We consider ourselves pretty spontaneous, but when we were sitting on the couch this last Fall (2017) having a few craft brews and discussing how much we would love to go see the Peak Fall colors somewhere amazing, little did we know a week later we would be taking a 2000 mile road trip to the U.P of Michigan. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, lakes, forest, and shoreline beckon you to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Hiking, camping, sightseeing, and four season outdoor opportunities abound
We quickly went to recreation.gov and got permits to backpack the 42 mile Lakeshore Trail that is also a part of the North Country Trail. You have to reserve and have permits to camp on the Lakeshore Trail.
The Lakeshore Trail is an amazing trail that starts on the high sand dunes in Grand Marais and ends at Munising Falls, (right outside of Munising, MI). On our trek of the 42 miles we went from sand, to thick dense forest, to hiking along the cliffs of the Pictured Rocks. There is never a dull moment.
There are 14 backcountry campsites along the way. Most of the time you will get your water right from the lake. Most of the campsites give you access right to beachfront and some amazing sunsets. Most of the trail is straight with little climbs. There is some gravel road hiking for a mile or two, but those are access points to the bigger campgrounds.
The best time to hike the trail is late summer or at Peak Fall. You get some amazing sunsets, since the trail faces the southwest side of Lake Superior. There are lots of waterfalls in this area to see and explore.
You can pick up a shuttle service that will take you to the Grand Marais Visitors Center where the Lakeshore Trail starts (if your hiking from East to West). The parking lot at Munising Falls is big, and more than safe to leave your car. From leaving the Grand Marais Visitor Center the trail is awesome and pretty easy.
TIP: If you are looking for great place to camp with your camper or RV, you can boondock at Bay Furnace (right on the lake btw) and spend some time in Munising (which we totally recommend) and have a cup of coffee at our favorite place Falling Rock Cafe and Books
After your hike, take the Sunset Tour of the Pictured Rocks and see the cliffs from a different perspective. It really is beautiful.
Munising Michigan and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers a ton of unique hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and camping. This is by far one of our favorite places to hang out on a long week trip.
Us backpackers can spend a lot of time looking at the latest and greatest new piece of gear out there. In fact, according to IBES World, market research say’s it’s a 4 billion dollar a year industry. That’s a lot of gear.
Over the next five years, as total recreation expenditure expands, demand at hiking and outdoor equipment is anticipated to grow
We are always looking for that piece of “WOW” gear that is the lightest and sometimes the trendiest. However, we have a piece of gear that doesn’t cost anything and we think is essential. It’s lightweight, it will stand the test of time, and it will get you through more uphills, downhills, and weather than you will believe.
The most important piece of gear a backpacker will ever need is a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. No piece of gear will ever help you embrace the trail and Mother Nature than a positive mental attitude will.
Let’s face it, sometimes there is a suck value to hiking in a cold rain storm that seems to last forever. But the one thing that you have going for yourself is your ability to be grateful for that suck value. I mean really, you are out there! You are doing what you wanted to do! Of course it’s going to have suck value. All things worth while do. But it’s going to be your positive mental attitude that will make or break how you experience your hike.
After 20 years of backpacking I can tell you that a positive mental attitude is everything.
For new people just getting into backpacking, getting started is the hardest part. However, with Social Media and the ease of just watching someone else’s adventure on a YouTube video, it’s easy to get caught up with the romantic idea of the adventure, instead of the journey. Moreover, just how hard it is to actually carry a backpack for 6 months and live in the woods.
When I thru-hiked the AT in 2003 I probably quit a thousand times a month. It was one of the most aggravating thoughts I had. My thoughts in my head constantly nagging at me,”do you really need to do this?” The answer was always the same…”NO”. I don’t HAVE to do this, I WANT to do this. There is a time in everyone’s life when you have to look in the mirror and do that one thing that is the hardest, and that is…change.
