If you spend anytime in the outdoors whether it’s camping, or backpacking, you can understand the frustration when it comes to healthy eating. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy a freeze dried meal and pack it. What a pleasant surprise to eat a GOOD TO-GO Meal while backpacking last week. Most freeze dried foods are only really a benefit after your body starts burning thousands of calories a day. But what about a 3-5 night backpacking trip? Some foods just are NOT good for you. Loaded with high sodium and preservatives, just not something you may want to eat.
Good To-Go was founded by Jennifer Scism, accomplished chef and long-time co-owner of Annisa, a nationally recognized restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. Jen’s career has long been focused on the importance of good food. As a backpacker, Jen struggled with the limited opportunity for fresh and delicious foods. Being a professional chef, she was not going to last eating the packaged meals already out there. So she began preparing her favorite meals and dehydrating them in her countertop dehydrator. It was do or die, or at the very least…go hungry. Through trial and error, the two were able to sit down, take in their surroundings and complete their adventures with an amazing meal. Jen’s creations were so delicious that they wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.
We tested the GOOD TO-GO THAI CURRY SPICY YELLOW COCONUT CURRY WITH VEGETABLES & JASMINE RICE. All we could say was “WOW”!. We are SOLD! Not only were we impressed by the all natural ingredients, but it’s also Gluten Free. So refreshing to eat a freeze dried meal that is actually good for you.
I brought along Outdoor Author and advid backpacker Ariane Petrucci to sample some of the other GOOD TO-GO MEALS, like Smoked Three Bean Chili and the Pad Thai. We went out for a 3 night trip in the Pisgah National Forest and our packed dinners did not disappoint.
To see all of GOOD TO-GO MEALS check out their site and see for yourself their story.
Huge thank you to Justin Hagen at GOOD TO-GO for the opportunity to try out these absolutely great tasting (and healthy) dinners.
Just east of Chattanooga, along the Tennessee-Georgia border, resides some of the oldest known mountains in the world. Today, protecting these ancient peaks is the Cohutta and Big Frog Mountain Wilderness Areas. The majority of the Big Frog Wilderness lies within Tennessee, while the largest portion of the Cohutta Wilderness resides in Georgia.
This trip was a moderate hike and had some amazing views. One of the places we found to camp was at the intersection of Grassy Gap Trail and Yellow Stand Lead Trail. At that intersection there is a ridge that you can climb and camp in a nice flat spot. Almost in a bathtub type setting. (Unless it’s raining)
Big Creek Trail #68 (5.6 miles) Popular camping area along trail.
Grassy Gap #67 (3.5 miles) Also known as Barkleggin Trail, this hike offers seclusion as it meanders through the wilderness. The trail ends at the intersection of the Yellow Stand Lead and Big Frog trails.
Yellow Stand Lead #73 (2.9 miles) Hikers will enjoy several mountain views along this hike, as well as a few good fishing holes.
We started at FF221 that you can get to by Hwy 64 (in TN) right behind the Power Plant hovering over the Ocoee River The FF road will take you all the way up to the trail head of Big Creek Trail. Follow the Big Creek Trail (#68) to the Grassy Gap Trail (#67) (The intersection is tricky here) Becareful you don’t end up hiking up to Big Frog Mountain. Work your way around to Yellow Stand Trail and at the intersection climb up the ridge where you will find a great camp spot. NO WATER however. The next morning it’s all down hill back to the Yellow Stand Trail Head. Follow the old road to the gravel road to complete the loop. This FF is now closed. You used to be able to park at the Yellow Stand Trail Head, but no more.
The nearly 300 mile Benton MacKaye Trail traverses the Big Frog Wilderness, providing a long distance thru-hike, or a backbone to loop with other trails for overnight backpacking opportunities. The Big Frog Trail provides access to several other trails that cross the Wilderness along ridges and streams. From the top of Big Frog Mountain you can hike south into Cohutta Wilderness on the Hemp Top Trail (eight-tenths of a mile). Even in the wet season (spring and early summer), water may be hard to find, so carry plenty.[geo_mashup_map]
Since starting this website, I’ve gotten to backpack all over the Country. So many more places I want to go, but just can’t find the time. But each year I compile a video on some of my favorite places I went that year. Of course being going back and editing my video’s reminds me of what a great time I have being out in the Wilderness.
Hear is a video of the 2010 year.
