Category Archives: Hikes in Virginia

Trail Etiquette – Or Please Quit Pissing Me Off

I’ve got another hike planned for the Grand Canyon this March (2019) and am on a FB site, Grand Canyon Hikers, when I came upon some discussions posted by ‘trail runners’, which reminded me of some harrowing experiences around here on the AT, as well as on the JMT, and as well in Utah, where trail runners will literally push right through any group that gets in their way.  So here’s a little post I worked up about trail etiquette.  Enjoy.

“Hey guys, a quick note on trail etiquette, courtesy and plan old politeness. On this site, as well as others such as this (the several JMT sites), there are many people hitting the corridor trails as their first or one of their first hiking/backpacking trips. Several discussions that mentioned trail runners reminded me of this.

It is an old unwritten rule that UPHILL hikers have “right of way”, this should make sense to everyone. Meaning that those heading downhill should, out of politeness, move over a bit to allow those going uphill, to “have the trail”.

A trend I have noticed for a few years on the corridor trails, is that “trail runners”, possibly not aware of the etiquette, will run downhill in a manner, forcing those going uphill to move over, and I do mean forcing.

It is true that many going uphill will cede the trail, to get a short rest, to those going downhill, but PLEASE keep in mind that politeness dictates that those going down at least offer to get over.

Anecdotally, I have seen many seasoned backpackers starting to ‘stand their ground’ to those downhill runners that literally force their way though uphill groups, including horse trains!, leading to a lot of frustration.

So please be polite. The fact that you are running doesn’t give a license to be rude.

thank you and have a nice day.”

So now I’m going to advise my group of the option of ‘standing their ground’, politely of course, but be prepared to get bumped by an ass hole running downhill.  And I do mean ass hole.



No R E G E R T S!  (I’ve always thought that was pretty funny)

OK, I’ve changed my mind, I’m blaming it on the smoke I had to endure in Mammoth, although it was only for about 12 hrs.  But it was pretty awful. And my hotel did NOT have AC, so I had to sleep with the window open.

Symptoms – rapid heart rate (around 90 while laying in my tent), uncontrollable rapid breathing forcing me to stop on uphills about every 2 minutes or so, absolutely extreme fatigue (but only going uphill?) which used to be my specialty.  I trained long and hard on a 17 degree inclined tread mill with a heart monitor and a target max rate of 160.  I didn’t want to do it for this year, but I felt I owed it to myself (stealing a movie line from somewhere).  So I felt I was in pretty good heart shape (boasting a resting HR in the 40s)

I could stand to loose a few pounds.  My going in wt was 197 (same as the last 5 yrs), coming out weight was 194.  And, I’ll be 66 in a few days. So I’ve got that going for me.  Ah, those lines are from Caddie Shack.

So in review, Arrived in Mammoth about 7pm, caught the bus to lone pine at 7:50 the next morning, so let’s say 13 hrs at 7700′.

Arrived at Horseshoe Meadows about noon and departed the next day at about 1000, so let’s call it – 22hrs at 10,000′.

Reached Cottonwood Lake #1 around 1pm and departed the next morning at 0700 to head over New Army Pass, so that’s 17 hrs at 11,000′.

You know, I don’t think I had enough ‘acclimatization’ at 10,000′.  I really wanted to get 48hrs.  I also think I miscalculated my meals for a 2 day stay at HM.

Here’s why I think it was the smoke.

In 2015 we had smoke when we landed in Mammoth and then again in the afternoons when we climbed Forester Pass, and all the way over Kearsage Pass and into Independence.  EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS!

2016 – no smoke and no symptoms!  Just what I call normal minor altitude sickness (about 1 day) after Pinchot Pass, felt sick around 1400 hrs, we camped early and I was fine in the morning. We were able to stay on schedule.  I would say normal old age slowness and fatigue, it’s a hard hike even without the altitude.

2018 – lots of smoke in Mammoth only, return of the exact same 2015 symptoms in the exact same place!  Fuck, I don’t know. So frustrating.

JMT 2018 Goes Down In Flames, Again!

Bottom Line Up Front: Bailed out at Kearsarge Pass for the second time in 3 trips.

This time there wasn’t the smoke issues of 2015. Skies were pretty clear, although Mammoth was suffering from smoke. (note – 2 massive fires in northern section, closing YNP and more)  I just never caught my breath, was feeling severely weak and dizzy.  Chalking this one up to altitude, again…getting to be the story of my life (at least this stage).  Goddamn! This sucks.  So…I’ll lose my resupply at Reds.  At least I’ll get the ones I sent to Independence, Muir Trail Ranch, and Tuolumne back (I hope).

photo link,  More stories coming.

