Monday, July 27, 2015

Trip Report: Fiery Gizzard

We modified this a little from the original plan.  The weather was HOT and the creeks were very low or dry, so instead of camping at Raven's Point, we planned to meet and camp at the CCC campsite at Grundy, then dayhike the whole trail with a lighter load.  Great idea!

When I arrived at Grundy at 4:30, only Melissa had decided to brave the heat out of our original group of 5. We talked it over and quickly decided to just go ahead and backpack in 2.3 miles to Small Wilds Camp, then finish the other 11 or so miles the next day.  I had only planned to 'backpack' half a mile to the CCC camp, so I had to do a quick shuffling of gear and clothes and food.  In doing so, I failed to put a shirt in for the next day and hiked the whole thing in a cotton shirt, bleh!  Cotton holds sweat and moisture and does not dry in the humid shade of the trail.  In fact, so does polyester-what my sleeping bag liner was made of.  And whatever the hammock was made of.

Foster Falls was flowing!  Last report said it was dry, but it has rained some since then.
We started out with 2+ liters of water anyway.

The trail was rocky, but easy walking. 

About a mile in, feeling fine!
My little towel got used a TON, but I need to swap it for one that is more absorbent.  I ended up mostly smearing sweat around my face and it was useless to clean my glasses and camera lens.  So, back to the drawing board on that little plan.

One of dozens of overlooks into the valleys below.

Miles of the trail looked like this, just a nice wide trail in the trees.

Every stream crossing had a bridge.

The walk to Small Wilds was easy, we covered the 2 miles in about an hour, stopping to take pictures and making notes about water access, talking and enjoying the views.  It was the perfect hike in, just short enough that your body doesn't shift gears into 'GO' mode.  We turned in at the sign and the whole of site 1 was empty and I headed over near the campfire ring to hang the hammock.  Melissa set up a few feet away. In hindsight, this was good and bad.  We were able to talk back and forth all night as neither of us slept very well.  But we also could hear each other moving around.  I shuffled every few minutes, trying to get warm.  I also snored the little I did sleep, which is rare for me, but if my nose is stuffy, I'll do it!  I think next time I hike with a partner, I will suggest sleeping further apart.

After setting up, we headed off to join 'the boys' as we took to calling them.  2 men, mid 40s, were set up in the next campsite about 200 feet away.  They had come over as we were setting up and offered suggestions about the hammock.  It was my first night in that setup that was not using the hooks on the front porch.  ha! It's a little different, especially the first night when the straps and ropes stretch as you hang (they are supposed to) and you realize your rear end is on your camp shoes and have to get out and tighten it all up.

My new hammock is about 2 feet longer than my old hammock.  hahahaha!

Ah, all done!  I added the bug net before bed, but did not really need it.

The boys were over on that small ledge directly across from us, we eventually meandered the right direction and found them.

Not as dramatic as the 'tent lit from within' pic.  ha!

The boys had gotten settled to watch the sun set, I was chawing on the bean burrito I picked up for lunch, but did not eat (I told Matt this worked so well, I was going to just take Taco Bell from now on and forgo cooking at all) and was not even paying attention, just walking.  Melissa has no sense of direction, so we ended up all the way around the rim from them.  And facing east.  hahaha!  We walked BACK around to where they were in time to miss the sunset.  Oh well.  We all sat and chatted until dark, then went our separate ways to get some rest.  I was planning to go over the next morning to see their hammock camping setup and after talking to Melissa about what time we wanted to head out, decided since I could see their lights, to head over then.

We chatted about half an hour, the Hennessy setup is NICE.  I am currently in a double hammock and using a large tent footprint I already had instead of buying a rain fly.  It's a Hobo Hammock and very light-2 pounds for the hammock and straps.  But it gets damp, even hanging on the porch it was damp overnight.  I don't know if this is the way I want to go.  I sleep COLD, being damp is misery.  I picked up a few pointers, so I will give it another go before scrapping the idea.

I headed back to our campsite and...where'd it go?  I roamed around using my headlamp and the moon, thinking I was going the right way.  I mostly was.  After a few minutes, when I decided maybe I should just sit down by a tree and wait (6 hours) for daylight, common sense kicked in and  I headed straight for the bluff.  hahaha!  But there is a trail along the rim, I decided I could hit that and follow it back to the campsite. Before I got that far, I found the hammock.  Melissa had been getting worried and it occurred to me I could have just called for her to answer and gotten oriented.  So, mental note. I need a small light I can leave hanging from the hammock if I need to walk away in the dark.  I had my LuminAid lantern, but it quit working.  It's working NOW at HOME.  I may send it back anyway.

