~Frequently Asked Questions~
Well, although a further explanation is in my About section, the biggest reason is that I think it will be great fun and a life changing experience.
Though there are primitive lean-to's (three sided shelters) and lodges (four sided cabins) along the Trail, I am really hoping to minimize my usage of them seeing as how they are usually crowded at night (and I don't care to hear others snore) and one of the goals of this journey is to experience the mountains. In truth I want to camp off the trail on ledges, next to waterfalls, in meadows, and in valleys making my own home within the forest STRICTLY adhering to Leave No Trace policies. If one cannot camp using these rules, then one does not deserve to be camping. During torrential weather, however, shelters can still be a blessing (I guess a crutch as well).
Well, this is one of the most complicated areas of planning for me right now. Because a hiker needs to consume about 3000-5000 calories a day while on the trail and also has to carry that food on his back, I am trying to find a happy median between weight and nutrition. One of the biggest problems, however, is that because hikers are exerting themselves so enormously, they quickly begin to "burn their reserves" of nutrition making it even more important that I eat wholesome, nutritious foods to give my body the energy it needs. For specifics, see my food page. But no, I will not be "living off the land". To do that, I would have to spend the majority of my day collecting food and not hiking.
Well yes and no. I will always carry the food I eat, but will not carry 3 week's rations at once. That would be an elephantine load that I am not even sure explorers to the most remote areas of the world can carry on their backs. Like all distance hikers, I will be resupplying every 3-6 days in towns either along or near the trail. I will be sending my food to post offices along the trail with special instructions "to be held for hiker" and my tenative date of arrival. If hikers choose not to take this route, they can also just buy groceries at stores in the same towns that house the post offices. I chose to send myself packages because of the fact that I would be sending myself film, journal pages, and guidebook pages anyway and because I wanted to be able to choose beforehand what I would eat. I think that I will eat a much more nutritious diet this way, though I suppose I might get a little bored with my "planned" meals as well. However, in town, I plan on buying fresh fruits, dairy, and other things that I will miss while on the trail.
Relatively speaking, hiking trails are very safe. If one were to draw a 270-mile long line through almost any part of the country, there would be more crime within that line than there is on the Long Trail. Years ago, there was a murderer who escaped from police surveillance along the AT for only a short while. I think there may have also been some murders along a long distance hiking trail somewhere as well. However, these crimes were not committed by hikers, but by criminals who happened to find themselves on the trail for whatever reason. In short, hiking is probably one of the safest things one can do in this world of cars, disease, and other unfortunate killers as long as the hiker is prepared with food, shelter, and warmth. No, I will not consider carrying any self-defense paraphernalia.
As to bears or other creatures, I have no worries and would actually love to see a real bear out of captivity. Those Fox Channel "When Animals Attack" (or whatever they are called) shows represent the minority and not the majority. Just as there might be thousands of planes that land safely for every one that crashes and people still fear plane crashes because that is all they hear about, animals attacks are VERY rare and being afraid is unwarranted. In general, animals are probably just as or more afraid of humans as we are of them (which we shouldn't be-they are beautiful and are God's creatures). One problem in bear country out West, however, is that bears have become so used to seeing people (and are smart enough to realize that where there is people there is also the food that they carried) that they regularly visit camps to get some food and scare the poor hikers. This problem can be almost absolved by camping away from established campsites that bears see as "food markets". Maybe you will even find a bear sleeping soundly next to you in the morning. Just don't touch or threaten its cubs in less you have a death wish, though.
Maybe, maybe not. I suppose there were be times that I wish I could just talk to someone right then, but I will, in no way, be "removed" from socialization. Most popular trails in the East are in no way desolate and are, in some cases, very populated. For example, along both the Appalachian and Long Trails I don't believe that one could go for an entire day without seeing (and speaking) to someone if they wished to do so. All you have to do is hang out at shelters at dinnertime and you will meet other hikers. On the hand, if it is solitude that you are looking for, the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail might not be the best places to find it. They are very popular during the summer and weekends for day hikers, overnight backpackers, and people just out taking a walk. I would like to keep a degree of solitude on my hike both during the day and while sleeping at night, but also look forward to both meeting and possibly hiking with other thru-hikers along the way.