Winter Rants Dec 2017

I haven’t been blogging much, but I have been spending a huge amount of time working on hiking videos.  As you learn more about video editing, it seems the more you have to do!

Instead of linking individual videos, here’s a link to my youtube channel, please subscribe!

I bought a zpacks duplex last Dec (2016), it replaces my Tarptent Notch (which I loved) but its zipper vestibule doors blew open during an all night windstorm while camping at the Campbell Shelter at McAfee Knob on the AT in the Catawba Valley in Virginia, November 2016.  That really pissed me off and I decided to sideline that tent for a while, good thing it wasn’t raining.


The duplex gives me twice the interior room and weighs over 10 oz less (OMG!!) (Weight not including ground cloth and stakes).

Back to the Notch for a sec.  Tarptents has a video about cleaning and repairing the zippers.  So I cleaned and squeezed the zippers, and they seem to work well once more.  I loaned the Notch to my son for a backpacking trip to Bridger Wilderness August 2017 and he didn’t have any issues.

I’ve been using Hoka One One trail runners since summer 2016 and it’s been working well.  I’ll probably get a pair of Merrill’s in the event it ever snows again here in VA.


Unfortunately, JMT No. 3 for summer 2017 was cancelled due to the record snowfall in the Sierras. I just wanted a nice clear walk, not a post-holing, pass down climbing, stream snow bridge crossing, stream flooding crossing adventure.  Getting too old for that shit.  Been there, done that (sorry).

So…now planning JMT 2018 Version! And hoping for ‘moderate’ snow in the Sierras this winter.  As I write this (8 Dec 17), horrible, out of control wildfires are ravaging SOCAL, shame the record snowfall doesn’t do anything to mitigate the fire conditions.

My lower back went out (spasms, tightening, pain) just as I got back from Wyoming last August.  I was sidelined for about a month.  The medicine I got worked wonders and I was good go almost immediately.  However, the 2nd day on meds, I was backpacking Three Ridges Loop, here on the VA AT, when I found myself picking myself up off the rocks twice in a 1/2 mile stretch.  The second fall headfirst into the rocks.  I remember thinking about it as my head seemed to fly in slow motion into the rocks,  Very scary. Yep, it was the meds, side effects.  I guess it’s time to stop blowing off the side effect info you get with prescriptions meds!


Went on a nice fall loop at Mt Rogers NRA/Grayson Highlands State Park.  Saw the leaves changing colors, the horses, and most especially, the herd of Texas Longhorn Cattle.


Went back to western Virginia late November (2017) and did a hike form Grayson Highlands (Thomas Knob shelter on the AT), to Damascus, VA.  Four days, three nights, down into the lower 30’s at night.  Hiked on the AT to the Lost Mountain Shelter, and then just past that got on the Virginia Creeper Trail for the rest of the trip into Damascus.  Did not get the freezing rain we usually get doing this trip in May.

The 13 miles up and over White Top Mountain, between the 2 shelters was rough, at least the part dropping a couple of thousand feet off the mountain was, primarily due to the leaves piled up on the trail, meaning you had to be extra careful to avoid everything, slipping, roots, rocks, you name it.  Makes for a tedious down hike.

But… with the leaves down, the views were certainly different and pretty fantastic.

I’m hosting a Beginners winter backpack to Cold Mountain (VA) in January (2018) and have decided to host a Backpacking 101 course prior to that to help those that want to make a winter trip their first backpacking trip, but we’ll see how that goes.  A lot of people sign up, and a lot of people drop or no show.


Winter Backpacking Tips (Dec 2017)

Here is a list of random winter backpacking tips.  Thanks to everyone from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers (Meetup) for contributing!

