Solve the Puzzle! 

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail is not skipping along a smooth dirt path in the woods. There are jumbled rocks, exposed roots, and steep ups and downs. Sometimes we have the added fun of solving the puzzle of how to best get past blow-downs (fallen trees that cross the path). 

Facing such a challenge can be irritating…or FUN!

Over, Under, Around, or Through!

OVER…sometimes a simple step, sometimes it takes a bit more:

UNDER…the young and flexible just crouch or crawl while folks like me take off my pack to navigate the obstacle:

AROUND…sometimes the end of the obstacle is close enough to the trail that a new path around the tree is made:

THROUGH…sometimes the trail maintainers are able to cut the trunk to make it easier. But if the fallen tree is huge and is on a steep hillside (and the trail maintainers have not yet worked on the blow-down), you face the full puzzle of figuring out the best way through the mess! 

Don’t miss the fun of a full body, full brain workout! Come play with us and figure out how to solve unexpected puzzles in the real world. 

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Getting from Point A to Point B…Without Getting Lost

(Trail Companion Guide + Phone app + White blazes = Navigation)

Some folks get lost when driving a route they have used for months. Others apparently have an internal map in their heads including compass directions and a marker of where they are at any given moment. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Fortunately, there’s no need for an internal compass when hiking the Appalachian Trail (although it obviously wouldn’t hurt!) During the planning stages of making a tentative itinerary, I studied the latest edition of “The Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion.” This guide offers detailed information in chart and written form about shelters, water sources, road crossings, and re-supply points. It has elevation charts of each mile of the trail including icons for pertinent information. It also includes maps of towns near the trail. I’ve torn out the relevant pages to carry with us and refer to as needed. AT Guidebook

There are detailed topographical maps of the Appalachian Trail. Rather than buying paper sectional maps that need to be repurchased as they are updated, I’ve chosen to buy an app for my phone. Guthook’s AT Trail Guide allows us to zoom in to see close-up details of the route, including relevant photos. Although it can be used with the GPS feature on my phone, we will use it off-line as a more traditional map. Unlike paper versions, updates are free. AT phone app

Finally, we will travel the AT by following the white blazes. These 2 by 6 inch vertical rectangles are painted in white on tree trunks, rocks, and signs. They are generally located within sight from one to the next. Blue blazes indicate side trails (to shelters, towns, roads, etc.) As explained by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy,  if we don’t see the next blaze down the trail: “If you have gone a quarter-mile without seeing a blaze, stop. Retrace your steps until you locate a blaze. Then, check to make sure you haven’t missed a turn. Often a glance backwards will reveal blazes meant for hikers traveling in the opposite direction. Volunteer trail maintainers regularly relocate small sections of the path around hazards or undesirable features or off private property. When your map or guidebook indicates one route, and the blazes show another, follow the blazes.” White Blazes

With three types of navigational aids and two pairs of eyes, we should do just fine in getting from Point A to Point B without getting lost!