Change is the one single moment in your life when you know for sure that the outcome won’t happen unless you change the way you think about what you want the most. I had to change my attitude about what I was reacting to. Stop whining about the weather, my aches, pains, other hikers, the terrain, the food, just about everything.
It’s that quintessential reaction that I love to use when life or the trail start beating me up mentally. That one feeling that makes me stop in my tracks and breathe. That one beautiful thought that is free and weighs nothing. I carry with it with me whenever or where ever I hit the trail…that one price of gear is: Gratefulness.
So you want to get outdoors and have fun. So many places to go and visit. Planning that amazing vacation or trekking out into the Wilderness for some long over due quiet time. But sometimes in planning the fun stuff, we forget to have a PLAN for real stuff. What do we mean by “real stuff”? The stuff that you don’t think of until that moment of “what do I do now” happens.
Real Stuff like being prepared for some circumstances that happens ALL the time. We call it a “safety plan” Let’s take a look at some of the common issues people have while enjoying the outdoors.
FALLS – Falls while hiking in mountainous terrain typically account for more fatalities than any other direct cause. A fall can result in a few scrapes minutes from the trailhead or life-threatening injuries miles – and hours – from help. This is why it’s especially important to never hike alone.
HEAT: Overexertion on hot summer days can lead to heat-related injuries.
COLD & HYPOTHERMIA: The lowering of your body’s core temperature below normal can lead to poor judgement and confusion, loss of consciousness and death – even in summer! We have seen this first hand when temps are in the 90’s and people get wet from a cold rain. Wind starts howling, clouds block the sun, and the next thing you know, you start shivering.
No matter if you are day hiking, backpacking, kayaking, having the right safety plan is the best thing you can do for you and your family.
According to the Journal of Travel Medicine, From 2003 to 2006, there were 12,337 SAR operations involving 15,537 visitors. The total operational costs were US$16,552,053. The operations ended with 522 fatalities, 4,860 ill or injured visitors, and 2,855 saves. Almost half (40%) of the operations occurred on Saturday and Sunday, and visitors aged 20 to 29 years were involved in 23% of the incidents. Males accounted for 66.3% of the visitors requiring SAR assistance. Day hiking, motorized boating, swimming, overnight hiking, and nonmotorized boating were the participant activities resulting in the most SAR operations. But here is the most important point:
An error in judgment, fatigue and physical conditions, and insufficient equipment, clothing, and experience were the most common contributing factors.
So what do you do? ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN. What’s a PLAN?
Finally. Understand the acronym STOP-A This is the biggest asset to you if your plan has to do with being lost. The number one question we get when taking new people out backpacking is “what if I get lost”.
If there is no immediate threat, like a wildfire or a bear breathing down your neck, then stop and sit down. The goal is to prevent any irrational thinking due to fear or an adrenaline dump.
let’s break out the best survival tool we have, our brain.
Countless books and stories attest to the fact that a positive mental attitude can pull people through even the most dire of circumstances.
Understand the difference between real threats and fears.
Take a look at your surroundings and identify threats. Are there widow makers? How much time until it gets dark? Do you hear vehicles in the distance? Can you smell a campfire?
After thinking about your priorities and observing your surroundings and gear, it is time to make some choices. Like prioritizing, planning is dependent on your situation. Generally, staying put and waiting for rescue is a good plan, but what if you didn’t tell anyone you were headed out and no one will know you are missing for days?
The best plan in the world will not do you any good until it is put in to action. Once you have a plan, start using your skills and execute the plan.
For those who want to leave trusted friends or family your itinerary. Go to hikeralert.com this is an excellent web based platform that alerts through text message when you do not return
In operation since 2012, HikerAlert is a Web-based service that will automatically send an alert text message and email to your emergency contacts (your friends and family) if you don’t check in from an outdoor trip or other event by your scheduled return time.
Remember, your outdoor experience is your responsibility. Make sure you’re stay safe out there. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your weekend plans.
