental note to put a small first aid kit in my pack. I had realized how awesome it was to hike alone; but at this point, I was woefully unprepared, even for a hike as small as Lord Hill.

The hike up Lord Hill was the beginning of my return to the woods, and my quest for better health. At the time I was angry and disgusted with myself. And though it continues to be a long journey, with many fits and starts, it has been worth it. Between then and now, I have tried to get off the medication that had increased my weight by 10 pounds, only to find that getting off it causes weight gain as well. My overall weight gain went from 50 pounds to 70. But I never lost faith. And I stayed in the woods. At 70 pounds overweight, I began having foot and lower leg issues. I began looking at boutique ultra light gear to offset the weight. Boy is that stuff expensive! So, I decided I would  try to lose the weight from my body instead

I joined the gym, with the plan of first getting into better cardio shape. That lasted 2 trips to the gym. I just can't see riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill or climbing on a stair climber, when I can just go to the woods. I stopped going, but continued to pay for the membership (this is very out of character for me; the continued to pay thing, I hate wasting money).

The problem was, I couldn't walk my way out of the foot and lower leg issues. The more I tried to walk the worse they became, and recovery wasn't a day or two, it was a week or two, undoing every gain I had made. I was stuck!

Then, on a whim, I went vegan. (I am not here to sell veganism, but it worked for me.) I had heard enough accounts of people who had experienced fantastic results, that I had to try it. Honestly, I was shocked. In the first two weeks, I lost 17 pounds and I felt amazing. Then over a short period of time, I lost another 8 pounds.

The foot and leg problems started to subside. Many days I walked 2 miles at lunch and did 5 miles on the weekend. I began to contemplate running again - I had not run for 23 years. My doctor suggested running intervals in the woods- only run the uphills, because it is easier on the body. When I tried running on the road I found that my core was nowhere strong enough and the lower leg problems returned. I found though, to my delight, that I could run on a treadmill without much problem. My cardio began to improve.

I went up Mt Zircon with my elder son. To my utter amazement, I was able to average 2.5 miles per hour up. My pace actually caused him to sweat through his shirt, something he has never done while hiking with me. I felt great, and had no pain in the following days.

So here we are. I am back at the gym, this time lifting. My weight loss has leveled for the moment (it has been a while actually), but I am more determined than ever. I did a ten mile hike in four hours last Saturday and am planning another tomorrow. I feel better than I have in years, and am really looking forward to some great adventures to come. I am even daydreaming about doing the AT.

This is not a recipe for success I am offering to others. I read a bunch on those with great interest an did nothing. In the end, I had to discover my own internal motivation. It took years! First, getting back into the woods and wanting to be there more often, for longer periods, more comfortably. I had toyed with the idea of becoming a vegan for a couple of years, so it was in the back of my mind. And, I found that it worked for me, and really has provided the impetus for the rest of my gains. Back in the winter my doctor was recommending high blood pressure medication; when I saw him early this summer he commented, "I can't say your blood pressure is good, because it's excellent!"

I am still about 35 pounds heavier than I want to be, so this is a work in progress. But I have a plan; a plan that includes being in the mountains. That is where you'll find me. If you see me, say "Hi". If you are struggling with healthy weight issues, my message is this, "Don't lose faith!" Stop caring about what other people did to be successful (me included); find find that thing that you can be passionate about and use it to create your internal motivation. Every personality approaches things differently, so what I do is likely not going to work for others as well. Cut yourself some slack and commit yourself to finding the motivation to works for you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You're Gonna Get Wet - Deal With It!

Okay, let's face it, if you spend anytime hiking, you are going to get wet. Whether it is a warm day and you are perspiring (I sweat, but some of you might prefer that term) or it's raining or both, being wet is a given. Now that we have accepted that reality, let's talk about how to deal with it.

First and foremost, remember this: "Cotton kills!" It is also uncomfortable when it gets wet. When I hike, I generally have only two pieces of cotton in my attire: a handkerchief as a sweatband and maybe underwear, if I am just out for the day. Cotton, which is comfortable when dry, causes problems out in the mountains because it holds moisture against your skin. There is some real science here (a great article by one of my favorite hiking bloggers on the subject), but the thing to remember is that wet cotton 1) doesn't dry fast enough and 2) doesn't insulate; in fact, because it holds the moisture and doesn't insulate, it has a negative insulating factor. In the case of the handkerchief, I want the negative insulating factor; it is one way I deal with overheating, but it is the only place I will wear cotton (save the undies, sometimes).