Definitely. One of the reasons that the lifespan of today's generation is longer than or ancestors is not the fact that medicine has improved so drastically, but that soap usage is increasing and that people bath with more regularity. Although I will not be taking warm showers at the end of each day, I plan on using soap to wash my face every night and also may "sponge bathe" when dirty to keep a degree of cleanliness. I also plan on washing my clothing when absolutely necessary using my water bag. In towns, I might take a real shower and wash items of clothing every week or so. It all depends on how I feel, I guess.
Well, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, I guess times are a'changin'. Just because I can put it in my pack, doesn't mean that it is efficient to carry it for miles and miles. I tried to reduce the weight on my back to a light and comfortable level to reduce stress on the rest of my body. I don't think that the stuff I am bringing reflects minimalism by any means, but does reflect my efforts at the lightest weight for the least amount of money and the most comfort. For example, I hate hiking in boots preferring to wear sneakers instead. I also like how two poles takes strain off my knees and helps keep stability while walking on rocky ground.
Yes, see my training page.
I chose to start my hike in June and finish in July just because of the fact that it will be soon after graduation and will still allow me to get ready for college as the summer progresses. June and July are the months that most AT thru-hikers are making their way through Vermont. Going before June will put you at the end of the "mud season" where all the snow is melting and travel along the trail is not advised due to the damage that high traffic would cause. August and September would be ideal times to hike because of the fact that bugs aren't as bad and the coolness of fall is approaching, but I will be starting college then. I also think that a winter thru-hike would be great fun and very challenging. Maybe someday.
Probably. Unless I need to take a rest day due to fatigue or soreness or injury or sickness (which may happen), I will at least get up and walk some distance however small it may be. As of right now, I plan on averaging about 16 miles a day which, for me, will not be overexerting myself nor will it be just taking it easy. I am going to Vermont to hike the Long Trail and hiking is my first priority. I realize that, in order to ensure my success, I may also need to take rest days for mental or physical health.
Weather happens. Just as I need food and water, so does the Earth need rain and everything else that I will encounter. It is an inevitability that it will rain while I am on the trail and I am going to just (excuse the pun) take it in stride. Walking in the rain is both cleansing and rejuvenating for both the land and hikers. In my opinion there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad attitudes. A rainy and cold day is just as natural and challenging as a hot and humid one. Both are unique and special and there is no reason to stay "tent ridden" to wait out weather.
I sort of address this in the About section. Though I will miss the company of my regular backpacking partner, Adam, I just feel that this is a journey that I have to experience for myself. Like I said earlier, though, I will not be "alone" out there; I just will not have a person that I have to be with.
I am not going to endorse any particular brands of products before I see how they hold up to the rigors of my hike. Even then, though, hiking is not about gear. I am sure that practically anything would suffice. The stuff I am bringing is stuff that either I already had, was lightweight or cheap, and/or that I had heard good things about. Gear is not rocket science and you will never have everything or anything that is perfect. Spending tons of money does not always mean it will be superior gear nor does it ensure that it will work the way it is supposed to if the person using it is incompetent. I like the stuff I am bringing, but realize that it is only my means to the end.
There were many reasons. First, it is cheaper. It is surprising to find out that you can make things for fractions of what they cost. For example, the tarp I made cost around $40 in materials and retails for over $100. The stuff sack's materials cost merely pocket change. The specifications of my homemade tarp are exactly the same as one manufactured by a new, "ultralight" company in the industry and my tarp is, in fact, a little stronger because of the added lightweight reinforcements that I sewed. Second, it seems as if commercial backpacking gear is overbuilt. As hiking guru Ray Jardine points out, if companies build lightweight equipment then they have to replace it if people mistreat it. Constructing heavier and stronger gear means less money spent on honoring warranties. However, it makes the gear heavier than distance hikers need to carry. Third, there was a great satisfaction in making my own equipment. My lifeblood went into making things that would later serve me as my sole possessions in the wilderness. It is a really beautiful idea that a part of someone went into the gear they carry.
The answer is two fold. First, "smelling" is purely a cultural thing. Primitive cultures do not use deodorants nor do modern cultures such as some of those found in Asia. In the United States, someone who smells is looked down upon whereas somewhere else it may just be normal. On any hiking trail, it is just normal to smell. Everyone understands and everyone smells themselves if they are out longer than a day or two. So what. The second part of this answer is that smell starts to pervade everything from your pack to clothes to sleeping bag rendering deodorant, after a couple of days, utterly useless and just dead weight to carry. Body odor is not that horrendous of a thing anyhow when everyone smells the same. It is only when someone cracks and takes a shower that problems start!