Pinhoti Trail planning spreadsheet

Those that know me know I’m a little nerdy and detail oriented.  I love spreadsheets.  Nothing too fancy, but a well designed spreadsheet makes me happy.

The Pinhoti Trail in Alabama stretches for about 180 miles across the state from Weogufka, Alabama and crosses the Alabama/Georgia state line due East of Gadsden.

While this trail is becoming more popular (such as now available on the Guthook app), there’s still not a ton of information on the trail for planning purposes.  I went to the main Pinhoti Trail website (www.pinhotitrailalliance.org), downloaded all the “snail trail” guides, cleaned up the data, imported to Excel, and decided it was too good not to share.

I do not have elevation or campsites listed.  This is because I use a hammock and can literally hang just off the trail for its entire length.  I was mostly concerned with water sources, trail shelters, and trail heads.  I used the mileage and data from the above listed website and I believe it is somewhat dated, but it’s what I had.  I did some basic Excel functions and have Northbound total mileage in addition to the listed Northbound section mileage.  Then I reversed the process and included Southbound mileage both for the section and total.

I hope some of you find it useful.  Here’s a link to the spreadsheet: Pinhoti Mileage

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Sale on SPOT GPS Messenger

I have a SPOT device and it suits my needs. Do your research and make your own decision.

If you decide this is for you they are having a limited time sale. Disclaimer: I do not benefit in any way from this information.

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What’s next?

I am nearly finished with the series I have been writing. For a beginner, what have I missed? Your input is appreciated.

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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 9: Liquids and Liquid Management

This is the 9th part of a series.  Today is a double post day! 

What to drink on the trail and how much water do you carry?  This largely depends on where you hike but I will say that hydration starts before you ever step food on the trail.  If you start off dehydrated, you will have issues, even if you drink enough while you’re hiking.  Get fully hydrated the day or two before you go hiking.  Alcohol dehydrates you.  Keep that in mind.  While water is great, electrolytes also play a role.  If your electrolytes are low (through sweating, for example), just drinking water isn’t enough.  There are tablets/supplements you can add to your water that add electrolytes.  This will play a larger role in arid environments or if you are an excessive sweater. 

How much water do you carry?  This largely depends on where you are hiking.  I “camel up” or drink a lot of water at the source before refilling my water bottles so I carry less water overall.   Where I spend most of my time, water is never far away so I rarely carry more than a quart or two.  If you are hiking in the desert, you HAVE to know your next reliable water source and plan accordingly because it can be deadly thinking you can make it to the next water source but it being too far away.

How do you treat your water?  There are several options here.  There are chemical treatments, pumps, gravity or squeeze filters, boiling, or the least preferred – not treating your water. 

There are several chemical treatments sold.  They are one of the lightest forms, but after the chemicals are put into the water, there is a period of time that you must wait before the water is safe to drink. The older methods of backcountry filter was the pump filter.  Once you find a water source, you had to insert the intake for the pump and pump a small handle to push water through the filter into your receiving container.  This is time consuming as most of the time the pump handle is rather small and it takes many pumps to move a relatively small amount of water. If the intake rest of the bottom of the water source, sediment can be sucked up into intake and clog the filter. The newest trend of water filtration is the gravity filter or squeeze filter.  There are several brands, but Sawyer is one of the most popular brands I see on the trail. The water is collected in one bag, the filter is attached, and by squeezing the bag, water is pushed through the filter into your container. These can also be set up as a gravity fed system. In this method, the bag of water to be filtered is hung up and gravity pushes the water through the filter into the collection container.  This is the method I use because it is a hands free method and gives me “water on demand” at camp.

The old fashioned method of boiling water to sanitize still works and I often use this method by boiling water to put into my food. The only drawback to this method is that it does take time to boil water and if you plan on drinking it you have to wait for it to cool down before you drink it.  The least preferred method is not treating your water.  I ALWAYS treat my water regardless of how far I am out in the backcountry because I never know what happened upstream of where I am getting water.