So, obviously, you will need a shirt that isn't cotton. Your core is the most critical important part of your body for well being, and the shirt you put against it is an important choice. In the summer months, you want a shirt that will pull the moisture away from your skin, will provide insulation when wet and will dry quickly. There are many shirts out there that will do this. My favorite, though is the UnderArmour Loose T-Shirt. I haven't tried the EMS Techwick or the offerings from any of the other outdoor retalers, and they may be just as good, but I haven't tried them, so I can't recommend them.

Last year, I had family up from California. While they hike, they had never worn technical fabric. I took them to Cabellas before we headed up to Katahdin. The day we hiked was very hot with extreme humidity. As we approached Katahdin Stream Campground on the way down, both my sister and her husband commented on how amazing those Under Armour shirts were- they had never been so comfortable hiking. It really does make a difference.

You also want your pants to dry quickly. In the summer, I wear shots (although I am seriously considering buying a pair RailRiders Eco Mesh Pants). I currently rotate a pair of Columbia Cargo Shorts and a pair of North Face Shorts. Both are made from synthetic fabrics that dry extremely fast. This is very important because when it rains, the bottom of my shorts legs get wet (I don't wear rain pants and all the water from my rain coat ends up on my pants). It also allows me to go swimming without concern if the opportunity presents itself.

Socks are another important area- mostly for comfort in the summer, more for well being in the shoulder seasons and the winter. I wear Smartwool or some other Merino wool blend in the summer. Though my hiking shoes are waterproof, I still want to prepare for wet feet. (Truth be told, I would prefer that my hikers were not waterproof- poor decision on my part.) I thoroughly enjoy walking through that nice cold stream that generally runs beside the trail at some point on the way down, (with my shoes on) but want my feet to be comfortable when I get out. Wool is the natural technical fabric- it insulates just as well when wet as it does when dry.

So there you have it. In addition to maintaining warmth, technical fabrics are significantly more comfortable when you are wet. If you are at all like me, being comfortable makes hiking much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Random Thoughts

As recently as a year ago I considered myself to be conservative. In fact, I used to think of myself as just slightly to the right of Genghis Khan. When it came to government intrusion of any kind, I was libertarian; nay, perhaps anarchist (in the pure sense of the word).

Over the last year, I have learned to embrace my inner hippie though. Interestingly, and I should probably point out that I don't consider political inclination to be a lateral scale, but a circular continuum, I find myself rapidly becoming egalitarian. This may just be in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, though.

Either way, I thought I would just throw out some observations of the world, with no particular theme or order.

I have always thought that smokers should have rights, especially in their own properties. Having said that, if it is as bad as everyone makes it out to be, just make it illegal and get it over with. Obviously, the government has a vested interest in the propagation of smoking, or it would already be gone. BTW, I can't stand when I am hiking in the woods and look down and see a cigarette butt; doesn't it take like 400 million years for filters to degrade? (I know at worst it's 15 years or so, but they just really irritate me.)

I love how loud motorcycles are suddenly loud for safety sake. Seems to me that if your want to be safe you wouldn't be on a motorcycle in the first place. If you insist on making something as unsafe as a motorcycle safer, painting it and the rider day-glow yellow and orange would be better than removing the muffler. I do have to say, that I love that people want to get out and see the natural world; but could you leave your loud hog behind so that I can enjoy the peace and quite of my hike...

Why do I always run into people dressed in walking shoes carrying a 12 ounce water when I am hiking back to the car late in the day. I hope they don't plan on going very far. Yikes.

Speaking of yikes, I once ran into a group of two "men", one woman and two kids hiking. One of the kids was holding the woman's hand, the other was on one of the men's shoulders; he was drinking a beer as he hiked; the other man was drinking a beer that we still in the six pack rings with four other full beers and smoking a cigarette. There was no water to be seen and nobody had a pack of any kind. Hmmm, can you say recipe for disaster?

Completely off topic, but don't you wish government regulations didn't dictate dumb stuff? I love the braille instructions on drive up ATMs that are clearly marked, "No walk-ups allowed.". I can only assume that is required be some part of the ADA.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Keen Targhee II Trail Shoe

I really like this shoe. I bought them when I was at my heaviest (250 lbs) and was having all kinds of lower leg and foot problems.

The Keen Targhee II is a low cut hiking shoe. It is waterproof and breathable. I find it to be very sturdy and comfortable, both in the woods and in town. The lacing ends with the laces going through a strap that goes to the top of the heel on both sides. I assume the purpose of this is to lock the heel down and prevent it from moving side to side. The sole of the shoe is very sturdy and provides comfort on rocks, sticks and roots. The toe box is quite large and provides a very comfortable fit.

I have been very impressed with the waterproofing on this shoe. I have yet to have any kind of water enter the shoe through the membrane. I also find the breathability to be second to none. This is one of the shoe's best features - you can wear them day after day and the don't get funky.

