Yes, I’ll be Pooping in the Woods and Other Answers to FAQs about the AT
Three years ago, I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, but little did I know that much of my time prepping would include preparing others for my own trek. Sometimes I feel like tattooing “The AT is a 2,100 mile trail, running from Georgia to Maine that’ll take me six months to walk. Yes… walk,” on my forehead. This one statement gained a wide range of responses, from “OMG, you are going to die” to “Wow, you are actually nuts,” or the guy from a retailer that will remain nameless telling me that I’ll be airlifted out of the Smokies due to my lack of skill.
Not all of them have been negative though; after the initial shock, my parents and close friends have been more than supportive, asking questions and offering sage advice, along with the occasional, “please don’t get murdered out there” statement. So this post is for them! Here is my not-so-comprehensive Q&A I’ve accumulated over the past few years.
Q: Are You Really Going to Walk all the Way to Maine?
A: In a nutshell, hopefully yes! After six months, I hope to be crowned a thru-hiker and relish in the glory of finishing such an arduous journey of self-discovery and stench.
The long answer is a little more nuanced. There is one camp of hikers who will hike every inch of the trail on the map and cut back anytime they go astray because they won’t feel like a true thru-hiker if they reach the top of Katahdin and they missed 100 meters back in Virginia.
I’m in the other camp – one that will follow the map, obviously, but also take advantage of opportunities like aquablazing, when hikers skip a part of the trail via canoe or kayak. Many do this to break up the monotony of walking day in and day out. There is no right answer to this schism in hiker culture, though. Hike your own hike!
Q: Will I Die?
A: First off, yes, I have been asked this. As to the question, statistics say most likely not, but that’s not to say there isn’t significant danger out there. (See below)
Q: As a Woman, Aren’t You Afraid of Being Alone in the Woods?
A: Well, as of last year, I don’t get this question as much because my boyfriend decided to join me (S/O to Cody. Hey babe!), but even with a “man to protect me” (sighs deeply at that little piece of misogyny), I still get asked this occasionally.
To be frank, I had a greater chance of being murdered in Richmond, where I’ve gone to school for the past three years, than I will in the six months on the trail. According to my lite research™, there have been 11 known murders in the 81 years the trail has existed. By comparison, there were 63 homicides in Richmond last year. I’ll take those odds.
Q: wHaT aBoUT tHe BEaRs?
A: OK, OK. I know this is a fair question, especially after seeing this picture:
But really, there are more dangerous things out there than bears, as long as you follow the rules. For example, I’m more worried about being ill-prepared should a winter storm hit. Having lived in Alaska for a few years, my mother relished in telling us that we could get hypothermia in mere minutes if we went out in -7 degree weather in our T-shirts and Crocs to get the mail. We did it anyway, but that’s beside the point.
Out on the trail, there won’t be a warm house to duck into after three minutes in the cold. Being someone who wears fuzzy socks like it’s my job, I get a twinge of worry in the back of my brain when I think about the fact that the only thing standing between me and blue toes is a few layers of clothing and a down sleeping bag.
And don’t get me started about the ticks, norovirus, or my proclivity for tripping over my own two feet.
As for the bears, there is one section of the trail where bear canisters are required, but it’s only for five miles, so I’ll be hiking straight through that part. However, I’m also bringing a sack designed to prevent bears from ripping into it and zipper storage bags that supposedly reduce emitted odors. I haven’t had the pleasure of testing this system out on a real bear yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Q: Where Will I Sleep?
A: For the most part, I’ll be squeezed into a small, 7 foot by 4 foot shared tent, lovingly nicknamed divorce tents by some thru-hikers. Have no fear, though. There are 260 shelters along the trail like this one:
They are shared with mice and other hikers on a first-come, first-serve basis, so with the high number of people starting in Georgia, I’m not counting on having a spot in one very often.
There are other times when I’ll hop off the trail to clean off the top layer of grime from my skin and wash my crusty clothes, the times I really get to treat myself. I’m talking cheap, motel bed luxury here, probably with a whole pizza and six-pack for myself. These days won’t happen very often, especially if I keep within budget.
Either way, I’ll have to get over my need for a lack of snoring sounds to sleep. To ease the transition, I’m taking a high end set of ear plugs. God bless modern ear plug technology.
Q: Have You Practiced, You Know, Going No. 2?
A: Yes. Many times. I dig my catholes with fervor.
Got any other burning questions? Hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or follow along with me on this crazy adventure I’m about to begin here on thetrek.co. Happy hiking.
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