See you on the Trail
Think of Iowa and chances are good that you would never think of thick dense forest. But consider this: You’re perched atop a 400-foot-high ledge called Big Paint Overlook in Iowa’s Yellow River State Forest. Eagles circle overhead as you gaze at Big Paint Creek below and a broad landscape of surrounding bluffs.
Not quite the flat-as-a-tabletop land most people expect, is it?
Yellow River Forest contains more than 25 miles of trails that wind through its thick woods, around limestone outcroppings, and up steep slopes. One sparsely marked trail on the north face of Heffern’s Hill feels more like Colorado foothills than Iowa plains as it leads through a densely wooded and rocky run-off that spills into a deep ravine.
Yellow River’s trails are generally well marked and cared for, which is one reason the forest’s four backcountry campsites fill up quickly. But you can pitch a tent almost anywhere, and-better yet-there’s no entrance fee or camping charge, so you get it all free. But be ready for some hill climbing. In Iowa, no less.
This Fall, I went with 3 friends to Yellow River and had a great time. We hiked about 11 miles out and back. The only downside was water. Not much to choose from, and couldn’t get to camp next to the Yellow River.
Where: 200 miles southeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul and 245 miles west of Chicago. The trailhead is 12 miles southeast of Waukon on State Forest Road off IA 76.
Maps: A trail map is available free at forest headquarters (see below).
Trail Info: Yellow River State Forest, (319) 586-2254.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is a United States National Recreation Area located in southwestern Virginia near the border with Tennessee and North Carolina. The centerpiece of the recreation area is Mount Rogers, the highest point in the state of Virginia with a summit elevation of 5,729 feet (1746 m). Most of the recreation area is under the jurisdiction of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, except for a 5,000 acres (20 km2) section near Mount Rogers that is managed by Grayson Highlands State Park. The recreation area was established by an act of the United States Congress on May 31, 1966.
The Appalachian Trail runs right through the Grayson Highlands State Park. This is one of the most scenic parts of the whole AT. Wild Ponies graze through the park, and the odds are good you will encounter one. I did a 22 mile loop hike in and around the Park which included the Appalachian Trail[geo_mashup_map]
Encompassing 250,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features
Hiking Big South Fork will not let you down as far as scenery. I was really impressed on how much there was to see. The campsites, the rock formations, were all very cool. On this hike I had the pleasure of hiking with a good friend of mine, Bryan Delay. I originally met Bryan on Hikers Journal, but now he’s a Member of TheBackpackerTV.
We started our hike late on Thursday and immediately had to cross Laurel Creek. There was no option for rock jumping. Had to take off our shoes and put sandals on and brace for some cold water. We only hiked a mile or so before we set up camp for the night. We camped right along Laurel Creek. Then on Friday we hike to Charit Creek Lodge, which consist of some cabins and a dining hall. People can stay here with a reservation and the food is prepared for them. The only way to get to Charit Lodge is to hike to it. (or on Horseback) Then we hike to Twin Arches and then Jake’s Place, which would be a good place to camp on Friday night. Jake’s Place is an old homestead and there is plenty of space to camp. On Saturday we would hike to Slave Falls and then to Laurel Fork Creek, where we found a place to camp on Saturday night. We change our plans on hiking back to the car. We opted to hike Yellow Cliff Trail and only have to cross Laurel Fork Creek once. We found an excellent camp site along Laurel Creek. Then on Sunday we hiked out of the gorge to West Entrance TH where one of our cars would be parked.
A little about the Park Map. Don’t trust some of the Trail Heads. Most of them our accurate, but some of the places to jump into the park have been privately developed and no longer exist. We had a heck of a time starting our hike because of this, and had to change our starting point.
The Eastern/Central Time Line runs through the middle of the park. Most park offices and concessionaires operate on Eastern Time. If, however, your travels do take you across the time line, make sure you plan your time accordingly.
Bandy Creek Visitor Center is open daily, except Christmas. Center staff is available to provide visitors with information they need for a safe and enjoyable visit to the park and region. In addition to maps and park specific information, backcountry permits are available. Eastern National maintains an outlet in the Center.
Visitor Center hours May through September are 8:00 to 6:00 Sunday thru Saturday. October thru April the hours are 8:00 to 4:00 (Eastern Time). For additional information call (423) 286-7275.
When Spring arrives, I can’t think of a better town to trek through than Damascus, Virginia. Why Spring? One reason is Trail Days. Trail Days (documentary) is an even that brings thousands of Appalachian Trail Hikers together. While I was there last May, I took opportunity to go on a short backpacking trip.