Breaking them in required daily use for me and I did feel some discomfort in the sides of the heel where the straps between the heel and the lacing passes through the stitching. This mechanism produced a bump inside the heel area on both sides that irritated my foot.

I bought Superfeet when I bought these shoes, but found that the arch support and insole in the shoe itself was more than adequate. These shoes, in fact, became the only shoe I wore as my feet and ankles rehabilitated themselves as I dropped from 250 down to 225.

The only issue I have with the show is the traction. Wearing them at work, I have to be extremely careful walking across a newly mopped floor or wet concrete. And though I wear them all time on walks through the woods, I am very uncomfortable climbing mountains with them. In fact, the first time I wore them hiking, I climbed Streaked Mountain in Buckfield, Maine at the tail end of a rain shower. Streaked is sheet rock from about half wayThough I got to the top okay, as I was shooting video with my phone at the summit, I slipped on the rock and smashed my phone on the ground. Coming down was extremely dicey, with my feet slipping out from under me a couple of times.


I really like the fit. I find the shoe to be very comfortable and sturdy.
The KeenDry waterproofing is great
Breathability is fantastic
Very sturdy shank, enhancing the comfort.


Traction is terrible


I really like these shoes, as I have said before. However, in terms of using them for what I bought them for, mountain climbing, they are unusable. The lack of confidence they inspire prevent me from wearing them in the mountains. This is disappointing at the price point of $120.

If you are looking for around town shoes and money isn't the issue it is to me, these are great shoes. Personally, I am going back to my worn out LL Bean $59 hikers.

Merrell Siren Sport Gore-Tex XCR Low Hiking Shoe - Women's - Brindle

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mount Zircon, Rumford, Maine

Mount Zircon, in the western foothills of Maine, has an elevation of 2,250 ft. The summit is mostly treeless and provides wonderful views in all directions; the Presidential and Mahoosuc Mountains to the west, the Bigelow area to the north, the Androscoggin River valley to the east and the Sumner/Buckfield area to the south.

The trail goes through an area with an interesting history, both human and natural. Mount Zircon is home to the Moon Tide Spring; a spring so named due to the cyclical fluctuations in its flow. According to the summary of The Mount Zircon Moon Tide Spring An Illustrated History by Randall H. Bennett, the spring opened to the public in the 1850's. At some point it was purchased by the Ricker family; founders of the Poland Spring Hotel. Eventually, there was a 50 room hotel built on the site. All that remains, at least on the trail, is the spring house, which is behind a chain link fence, and some very polite No Trespassing signs (I am not being sarcastic; they say "Please") under the Poland Spring Water Company logo.

I found the trail head somewhat difficult to find. This is likely due to the fact that I didn't fully read the directions to it on Maine Trail Finder. Interestingly, I pulled into what I thought was the trail head only to find a sign stating that "This is not the Mount Zircon trail", but with no further instructions. Once I stopped and read the directions again, I found it without trouble.

The trail description says that the trail follows a dirt road for two miles. That is exactly what it does. There is no approach; it starts from the gate at a steady grade and in an almost straight line for 2.2 miles before leaving the road to the left. When we (my son Ryan and I) were there, there was active logging going on in the area, though they were not present while we were there.

As we hiked the road, we came to a fork with the right side of the fork likely going to the Mount Zircon Reservoir. It was obvious that we should take the left, in spite of absolutely no trail markings of any kind, because the right side had the polite trespassing signs on it.

We knew the trail would leave the road to the left and we were looking for it. Eventually we encountered a trail off to the left that had many snowmobile and ATV trail markings on it. We contemplated this trail and decided it wasn't where we wanted to go. I consulted the Backpacker GPS trails app on my phone and it made sense to continue up the road. When we did find the trail to the summit, the start of it was clearly marked; though the trail had no markings until the summit where it is marked with trail tape.

From where the trail left the road, it continued in a straight line, at a constant grade (steeper than the road) until we reached the summit cap itself. At one point, it follows what looks like a waterfall, and though there was no water present when we were there, the rocks were covered with moss. Unlike the road, which runs through a mostly deciduous forest, the trail to the summit goes through a wonderful fir and spruce coniferous forest, providing a beautiful resinous smell on the humid day we were there.

As soon as we reached the summit, we encountered the benchmark. We wandered around in the clearing for a few moments, taking in the sights, before realizing that the fire tower that is supposed to be there was nowhere in sight. This led to looking for the trail to continue and we found that the trail continued a bit further, where we found the true summit with a cairn and a rusting fire tower, lying on its side.

