Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tale of the Lone Traveler

As a man who isn't too phased by the notion that one could travel alone for an entire week on the Appalachian Trail, the notion struck me that others may not feel the same way as I do about solo travel.

So I decided to take it upon myself to venture out into the Athens population (and beyond) to find out the general concensus on the issue.

Before I did this, I wanted to make sure that I myself was in tune with the practice of solo travel, before I went asking others about it. I surfed the web to find out some information, and was inundated with facts and tips about the solo traveler.

Steve Gillman, an outdoorsman author, gives great tips and reasons why solo backpacking is such a great experience.

The main point of Gillman's article is the fact that being alone allows you the opportunity to not worry about the general hassle of other people. Finding people to go with, having to share food ,etc.

Though others go for a more specific reason, self discovery. As mentioned in one of my first blog posts, Vision Quests are a way in which Native American boys ventured out alone in the wilderness to become a man.

To some, this notion may be a bit on the 'nutty' side. Though after talking to several people on the street, I was able to find a distinct gender opinionated difference.

Chris Wagner, a junior classics major in the Honors Tutorial College said, "Doing that is just so...manly! I don't know how to put it any other way. Being alone, survival, I mean I love Bear Grylls to death man. It's just gutsy and cool."

John Petro, a sophomore accounting major said, "It's all about the adventure, having to rely on yourself and nobody there to help you. You are like a warrior."

While the men that I managed to interview were more impressed with the notion of solo backpacking the Appalachian Trail, the women had a more 'motherly instinct' type of response.

"You're kidding right?," Patricia Roberts, a junior biology major said. "You know you could die out there. Are you bringing a cell phone? (No reception) I cannot believe your parents are letting you go! (Mom isn't)."

Amanda Hawkins, a junior journalism major, shared the same opinion. "You really should bring a friend, wouldn't you get bored anyway? You have first-aid? (yes) Flashlight? (yes) Enough food? (yes) Cell-phone (again, no service) Well this just isn't a good idea it sounds like."

I called back up the backpacking tour guide, Ethan Wall, who I talked to in my last blog post, to see what he thought of this gender gap.

"Women can't handle it. I don't know why, but they can't. It's the motherly instinct I guess. Guys want to go out there, show their braun to mother nature and get out. Women, they want to share it with friends, so I really don't know, man," Wall said.

I brought a group of close friends over to sample some freeze dried spaghetti and meatballs that I am testing out before I go out backpacking, and to view the film, 'Into the Wild.' The video is about Christopher McCandless, a solo traveler who hiked out into the Alaskan wilderness because of a qualm with society, only to end up dead. Here is the preview of the movie and some reactions from viewers, a gender difference in opinion is evident here as well.

Jesse Neader, a junior studying public advocacy said, "The guy had real guts, you have to hand it to him. He had a problem, and he tried to go out there and find it. He ended up killing himself, but he went out with a purpose."

Beth Mohr, a junior studying political science disagreed. "A purpose? What did he prove other than he was an idiot? He went out, trapped himself and died, end of story."

Giffin White, a junior mechanical engineering major said, "I mean you are right, but the story he left behind is his 'man-ness'. How badass was it when he killed that moose by himself. I would have crapped my pants if I was in the woods alone by myself at night. This guy is legendary."

Overall, the view on solo travel definitely has a distinct differentiation depending on what sex you talk to. Males most likely will see the opportunity as a way for a guy to express his inner 'mojo', while females will see anyone wanting to do this as an idiotic buffoon.

I talked to Justin Kleckner, a outdoor employee at Dick's Sporting Goods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to get a final word.

"I get tons of people a year coming out to the store saying they are going by themselves. Most of the time it doesn't happen, but to me it's fine. As long as you are well prepared there is no worry. Especially on the Appalachian Trail, hundreds of people walk that thing a day, you are bound to run into somebody if you need help."

Kleckner went on to talk about incidents happening to both people who backpack in groups, or solo, but added finally, "It's a different experience when you are alone. The wild is different, the air is different, the night is...and when you are out there you are too. Just get ready to meet a new side of yourself, man."

