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Journal Comments

  1. Ancient Diver's Avatar
    The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has done a series of stories about Lyme disease and the huge increase over the past few years - a 4 or 5 fold increase, but likely much more as the test is barely useful and doctors misdiagnose it all the time, and some people get sick but not bad sick so they don't see a doctor. I read the WSJ everyday or I wouldn't have known about this. Researchers have figured out there has been an explosion of field mice (they ought to be called field rats, as they are half the size of a rat, much larger than a mouse) all over the area of the A.T. due to urbanization and loss of predators. For example, when people with horses put out rat poison to keep the rats out of the barn and their horse feed, the rats who eat the poison and are not quite dead are then eaten by owls, who then bleed out through the lungs and nostrils from the poison in the rat. Other predators die the same way.
    In shelters people often put out a sacrificial piece of food to keep the field mice out of their packs - instead of being responsible and hanging all their gear up on cables or a bear line. This practice is widespread and has created a situation where the shelters are just full of field mice. AND, per the WSJ, the average field mouse has 140 ticks embedded in its skin - it is just covered with them. So the shelters are full of ticks because they are full of mice. Also, Lyme disease is NOT a southern disease. It is rarely found below Virginia. I think it is connected to the ticks that are on moose, but I'm not positive. But there is a new tick-borne disease from Texas that is really terrible, and it is showing up in the south. There is even a disease, very, very rare, form ticks, that kills you via a brain infection in one day. So I never sleep in a shelter - I use a hammock, the only way to stay dry, if properly set up. I spray my boots and trousers every morning with bug dope. I never wear shorts. I blouse my trousers into my boots. Yes it makes me look like a military man, but I'm not out there to make a fashion statement.
    But wait, there's more..... the shelters have lots of rattlesnakes and copperheads underneath them or around them, because that's where the mice are. Many shelters I have seen have had homemade signs posted by other hikers, warning them to stay out due to a big ass rattlesnake living under the shelter. Snakes hunt at night. How about waking up to that in your kit? A copperhead is far less venomous than a rattlesnake. No one dies from a copperhead bite, no adults that is.
    And, almost all crimes against hikers have occurred at a shelter that's within a mile of a road. So I hike alone and I stay in the woods, away from shelters, to avoid ticks and Bubba. I never build a fire because that lets all the local BillyBobs who might want to entertain themselves by picking on a hiker, well the fire can be seen for many miles when on top of a mountain or ridge. Shelters also have people who are new hikers and with friends, weekend types, who are all excited, and many will talk all night long about this or that, which will keep you awake. Many people snore, which can get pretty loud, keeping you awake.

    I have hiked several hundred miles of the A.T. I have had four hip replacement surgeries, titanium on both sides now. I took my time and listened to my body. Sometimes I needed two days rest so I took it. Gradually I got stronger and finally got my trail legs. If your knees hurt, stop hiking and rest.

    There is an organization that keeps track of every bear attack in US history. I have read the details of every attack - it's all online. The big SECRET (they probably don't know) that the wildlife people and nature lovers and Sierra Club and EVERONE tells you is this: bear spray will do a great job at deterring a bear from getting your food bag, BUT, there has NEVER been a single episode where bear spray was used successfully to stop a bear attack on a human after the bear had decided you were prey and he was predator. Think about that - bear spray will keep him away from your food, but will not deter him from eating you. It is also a big secret wildlife people don't tell you is bears eat their victims alive, starting with the stomach. Hikers hiking alone are more likely to be attacked. A bear will follow a victim for hours, waiting for the chance to strike, and they are very very fast. So it is a bit like going scuba diving - there are sharks out there in the ocean. It is unlikely you will be attacked, but it does happen every year to someone, has almost happened to me. The most dangerous BLACK bear is NOT a mama with cubs - she will grunt and swat the ground with her paw, but she doesn't want a fight, she wants to be left alone. A Grizzly mama with cubs will likely kill you first and ask questions later. A Black bear is a natural climber - many cubs are born in a tree. Mama Black bear cubs can climb a tree to escape danger in a second - and they do.
    Oh, and nope, not apologizing to the radical feminist, with Black bear attacks on humans, it's always a him. All Black bear attacks on humans - not some - ALL - Black bear attacks have been from big males. Not a single female black bear has ever attacked a human. Males can get up to 600 pounds. This is the guy to worry about. Males have a different jaw line - unmistakable once you see the difference. You need to learn what a male black bear looks like - a more square lower jaw. I carry a lightweight but powerful handgun. You are not supposed to carry a gun in the National Parks, but the Park Service has learned that when they prosecute folks for this, juries don't convict, so at most they will issue a citation. If a pistol is not loaded and immediately accessible, then it is useless to carry a weapon. You would never have time to retrieve it and load it, whether it was a homeless person or a bear who was attacking you. Guides in Alaska carry a pistol in a chest holster that has it strapped to the center of your chest - so if a bear gets you on the ground you can still reach your weapon. If you don't want to carry a firearm, which is what I recommend unless you are an expert, then hike in a group of 3 or more people. There has never been a bear attack, or a serious crime, committed on hikers in a group of 3 or more. Ever.