We could see rain off to the west, though a quick check of the MyCast weather app on my phone revealed none near us, the weather seemed favorable for a thunderstorm. We quickly made the decision to move off the summit, in great part due to the moss covered sheet rock on trail. We were prepared for rain, but I wanted to be off that part of the trail before it got wet. In the end, it did not rain; we did feel a couple rain drops though it was probably virga that reached the ground.

My three least favorite types of hiking are, in order of dislike, road, clear-cut and straight line constant grade. This trail offers two of the three. While the summit was nice, I guess I am more of a journey than destination guy, and I found this hike to be boring.

Wenzel Current - Hiker Tent - Grey

Friday, August 3, 2012

Goose Eye - Wright Trail

This is the initial post I wrote when I established Originally written in September of 2009, it was mothballed until I launched in 2012
I decided to try Goose Eye (map) again. This was a place I remember my father talking of, though I believe he was talking about either coming up from the Success Pond Road or across the AT. Either way, I find myself drawn to places I remember him talking about, so rather than go the Kearsarge, which I don't think he ever mentioned, I ended up back at Goose Eye.

I went looking for extreme conditions, and I found them. By extreme, I mean rain, thunder and lightning, and high temps. Though the temperature was only 70, the dew point was probably 70 and the humidity was 98%. (I know the temperature, I hike with a thermometer, but the dew point and humidity are purely anecdotal.) Let's just say it was muggy! And raining.

The Maine Conservation Corps had worked on the trail during the previous week and the trail was it great shape. In spite of all the rain we had had, the trail was mostly well drained and firm.

I hiked along the river to the crossing where Lucy and I had to turn back earlier this year. I hiked relatively slowly, because a) it was oppressively muggy, b) I needed to warm up and, c) I'm still not in trail shape.

I crossed the "stream", expecting to start moving away from the sound of running water, which had been present to this point. Almost immediately, another "stream" appeared to my right. Boy, there is a lot of water up there. When I hike, I enjoy the full sensory experience. I love the smells of the woods; the sounds of the bugs, birds and water- even the sound of Lucy's collar jingling and the sound of my own footsteps and huffing and puffing. But in this case, the sound of running water was almost overpowering- it was all around me and really loud!

I am a proponent of slow hiking, or maybe "off-speed hiking". There are certain places where hiking fast is great; it's excellent exercise and physically challenging. But, I've noticed that my awareness of the environment around me is inversely proportional to the speed at which I'm hiking. When I'm slow hiking, I really see the landscape. I notice things; both forest and trees alike (an allusion to "can't see the forest for the trees"). I've seen plants growing through a hole in a leaf from the previous autumn's leaf-fall; I've seen tiny ants hauling a queen ant up a tree trunk; I've seen boulder fields along a forest hill side, each with a tree growing over it like the wrapped tentacles of an octopus. When I hike fast, my focus goes to the rocks and roots of the trail, and where my feet are going to go. So, as I hiked slowly because of the conditions, my head was up; I was looking around. What a beautiful area!

My primary goal was the campsite roughly 2.5 miles from the road. I am scouting places to "backpack" to. This is an ideal spot. There are two tent-sites around a common fireplace and rustic picnic table. The site is located where two streams come together, so the overnight sounds would be amazing. Looks very interesting indeed. I am planning to spend at least one night here this fall!

The trail splits into a northern trail and a southern trail at the campsite. The "recommended" ascent route is up the southern trail. This takes you one of the peaks of Goose Eye, where it intersects with the AT (Appalachian Trail). From there, the proscribed route takes you west on the AT across a middle peak (the real peak) to another peak. Here you leave the AT and head down the northern trail. Sounds like an awesome route. Only thing is, the southern trail is closed do to hazardous conditions.

So up the northern route I went. Immediately, the trail began a steep ascent. I was doing fine, but was a bit concerned, that my head felt hot to the touch. I felt fine, but my skin felt hot. Given the weather conditions and the potential for heat stroke or prostration or whatever, combined with my lack of conditioning (and the fact that this week would be a bad one to be limping around) I set a turn-back time of 2PM. One thing I have determined about solo hiking is that I feel compelled to pay really close attention to my body. And I always think about the trip down: a little tired up, leads to a dangerous trip down. Needless to say, I am sure I made the right decision.

As I was nearing the end of the trail, I spotted a small beetle fighting its way through the forest debris covering the trail. What was interesting was that when I stopped to watch it, the beetle began, I guess, playing part of the debris. I watched it for a while and it didn't move. I moved downhill from it, and dang if it didn't out wait  me. Interesting.

Overall it was a great day. Wish I would have summited, but whatever, I got what I came for. I highly recommend this area.