  1. Put a hot water bottle into your sleeping bag
  2. Use a metallic car windshield sun screen as an insulating pad under your sleeping bag
  3. Use a homemade aluminum foil wind screen around your cooking stove
  4. Keep your clothing dry, this is an imperative!
  5. Keep your down dry at all costs! This includes your coat and sleeping bag
  6. Keep your socks dry
  7. Don’t put dry socks into wet boots, use a plastic bag such as a shopping bag, a bread loaf bag, or doggy poop bag to put over your dry socks.
  8. Use chemical hand warmers, especially in your sleeping bag (Bass Pro Shop)
  9. Layer up, thermals, shirts, sweaters, down jacket, wind/rain jacket on top
  10. Really thick thermal bottoms
  11. Stocking cap which will cover your entire face while sleeping
  12. Warm up fuel can under coat before using
  13. Keep water from freezing by covering with coat, etc. At night
  14. Turn water bottles upside down at night so freezing will be at the ‘bottom’ of the bottle not around the spout/opening
  15. Water bladder sips tubes will freeze
  16. Hot tea, hot wine, hot water….good for drinking and staying warm before going to bed
  17. Rain gear is a good wind break over your coats/pants to reduce ‘wind chill effect’ warm air removal
  18. Add +20 degrees to whatever your bag says is its winter rating for true comfort range. If the bag is supposed to be a “15F” bag, you’ll probably only be comfortable down to about 25F
  19. If your clothes are dry, it’s ok to wear in your bag at night.
  20. If you start getting cold in your bag, start putting on everything you own/brought with you.
  21. A trash bag used for backpack inner rain protection can be a very good – and warm- vapor barrier liner for inside your sleeping bag, can add about 10F warmth (downside it retains a bit of moisture and feel clammy)
  22. A gortex bivy sack over sleeping bag will add warmth
  23. Pumping up your heart rate (pushups, brisk walking, etc.) Just before getting into your bag will help to generate that initial heat to start warming the bag.
  24. If you toes start to get cold at first, when in your bag, make sure your core (chest area) and head are well covered, once your brain decides they are ‘good to go’ blood will be turned back on to your extremities and will warm up.
  25. Do not skimp on warm gloves and stocking hat.
  26. Coldest times will be just before you go to bed and getting up to get dressed and cook breakfast (mornings are usually the coldest times or just as cold)
  27. If your stove flame is ‘contained’ like a jet boil, heat up a hot drink under you vestibule when you get up to help stoke the internal furnace.
  28. Try to purchase an air mattress rated for winters. If you use your summer mattress, use something like a yoga pad to insulate between your bag and the mattress, not between the mattress and ground.  You don’t want super cooled air in the mattress to transfer the heat from your bag.  Remember, you are compressing the down underneath you, making it worthless as an insulator.
  29. Warmth is created by trapping dead air around your skin. You do this by insulating the areas around your body (layers, down), while preventing wind from chilling your outer surface (rain/wind jackets/pants)
  30. Put some water in your pot before going to sleep if it’s going to really freeze. Then you’ll have ice already in your pot, ready for the stove.  This helps if your water bottles are frozen.
  31. Expect your water purifier to freeze, including filters and tubes. Keep it covered like your water bottles. Consider water purification tablets in winter (30 min wait time)
  32. a ‘cozy’, ‘insulation pouch’ is a good idea for helping your meals cook after hot water is added.

Mike Taylor

Winter backpacking ideas

1. Bring those little glove/hand warmers and toss the down into your sleeping bag.
2. Don’t wear too many socks. It will actually cut off circulation and cause your feet to be colder.
3. Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need. They really aren’t that heavy and you’ll wish you had them!
4. Being in the cold burns calories.. eat snacks more often and stay hydrated.
5. Be extremely careful crossing snow bridges over streams… it could be your last!!! :0
6. Warm/hot water in a water bottle down in your sleeping bag makes for some toasty toes!
7. Don’t be too embarrassed to tell someone you are cold.. they may have some extra gear!


About #1, The good old fashion campfire is pretty much a thing of the past for many good reasons.  But if you do have one, grab a half loaf of bread sized rock from the fire that is slightly too hot to touch and wrap it in clothing or whatever.  Bring it in the bag with you.  Most people like their feet on it.  Depending on the type of stone and the time in the fire, it may provide warmth throughout most of the night.


  1. If i bring an extra fleece blanket, I use it outside of the bag.
  2. Test and know your stove in extreme cold temps
    • My standard JetBoil is very inefficient below 20°. My Primus propane/butane stove takes 15 minutes to bring 1/2 litre of water to boil.
    • I need to put my alcohol stove fuel in my pocket to warm it up, and I have to actually dip my match into the fuel to light it. I was able to use my alcohol stove efficiently in temps just above 0° but need to have a good windscreen.
    • My MSR Dragonfly works well but I have to make sure I bring plenty of fuel and need to pump it more often in the cold.
    • Camp fire seems to be the best for bringing water to a boil in under 5 minutes. Get a pot that is safe to use on a campfire (I use titanium).
    • Bring or make a cozy for your pots, cups and dehydrated food.


  1. Use a 1 person tent as your body heat will fill the smaller space and give a bit of “extra” warmth.
  2. Use 1-2 body size hand warmers in the foot of your sleeping bag.
  3. Exercise before climbing into your bag.
  4. Use a balaclava instead of a beanie, it won’t come off during the night.
  5. Bring a 3/4 length of 1/4″ ensolite to use under your ground pad.
  6. If you use a down quilt like I do a sewn foot box is best.
  7. Eat a high calorie meal that will keep pumping warmth through your body.
  8. If you wake up and need to pee get up and do so otherwise your body is burning heat trying to keep the urine at 98.6.
  9. Don’t overdress, you need some dead air space between your clothing and your body.
  10. If you wear gloves to bed choose mittens instead.
  11. As I mentioned above I use a 900 down fill quilt, the down under a sleeping bag compresses under your body weight and provides no warmth verses extra weight.
  12. Pack your sleeping bag loosely in your pack instead of in a stuff sack or compression sack.
  13. Use a contractor weight trash bag instead of a pack cover.
  14. Camp at a bit higher elevation as the cold air tends to settle.
  15. Camp away from creeks for the same reason.