You would be surprised at how many people get sick on the Appalachian Trail due to the spreading of germs. In fact, Appalachian Trail hikers had a 45 percent diarrhea rate, implying that poor hygiene is a major contributing factor. How to prevent getting sick is to make sure your First Aid Kit has the some basic medications and ALCOHOL WIPES to keep your hands clean.
Ariane has gotten the Flu while backpacking and she explains how hard it is to hike out when you get sick. Some basic medications, like benadryl, tylenol, Mucinex, and Diarrhea tablets can help you when you feel like you maybe getting sick on the Trail.
In a article written by Blissful Hiking:
The chief complaint on the Appalachian Trail is the Norovirus, which seems to strike every hiking season. Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area like hostels, shelters and privies contaminated by sick hikers.
The best way to prevent getting sick is to make sure your hands are always clean. Bear cables are filled with germs, wipe your hands off after using them. Prevention is the key. Make sure you keep clear of sharing food or area’s where you see other hikers being sick. Again, using alcohol type hand sanitizer and trying not to share food, it going to go a long way.
If you do get sick on the trail, you are going to have to REST. Drink plenty of fluids and replenish your electrolytes. Chicken Soup and Lemon Tea is a great way to start your rebound. But rest and a day off is probably going to get you back on the trail.
We both knew we could no longer live without owning an Airstream Argosy 28? twin bed center bath model. We had unexpectedly seen one, fell deeply in love and blindly allowed it to change our life’s course permanently. For a solid month, every moment was occupied with learning about and searching for our new home. In April 2016 we found her proudly displayed and rusting away in central Kentucky.
She was stubborn from the beginning. Her break lights had corroded, her hitch connections powerless thus dragging, and her tires firmly planted into the concrete dry rotting to the extreme. She wasn’t even considering budging. So we called her bluff.
We kept her patchwork of duct tape exterior in tact, threw some magnetized auxiliary towing lights to her rear, hitched her up and tested her out. well, at least that’s the shortened version of what occurred over the course of a seven hour negotiation in purchasing her!
It was an intense twelve hour ride home, bonding us forever. We joked about drivers steering clear from our path when approaching us and seeing our ‘rust bucket from hell’. We were beyond proud to be pulling her, though cautious and nervous. We hadn’t known what to expect and she wasn’t shy about throwing a fit. Turns out a stabilizer attachment on our hitch would have been a wise investment, if we had even known that was a thing! We were clearly newbies and everything we experienced came with an enormous learning curve.
Our Argosy eventually became agreeable in us partnering with her and lead us safely home to Georgia. Proudly, introductions were made to the family and celebration was underway! My Mom had her pegged from the start:
“I thought of the name Lucille (as in Lucille Ball), she’s a redhead! And a fitting match to the many exploits you and Scott are sure to find!”
So thus the name Lucille, Lucy for short, was born. Her fiery red hue of rust underbelly was her hint to us, she was gonna be a challenge! Though she was our beauty – unique and instantly full of hi-jinx from the day we bought her.
My mom was spot on…this wasn’t the end of our mishaps together!
Exploring the Badlands National Park is like visiting another planet. It’s vast, remote, and wild. But what makes it really amazing is the pinnacle like mounds that do NOT look like anything you will ever see. The Badlands National Park is over 200,000 acres and has a ton of wildlife. Bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets all roam the prairie.
When we first got there, it was really windy. In fact winds were gusting to about 60 mph, so they had closed the campground. YIKES! After talking to one of the Rangers, he agreed to give us a discount on one of the little cabins in the campground so we could wait out the winds. The cabins were cozy and super comfortable. We were really grateful for the hospitality the Ranger showed us.
The next day we were out to explore the Badlands. We had downloaded a GPS route and were eager to see if we could keep up with the route.