We were up early and left camp at about 6:15.  Full of oatmeal squeezie goodness (thanks, Cairn!) and topped off with treated water, we headed along the rim and the trail dropped down into Laurel Gorge from there.  It's less than half a mile (or feels like it) but it's a steep drop and equally steep climb out.  We ran into some ill prepared boys somewhere between 14 and 17.  They had a gun and a Mason jar with a lid, which they filled straight from the creek and drank.  They had tried to hike to Fiery Gizzard and had gotten turned around in the gorge and slept on the side of the trail.  They could not find their way back out.  We got them pointed up the trail to the campsite and headed on our way again.  It is a little tricky in the gorge, the trail has 90 degree angles and goes straight up or down and angles around in ways I was not really expecting.  We stopped at each marker and looked around until we saw the next one, it was not the fluid walking the rest of the trail was, but not hard, either.

campsite, all clean!

I suspect if you go around this sign, there is a trail that stays on the rim and avoids Laurel Gulf!
Probably not, but I did wonder a couple times why it goes through such a rough patch only to end up right back on the rim again.

ring neck snake

the trail is kind of rocky

We were out of the gorge and stopped for a break around 9, had second breakfast and some water and kept going.  The trail goes through a long section of not much.  About 3 miles of walking are between the gorge and the Raven's Point area and it's all open woods and along the ridge, gently rolling trail and easy walking.

We jabbered and made each other drink more and talked about the trail and played "What did they bring!?" The boys had been really excited about how very little their setups weighed-light hammock, fly, bags...lots of chatting about lightweight gear.  And then their packs weighed 40 pounds.  Mine, set for 2 days (I always have at least a full day's food beyond the plan) and with 2 liters of water weighed about 23 pounds.  So knowing what I had along and knowing they had twice the weight to carry, we spent a while trying to decide what they had in there.  Blue jeans?  An electric can opener and tiny generator (and gas)?  A few rocks? Textbooks?

It was all in good fun, the boys were REALLY nice and made our first night out more enjoyable by being good company and having useful info for us.

We stopped to get more water and rest a bit at the base of a small waterfall.  I headed back up the trail and even though I had dropped my pack with Melissa and just taken my little bathroom kit, I decided to use my funnel instead of dropping my pants.  Well, there was a malfunction and my pants leg got wet!  I still don't know what happened, probably just didn't have it positioned correctly.  I stripped off and headed back down to the pool, rinsed my pants leg and hung them on my pack to drip a while.  I hiked in my boy shorts, which was fine except-chub rub!  I had rinsed off my legs and they were wet, so I did not think about friction rubs. OWIE.  And I had Body Glide in my pack!  For future reference, cortisone for itching takes out the burn.  Aloe and antibiotic ointment will STING.  This is hard won info.

Finally put my pants back on after lunch at Raven's Point and we kept going, passing Carl's camping shelter, which was packed with college kids making a HUGE racket, and around past the campsite, taking the Dog Hole trail down.  That's another long stretch of walking in the woods over easy terrain.  The trail finally dropped down to the Fiery Gizzard and from there, it was less than 2 miles to Grundy!  That stretch is the prettiest stretch in the whole of Tennessee.  Okay, maybe not, but it's my favorite trail anyway.

We passed Sycamore Falls, Black Canyon Falls, stopped to refuel at the cascades where I finished off my water and decided not to refill and deal with treating it with less than half a mile to go and then up past Blue Hole Falls, past the overhang and out!  I was beat by the end, but today (the next day!) I feel like I can do it again, no problem.

The shot is a little smeary!


I drank 5 liters of water in that 21 hour stretch.  I won't underestimate how much water I go through, and after passing several streams that had gone stagnant from lack of flow, I know to just carry more than I think I need.  I usually carry one liter and refill when I run out.  This time of year, that's not always possible!