Hot hands, which I rarely use for my hands! Throw one in the bottom of your bag when you set up, if it’s really cold throw one in each boot when you go to bed. And in the morning I like to put one in each back pocket to keep my butt warm.

Another tip which I learned from Shaun G is to turn your puffy into a foot warmer by zipping it up and turning it inside out. Put your feet into it in the bottom of your bag. Toasty!

The Must Have Backpacking Gadget That You’ve Never Heard Of – And It Doesn’t Go In Your Pack!

Let’s face it, most of us use canister stoves.


They’re easy and convenient – a ‘no-fuss, no-muss’  way to cook!  (what is muss anyway?)

However, one of the little situations we all take for granted, is that little bit of fuel left in the can when we return from our latest hike.

No, this isn’t an article about alcohol or twig stoves.

What are you going to do with that almost empty can?

Do you grudgingly haul it, along with a full can, on your next trip, in hopes of using it up?

Do you put it on the shelf and watch them turn into a little collection?

Sometimes we just close our eyes and toss them in the trash, rationalizing that, ‘well, there’s probably worse stuff in that landfill.’

Recently my hiking buddy, Gunny, told me about a little thing he saw on YOUTUBE, which for the first time in a long time actually has that WOW! factor.


This little gadget, safely and easily, allows me to transfer unused fuel, from one can to another!

This led me to do some extensive research (no one wants to blow themselves up), I guess it’s in the nature of being a retired engineer to explore this.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get the valve.

  2. Have two cans, both partially or almost empty (doesn’t matter).

  3. I recommend chilling for just a bit, the can that is going to RECEIVE the fuel (call this the New Can). This lowers the vapor pressure in the can compared to the can you want to empty (Old Can) (which you want at room temperature). This just makes the fuel transfer a little easier.

  4. Make sure the valve is closed.

  5. Attach both cans to valve. The valve is ONE WAY, the direction is marked by bubbles, going from larger to smaller – this is the flow direction. You want the fuel to go from the Old Can to the New Can.

  6. The Old Can you want to empty (at room temperature) is on the valve side with the larger bubble.

  7. Open the valve. Wait a couple of minutes.

  8. Close the valve. Remove the cans.

  9. Shake the Old Can, it should have less fuel, preferably it will be empty.


Et Voila!

View the Video

You have just emptied out your old canister and can now safely dispose of it.

A Little Safety and Technical Stuff

If you have a scale for your smaller backpacking items (you should be weighing all your gear anyway!!), I suggest weighing and recording the before and after weights of both cans.

This is the best way to ensure that your fuel is going in the right direction and that you don’t overfill the new can.





A very short discussion about the smaller versions of the canisters

When you buy it off the shelf the label will read something like:

3.53 oz/100g  – This is content gas weight or how much gas is in the can.  This IS NOT the total weight of the CAN + GAS.


CAN + GAS  = 7 oz or 198 gr

GAS (alone) = 3.53 or 100 gr.

(let’s round this stuff off and only use grams)

FULL CAN = 200


If you weigh your can before a hike, and it reads 150, that means you have 50 gr of fuel or about half a can.

The closer you get to 200, the fuller the can.

The closer the can is to 100, the closer to being empty.

By the way, if you read my stove article, my jetboil uses 5 gr to boil two cups of water. So a new, small can, with 100 gr of fuel, should give me 20 burns (100 divided by 5), sorry, division used there.

Ok, back to transferring the gas.


Don’t do this around open flames!

Make sure the area is well ventilated, like outside, in the backyard.

When are you filling the NEW CAN, you just don’t want it to exceed 200 – OK?  Keep it safe and maybe only fill it to 190 (gr).

Again, I demonstrate the process here. video.

When you finally do it, it is sooo easy!

To get comfortable with this process, try doing just a little bit at a time and weighing the cans to make sure one is getting lighter and one is getting heavier.

A note on any concerns about the valves.  This adapter is the EXACT SAME connection as your canister stove and should have no more or less effect on the valve properties.

Where do get this valve?

I got mine on Amazon.



Next Post:  Going beyond simply emptying old cans:  refilling cans with ‘off the shelf’ fuel (as in butane cans you didn’t know were sold at your local Ace Hardware) and saving a lot of money.