The Route started at the Conata Picnic Area. There is a sign at the very end of the picnic area. The Trail starts out like a normal trail for about 200 yards and then disappears. You are on your own after that. You follow Southwest for about 2 miles then turn Northwest towards a large open grassy field. Deer Haven is way in the background. We headed right towards Deer Haven. You can’t miss it. We ducked under a Cattle Fence and I was off to climb up and over Deer Haven. If you want to really see the park, climb up to to Deer Haven and camp under the Full Moon. It’s amazing.
Climbing Deer Haven is pretty simple. Follow Deer Trails. They almost look like a regular trail, and they won’t let you down. They will take you right up to the top exactly where you need to start your decent. From there, it’s all creek bed. Followed some amazing Buffalo hoof prints and saw some spectacular scenery.
The park’s main visitor center, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, is open daily all year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. During the summer months, ranger-led programs are offered throughout the day. Check at the visitor center for more information on these programs.
This is a spectacular place if you want to Boondock with your RV also. In fact, probably one of the more peaceful and beautiful places we’ve seen for an ultimate place to park your RV and just gaze out into the Badlands. It’s located about 5 miles south of Wall, just before the entrance to Badlands National Park.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is located at Cedar Pass on the Badlands Loop Road (Hwy 240), 9 miles South of I-90, exit 131 Phone (605) 455-2878
When the Peoria Backpackers Meetup Group asked us to do a Backpacking Basics along with a Q & A we jumped at the chance. After all Scott lived there for almost 8 years. In fact, Scott started that backpacking club when he was looking for others to go hiking with. Now 9 years later, the club is going strong. Not only did we get a chance to see some old friends (and meet new one’s) we were able to go on a 3 mile hike afterwards on a gorgeous day.
Peoria, Il isn’t just another town in central Illinois. Peoria offers some very cool places to explore and spend a lot of time outdoors. For example, the Forest Park Nature Center, (where we all met for the event) has over a 3 mile hiking trail that can get anyone’s blood pumping for some good exercise while in a beautiful forest setting.
If you are looking for even more adventure, than take a hour drive Northeast to Starved Rock State Park and explore waterfalls, caves, and small canyons.
A huge thank you to Becky (one of the Organizers) who let us crash at her house and who cooks amazing breakfast potato’s.
Ever have a spontaneous idea to take a road trip that takes you through 5 states and over 2,000 miles? We did. On this episode we share are amazing road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see the peak colors of Fall. Over 90% of our road trip were spend outdoors as we camped at various campground throughout the 5 states. Not to mention taking time to teach a Backpacking Basics Class with the Peoria Backpackers. We arrived in Munising, Michigan where we got picked up by shuttle and hiked the beautiful Lakeshore Trail that is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park. It’s a 42 mile trail that spans sand dunes, forest, and cliffs.
On this episode we are talking about the trails that run deep below the surface, we are talking caving. Ariane is an avid caver, and there is no way we could get away WITHOUT doing a podcast about the trails that traverse underground. Talk about Trust the Trail….We also discuss Ariane taking me on my first caving expedition while holding a few details back and how I had to face my fear.
What’s it like to test yourself? To hike 300 miles of uphill, downhill, in the rain, fog, and wind? This is my journey of my backpacking trek on the Appalachian Trail. The truth about social versus solo. What’s the emotional toll that you feel when you wanna quit? I certainly didn’t expect winds gusting up to 70 mph on my hike, but then again it was my favorite day. What is the reality versus what you see on social media? The truth exposed!!!!
On this episode we share with you the people that have inspired us throughout the years. In the 10 years we have been taking people outdoors we have been so inspired by how they overcame their fear of the outdoors. People that had never dared to go outdoors and spend the night, let alone going solo on a backpacking trip. They share their notes, txt’s, and messages with us…In return, they inspire US.
It makes no difference whether you are traveling, backpacking, playing sports, or just living your everyday life. The Norovirus is something you do NOT want to get. Yet, thousands each year become infected.