I'm ready.

Best Travels,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Farewell Advice

I tried calling up various stores to get someone to tell me a few last tidbits of advice before I set out on my backpacking adventure in a week, but the only people I could manage to get ahold of really knew nothing about backpacking, just the products they sold.

So I decided to resort to the friend circle, asking around if anybody knew of an "expert backpacker" that I could talk to for an hour or so. Wouldn't you know, a friend from Penn State (Mt. Alto Campus) had a friend who is on the Outdoorsman Team at their school (you know the guys you see on ESPN chopping down huge trees in just a couple of minutes? Yeah that is him).

He gave me his phone number, and before I knew it Ethan Wall was telling me all about how he was going to be creating trails in the Allegheny Forest and leading backpacking trips all summer as an internship.

He talked for about an hour regarding himself before he paused finally, realizing that the whole point of the conversation was to help me out.

Here are the main points that Wall told me to keep in mind when backpacking. "Nothing else is really going to matter to you out there...," he started:

A.) You aren't even going to be thinking about girls. Something about the wild brings out the survival man in you, and sex is going to be the last thing on your mind. ("Thanks person I have known for an hour...")

B.) Breakfast should be nothing more than a cup of hot tea, coffee and some granola, you can't weigh yourself down. Lunch is on the go, no time for stopping if you want to get a lot done, so trail mix and nuts it is. Dinner is the only time you should be sitting down to eat. That's when you'll pull out your freeze dried feast and dig in. Don't let them fool you though, that shit doesn't feed two if your a man. ("I hope I'm 'man' enough to eat it all..."

C.)Clean your damn water. Two things will ruin your trip, well three, your feet, water and head. We'll talk about the other two later. You need a water purifier, or tablets. Pop those suckers in there and you are good to go. Drink a lot though.

D.) Now for the other two. Your feet need to be taken care of. Do you have hiking shoes? Good. Break those puppies in. Clothes too, clothes can be bad. DO NOT WEAR COTTON! That will hold all its weight in water. Wear that Under-Armour stuff. Feels nice. Keep the scabs off of your feet and change socks frequently. Keep your head in the game too. Don't get all wimpy half-way through. Nobody likes a wimp. ("Good thing I'm going alone..."

E.) Last, bring a notepad. Anything that you think of that you are going to need for next time, write down.

With that, Wall hung up the phone abruptly after saying that he needed to run to practice. His grizzly attitude really got me excited and nervous for this trip both at the same time.

My next post will be discussing the thoughts of others on solo travel, hope that some of the 'wise' words of Ethan Wall touched you guys as well.

Best Travels,

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Photo Courtesy of

One reason that the Appalachian Trail is so famous is the the way in which it forces its travelers to become close to one another.

Hikers are required to stay in the designated camping areas along the trail, which are spaced out anywhere from 5-9 miles apart.

One reason that I am excited to spend some time alone on the trail is the because I will be allowed to tag along with different groups, couples or single backpackers who are on their own excursion.

It is almost comparable to the new online phenomenon,, where visitors are paired up with a total stranger to either 'next,' or chat a bit with.

While the chance that your 'stranger' in the shelter may be a serial killer, (two female hikers were killed in January, 2003 in Shenandoah National Park) most often hikers are friendly and willing to even lend you food or other supplies if need be.

Bill Bryson, author of the novel "A Walk in the Woods", talks about the friends that he met on the trail being the friendliest people that he has run into. One story that he tells circles around a solo hiker that followed him and his partner for nearly fifty miles of the trail.

While Bryson describes the girl as "thoroughly annoying", he tells the reader of how much of an asset she was with her advice and all of the food she lent out.

Overall, these shelters to me will be a way to discover a different aspect of American culture. Being able to see complete strangers interact (whether positively or negatively) will give me a really unique perspective on how the breed of 'backpackers' are in general.

I look forward to the experience, and hope that I don't run into any 'creepers' along the way. What do you guys think ,will mace suffice?

