The Common Questions from Non-Hikers

The Big Questions from Non-Hikers

I’ll briefly answer the common questions that I’m usually asked.

Are you going alone?

This is every woman’s first question.  Yes, I start alone. I may hike alone a lot.  But every night there will be people at the shelter/campsite.  Everyone will hike at different paces and different styles, but at the end of the day, many of us will see each other again at the next shelter/campsite.  Slowly, together we will build a trail family traveling as something of a gypsy pack.  Some we will choose to hike with, others only to meet at the end of the day.  Some will take a day off today, other tomorrow, but we will continue to connect. These friendships will last; it’s really a close community.  We are not alone.

Those starting in Georgia at the peak in April can expect about 50 people leaving every day. Only about 6-12 people leave from Harper’s Ferry each day when I do.

Looks like the AT to me

How long is it?

The trail is 2,197.4 miles this year (it changes a bit with re-routes), so let’s say 2,200 miles.  My goal is about 15 miles per day average. That’s 105 miles per week. But, let’s say 100.  So that’s 22 weeks or (at about 4.34 weeks per month) almost exactly 5 months.

What’s your spouse doing?

Mom is not as crazy as Dad and prefers certain amenities not found on the trail. So she has planned a summer of mooching on visiting friends and relatives that she doesn’t normally get to see. Win/win.

How will you stay in contact?

Unlike the PCT or CDT, the cell phone coverage is very good. I may be out of touch as I go around a mountain, or I may be in an area for a night with no coverage where I’m camped.  But mostly, no problem. The trail goes right up the middle of the East Coast megalopolis.

Did you practice to get ready?

Yes. I built up from 3 miles on a flat paved trail with a 25-lb pack to 15 miles and some significant elevation. It was in Arizona where it’s dry, but I grew up in New England and am used to its delightful humidity.

Just like the AT, you can see the trail for miles

How will you charge your phone, etc?

I will carry a power bank about the size and weight of the phone. I can recharge the power bank and everything periodically in town.

Where do you sleep?

There are shelters an average of about 8 miles apart, but can range from 5 miles to 15 miles apart, or even as much as 30 miles apart when there is a town with some sort of lodging in between. There are designated campsites, too. Many towns have hostels and hotels. Finally, it is (almost) always possible to pull off the side of the trail and set up. Choosing where to stop depends on weather, food, water, how tired I feel, etc. Shelters are nice when it’s raining, but are filled with snorers and visits from the local mice and raccoon clans.

Where do you get water?

Where did the Indians get their water?  There are springs and lakes every few miles. I will filter the water and fill up my water bottles. I have back up water purification tablets for emergency should my filter break.

Where do you get food?

I’m starting with freeze-dried meals for about a week. I can send such food packages through the mail and pick them up General Delivery at any Post Office; but I’m not.  It’s easy to resupply in the many towns along the way. Even gas stations have realized the hiker market.

Where do you take care of nature’s call?

Do bears worry about this?  All of the shelters/campsites have outhouses. However, I’m not always next to a privy when the nature comes knocking (Sometimes urgently).  So I, like everyone, also carry a trowel to be able to dig a hole far away from the trail, and cover up after.  Leave no trace!   (The PCT and CDT are much more challenging with areas that the hiker is required to pack it out due to environmental concerns).

Before attempting a new endeavor, it’s best to consult the pros.

What about those bears?

The AT has brown/black bears but not grizzlies.  They do not want to see me (unless I am sloppy with food).  Hikers pass along news of bear sitings.  We do our best to avoid the bears and let them know we are coming.  Basically, bears are only interested in FOOD. No food, no problem. Unlike the multitude of Darwin videos online, I will not be trying to get a selfie with a mama bear or her cubs…

So, how do you hide your food from the bears?

Many shelters/campsites have bear-proof storage. In addition, all of my food is kept in special odor-proof bags.  Most hikers set up a “bear bag” which is a bag with their food in it and, then they throw a rope over a tree branch and pull the bag out of reach.

However, I will also use a special kind of “bear canister” called an Ursack made out of Kevlar.  In either case, the real trick is do not eat near where you sleep (a couple miles away before I get to camp is my general plan), and not be messy with food.  I will not have any food in the tent/shelter. Nor do I have anything that smells like it could be food (e.g., toothpaste).

What are your worries, then?

Mostly none.  However, I am taking special precautions against ticks by spraying my clothes with Permethrin. In addition, I may use Picaridin insect repellent. I will do a thorough tick check every time I stop.

Have I missed anything?

Let me know.

Last post before start

This is my last post before starting, so I included the stats at zero.

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