Smoky Mountains National Park, Backcountry Cooking

Precook and dry your pasta. This will save you tons of cooking time in camp, as well as considerable fuel and weight. Simply cook your pasta al dente at home, then spread it on dehydrator trays and let it go for a couple of hours until brittle. In camp, all you have to do is add boiling water to the noodles, then cover and let sit for a few minutes.
Q.}   Why shouldn't I substitute a $10 pool float for a sleeping pad that costs $100 or more?

A.}     I think you should give it a whirl, Eldad! You only have 10 bucks to lose, after all! But make no mistake: your friends with real sleeping pads will be much better off. A pool float is inferior for several reasons:

-They are far less durable than “real” sleeping pads.
-They take forever to blow up.
-They are loud and squeaky and bouncy when you roll around on them.
-The have no insulation and you will feel the cold ground below you on chilly nights.
-They’re bulky.
-And most importantly, they just aren’t as comfortable or supportive for your back.

If you’re a tough guy, and don’t need much padding, you’d be far better off with a non-inflatable, closed-cell foam like the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol.

If you want a bit of cush, you can still get a pad that will be far better than a pool float without a huge investment. Check out the Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout, which is a bombproof, 1.25-inch-thicg self-inflating pad that starts at just 40 bucks.

The Jesus Trail

Hiking The Jesus Trail
"Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the Sea." - Matthew 4:13

Every hike is a pilgrimage, but this new path from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee is holier than most. Literally following in His footsteps, the 40-mile route immerses hikers in biblical history.

by: Dennis Lewon; Photos by Jason Florio

It’s not one of the most powerful statements in the New Testament. No miracle required. No subversive questioning of spiritual authority. Just a man of about 30, a native of the Galilee region, leaving the small hilltown where he was raised and moving to the city—a bustling shoreline fishing village of about 1,500. But it turns out to be transformative. Jesus had been rejected by the citizens of Nazareth. It’s in Capernaum that his disciples gather, his followers grow, and his message spreads. It’s almost like his life really started with that 40-mile walk from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee.
The author climbing the Arbel Cliffs

The gospels are silent on when, precisely, he made the journey. But I like to think he did it in early March. That’s when I embark on the same route, and it’s an auspicious time to walk through the rolling Mediterranean landscape. The conditions couldn’t be better—crown anemones blazing red under olive trees, bright sunshine making everything look fresh and new, temps in the 70s. I’m hiking the Jesus Trail, a new 40-mile path that connects the most significant biblical and historical spots between Nazareth and Capernaum, and I find myself thinking about that short passage. Was it just another trek to him, one of the countless Jesus made while preaching town-to-town in Judea? Or did he pause on the ridge above Nazareth, and look down on the hills and valleys of his youth before striding east?

Dintaman and Landis
In the initial few miles, his route would have taken him past the village of Cana, believed to be the place where he performed his first miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding feast. As I approach Cana myself, I walk through a meadow on the outskirts of town. Sheep graze on the spring grass, and it’s easy to imagine Jesus walking through this same field as he left Nazareth behind.

Of course, I’m not the first to come to the Holy Land and wonder if I’m stepping where Jesus did. It comes with the territory, so to speak. I take a break to snap some photos, drink a little water, and duck behind a screen of bushes to go to the bathroom—a routine moment on any hike. But then I realize that nothing’s routine on this trail. Could I have just shared a pit stop with Jesus?
The thought surprises me, and no doubt it will offend some (sorry!). But what’s wrong with imagining Jesus sweating up the hills of the Galilee, getting blisters, stopping at a view? Could it actually give you new insights into his life and message? Whatever you believe about Jesus of Nazareth—man or Messiah—he’s arguably the most important figure in Western history, and literally walking in his footsteps is irresistible if, like me, you find something profound about every trek. I want to know what a hiker—regardless of faith—can learn from the journey.