All of the Appalachian Trail shelters are cataloged online, where their coordinates are mapped out precisely for any hiker to pick and choose their hiking schedule for the day, I will definitely be taking advantage of this!

Best Travels,

Friday, March 5, 2010

Altered State

I had a mild run-in with the health police over the last couple of days, so this blog post mildly circles around that time frame. Initially Hudson Health Center here in Athens, Ohio thought that I was a diabetic, after sending me to the Emergency Room at O'Blenness, it was quickly discovered that my appendix was the culprit, and I was immediately given morphine to help with the pain.

In my outrageous drug-induced state of weirdness, I sat and pondered my blog of all things. To begin with, I feel that delving into the background of the Appalachian Trail was due quite some time ago.

The Bricks to Bears blog will from henceforth take a new direction, one that is more informative and investigative in content. I feel that the topic of backpacking is one that can be much more analyzed, and you as readers deserve to know the ins and outs of the trail.

So for this post I will be giving you a background on the Appalachian Trail to start anew with the Bricks to Bears blog. I hope that you guys will take interest, for it is a topic that in many ways can define our history as a nation.

The trail, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, is 2,175 miles in length, stretching from Georgia all the way up to Maine. Benton McKaye brought up the idea of the trail in 1921 as a way for Americans to enjoy the outdoors of America from the top of our country to the bottom.

The trail is privately managed through the national parks of the United States, and crosses over six of our national parks. The trail touches fourteen states, houses more than 2,000 occurrences of rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species at about 535 sites.

Nearly thirty trail clubs care for the Appalachian Trail, with the majority of the care coming from volunteers.

As of right now, approximately 10,000 people have reported finishing the trail, with the record of time being 48 days 20 hours and 11 minutes.

I hope that this can be just the start of many interesting blog posts. For more information regarding fun facts, or other information check out the conservancy!

Hope that all is well, but for now the medicine is kicking in and I need to get some rest!

Best Travels,

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bricks to Bears Map: Finding Adventure in Athens and the Surrounding Area

Hey Guys,

Here's a map that I have created using Google Maps, it is a quick and easy way to point out destinations that you find interest in! These are stores, parks, trails and rec centers that are bound to bring our your inner wild! Hope you enjoy!

View Finding the Wild in Athens and the Surrounding Area! in a larger map

Friday, February 26, 2010

Food for Thought

Naturally, extensive physical activity of any sort requires you to replenish your body's nutrients. For example, it is recommended that marathon runners consume at least twenty fluid ounces of replenishing fluid (such as Gatorade or Powerade), along with a Gel Pack.

The same goes for backpackers. Even though you are not going nearly the speed of any type of runner, because of the extensive amount of weight that you are carrying, it is essential that you refuel your body. This can be done in a variety of fashions.

Keep in mind the bladder that I showed you both in the photo slideshow, and also my video exclusive. Keeping hydrated is number one priority. Dehydration is one of the nastiest things to deal with, especially if alone.

It is recommended that you consume 100 fluid ounces of water in a single day. Here are some more stats for you in regards to liquid consumption and how to pick your own bladder out!

Remember, there are no vending machines or water fountains in the forest, so using your natural resources is your only alternative. Invest in a water purification system or tablets. For both, I would recommend purchasing at a professional store such as REI.

Also, while liquid consumption is essential, so is food. As stated in my video blog post, trail mix and granola might get you through the night, but not more than a couple of days comfortably.

Freeze-dried food is the next best thing on the menu, and here is my piece of advice: DO NOT BUY FROM CAMPING STORES.

For the love of god, if you listen to any advice I give you let it be now. Wal-Mart, Target and even K-Mart sell the stuff for a third of the price that you would buy at a professional retailer. The stuff is easy to prepare. Most often it involves you boiling a cup or two of water and shaking it up in the bag provided.

Those were just a few easy tips on how to keep your body happy when on the trail, snacking on trail mix and granola while hiking is a good way to curb hunger as well. Hope you all are staying adventurous!

Best Travels,