Other than the fact that I need an insulation layer under my bag, even though it's summer-and I need a small light to leave at camp, I didn't forget or not have anything I did need.  I carried more than I used, of course. I never used half the food, the repair kit (only needed the knife), the first aid kit only got used for a Tylenol and one moleskin square.  I changed underwear, bra and socks before bed and that's what I slept in.  My shirt was too wet to do any good.  I had my knit hat and jacket that I put on before bed.  My fast-dry underthings dried overnight just draped over the tarp.  That was nice!

I had a harder time keeping things organized than I thought I would.  That will be easier with the addition of a fanny pack to keep my odds and ends in, instead of putting them in the outside pack pockets.  I just wasn't prepared for backpacking the whole trail and didn't have that.

Good trip!  I'd do it again, no problem.  I am glad we did it with full packs, I think it was a hard enough and long enough trail that I would have been wiped out even with just a day pack.  So knowing I did it with all my gear really helped boost my confidence!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How To: Pee and Poop in the Woods, a Guide for Girls

How to Pee in the Woods

Surprisingly, I get asked this often.

Method One, The Freewheeler:

Pull your panties/pants down to your knees-no further. Plant your feet wide enough apart to avoid the spray and give you balance, then squat. The aim here is to pee between your feet and a little back, just level with your heels. Practice in the shower first. Not exactly dinner-party conversation, but it beats hiking with a warm, wet sock.

Don't pee on vegetation, you can kill plants with your pee powers.
If you have to use nature to wipe, look for wide deciduous tree leaves, grass or snow will work. Avoid using plants along the trail or vines, many can cause irritation, not just poison oak/ivy.

Method Two, the PUD

Personal Urination Devices are all the rage-and with good reason.  Now girls can pee standing up! This was the only reason I wanted, very badly, to be a boy when I was a little.  No squatting!  I use a P-EZ, but they are all pretty much the same-a funnel.  In fact, several women I know use the small oil changing funnel you can get for a buck in the automotive section.   They don't squash down to pack, but they won't crumple under use, such as if you needed to keep on your gloves and couldn't control your hand pressure as well.  Or if you are wearing lots of layers you have to keep out of the way, it's handy to have a sturdy funnel. (update, I have since moved to this myself after a collapsing funnel left me hiking in my spare undies!  I still carry my PE-Z in my every day bag in case I encounter a gross public toilet.)

The basic gist is the same and each device has it's own little perks and drawbacks.  You don't have to pull down your pants, either.  Or take off your pack or do much more than get the required 200 feet from the trail and water and weeeeee.  Don't press it up against you too tightly, it will create a seal and the pee won't go out the end and might backflow over the top.  I get mine in place, start her up and then tip it down a tiny bit to release the vacuum and-no problems!  Try at home a few times so your confidence is high.

The advantages are huge, and you use much less toilet paper.  The silicone funnel sheds water, you just have to blot it (maybe) and pop it back in the bag.  A rinse at the end of the day and you are good to go. 

An alternative to  TP for peeing is a pee rag which is just that-a rag you use to wipe after peeing. Clip it to the back of your pack to dry!  And, use silk or something else very fast drying. Cotton just does not shed the moisture quickly enough.  You still need TP or wipes for pooping.

How to Poop in the Woods:

The most common way to deal with poop is to bury it.  First you need to be 200 feet from the trail and from water, then dig a hole 6 inches deep to bury the poop.  When you are done, wipe and bag your TP. (if you are in a wet wooded area, in some places it's okay to bury the paper, too because it will break down, ask if you are unsure of the policy where you will be hiking).  Put some of the dirt back in the hole and then stir it around with a stick  Leave the stick poking out and fill in the rest of the hole.  In high-use areas, finding a stick poking up is a good indicator you don't want to dig just there.
Some areas you simply have to bag your poop and take it with you, the environment is too fragile. Above the treeline, you don't dig because it will kill tiny plants.  There you leave it on the surface. Each park will have their own guidelines, follow them.

In a hurry or helping a younger kid with no aim? Poop first and then dig the hole and roll it in with a stick.

You can use the 'balance on a log' method from above or face a small tree, grab it for balance and squat or free squat no-hands, though that's hard core!

An aspirin in the used TP bag will help with the smell.  Keep your poop trash totally separate from your food trash.  Some people use a little bleach in the used TP bag, or borax or even baking soda. A tablespoon or so, you don't need a whole bunch.  Wrap your bigger TP bag in duct tape or use a black odor-free bag like for used coffee grounds to really ID that it's non-food.  It will still need to go in with the food and toiletries if you bear bag.

