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Troll's 2010 AT Journal

Worries and concerns [PRE HIKE]

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There are not to many worries and concerns that I have that known serious issues on the Appalachian Trail. I will voice a few concerns tha I have though.

Even though I have talked to literally hundreds of hikers that have thru hiked in the past and they assured me that the first two are nothing to worry about. I still have some other concerns.

1. Rattle snakes. Hiker says they are rarely ever seen and when they are seen they are out in the sun sunning themselves and nothing to worry about.

2. Bears in the Smokey Mountains. I recently talked to some hikers that had a bear come right up next to them and just sit down within 50 feet of them and watch them. He did not bother them but I am concerned about them while I am sleeping. I figured if I stay in the shelters in the Smokeys and in a group I will be fine.

3. Injury/knees. I have knee problems once and a while. I have knew surgery about 14 years ago. I am hoping if I start out slowly and let the muscles build up around my knees that it will strengthen my knees and prevent any problems from reoccurring or happening. Other then that the only other problem I foresee would be unexpected injuries.

4. Monotony. I am worried that the tedious and same day to day routine will start to get to me. I am hoping that getting into the grove with the right hiking group will prevent this.

5. Bugs and ticks. Ticks will be a concern down south because of the warmer climate. I will check myself daily but there are spots I will not be able to check myself. I can only keep my fingers crossed on this. Bugs will not be a big concern until I get in the upper New England area between June through mid September. I figure by the time I reach that point that I will be numb to the bugs or at least I am hoping that will be the case.

6. Issues at home. This is not something that is in my control. My wife does know how much this means to me. I know she will not drag me home for some stupid issue. It would have to be a death in the family of something just as serious.
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2010 Pre Hike blogs

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  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