Category: Travel

Five Tips for Backpacking through Shenandoah National Park

Backpacking pic


A cardiologist, Dr. Pradeep Ghia maintained his own practice in Pennsylvania for more than 30 years. An outdoorsman with an interest in hiking and backpacking the Appalachian Trail, Dr. Pradeep Ghia is particularly fond of the Shenandoah National Park. The National Park Service offers the following advice to individuals considering a backpacking excursion through Shenandoah National Park.

1. Know your outdoor skill level. Plan your trip according to the outdoor skill level of yourself and others in the group. More advanced campgrounds and trails may feature hazards and terrain not appropriate for beginning hikers and backpackers, so take the time to research before you begin planning. Shenandoah National Park offers three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

2. Follow park regulations. Park regulations are in place for the protection of campers, wildlife, and the natural environment. Backpacking in Shenandoah requires all individuals to acquire a permit and attempt to restrict their camping to pre-existing campsites and designated areas. Dispersed camping in a previously undisturbed area is permitted if a pre-existing site cannot be found, but backpackers must abide by the Leave No Trace practice.

3. Pack the right equipment. Packing the proper equipment can help limit your impact on the environment and avoid violating park regulations. Examples of proper equipment include small trowels to burry human waste, portable water filters or purifiers, and ropes to hang food out of the reach of wildlife. Park regulations do not allow campfires, so backpackers will also need to carry an independent fuel source to prepare foods and boil water.

4. Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from any wildlife you encounter and do not feed any animal per park regulations. Wildlife native to the park includes animals that may pose a danger to humans if approached, such as bears and poisonous snakes.

5. Avoid shortcuts. Avoid taking shortcuts while on the trail, particularly between switchbacks on steeper trails. Venturing off trail can lead to hazardous results and may cause damage to the surrounding vegetation, which violates the Leave No Trace rule.


Two Drastically Different Approaches to Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail pic

Appalachian Trail

Between 1984 and 2016, Pradeep Ghia served as the president of Pradeep S. Ghia, MD, PC, an invasive cardiology private practice located in Easton, Pennsylvania. In his free time, Pradeep Ghia enjoys hiking and backpacking along the Appalachian Trail, a roughly 2,168-mile hiking trail spanning from Georgia to Maine.

On average, an Appalachian Trail through-hike, hiking from one end of the trail to the other, takes between five and seven months. Two people who have traversed the entire trail, Karl Meltzer and Jeffrey H. Ryan, set out with drastically different goals, one holding the record for finishing the trail in the quickest time, the other taking almost three decades.

At 48 years old, Karl Meltzer set the speed record for the Appalachian Trail by running the entire length of it in just under 46 days. Meltzer, an accomplished ultramarathon runner who has earned the nickname, “Speedgoat Karl,” attempted the speed run three times, succeeding on his third attempt.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jeffrey H. Ryan, an author and avid lover of the Appalachian Trail. Taking the trail at a more leisurely pace, Ryan took 28 years to complete it using a method Appalachian Trail hikers call “section hiking.” Instead of taking the trail on all at once, Ryan hiked a section at a time.

To Ryan, section hiking offers the most appeal, giving him the opportunity to immerse himself in his surroundings more than someone like Meltzer, who described the trail as a never-ending tunnel that “more or less looks the same a lot of the time.” Section hiking the trail also proves advantageous for those who want to hike the trail but cannot afford to take five to seven months away from their normal lives.

Whether you are out to prove yourself, set records, and push your limits, or simply want to enjoy the immense beauty offered on the over-2,000-mile hike, the Appalachian Trail has something to offer all hikers and nature lovers.

Basic Safety Tips for Hiking the Appalachian Trail


Appalachian Trail pic

Appalachian Trail

A board-certified cardiologist, Pradeep Ghia spent more than three decades leading an invasive cardiology practice in Easton, Pennsylvania. Now retired from private practice, Dr. Pradeep Ghia maintains a healthy lifestyle and routinely goes hiking and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.

Hikers are expected to be prepared and informed before they start their hikes on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Here are a few safety points for hiking:

Take a trail map. If you leave the trail because of an emergency or if you simply get turned around, you need a way to find where you are. Some hikers neglect taking maps because they plan on using GPS or phone for tracking their location. Unfortunately, this technology is not always reliable, but a paper map and a compass are.

Share your plans. Let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Provide an itinerary for overnight and long-distance hikes, and make sure you check in regularly.

Stay alert. Due to the popularity of hiking trails, you likely will come across many strangers. If you feel uncomfortable around certain people, trust your instincts and avoid them. This is especially important if you are hiking alone. Use the pronoun “we” rather than “I” to keep from broadcasting the fact that you are alone.

Five Safety Tips for Hiking the Appalachian Trail


Appalachian Trail pic

Appalachian Trail

A board-certified cardiologist with the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Pradeep Ghia treats patients as an active staff member of Easton Hospital and St. Luke Hospital’s Warren Campus. Dr. Pradeep Ghia enjoys hiking and backpacking the Appalachian Trail, an activity that can become dangerous without taking the proper safety precautions. The following tips cover safety while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

1. Stay alert. Remember to stay alert and watch your surroundings for warning signs of danger on the trail, including changing weather, hazardous terrain, and suspicious individuals. Trust your intuition and report any suspicious activity you witness. If you encounter someone who makes you uncomfortable, do what you can to put distance between yourself and the individual as soon as possible.

2. Use the buddy system. Consider joining up with other groups of hikers, even if only for a short time. This is safer generally, and can be particularly helpful if you encounter an individual or a situation that makes you uncomfortable.

3. Follow health precautions. A highly contagious disease called norovirus can travel fast on the trail and symptoms can include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You can take precautions to avoid contracting the virus and other microbial illnesses by treating water before drinking it, not sharing utensils or water bottles, and washing your hands with biodegradable soap before eating or touching food.

4. Do not approach wild animals. Avoid approaching any wild animals you see, regardless of the species. Some animals may attack if they feel threatened, particularly if you come too close to their homes or their young. In addition, do not feed wild animals and do not leave food out in the open.

5. Don’t rely completely on your smartphone’s GPS. Bring a map and a compass for use as supplemental or backup navigation tools.