I wanted to start in town, follow the white blaze out of town and hike North. Hiking through town is the best part of an AT thru-hike. The friendly people of Damascus will make you feel right at home. Not only are you appreciated, but hikers help with an important issue to Damascus, the economy. With a population of less than a thousand people, a steady flow of backpackers help shops, restaurants, Bed & Breakfasts, and Damascus loves it.
Even if you are not Thru-Hiking, it would be worth your while and stop in. Park your car, and head off on the AT.
My plan was to hike 10 miles, including through town, and then up on the AT. Oh, well I did stop for breakfast at MoJo’s. Once I started on the AT, it was pretty much uphill. Plenty of water in the Spring, so don’t weigh down your pack coming out of Damascus. I stayed at Saunders Shelter which is a pretty nice shelter with plenty of places to pitch a tent. Water is below the shelter down hill. There is a trail that will take you right to the water.
The AT follows the Virginia Creeper Trail. In fact, you can see the trail parallel as you climb on the AT.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to backpack in the Badlands National Park. There are no trails in the Wilderness Areas, and there’s no water. But my hike in and around the Sage Creek Wilderness Area was well worth it.
I started my research by downloading this GPS Trail Route from Trimble Outdoors. Since I didn’t have a GPS unit, I printed out the way points, packed my map, and got my compass out. The route seemed easy enough. What I didn’t expect was the 50 mph wind gust. It was windy.
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. I headed right towards Deer Haven. You can’t miss it. I ducked under a Cattle Fence and I was off to climb up and over Deer Haven.
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. After a few miles into the creek bed, I noticed I had lost my GPS guide. I had no idea where to get out of the creek bed. Followed some amazing Buffalo hoof prints and saw some spectacular scenery. My hike was cut short. But I did manage to get some awesome backpacking in. I camped at Deer Haven for the night, and it was the best decision I made. What a wonderful place to camp. NO FIRES ALLOWED.
You can see my photos of my Badlands Hike on “Our Gallery“.
After battling the winds for most of the day, the night became calm. Full Moon and not a cloud in the sky. You can download this route from Trimble and follow it on a GPS.
The Badlands climate is variable and unpredictable with temperatures ranging from -40 F to 116 F. The summers are hot and dry with occasional violent thunderstorms. Winters are typically cold with 12 to 24 inches of total snowfall. Extremely high winds are common year-round. Sudden and dramatic weather changes are common. Dress in layers. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and adequate water are recommended for hiking.
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.
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 you live in the Midwest, sometimes your access to a National Park is limited without driving 10 hours. However, one of the gems that barely get’s regongition in the National Park System, is the diverse ecological system in Southern Illinois. One of the gems I missed, was the Cache River Wetlands area with 1000 year old Cypress trees. I never knew Southern Illinois had a Wetlands area, not alone a Kayak trail that you could trek. The Cache River was a spectacular trip and offered many diverse and flora. The cypress were absolutely cool, and kind a spooky at the same time. I went early in the morning (sunrise) and felt like I was on a Si-Fi set. Very cool to see the water totally topped with alge.
So, with some planning and a quick escape, I drove 5 hours South to Cypress, IL and put my Kayak in the Cache River. Along with my Kayak trip, I brought my backpack to do a section of the River to River trail the runs across the entire southern part of the State (186 miles) through the Shawnee National Forest.
It was hot, muggy, but a great weekend. Hope you enjoy the video.
I had the pleasure of meeting Johnny Molloy at Trail Days 09 in Damascuss, VA this year. Not only was he great to talk with, but you can hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about his trail books, and being in the outdoors. His books have everything you need to make good decisions about where to hike, camp, and paddle to. Very informative! Great guy, great books. Here is a short video about what Johnny Molloy spends his time doing.
Johnny Molloy is a self-employed outdoor writer based in Johnson City, Tennessee. A native Tennessean and free-market capitalist, he was born in Memphis and moved to Knoxville in 1980 to attend the University of Tennessee. It is here in Knoxville, where he developed his love of the natural world that has since become the primary focus of his life.
It all started on a backpacking foray into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That first trip, though a disaster, unleashed an innate love of the outdoors that has led to his spending over 100 nights in the wild per year, over the past 20 years, backpacking and canoe camping throughout our country and abroad. Specifically, he has spent over 650 nights in the Smokies
alone, where he cultivated his woodsmanship and expertise on those lofty mountains.
In 1987, after graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Economics, he continued to spend an ever increasing time in the natural places, becoming more skilled in a variety of environments. Friends enjoyed his adventure stories, one even suggested he write a book. Soon he was parlaying his love of the outdoors into an occupation.
