Monthly Archives: April 2019

No Politics Please…

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
-Groucho Marx

“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.”
-Will Rogers

Although I prefer to hike alone most of the time, I have been known to hike with others. And along with hiking with others comes a certain amount of social activity that is pretty much expected from every member of the group, no matter how big or small the group is.  You have to talk to someone at some point. Unless of course, you don’t mind being branded a psycho.

So what is it that hikers talk about? If we have families, kids are always the topic of conversation. Our spouses, significant others and jobs all play a part in what we discuss as we head down the trail. Recent news is on the list, the latest disaster and of course the odds and ends of everyday life. These seem to be pretty safe topics.

But then what happens after the first five minutes and you’ve made it through that list and you still have 7 miles to go? What in the world do you talk about? What might be a conversation starter?

Well if you will indulge me for just a second I will tell you what not talk about. Under no circumstance, even under the threat of death, should politics ever be discussed. The only caveat to this might be is if you know that you and your fellow hikers all think along the same line. If I am in your group, you might as well forget it.

I know my political trajectory is far off and away than most hikers I know and that’s ok. I know my thinking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But then again, if we all thought the same then what would we have to fight with each other about?

I have been hiking with a dear friend for over twenty years now. He was there last summer and saved my ass when I fractured my ankle and was in renal failure. Believe it or not, we are on the total ends of the political spectrum. He leans a lot to the left and I am more in the Libertarian camp. So even when it is just the two of us hiking, I have to make the announcement. NO POLITICS. Because what ends up happening is either he or I will say something that will piss the other one off and then everything will go off the rails.

I learned a long time ago that a friendship is not worth getting all hot and bothered about some stupid politician. Am I right? Now I do know people who make it their mission to say the vilest things just to get me angry. I just don’t hike with them anymore.

It’s as simple as that.



Don’t Fear The Beard!!!



Disclaimer: Don’t Fear The Beard

Almost two years ago I thought about throwing away my razors and letting my beard grow. I had given a great deal of thought to this idea over the years and I figured at this point in my life and career, why not? So that is exactly what I did.

After dutifully shaving for the four years in the Marine Corps and then for the next thirty years that I have worked in education, I have shaved just about every day that I have worked. Unfortunately, during my tenure as the Coordinator of Special Education, I assumed that a clean-shaven face was the way to go, so I shaved and shaved and shaved.

When I was unceremoniously let go as the Coordinator, I figured at that point what did I have to lose? I certainly had no one left to impress, so I went ahead and stopped shaving. Now I live by the motto, “No Shave To The Grave.” My current plan is not to ever shave again, Never, ever shave my face while I am still living and breathing.

But here is the question. Just how long should your beard be? You can start with a 5 o’clock shadow and go all the way to several feet of beard. Of course, this then teases the line between what appears normal and what appears to be just a little bit on the crazy side. If you measure it that way, I’ll take the crazy side, especially as it grows longer. Crazy is as crazy does.

But here is a second question. If you decide to just let your beard go, should you care? I say no. When you start listening to other people and what they think, then you have lost control of your beard. Plain and simple, Why grow it then? Because you can!

When I hike, people often ask me, “Aren’t you hot/cold?” And in every instance I say no. The beard is just there. It does not provide me with protection from the cold nor does it make me hot.

So here we are. The one good thing about my beard is that one thing is for sure. If you see me hiking anywhere in the Hudson Valley, you will know exactly who I am.


Hikers Already Know This…


As with the author of this article, I can’t sit and meditate either. With that said, heading out into the woods provides me with the same relaxation and mind clearing properties that meditation does.

This article is awesome and tells us hikers what we already know.

(Highlight and then copy and paste above)


Ditty Or Not To Ditty


One of the best and worst things about being a lifetime member of REI is the killer specials that they always have. Not only do they have these specials, but if you are a member, you sometimes get an additional percentage off on top of the deal. This presents me with a problem because, with such great deals, I have been known to impulse buy which means I might buy something I don’t need. For hikers, is that possible??

