safety on the trail
I know there is another board specifically for issues of health and safety, but I figured that this was the place for my specific question, because it's pretty (well, very) female-centric.
I am planning to hike the Long Trail (which goes the entire length of Vermont, and shares its southern 100 miles with the AT) with my best friend this summer. We're young (17 and 18) and pretty much assuming we will be fine in terms of safety as long as we are aware- we plan to sleep in a tent most of the time, and to pretty much not hitchhike at all. But still, it's something we spend a lot of time thinking about, and definitely somehting that worries every single person we tell- two teenage girls alone in the woods sounds like the beginning of some horrible horror movie, though we both know it's not.
Have any of you had issues with safety on the trail? What sort of precautions do you take?
I have never posted on any of the Women's Forum threads for obvious reasons, but I'm making a rare exception in this case.
I have a daughter just a few years older than you. She's a native Vermonter and has spent a good deal of time in the backcountry there.
I honestly believe that she's safer in the woods and mountains than she is in any town in America. One has a greater chance of becoming a victim of random violence at home, at school, or in the workplace, than one does in the woods. The Long Trail is safer than any town in America.
That being said, are there risks one needs to be aware of when hiking? Absolutely. There are risks in any endeavor, and in the woods, help is not always a few minutes away.
The easiest way to stay safe is to act as you would anywhere else: Pay attention to where you are, and most of all, who you are with. It's pretty easy on the Trail to figure out who is out there for the hiking and who might not be. You can generally tell by people's clothes, gear, etc. whether or not they are "genuine" hikers or whether they might have other issues going on.
A few commmon sense things:
*Avoid camping near roads. People that are looking to cause or make trouble
generally want to be close to their cars, and campsites/shelters near roads
attract townies, drinkers, and other potential problem makers.
*Avoid giving out too much information to others on where you are heading,
where you intend to make camp, etc. If you're hiking alone and you meet
someone that asks if you're alone, tell them you're with friends that will be
along at any time. Don't let people know where you plan to make camp
unless they are people you know.
*Make sure you have the best available maps/guidebooks, so if you ever have
to leave the Trail and make for a road/town in a hurry, you know what
you're doing and where you are going.
*Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable being around, or camping
around, certain people, leave, and camp elsewhere. If people (i.e. guys) ask
if they can camp with or near you, feel free to tell them you'd prefer to be
by yourself or with your partner.
*If you ever feel threatened (or "stalked") or anything else, if there's another
hiker that is paying you too close attention, confront them and tell them.
One firm "I"m pretty much out here to get some time to myself" generally
does the trick. If it doesn't, be firmer, and if necessary, feel free to tell
other hikers, who will sort things out, either by looking out for you, or
better yet, by having a little talk with your suitor.
*Don't hitch-hike alone, ever. I know there are women who do this all the
time, but personally, I think it's a lousy idea. ALWAYS go in and out of
town with someone else. When you know you need to re-supply or make a
town visit, figure out ahead of time who you'll travel in and out of town
with; if your partner isn't around, there will always be another hiker willing to
wait for you at a road crossing or whatever so you won't have to hitch
*This pretty much covers it. It's wise that you and your friend are concerned
about safety/security things, but please don't obsesss over it. The Trail
really is a very safe place, and I have every confidence you guys will be
fine and will have a great trip.
In closing, I'd give you the same advice I'd give my daughter: As a a young woman, there are obviously security concerns you have to think about that not everyone has to deal with. This is not fair, but that's unfortunately the way the world is. That being said, there is no reason whatsoever for women to avoid or fear backcountry travel, assuming they know what they're doing,
use common sense, and pay attention to where they are and who they are with.
Have a wonderful and safe trip and let us know how it went.
Welcome to WhiteBlaze. The female half of the dinos here. Jack has already said what I came to say. Have a great trip and let us know how it went.
Thanks all for your replies and warm welcomes- I really appreciate it!
I'd you but you've got twice as many posts as me!
Jack is spot on with his advice. I'll only add a few specifics.
I avoid any campsite/shelter within 1 mile of vehicular access unless it is a very rugged 1 mile. That doesn't mean you won't find rowdies at a more remote site, or that a more accessible site won't be quiet or peaceful, it's just a cut-off that has worked well for me.
Absolutely listen to your gut and move on if it's telling something's not right. You do not owe anyone any explanation or apology. A simple "I've got my second wind...I think I'm gonna put another couple miles under my boots", and then boogie on down the trail is all you need to do. That said, you will probably never have to do it. I've got a couple hundred nights of backpacking and backcountry caretaking in New England under my belt. Most of my experience has been as a solo traveller and all of it as a woman. I've only left a shelter once. It was just me and some weird guy. My gut said go and I went.
Odds are, though, that you will have plenty of company most nights at established campsites and shelters. It's been pretty unusual for me to be camped with only one other person. There is almost always a mix of people and good fellowship.
I am also planning a thru of the LT this summer. It will be my first long-distance hike. I'll pm you to chat about it.
Hopeful AT Thru-hiker, 2008
Hey, all. Thanks to thebex for asking and to everyone for replying--I was Googling for information about just this sort of thing and found this very helpful.
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