The Day & Overnight Hikes books are guidebooks, each containing 42 recommended hikes that takes the reader on a detailed journey to infrequently visited sites, from highland meadows and open vistas to pristine mountain streams and pioneer farms in three of the most popular national parks and forests in the East.
The Best in Tent Camping books parlay his vast camping experiences throughout the Southern Appalachians, Colorado, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida into concise guides of the 50 best tent campgrounds in each area offering the finest scenery and recreational opportunities the South, Appalachians and Rockies have to offer.
Johnny teamed up with Countrymen Press and wrote 50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains, and 50 Hikes in South Carolina and 50 Hikes in the Ozarks. Both places are underutilized hiking destinations. He is now writing 50 Hikes in Alabama for the outfit.
The latest adventure story book, his 3rd, is Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two pairs of Boots and One Heck of An Adventure. It is the first narrative book detailing a thru hike of the Florida Trail.
Visit Johnny’s Web Site to buy his trail books. Or just visit and say hello.
First, let me say that I wanted to spend a lot more time in this awesome display of nature. I feel I was cheeted by only being able to hike the short 10 – 12 mile loop I did. Having said that, Red River Gorge is now in my top 20 places I’ve ever hiked in. The Red River Gorge is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest Red River Gorge Geological Area – 29,000 acres, designated in 1974.
Rock Arches are the celebrity at this park. If you live in the Midwest and want to see Arches without traveling to Utah, this is the place to visit. With deep gorges, and caves, this is one place you need to visit if you are in Kentucky.
Many arches in the Gorge can be found or viewed from the 60 miles of backpacking trails. The number, size, and variety of natural stone arches in the Gorge contribuite to the beauty of this park. Becareful however, some the cliffs are steep and dangerous. There are over 100 arches in this park.
There are some definate rules and regulations while backpacking in this park. Make sure you understand the camping situation. There are NO formal campgrounds but many are out there. You WILL need a permit to camp overnight. You can get permits at the Gladie Center. But you can also get permits at the Shell Gas Station located right on Hwy 15. It might save you a drive if you are going to hike and camp on th South end of the park.
The Sheltowee Trail runs through the Red River Park, but also runs Natural Bridge State Park, and the Clifty Wilderness. The trail is 278 miles long.
If you have a Kayak or Canoe, this is the place to trek down the Red River. Runs right through the Park.
Most of the Trails are easy to moderate, but there are a few sections that you will be climbing up or down hand over foot.
Backpack to Grays Arch. Worth the extra hike. It’s a nice loop hike if you take #205 trail to #221 to #203 back to your car. 10 – 12 mile loop.
The Trail Map is located HERE. For more information call the Gladie Cultural Center at (606)663-8100. They are open from 9:00 to 5:30 from Mid March to November.
Check out some photos of the Red River Gorge
See you on the Trail
The Little Presque Isle tract is often called the crown jewel of Lake Superior, with its beautiful sand beaches, rugged shoreline cliffs, heavily timbered forests, and unmatched public views. One of the reasons I love to hike in the U.P of Michigan is the panoramic views that often accompany a trail at any given time.
The proposed natural area occurs north and south of Little Presque Point, around the mouth of Harlow Creek. The area is a combination of a wooded dune and swale community and bedrock lakeshore and cliff.
This land has retained its natural character, and its location next to Lake Superior and its variable terrain and timber types provide a rare and unique setting.
The terrain in and around Little Presque and Harlow Lake is a good work out for any backpacker. Sugarloaf Mountain and other small mounds offer spectacular views.
My winter trip offered the chance for some awesome snowshoeing. Winter is a great time to go to Little Presque and Harlow Lake. Lots of snow. I was there during a snow storm and it was beautiful to hike around Harlow Lake.
In fact, Harlow Lake has cabins that you can rent all year round. They have a small stove to cook on so leave your fuel at home, and cook right on an old pot belly stove.
All in all, I did around 15 miles of good ol fashion hiking/snowshoeing during sub-zero wind chills….I would do it all over again. It was a great experience.
Go to the Michigan DNR website for more information.
Watch the video of Harlow Lake/Little Presque Isle.
Recently I hiked the Tomales Point Trail at the Point Reyes National Park, in California. This open trail offers both awesome wildlife, and coastal views. The one way 4.7 mile trail takes you to an end point that you do NOT want to miss. This breathtaking vista overlooks crashing waves and rocks. The trail is actually 9.4 miles to the point and back.