For many, many years I have put everything in baggies when I would head out into the woods. That would include my wallet, GPS and anything else I might be carrying. Baggies are easily sealed, which helps in keeping things dry, but lousy for organization. A couple of years ago I decided to add Ditty Bags to my packing system, thinking that it would be easier to store in my daypack and I was right. I have found that I can not only keep more “stuff” in my pack, I can also keep better track of my “stuff.” Last year I bought the Sea to Summit 6.5L, 4L, and 2.5L Ditty Bags to use for my daily hiking trips and backpacking.

This way, depending on what I am putting in the baggy, will depend on the size Ditty Bag I need to use. The bags have proven to be very useful so when I need to find something quickly, it really is a quick proposition.

Last week I saw that REI had a set of Ditty Bags on sale (see paragraph 1). Even though I haven’t been hiking with them yet, they appear to be more sturdy than the Sea to Summit bags. A little bit thicker than the S to S bags, the REI Ditty Bags come in 7L, 3L, and 2L sizes. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how everything fits into my Kelty Zephyr Daypack as well as my Osprey Kestrel 28 pack. Even though I have the Osprey Kestrel 28, it’s been hard giving up on the Kelty. Of course, I will provide you with a more in-depth review after I get back on the trail.



Candy, Candy Everywhere


The question for hikers is as old as time itself. If you are going hiking, what type of candy do you bring? Some folks like Twix, others like Milk Duds and some favor M & M’s. In my extensive research, I have found that one candy stands out among all of the others.

What kinds of research did I conduct? Over the years I have watched many, many videos and read many books, articles, and blogs about hiking to come to my conclusion.

The only candy that is worth purchasing and bringing with you on those long day hikes (and short) is the Snickers Bar. I had no idea that I would actually be writing a post about candy, but after watching well over one hundred videos, I came to one unmistakable conclusion, Snickers are the go to for most hikers.

Who can deny the excitement of unwrapping a Snickers bar after slogging up a massive hill in almost a hundred degree heat, or in a massive rainstorm and biting into layers of roasted peanuts, caramel, and nougat covered in milk chocolate. Who indeed?

I have heard tale and seen video of thru-hikers who have devoured one or more Snickers bars a day for 2,190 miles. Who can deny the epic quality of a Snickers? Even if it’s melting, wet or has been dropped on the ground, it is still undeniably the best trail food in existence.

I know that I’ve been known to ravage a Snickers or two in my time and each of those times has been heavenly.



So What Does It Mean To Be A Hiker?

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

-John Burroughs

Anyone can hike. Go to the woods, put one foot in front of the other and you’ve pretty much got it. Right? Not so fast. Being a hiker, a true believer in the healing power of the woods is a mindset that can only be developed by spending countless hours on the trails and climbing hills that would kill any other mere mortal.

Many people say, “I like to hike.” Ok. But do you have what it takes to become a true “hiker?” Hiking, like any other sport, hobby or activity, has a vocabulary unique to its participants. Can you speak the language of the seasoned hiker? If you encountered a fellow hiker in the woods, would you be confident that you could make yourself understood? This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

As you are preparing for your next hike, pick up the shirt that you want to wear. What does it smell like? Imagine for the sake of argument that the odor emanating from the shirt is nothing short of horrific. What do you do? In my case, I would put it on and head out the door. But would you? What you smell like is just another form of identification for other hikers. It’s almost like dogs sniffing each other’s butts. That’s how we know who is the real deal and who is just playing the part for the day. Trust me, you can smell them a mile away.

What did you put in your pack to eat? Now, of course, this all depends on how long your hike is going to be, but hikers definitely have some do’s and don’ts when comes to being a true hiker. Trying to stuff a picnic basket into your daypack isn’t going to work and neither is bringing stuff to grill. You gotta keep it simple. If I know that I am going to be out for a full day and I am going to be covering 8-10 miles with some elevation, I’ll get a sandwich from the local deli plus some granola or protein bars to stave off the hunger pangs to keep me going.

Now if I know I’m only going to be out for a short hike of maybe 3-5 miles, I’ll bring granola bars, protein bars and other assorted garbage to keep my legs moving throughout the day. The good thing about logging the miles is that although you might eat a load of crap, you will still burn a great deal of it off during your hike. And of course, don’t forget the GORP!!