Regardless of which method of water treatment you select, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First, you must know the capabilities and limitations of your method of treatment.  Most water filters currently sold filter down to 0.01 micron.  This type of filter will remove the two most common threats found in North America – Guardia and Cryptosporidium.  These are parasites that come from the guts of infected people and animals.  This is why I ALWAYS filter my water.  I don’t know if an infected animal pooped upstream of where I am collecting.  The parasites are larger than 0.01 micron and most filters will remove them. This filter size will NOT remove viruses but having viruses in backcountry water in North America is uncommon and even rare. Most of the water in my favorite backcountry area is spring fed.  While it may be safe to drink, it only takes a few minutes to filter my water which is much better than days of sickness.  I only filter from flowing (moving) water and highly suggest you do the same and avoid stagnant water, but that might not be an option in your area.

                I prefer separate water bottles versus a water bladder.  It is easier for me to monitor how much water I have consumed using the separate bottles.  However, I do have a 2 liter bladder I use for camp.  I use it for cooking, drinking, and cleaning up or “bathing.”  I have a squeeze lock device on the line coming from the bladder to stop the flow.  If you are interested, I have several detailed blog posts about my water system.

                I mostly drink water.  Often at meals I will bring some type of powdered drink mix for a treat and/or variety.  Most breakfasts include coffee in all except the warmest of days. Even then, I can have my version of “iced coffee” where I drink it cold instead of heating it up.  If you decide to flavor your water, I would suggest against doing it in the water bladder, but use some type of bottle instead.  The added sugar and other ingredients in the drink mix can turn your bladder into a microbiology experiment rather quickly.  I also learned this through experience.

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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 8: First Aid Kit (FAK)

This is the eighth part of a series.

The First Aid Kit (FAK) is an area where I see a lot of extra weight and people packing their fears. If you are afraid of getting hurt and being unprepared, the chances are you will have a huge FAK. Regardless of what you carry, the most important questions are do you know how to use what you carry and will you really need it?  For example, I can carry a suture kit, but I’ve never given stiches to anyone and the trail is not the time to practice.  My FAK is just enough to treat myself/others to get off trail for serious ailments or things I can treat myself. 

What do I carry?  In a SMALL Ziploc bag, I have a few bandages, a couple of butterfly bandages for SERIOUS cuts, antacids (probably the most used item), anti-diarrhea medicine, pain reliever, a couple of gauze pads for major bleeding, blister prevention, and an emergency whistle, my push button light, and a tick key (to remove ticks).  That’s it.  Basically, things I am comfortable/confident using and enough to get me off the trail if I need future treatment.  If I am REALLY hurt, I am already carrying a bandana that can be used as a sling and I am in the woods where I (or someone else) can fashion a splint from items in our environment.

I see these FAK for sale that contain unnecessary items, too many items for a simple backpacking trip, unrealistic items (snake bite kits come to mind), or situations that you are likely to encounter.  The only exception is an Epi pen in you have a serious allergy to bee stings and other items.  I have hiked with a person with an Epi pen and at the beginning of the hike he described where it was and how to use it.  They can be lifesaving if that situation applies to you. Even if you are an emergency room doctor and accustomed to handling major trauma, there’s really no need for items such as IV bags, surgical equipment, or other items. If you are in bear country (specifically grizzly bear), then bear spray should be considered.  It is uncommon/rare for a black bear to be aggressive.  Most of the time they run off unless you are near bear cubs. 

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Sample backpacking food list for 5 day, 4 night hiking trip.

One of the most important things to consider when doing multi-day hiking is food. When you are hiking many miles (for me that is over 15 miles a day) for several days in a row, you have to ensure you consume enough calories for your body to burn. Not eating enough or not the right type of food can cause you to tire easily, cramp, and in general feel bad. The wrong type or not enough food can also have a negative effect on your outdoor experience.

During my highest mileage day (just over 26 miles) I discovered this. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I have hiked similar miles and terrain in the past, but about midafternoon I was just tired and didn’t have any energy. Looking back, I just didn’t eat enough (and often enough). This caused me to not have the energy to complete the hike in the time I wanted.

