Appalachian Trail Bat Attack

Starting a second thru hike comes with a lot of expectations. You expect some things to be the same as the first and others to be different. You expect the aches from your body getting used to walking all day again. You expect it to take some time to get back into the groove of things. You expect all the filth and the joy and the sweat and the pain.

You don’t expect to wake up in a shelter at 4am with a bat biting your face. You don’t expect to night hike and hitch into town to receive a series of rabies vaccinations. Lots of things that cannot be anticipated or planned for happen on a thru hike, but still this was a pretty shocking way for it to start.

Everything started out smoothly. A hot May afternoon, I climbed the endless stairs from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain. It felt good to be on trail again, even if this trail is steep, sticky, and viewless. The weather doesn’t lend itself to cowboy camping as well as the PCT, but luckily shelters are scattered along the trail to prevent the need to set up a tent. Not sleeping in your tent allows you to use it as a pillow, which tends to be more comfortable than a bag of freeze dried beans or a wadded up fleece.

Small issues came up as I walked. Everything started chafing in the humidity, and I had nothing to prevent it. I forgot my toothbrush and ended up begging a weekend backpacker to give me his as he got in a shuttle. Another hiker has threatened to punch me in the face if I keep making terrible jokes. All normal hiking things that I’m used to.

I get to a shelter one night right before sunset. It’s been a long day. Dinner is a potful of skurka beans. I throw my zlite on the wooden planks and crawl into my eternally damp quilt. Sleep welcomes me with a warm embrace as I finally allow my body to rest. At some point in the night I wake up. There is something on my face. I’ve heard stories of mice scurrying across people in the night. Getting stuck in hair or sleeping bags or chewing through backpacks. This is not a mouse. It’s a bat, and it’s biting me. In a panic, I swat it off, pack my bag, and move down the trail. I need to get to a town. The sun rises as a road appears in the distance. Hitching takes a while, but I eventually make it out. After several more hours and multiple rides, I make it to an emergency room to receive rabies vaccinations.

This whole experience has left me very on edge, especially around dusk. Every flutter or scurrying sound registers as a bat to me now. No birds fly through the trees, only bats. I check the ceiling of every privy in case one is waiting for me. I think I’ll only be sleeping in my tent from now on. Its thin nylon walls will protect me.

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Comments 5

  • thetentman : May 27th

    Thanks for the laugh. You love that tent now.

    Glad you are ok.

    Good luck.

  • jen l : May 27th

    For reals, a bat on your face? Yep, I’d definitely choose tent over shelter. That’s a new one for me 😬

  • Me : May 27th

    Hope you got rabies treatment asap… Survival rate is 1… Like 1 person was known to have survived under some crazy therapy that is not guaranteed

  • William Farrell : May 28th

    Begs the question.
    Why hike the AT with its dearth of scenery and enjoyment?

    • Pyro : May 28th

      Because I deserve to suffer


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