Questions My Mom Asked Me About the Appalachian Trail

When I announced my intentions to walk across the country, I was bombarded by questions from my loving mother.

Fortunately, this barrage of questions will prove useful to others who may not know about the Appalachian Trail, but want to know more about my coming months.

About the Trail

You’re doing what?

I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is an approximately 2,200 mile footpath from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

How long will it take you?

The most likely timeline is five to six months, depending on pace.

Are you going by yourself?

I am setting off by myself, but it’s a very crowded trail. I’m going to be a part of the March/April bubble, the time when most thru-hikers start. I’ll meet a ton of people, from thru-hikers to section hikers to day hikers to trail angels to townspeople.

Trail angels?

People who go out of their way to do kind acts for thru-hikers. Never expected but always appreciated.

Life Events

Why are you doing this?

I like walking more than I like sitting at a desk.

What about your job?

I’m not going to get the opportunity to do something like this without leaving.

But the money?

I saved plenty.

What about health insurance?

Thanks, Obama.

Will your back be OK?

I herniated a disc in 2016. While I worked really hard to recover from it, I will never be 100% again. Having said that, I believe I’m as close to fully healthy as I can be. I’ve done several backpacks and long walks and hikes with arduous climbs and descents to make sure my back will hold up well. I’m also getting my pack weight down to take as much pressure off of it as possible. I feel confident that it’s ready for nearly anything.


Where do you sleep?

I’ll be sleeping in a tent most nights. There are shelters, usually simple lean-tos, that are about a day apart, but they are noted for crowds and mice.

So you’re carrying everything yourself?

Yep! All in my backpack. Detailed gear post to come soon.

How do you get food?

You can think of the AT as a series of three- to seven-day backpacking trips. At the end of each section, you can reach civilization and resupply food and other necessities.

How will I contact you?

Part of the point is to disconnect a bit, but cell signal isn’t the worst. I’ll also have a nifty GPS communicator (thanks,┬ámom).

I want to help.

Pay for a resupply or hotel room when I’m in town. If you’re in the neighborhood (I have family in North Carolina), pick me up and drive me to town. Write me letters addressed to an upcoming post office.

How do you go to the bathroom?

At any one of the five-star hotels spaced half a mile apart. Kidding. It will look something like this.

What about ticks?

I’ve soaked my clothing in diluted permethrin. I will reapply throughout the trail. I will also check daily and thoroughly.

The Crazy Stuff

Are you taking a gun?

What? No. No. No. No, no, no. The trail is not the place for that.

What about bears? Weird people?

The scary grizzlies are on the other side of the country. The black bears in the east are glorified squirrels. From what I understand, the people I will encounter will mostly be lovely.

Will you be able to come to *insert family event here*?


Cut your hair.

That’s not a question.

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Comments 2

  • Jane Heron : Apr 2nd

    See you on April 7th! Will you start that day?

    • Stephen Heron : Apr 2nd

      Hi mom!
      Planning to start the approach trail on the 7th so I can be on the trail proper by the 8th!


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