When I was asked (Ariane writing here) to take part in a Norovirus Research Study, I jumped at the chance. Yea, I laugh just thinking about my enthusiasm. (what’s wrong with me)? As an Outdoor Guide and after hiking 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail this year, I witnessed myself how brutal getting sick outdoors really is. At least 5 people I was hiking with dropped off the trail because of the Norovirus. The bunkhouse I stayed in had to completely bleach everything because staff members were going down.
After spending 5 days in the hospital and logging every single “issue” I had while infected. It’s important to share what I learned to our outdoor friends. People I know that are planning a Long Distance Hike on the AT, or traveling across the country in their RV (as we are getting ready to do) We felt obligated to put together a PDF file that you can keep with you on your smart phone and reference it. Or at least think about how exposed you can be while out there.
How to prevent getting the Norovirus when you spend time in the outdoors is only the first step. Understanding how it spreads is crucial.
The most common cause of acute gastroenteritis and food borne disease outbreaks in the United States, norovirus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is responsible for 19-20 million illnesses, leads to 1.7–1.9 million outpatient visits and 400,000 emergency department visits, primarily in young children, and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths annually in America.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can be contracted from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. -CDC
The virus causes acute inflammation of the stomach and intestines leading to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which usually last 1-3 days. Patients can also remain contagious for up to 3 days after the acute symptoms resolve.
I was genuinely surprised at the abrasive hastiness in which the virus appeared, perhaps I thinking it would have been a more gradual introduction of discomfort, slowing introducing it’s fowl play. – Ariane Petrucci
NOTES I took at the Hospital: Approximately every ten to fifteen minutes I’d have to remind myself to cite a promise “no regrets”: 10:48 – 11:36 – 1:09 – 1:11 – 2:12 – 2:25 – 2:32 – 2:44 – 2:56 – 2:59 – 3:17 – 3:40 – 3:56 – 4:15 – 4:46 – 4:49 – 5:25 – 6:13 – and finally tapering of at a final clocking of 8:05pm. At its pinnacle, I only had to endured less than seven hours of unspeakable hell before flipping the mend.
After it was all said and done. I was glad it was over. For those who would like to subscribe to a special e-mail outlining the Norovirus and how to prevent it. Just fill out the box below.
On this episode Ariane goes Solo….on a 300 mile trek on the Appalachian Trail and she’s taking you with. Ariane will be backpacking through 3 states and hiking on up some of the toughest mountains in the Southeast. Including the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This first episode shares with you, Ariane watching the Sunset on Springer Mountain (the southern terminus of the AT). How the first day went and her feelings what her experience is. On day 3 she shares her experience being at the Justus Creek campsites by herself.
Check out Ariane’s Gear List and see how she got her total pack weight (with food and water) down to 25.6 pounds.
Want talk LIVE with her and ask a question? Find out how.
Thanks for listening. We hope you continue with her on the journey.
On this episode we discuss what exceptions are of a long distance hike. We also reveal which one of us (Scott or Ariane) starts their 300 mile section hike of the Appalachian Trail. How much weight does “Social Media” add to your total pack weight? You would be surprised.
Ariane has a new piece of gear she is testing in her quest to go super lightweight. It’s the Hyperlite Southwest 3400. Here is her complete Gear List. Her total pack weight with water and food, 25.8.
Have you had expectations of a long distance hike? Were they met? We would love to hear from you. Also how much does your pack weigh?
On our 25th Podcast we our LIVE on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Our 2 night, 3 day backpacking trip on the island was absolutely awesome.One of our favorite places to go and see some amazing sunrises and sunsets. We also interview Laura who is the head Caretaker of the Island, and who by the way hands out your backcountry permits. She explains the need for Volunteers and how the “Park Needs You”. She is so passionate about what she does it’s infectious. We really loved meeting her and so grateful that she came over to talk to us.
What makes it so cool is that most people don’t backpack into the Wilderness section of the island which gives you access to the beach. Beach? Yea, it’s an Island and you could possibly have the whole beach to yourselves.
The one thing you should know is that permits have to be made well in advance, and before you get one, you will have to take a quick Leave No Trace awareness class before the Caretaker will hand one out.
