Lion and Tigers and Bears, … Oh MY!!!

Dolly Sods

Dolly Sods

With the recent bear attack in the Great Smoky Mountains, perhaps that is a poor title. But, I promise no humans nor bears have been attacked or otherwise harmed in this writing. On the somber side, speedy recovery to Gabriel Alexander and let’s hope the rangers didn’t euthanize the wrong bear.

So, I’ve pretty much decided that ’16 is the year I attempt a thru hike of the A.T. There are still some lingering concerns like, oh I don’t know, … work, money, and logistics to figure out. I’d hate to have to quit before even starting. All that aside, I’ve still got some pretty big concerns (besides the obvious flying monkeys). Chief among them is one that is almost everyone’s favorite gripes around this time of year (on and off the trail)… it’s HOT and HUMID!!!

I was born and raised in FL; lived there for 26 of my 46 yrs. Spent another 3 yrs in Norfolk (courtesy of the US Navy), 5 years in South Carolina, and going on 11 yrs in Maryland. None of those locations are exactly inside of the Arctic Circle so you’d think I’d be use to it by now. No such luck. Instead I keep moving north. Right now, I’m listening to the window AC unit struggling with a heart attack.

I’m going to be selfish in this post (possibly the first few posts). I’m going to plead for advice from long distance hikers, thru hikers, and even thru hikers that didn’t quite make it. What tips do you have for beating the heat while hiking?

This wouldn’t be much of a write-up with just a question. Hey everyone, let’s listen to this guy complain about the heat. That sounds exciting!! So, I am going to do some research and at least try to make it a little easier for others to weigh in. One site lists 3 ways to beat the heat; wake up earlier, hike at night, and hike somewhere else. Well, that last one isn’t going to be much help!!

But, can we look at the merits of the other two? Lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion is going to limit how early a person can get up. Is it reasonable to get up just before dawn to start hiking on a regular basis? Today in Maryland, which is also about where some of our classmates of ’15 NOBO should be, the sunrise was 5:38am. 5 hrs hiking is only 10:30am and it shouldn’t be too terribly hot at that time. Conversely, sunset is 8:32. Resume hiking at 5:30 gives another 3 hours of hiking. If 8 hrs ~ 16 miles, keeping mind hiking your own hike, is that an acceptable pace with an early April start and still make Mt. Katahdin by close of the season? Quick everyone consult their crystal balls!! That also implies a 7 hr “break” in the middle of the day. What to do? Maybe I’ll just take it much slower but keep walking.

Hiking at night… I don’t (yet) own a headlamp. For the hikes I’ve been on, I carry at least 2 of the little 3 AAA battery flashlights. I’ve gotten fairly adept at holding those in my mouth while working with my hands, be it hiking or wrenching on a car. Obviously I’ve not yet hiked every section of the A.T. but I’ve done bits and pieces, here and there. Are there any hikers out there that have done extensive miles in after the sun has set? Aside from the obvious trip hazards, is there anything else people should be aware of? I did see mention of the bears being active at night. Not the kind of teddy bear I want.

Almost all of the sites say to stay hydrated. Right after saying “d’uh”, I thought of something that I haven’t experimented with yet. I find that I drink a lot less than other people. My normal (office) day is 2 twelve oz cups of coffee, lunch may be a 20 oz soda or nothing at all, and in the evening I’ll have an 8 oz juice or maybe a beer. And that’s about it. That’s less than half a gallon a day. I do know that I drink a lot more while out hiking. But here’s the experiment I was thinking of… hiking the same exact hike, how much more am I going to drink at 80* instead of 60*? What about 90*? Or even 100*? Hopefully I won’t have to find out about 100*. I’m hoping I can find a nice rock to pull up in some shade and park my butt on if it gets that hot. I think I’m going to carry my 3L camel back along with an empty 1L soda bottle. Dose the 3L with the sport drink mix stuff. Keep the 1L filled with plain water for cooking/backup.

Enjoying some shade

Enjoying some shade

Well, I think that is enough for a first post. No sense in boring the audience to death especially before I even have one.

P.S. Sorry about the rambling; the voices say it makes perfect sense but I’ve come to suspect they don’t always know what the hell they are talking about.

P.S.S. Don’t tell them I said that or I’ll never get any sleep with all the arguing.


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