Another thing to consider is the type of food you carry and eat. It is more difficult but not impossible to eat healthy on the trail. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t carry well and only last a day or two on the trail. Dairy products don’t either with the exception of hard cheese that will last several days. Most prepackaged dehydrated/freeze dried meals have a very high sodium content and full of other preservatives.

So, what should you NOT eat? I wouldn’t suggest eating prepackaged meals for every meal. They are expensive, bulky, and most are not the healthiest options available. Some people make and dehydrate their own meals to eat healthier and this is on my list to do one day. To help prevent intestinal distress, I avoid spicy foods and items that cause issues such as beans, cabbage, or other “gassy” foods. Intestinal distress is one thing I do NOT want on the trail. Although I do carry a few treats or candies, I try to avoid bringing a lot of junk food that I see many other people eat. Examples are Pop-Tarts, a lot of candy bars, or items that contain a large amount of sugar with little nutritional value. I’m also not one to eat the same thing/flavor every single day at the same time, so I have to carry a variety of different foods.

What DO I eat? One general rule before I proceed is eating several small meals/snacks often instead of the standard three meals a day. I’ll give you an example eating schedule and food list for a 5 day hike. This particular trip is a planned 5 day (four night) solo hike on the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama. I planned my camping spots so I camped near or on water. As this is a planned hike, my plans could change as I hike, but I at least have a daily goal.

Often I’m headed to the trailhead on the first day of my hike, so I eat breakfast on the way so that’s one less meal to carry. If I plan on reaching the trailhead a couple of hours after breakfast I’ll plan on having a snack before I start hiking. I’ll hike for a couple of hours and have my midmorning snack if I haven’t already had it or lunch depending on the time of the day. For lunch, I generally don’t cook, but eat something that doesn’t require cooking. For my meals I’ll generally bring a powdered drink mix for a change from water. I’ll take a long break, take of my socks and shoes and let my feet air out, and rest a bit.

I’ll hike to midafternoon and then take another short break. I’m normally tired and need a boost. I’ve started having coffee with protein powder as an afternoon snack. The caffeine and calories are enough to get me to my next meal. This can be either hot or cold depending on the weather. Depending on the mileage, I’ll often eat my evening meal before reaching camp. This will give me the fuel and energy to hike a few more miles before camp and help keep food smells away from camp. After I reach camp, I’ll often have a snack that doesn’t require cooking, maybe some hot tea or hot chocolate if it’s cold.

This is a hiking trip, so I will be concentrating more on hiking than camping, so I plan on breaking camp fairly early. But before leaving camp, I will need something in my stomach to get me going. I will eat a small package of instant oatmeal and coffee. After hiking for a couple of hours, the metabolism will have kicked in and now I will be ready for more calories. Hikers often call this “second breakfast.” My daily second breakfast is a small package of peanut butter, a protein bar (a different variety and flavor from the one I ate the previous night), and a flavored drink mix. Sometimes this will be eaten while hiking, and other times I may take a short break to eat.

This brings me back to lunch. At this point, it will be a repeat of the above with a variety of foods. Here is a breakdown of my packed food. The exception would be the last day where I plan on finishing midafternoon so I won’t pack an evening meal or bedtime snack. I also pack what I call my “snack bag.” In the snack bag is a little extra food just in case I need the calories or am delayed. In this particular snack bag, I have some Ramen noodles, hot chocolate, and some soup mix.

Here is a detailed breakdown of my planned food for the hike (click the link for a larger view):

Pinhoti Food

food

That comes to a total of just over 5.5 pounds in food. If you notice that some of the weights are different for the same item (oatmeal, protein bars, and Complete Cookie) it is because I carry a variety of flavors and the slightly vary in weight. You may also notice that I eat the same thing on multiple days, but at different times. This satisfies my need for not always eating the same thing at the same time every day. This isn’t the healthiest foods available, but for me it worked. You may also notice the mileage difference. You not only have to consider the mileage but the terrain and elevation change. The shortest mileage day on this trip (day 3) also had the most elevation change (it was almost all up) and I didn’t want to overestimate my mileage. It is easier to slow down than to speed up.

