Aren’t You Afraid of the Bears? And Other Frequently Asked Questions

When our friends and family hear of Ray’s plans to walk in the woods from Georgia to Maine, naturally, there are some questions.  Actually, there are a lot of questions.  We’d thought we run through a few of them to provide a better understanding of his upcoming adventure. Disclaimer: This post is geared toward our non-hiker audience.  These are actual questions that people have asked us.  The answers given are our own personal experience or choice.  And, things can change once he’s actually walking the walk.

Are you really hiking alone?

Well, yes and no. Ray is setting out on his own but trail life can be as solitary or as social as one likes.  According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, in 2016, 3,377 hikers began a northbound thru hike attempt in Georgia.  It is estimated that about 20% finished. So, there will be plenty of company available along the way.

How long will it take you to hike the (nearly) 2200 miles?

We’re planning on 5-6 months with a Mt Katahdin summit sometime in mid-August/September.  He’ll take some “zero days” (non-hiking) days.  These days will be taken along the trail, in town or coming home for a short visit.

Can you track him? Will you talk to him?  Will you see him?

“HELL YES!” on the communication part.  Cell phone service is generally good but I’ll leave the frequency of contact up to Ray.  This is his walk, his cleanse.  I probably won’t see him for about the first month or so of his adventure.  First, it can be a cost issue while he is further south and second, we both feel it best to let him acclimate to this new life and routine for a bit before we start planning visits.  But, once he’s within striking distance, one never knows where Molly the Roadtrek and I might show up!  During the summer months I’ll have much more freedom to chase him down – aaah, errrr – I mean meet up with him more frequently.  As for the tracking, no, I won’t be watching his every step via a GPS system (though I have in the past!). We’ll be in contact enough that I’ll have a good idea of his daily or weekly plan.

How much food will he carry?

Generally, he’ll carry 4-6 days of food at a time.  He will plan resupply stops in towns along the way.  I’ll be sending him resupplies and “trail magic” packages from home that he’ll pick up at designated spots (post office, hiker hostels, outdoor store).  He’ll also take advantage of local options when he’s in town both for a change in menu and to take in some extra calories (pizza, pizza, pizza)

What type of food will he eat? How will he cook?

Ray loves Mary Jane Farms meals.  They are organic, freeze dried meals – just add water that he will boil using his backpacking (gas) stove.  No, he’s not carrying a Coleman 3-burner grill!  His Snow Peak Gigapower is a teeny, tiny stove.  Mary Jane Farms offers a lot of vegetarian options.  Our favorite is Sante Fe Pasta – YUM!  Mountain House meals are another favorite.  Day to day, he’ll also be eating a lot of wraps with tuna, spam, chicken (all from the pouch), power bars, Pop-Tarts, Pringles, nuts and candy.  When the temps are on the chillier side, he likes to carry a block of cheese, maybe some pepperoni.  Mornings always start with instant coffee combined with…wait for it…hot chocolate.  DEEEEEEE-LICIOUS! Truth be told, the food is one of my favorite parts of backpacking

Where will he shower?

Obviously, the days of showering every day will be gone for a while.  He’ll grab a shower when he hikes into a town.  He’ll plan some stays at hotels, motels or hiker hostels as he moves along.  During those times, he’ll run his clothes/gear through the wash.  Those who know Ray may be aware of his appreciation for laundromats.  No really!  He truly believes that there are life lessons to be learned by spending some time in a laundromat.  We’ll see how he feels after 5-6 months of visiting them! OneFoot at the Local Laundromat

What if it rains or snows?

Yeah, well…that’s not an ‘if’ question but rather when.  When it rains or snows, he will be wet and cold.  Another of Ray’s mottos – “EMBRACE THE RAIN!”  He’ll have rain gear and a pack cover but he will still get wet, and he will be cold.

Buying all that gear must be expensive

We’ll go into this topic in greater detail in a later post but the simple response is that Ray has chosen to use the gear he has now.  He has been backpacking for many years and has grown quite a collection of outdoor gear.  Gear preference is really a personal trial and error endeavor.  He’ll likely have to replace some gear along the way as it wears out but he’s starting the trail with his current tried and trusted equipment.

Will he stay in shelters?

First, let’s clarify what an AT shelter generally is.  Most of what you’ll find along the AT is a 3-sided building with roof and floor.  Shelters offer some protection from the elements but they do have their drawbacks; most notably shared space and mice.  Ray prefers to avoid shelters as he likes his personal space and dislikes mice (well thanks, Captain Obvious!).  He will hang his hammock where he can and that will be home for the night.  His hammock will be his primary shelter on the walk; he’s opting to leave the tent at home.  Note: there are some areas that require a shelter stay.  For example, Great Smoky Mountain National Park requires hikers to stay in shelters as long as there is room available in them.  Once full, hikers can pitch a tent or hammock nearby.

Does he hike to a hotel each night?

As noted above, he’ll spend most nights along the trail.  He will enjoy some down time or zero days in town here and there.  There’s also the unpredictable situations that may draw him to town (illness, injury, gear issue).

Where are the bathrooms?

Well, he’s in the woods – so, there’s that.  He’ll take advantage of the privy (outhouse), when available (usually at the shelters).  Other than that, the deuce of spades will become his best friend; and always keeping with the trail’s leave no trace practices.

What does he do for water?

Filter, filter, filter.  He will gather water, as needed and as available and purify it using Aquamira drops or the Sawyer Squeeze system.  Water is heavy!  He hopes to carry about 1 to 1.5 liters at a time.

How much weight will he carry?

All told, his gear and food/water should weigh in at about 30-35 pounds.  Let that sink in – everything you need to survive can fit in a 35 pound pack on your back.

Will he carry his gun?

No.  It is illegal, in most cases, to carry a gun across state lines and he will be crossing through 14 states!  And guns are heavy!  Who needs that additional pack weight when it could be used for FOOD!

What will he miss most while out on the trail?

From what others thru hikers have said, he’ll be missing his fresh fruits and veggies! If you ask him (and I did), he’ll say he’s going to miss me, our children, the familiarity of home and Sundays.  Sundays have always been a special day in our house and I’ve been known to start cooking dinner by 6:00am.  Ray makes a point of saying that this hike isn’t about getting away from home, or needing a major change, or running away from anything.  This hike is about realizing a longtime dream and beginning a new (post career) chapter.

Oh and to answer the big question, “isn’t he afraid of bears?”

Not as afraid as the bears are of people…


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Comments 6

  • Faye Lee : Oct 24th

    Absolutely awesome! Enjoy life! We will be checking in.

  • Pam Atwood : Oct 24th

    Ray, good luck, Bon Chance and Buena Suerte. I hope your journey is peaceful, rejuvenating and grounding. You’ve served our state for so long and this is a fantastic way to start the next phase of your life. God Speed.

  • Bruce Crowell : Oct 24th

    It’s already captivating and hasn’t started yet.

  • Kitty Penton : Oct 25th

    Dreams do come true!!! We will be following your footsteps and sending lots of good energy your way as you trek. Godspeed!!!

  • Joshua Johnson : Oct 27th

    Good read and good luck.

  • Brewerbob : May 23rd

    Came across one of your (plural; you and OneFoot’s) posts and decided to start at the beginning. Been thinking, planning, procrastinating about doing my own hike for 4 or 5 yrs now. Life keeps getting in the way. Excuses, I know but it’s all I’ve got. Just wanted to pop in and say hello.

    And as for bears, they are a little like sharks. For the most part, they won’t eat you. They just nibble around the edges a bit.


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