We started this hike at the Tomales Point Trailhead located North of the Park. Since we hiked in January, we had our share of fog and mist. But the temps hovered around 45 degrees which make a great day hike. The trail is easy and light. Moderate at best. Bring a rain jacket. This is the West Coast and rain can come in very rapidly. This trail can be hiked year round.
Trailhead elevation is about 300 feet, and the hike has a rolling profile, climbing to 470 feet, descending to 135 feet, climbing to 250 feet, and dropping to 80 feet. You’ll face those same hills on the return leg, and all the elevation changes do add up. The middle 2 miles of the hike are mostly through loose sand. Total elevation change is about 1300 feet.
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
The trail will feel a little longer than you think. Probably because you keep stopping for a photo opp. Speaking of photo opps, the Tomales Point Elk preserve is not only a great place to watch wildlife, it’s one of the quietest trails on Point. When I hiked this trail, I saw at least 40 Elk in one herd alone. If you like Elk, this is the place to view them.
The trail almost has a mystical way about it. I hiked this trail in some pretty dense fog, and it almost seemed to exhibit an energy. With the waves crashing into the shore, and the fog rolling in, this trail was one to remember.
Make sure you get to the Trailhead early. The parking lot is small.
Bear Valley Visitor Center (Ranger Station) 415-464-5100 (Rangers were very helpful and will help plan your hike)
Click here for a pdf map of the trails.
Watch thebackpacker.tv video on YouTube of the Tomales Point Trail.
Did you know that Las Vegas Nevada has some of the best hikes, and backpacking trails in the Southwest? The Grand Circle Trail in the Red Rock Canyon offers some of the most breathtaking views in the area, and it’s only 15 miles West of the Strip.
Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area and is a protected Wilderness. It’s over 193,000 acres of beautiful vistas and mountain scenery that will bring Mountain Climbers as well as Day Hikers to this area. The landscapes are a complex deposits of oxidized minerals that make up the “Red Rocks”.
The Grand Circle Trail is a 11.7 loop trail that will take you approximately 5-6 hours to hike. Do not under estimate the amount of water you will need for this hike. You are still in the Mojave Desert and it gets hot and dry. I hiked this in December and it was 63 Degrees. The Grand Circle trail will take you in and around the Canyon and offers some spectacular views. In fact, this trail offers up some history. About a mile into the trail and you will see Pictographs (painted images) and Petroglyphs (images pecked into the stone) from Southern Paiute culture that thrived in the Canyon some time around 1,000 AD.
You can check in at the Vistors Center and leave your car in the Parking Lot. From there, the Grand Circle Trail is in walking distance. Advise: Leave early. The GCT will take you longer than you expect. In the Summer time, this trail could be brutal. Be prepared. There are maps and good advise from the Rangers that are in the Vistors Center.
The trail starts out along the scenic drive and parallels the trail for awhle. You will cross two parking lots within the first 2 miles. After that, it’s all you. There are a two more pit stops along the way. At one time during the hike, it almost seems like you will never get back to the trailhead, you will, don’t panic. When they say it’s a “Grand” circle, they are not kidding. It’s a big loop.
This is a great trail to explore and just enjoy. Take your camera, because you are going to be very angry if you don’t. Photo opps everwhere.
So next time you are losing at the slots. Remember, a good hike is only a few minutes away, and it’s well worth leaving the tables for it. See you on the Trail.
One of the more spectacular trails in the Shenandoah National Park is climbing up Old Rag Mountain. The Blue Ridge Mountains are some of the oldest Mountain ranges on earth, and the Shenadoah National Park runs right through them. Hundreds of miles of trails spread through the park and it’s 93,000 acres of wilderness.
The climb up Old Rag Mountain leads from the forest floor to very exposed granite boulders. In fact, climbing Old Rag will keep you on your toes as you combat hand over hand climbing. In some instances, there is no trail. A painted white blaze gives you and indication of where to go next. Over, through, and under huge crevises, and boulders. It can demand strenght and balance. You may even need a push, or pull up as the climb up maybe more than you can step.
Start from the parking lot at the end of VA 600. There are two parking areas. Get there early if you don’t want to walk a mile from the overflow parking area to the trailhead. Like 7:00 AM early. This is a difficult hike. Make sure you give yourself enough to get up and then back down again.
Distance: It’s a 8 mile loop up and back. NOT counting the 1 mile hike to the trailhead.
Elevation Gain: 2,473 Feet.