Encourage your youngsters to pee and even poop in your yard before heading out on a trip that they will have to go in the woods. Some kids could not care less and some panic or are embarrassed and try to hold it until you are back in civilization. It's scary having your most private bits out there for any squirrel to see! If you have never tried it yourself, you may want to practice at home as well.

Checking in on what's coming out is a good way to check in on what your body needs. Dark/smelly urine or trouble pooping? Up your water intake!  Mushy?  Get some rest and eat some fiber-which seems like an odd idea, but nuts and dried fruit will keep things moving and firm things up.

How To: Wrap a Weak Ankle

Resident expert here!  I do this nearly every time I hike.
You will want to talk to your medical person about what type of sprain it is to see if this is the best way to wrap it.
Mine turned outward, tearing all the tendons out along the outside of my foot and damaging the nerves.  It's been a year since the initial injury and it STILL hurts, more at the end of the day.  And it still swells-I can tell I am pushing too far when my boot starts to suddenly feel 2 sizes smaller.  Let your body tell you what it needs when it's injured. 

Wrapping the ankle gives it stabilization to prevent a sudden injury on the trail, especially under a load.  But this is just a small part of healing such an injury.

If you have a chronic sprained ankle or just one you need to rehab fast, the best thing I can tell you is that as soon as the swelling goes down, start using it!  Do ankle exercises in bed, trace out letters as if your toe were a pencil.  Point your toe and pull it back up over and over.  As soon as you can start taking weight, stand on it.  Do balance exercises and when you are able, use a wobble board.  Stand close enough to your wall that you can touch it with your fingertips, keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle.  Back up just a bit until you are not touching the wall and stand on your injured foot and keep your balance.  When you can do that, shut your eyes and try to keep your balance.  Don't touch the wall for support, just know it's right there if you get too wobbly. Just push your arms forward!

Ice it every time you over use the joint.  Even if it's months later.  15 minutes, max, and never directly to the site, use a cloth buffer.  It will heal!  Wear good shoes, use a hiking pole in uneven terrain and walk, walk, walk.  Try not to limp, even when it's hurting.  That throws everything out of whack and gives you more pain in more places to deal with.  And it's horrible for your back!

Until you can get up and move freely, try yoga in bed and do stretches, keep limber and work on your core-that's your biggest ally in balance.  

Swim ALL you can, it will help more than anything.  I remember very well being about 6 weeks out from the accident and being in the pool.  I decided to jump, since I was in the water to my shoulders.  My ankle groaned and popped and felt SO tight and then-BAM.  It loosened up as the newly mended tendons seemed to snap into place.  I walked better from then on!  

The offending foot

The tools!  Wool socks, a gauze square, self-sticking sport wrap and non-pulling tape.

What helps me most is the weirdest thing.  It's the above tiny strip of tape that I apply starting under the ankle knuckle, which is what I call that bone that sticks out, and apply a little tension to pull it back and up slightly, then lay the tape in place.  The moment I started doing this, I was able to hike again-that day.

I have heels that peel, so to keep it drier and keep it from rubbing at all, I put a piece of gauze over it before I wrap.

Start from the middle of the foot and go up, not at the ankle and go down, which is how every doc has ever had his nurse wrap my foot for me.

Wrap the foot a couple times, then up to the ankle, keeping the wrap flat

Go around the heel from the ankle, wrap the foot one more loop and back up to the ankle.
This keeps the wrap flat and keeps it from rolling in your sock or shoe.

Continue wrapping up the ankle, well past where it 'hurts'

This method keeps the ankle stable while still giving plenty of flex.
Wrapping this way also keeps the wrap flat and not stretched out, so you can use it again if it's not wrecked from your hike!

Last tip-apply socks carefully, roll it like a pair of pantyhose and pull the end over the edge of the wrap until the toe is snug and then pull the sock on.  This will keep it from rolling up, which you don't want because it will cause a hot spot or even a blister if you neglect it.

When you are walking on level ground, using a treadmill, biking or swimming-don't wrap it.  The more it's wrapped, the more your ankle will rely on the wrap and it won't develop all the strength it needs to eventually function without the outside support.  

You will know when you can start leaving it off more and you can always take wrap with you and apply it mid hike if you need it after all.