You may be asking yourself, “He’s talked about the language, clothes, and food, what about liquids?” Even though it is relatively obvious, water is the most important liquid to have on a hike. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I now go overboard with the amount of water that I carry. Even if I am going out into the woods (for what I consider a short hike) of between 3-6 miles, I’ll figure out the amount that I need to drink and double it. And now that they have Gatorade Zero, which has no sugar and I’ll take a few of those as a way to replenish my electrolytes.

At times, however, any good hiker might develop a thirst for a nice cold adult beverage. Especially if the hike you are on isn’t too strenuous and you have a nice view where you can sit for a while and contemplate life’s mysteries. Of course, the idea here is not to overdo it, because chances are you will have to drive home and you also don’t want to be a stupified slobbering mess walking down the trail.

Now please, I hope that in reading this you haven’t taken me too seriously. Hikers come in all ages, shapes and sizes and have their own rituals when it comes to preparing for a hike. I too, have my own rituals.

That is the glorious thing about hiking and adopting the lifestyle of a hiker. Being able to enjoy the outdoors doesn’t come in just one fashion or form. In my humble opinion, I believe that as long as you are out in the woods doing what you need to do, then you are ahead of the game.






Dreaming Of Summer Hikes


“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

– Aristotle

As the days get warmer and the school year winds down, my thoughts are obviously on what hikes I will be doing this summer. As is the case every year, now is the time when I pull out the maps and figure out where I’m going to go. It satisfies my soul to sit down and look at my maps and then figure out the approximate mileage for each hike.

So what am I looking at right now? The best thing about living in the Hudson Valley here in NY is that we have some of the best hiking in the tri-state area (NY, NJ & CN). We have hikes that are easy as well as those that will put you on your rear end when you are done. Anyway you look at it, no matter where you hike in this area, you are guaranteed, yes, guaranteed fabulous views. Mind-blowing,  Timothy Leary like views.

One of my first stops, either during the Spring or early summer, will undoubtedly be Anthony’s Nose. Sitting almost directly over the Bear Mt. Bridge, the Nose has been a favorite for over twenty-five years. A short hike from South Mt. pass at a tad just under four miles, it offers an almost uphill climb that guarantees a nice downhill ride all the way back to your car (with the exception of one small uphill).

The only negative about this hike, and it has been this way for many, many years, are the crowds that inundate this hike on the weekends. Whenever I head to the Nose I usually head up pretty early in the morning or on a weekday so I can avoid the crowds. And when I say crowds, I mean swarms of human beings that literally suck the life out of any type of Zen experience that this beautiful place may have to offer.

Just a quick caveat-I know it sounds a little snobbish to expect a hike with a view like the Nose to be empty all of the time, but what the hell, sometimes I need that solitude to get my head straight.


Hike Safely!


With warmer weather upon us in the Northeast of the United States, that means many more people will be hitting the trails, myself included. As I have mentioned in several posts, I now treat even short day hikes as if I might have to spend a couple of days in the woods either due to injury or getting lost. Of course, everyone hopes that something like this never happens, but the one thing that I did learn last summer was that it is better to be safe than sorry. The couple of extra pounds of gear that I might now carry to guarantee keeping me warm and dry is well worth it.

I came across an article from National Geographic entitled, “Day hikers are the most vulnerable in survival situations. Here’s why. A new study looks at who lives and who dies when lost in the wild” that basically confirms what I have thought for a very long time. Basically, the majority of people who get lost and are put into situations where they have to spend a night or two, or three in the woods aren’t the backpackers, but instead, are the folks who planned only to be out for a day hike.

That is why I’ll say it again now, I am a strong advocate for people to prepare for a day hike as if you might have to be out in the woods for two or three days. I perfectly understand that when people head out for a day hike, they have no intention of getting lost or injured, but it happens.

Do you know how many people I’ve seen hiking carrying nothing but a small water bottle?

Here is the link to that article and to posts I have written that address the same subject. I’ll beat that dead horse just a little bit more, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Let’s Go Over The Basics…” from March 19, 2019 (The Zen Hiker)

“Hiking Solo? Leave An Itinerary!” from July 24, 2018 (The Zen Hiker)