To get to Cumberland Island you have to take the St. Mary’s Ferry which departs from St. Mary’s. It’s a smooth ride to the Island and you maybe able to catch a view of a Dolphin playing around the Ferry. You HAVE to make reservations and secure permits however.
We really enjoyed this backpacking trip and bringing this podcast to you. Please let us know what podcast’s you would like to hear in the future, or just say hello. We love hearing from you guys.
On this episode we share our 3 day, 2 night paddle in one of the most unique places in the Southeast. The Okefenokee National Refuge Area. In other words, a swamp in the wilderness.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is an impressively vast expanse of wilderness swamplands covering approximately 700 square miles, located within the southeast corner of Georgia.
The Okefenokee is crisscrossed by over 120 miles of paddle and motor boat water trails. It is a major destination for wetlands, nature lovers and paddlers alike. The swamp has a distinctive and fascinating natural history. Okefenokee means “land of the trembling earth” in Choctaw Indian language, a reference to the quivering ground of boggy areas. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was officially established in 1937 to preserve one of America’s oldest freshwater systems, an important habitat for an abundance of plants and animals that live in its 400,000 acres.
Through our guiding company, Full Moon Adventures, we took our guests on a 3 day paddle in some of the most remote places on the swamp. You can view our video on our YouTube Channel.
We saw almost 300 Alligators.
How do you buy your backpacking gear? Do you buy all of it online? Or do you physically go into your local Outfitters Store? We do both. Buying backpacking gear, or we should say “the right” backpacking gear can be a daunting experience. You get advise from social media or friends and just about everyone has their opinion.
The truth is….You have to buy what’s right for YOU! You try on shoes yourself when you need new shoes right? You have a specific preference based on what you know fits. Same thing with gear. My rain jacket I love, but that doesn’t mean you will love it. It has to feel comfortable and (has to keep you dry). So, we put together some “GO TO” online shops that we absolutely love.
If you do buy your gear online, which are your go to web stores? We share our top 4.
The Best Deals For Outdoor Gear –
1. thebackpackerstore.com – This is NOT a website, but a database of ALL outdoor online stores that put “daily deals”out there that change (of course) daily. Lot’s of categories and coupons to use also. Most gear is overstock and 35-75% off.
2. campsaver.com – Campsaver is a great resource for backpacking gear. In fact, had the lowest price for the Hyperlite 3400 backpack (that we just recently bought). It generally has coupon codes for first time buyers also.
3. altrec.com – We’ve been shopping at Altrec for years. They have great Customer Service and some great deals on outdoor gear.
4. moosejaw.com – Moosejaw is another place to recieve great online Customer Service. Rumor has it that Walmart maybe going to buy them. If you are looking for some discounted prices on gear, always check them out on your top 3 list. We do.
If you have some good places to look for gear, let us know. Us Backpackers are always looking for gear deals right?
After 10 years teaching backpacking, we put together our top 10 suggestions for new backpackers. For people just learning or getting ready for a backpacking trip, it can be pretty intimidating knowing you will be out in the wilderness. Rest assured that there is no reason to be worried. However, we have seen a lot of mistakes that could be pretty easily avoided if people learned some basics before buying their gear, or just heading out.
If you have some we might have missed, let’s hear from you.
1. Plan and Prepare
2. Make sure your backpacking is fitted correctly
3. Learn how to pack your pack
4. Test your gear BEFORE you hit the Trail
5. Make sure you know your Water Filtration System and how to use it.
6. Practice How to hang a Food Bag (or Bear Bag)
7.Treat your Blisters, BEFORE they are actual blisters.
8.Reduce your pack weight by a little meditation before you pack it
9. Clean your GEAR after your trip.
10. Trust the Trail. It will always provide everything you need.
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3 Mistakes New Backpackers make. If you are new to backpacking, we will send you 3 free videos to get you started. www.thebackpacker.tv/3-mistakes