    Finally, if you do the math, you have to average a whole lot of miles to finish the entire trail in one season. I have seen them. Those who do finish are only focused on logging miles. All they do all day long is look at the ground to place their feet. They don't see the forest, and all the life and geology that surrounds them. You will have a lot more fun, and learn a lot more, if you section hike. I have learned all about edible wild mushrooms because of hiking.
    Regarding home life, I know nothing of your situation, but I know women. Many ladies would not like you abandoning them for 4 or 5 months, and unless you are a marathon runner, more likely to be 5 or 6 or 7 months. This is a huge loss of income and a huge expense - a double whammy to the family budget. New shoes and stuff for the house that she may want? Not going to happen unless you have the money already saved up for the duration. A lady is likely going to grow resentful over your absence after a while - wouldn't you? The number one reason women cheat on their spouse is resentment - look it up if you doubt this. I spent 14 months overseas in the Army in a war. At least half of the guys who were married got a "Dear John" letter, most within in a week or two before the big day of shipping out and going home. Women need attention and often will seek it elsewhere if they are not getting it from you. Being "ignored" is a strong motivation for divorce.

    If you section hike you don't suffer the huge financial loss all at once, allowing you to spread out the expense over time. You will keep you home life in good shape. The A.T. was designed to be section hiked by Benton McKay, not as a through hike. Through hiking is much more like a sustained military operation, something I know quite a bit about, than having fun. It becomes druggery, an ordeal you just want to finish. Not fun. Paraphrasing T.S. Elliot, "it's not about the destination, it's the journey."
    Good luck
  2. Kc Fiedler's Avatar
    If you can provide hikers with a more useful product then I think you should go for it.
  3. neighbor dave's Avatar
    take 'er easy on the knee troll, as you probably know the start of the A.T. is a full on parade of the walking wounded. low mileage to start is a good thing.
    i know someone who walked all the way to damascus with a painful knee, after the brace came off it was katahdin or bust, and yes she made it. you can too!!
  4. attroll's Avatar
    I got the tattoo for two reasons. I am thru hiking this year and also because I am the owner of WhiteBlaze so it only seems appropriate to get the WhiteBlaze logo.
  5. Sassafras Lass's Avatar
    GREAT tattoo! Love the color, love the symbol. My husband's considering getting one after our thru next year. What inspired your tattoo?
  6. Shovelhead's Avatar
    Hey Troll,
    Just itchen for April 1st start date to arrive.
    Hope to see ya out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!11
  7. doda man's Avatar
    When you get to Maryland the trail should be well maintained. I work with PATC and the South Mountaineers. Have a safe and enjoyable hike. See ya on the A/T
  8. Chaco Taco's Avatar
    Good luck dude.
  9. Tuney's Avatar
    I'm wondering the same things Rick. I live in North GA, and I'm trying to get in at least 2 more shakedown hikes before I leave for CT in April. But I'm still waiting for a weather forecast that gives me at least 3 days with temps above freezing before I go out there again. My pack is packed and weighed in. Ready to go on a moments notice.

    However, I'm planning on enjoying myself while I'm on the trail. I can tell you hiking in the wind and mist and fog in December wasn't fun, and there weren't even any good views.
  10. SurferNerd's Avatar
    I leave Feb28. It's about costs for me, I'd have to shell out another month of rent to remain around longer, plus gas, food, and other items that are eating into valuable hiking dollars.
  11. Tuney's Avatar
    I just finished reading Winton Porter's book and checking out some articles in Backpacker magazine and it seems he thinks long john pants with shorts over them is better than zip offs.

    Personally I like hiking in my nylon zip offs. So far I've used my long john uppers, but never the pants.
  12. whistle dixie's Avatar
    i'm planning to leave feb 21 i'm thinking i have to pack a little more gear but plan on taking 2 weeks off when i get to the smokys and who knows might need to take more time than that but garantee i wil finish the trip with the lord willing. does anybody have any tips for someone like me leaving this early
  13. moytoy's Avatar
    Two other things come to mind.

    1 Maybe to have some solitude.
    2 Or maybe to test their metal.
  14. Dancin Free's Avatar
    I wholly agree with your thoughts here. Alot of comments on the tenner list in my emails about pruist hikes, blue blazes, slackpackin, some liken it other not. Some doin the approach, others not etc. Most with pretty strong thoughts. I agree with those who say be flexible,enjoy the hike and where you are each minute. Enjoy the views and at least some of the special side tracks mentioned in the guide books. Don't ever count on having time to do it later.
    O yes and don't forget the joy of joining the pack.
  15. Shovelhead's Avatar
    Hi Attroll,

    I was just laughing reading you post. I have hair down almost to my belt, and I have always had long hair,but I figured it would be a pain to deal with on the trail(my wife always braids it for me now),so I made plans with a friend who's a hairdresser to cut most of it off to donate to locks of love.You need at least 10" to donate, I have way more than enough. I think next weekend is time to cut!!! OH NO!!!
  16. Shovelhead's Avatar
    Slightly Freaked myself, start date 4/1/10
    good luck see ya out there
  17. ShelterLeopard's Avatar
    See ya soon troll, my two month count down began a week and a half ago.
  18. rtappan's Avatar
    I hiked in 1997 and started with a friend. I think we both needed the comfort/security of the other, but once we hiked about 150 miles or so realized that we'd be ok and split up. I agree with you wanting to start hiking slow. the best advice I can say is don't set a really strenuous schedule becasue your body will need time to aclimate. My ankle really started to nother me coming into virginia and the other hikers who saw me thought I was a goner for sure. I took a few days of in a motel and really took it easy for a few days (with lots of pain killers) and I made it through. Just don't push your body too hard at first.
    One thing I recommend about gear; call each and every company that makes the gear you are bringina nd ask them what kind of service they will provide if something happens. Sierra designs, merrell, and llbean were absolutely awesome in their support. I would hike the entire trail with llbean gear if I had to do it again just because they were so good. Same with merrell.

    Good luck, and have fun. I live in VA so when your coming through, give me a shout!