This particular trail had limited access points so I had to plan my pickup point in advance. The next available trailhead was almost 20 miles from where I planned on stopping. If I made great time, I did have that as an alternative but there wasn’t a resupply point as the trail was almost entirely in a National Forest.

 

 

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What I wished I knew before I starting backpacking and hiking, but didn’t…. Part 7: Staying clean on the trail (HBA)

This is the 7th part of a series

HBA stands for Health and Beauty Aids.   I don’t know why I started calling it that, but I did. It pertains to all things related to how do you stay clean when you are on the trail. Well, I’ll be honest. You don’t really stay all that clean…. I mean, I’m not NASTY, but I’m not exactly snuggle with the wife clean, either…. I brush my teeth in the morning and at night. I clean the face, pits, and privates (in that order, by the way) every night – especially when I’ve been sweaty most of the day. But clean? Not really. There’s a term of “hiker funk” for a reason. If you are hiking all day, every day, for multiple days in a row, it’s really a losing battle to stay shower fresh. It uses a lot of energy. The items needed to stay shower fresh are heavy. Everyone else stinks. You get used to it. Really, you do. Plus, I will tell you when you have a certain degree of hiker funk even the bugs leave you alone.

So, what do I do? I carry a bandana on my shoulder strap. During the day, I use it to wipe sweat out of my eyes or to insulate against hot items (my mug on the stove, for instance). When given the opportunity and conditions (near water but not IN the water) I’ll rinse it out and use it to wipe off the areas in the order listed above (face, pits, and privates). I do carry a small amount of a natural soap (I use Dr. Bronners but there are others) when I need a deeper clean. I collect water (I’ll explain later) and use it away from the water source to clean up. I brush my teeth two times a day and carry a small container of dental floss. I have a travel size deodorant for short trips. Given the right conditions and temperature, a swim in a lake can be a “bath.”

One of the biggest questions that comes up is “How do you go to the bathroom?” Well, the answer is, just like you do at home, but outside! I mean, you do have to improvise a little…. This is where men definitely have the advantage because one type of bathroom break (the easy one) is a no brainer. You go out of sight of others, away from water, and do your business. The other type (that typically takes longer) does take a little more preparation.   I highly suggest a lightweight trowel. You need/should dig a hole. Do your business in the hole. Wipe. Cover the hole.

For this situation, I carry what I call my “poop kit.” It’s in a waterproof bag (it can be a Ziploc bag). In the bag is toilet paper and/or wipes and some hand sanitizer. If there’s not facilities (called a “privy” on the trail), you get out of the sight of others (200 ft off the trail), away from a water source, dig a hole, lower the pants, do your business, wipe, cover the hole, and march on. The true LNT people carry their used toilet paper out with them. I’m not a true LNT person. As a note, when you squat to do the deed, make sure your pants are well out of harm’s way. Don’t ask me how I know…..

That should cover the basics of staying “trail clean.” It is a relative term. One thing I didn’t address is keeping your hands clean. This is highly important to keeping yourself from getting sick. I use a combination of hand sanitizer and actual soap. When enough water is available, I will use a small amount of soap, really scrub my hands, and rinse. Other times I use hand sanitizer. You should also want to clean your feet at least once a day. This will help prevent blisters as you remove the dirt and grime that eventually build up when hiking.

These items can be heavy – especially if you carry full size items. Look in the travel section at your local store. You’ll likely find small containers of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, and other items that you may want to carry backpacking. One thing I didn’t mention is powder. I HIGHLY suggest carrying a travel size container of medicated powder. IF you have chaffing issues, clean and powder the affected area. The medicated powder will sting, but you’ll be in much better shape the next morning. Of course, if you can solve the chaffing issue by changing out a clothing item, that’s even better.

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