Questions about the trail – Part One

Categories:Life | PreTrail

Here are some questions that I have been asked over the past few months. Some were asked in a very serious voice by very serious people so please try not to laugh. They were questions asked by friends family and others I have talked about my hike with.

Q. Who are you going with? A. Me myself and I. For many of you who might feel worried that I will be all alone on the trail with no one to talk to have no fear. Each year 1,500 to 2,000 hikers start their adventure with high hopes in hiking the Appalachian Trail. I plan on starting the trail alone with expectations that I will meet lots of great and interesting people. One thing to note is that 70% to 75% people will drop out before finishing the trail. With that said friendships and bonds occur between fellow thru-hikes very quickly.

Q . Will you take a gun? A. I will not be taking a gun. In a situation like this the odds of me needing to ever use the gun is so slim that I might as well play the lottery in all 14 states I will be hiking through and plan what  I will spend all of that money on during the trip. Plus its a lot of unneeded extra weight. Guns and weapons of the sort are frowned upon by the hiking community on the trail at large. The community of hikers, volunteers, and towns folk live by a strict code of conduct and hold each other accountable for living the same code. Be kind, be helpful, be yourself, be honest, and have fun.

Q. Are you afraid of bears? A. I have never met a bear in person so I would have to say no I am not afraid of them. I am however afraid of the Chicago Bears as they are very large and very grumpy people.

Q. Are you afraid of being attached by a bear? A. The thought of being mauled and my limbs ripped off my body does provide an uneasy feeling and dread for the pain that I would have to endure. I however do not feel the need to worry about bear attacks.  My plan in a bear encounter is to do the following actions:

1. Talk to the bear saying “HELLO MR MRS or MS BEAR” in a very loud “bigger than a bear voice”
2. Hold my trekking poles above my head and yell hear bear go away I do not have any food for you” which of course would be a blatant lie however the bear does not know that.
3. If the bear comes closer I will slowly throw food from my pockets in a close proximity to the bear while slowly walking backwards.
4. while the bear is snacking on snacks from #3 I will proceed to take out my bag off food throw it in the direction of the bear and HALL TAIL in any direction away from the bear putting as much distance between bear I. I shall then wait 3- 5 business days for the bear to leave as per proper bear union protocol.

If you had not gathered Items 3 – 5 are nonsense and 1 and 2 99% of the time will scare the bear away.  Plus whats a backpacking trip without a good bear story right?

Q. Are you afraid of a bear eating you in your sleep? A. No I am more worried about a bear thinking that something on my person is a yummy bear treat. This is why you do not eat anywhere near your tent. Also you should  not store food in your tent with you or anyone else in the tent. They have bear bags to hang your food from high up between two trees. Some shelters even have what is called a bear box that is a very sturdy metal box that the bear can not get into. I will also be taking my own bear bag kit for when I am stealth camping and I can hang it from a tree some distance from the tent.

Q. Will you poop on the trial? A. Why that is just rude! I would not poop on the trail for people to walk through. Instead I will make my way out into the woods dig a hole do my business cover the hole and get back to hiking. In all seriousness much of the food I will be eating will keep me pretty clogged up and thus a regiment of unclogging materials will need to be consumed on a regular basis. The most common tip is to take Metamucil with you. Its a powder its not to bad tasting and it keeps you regular.  One of the more common problems among hikers outside of problems with their feet is they have medial issues related to being plugged up and have to leave the trail for medical help.  I for one would fell really foolish if I went to a hospital and my prescription was for Metamucil and Turbolax.

Q. Are you afraid of crazy people? A. After a few days on the trail I am pretty sure that people will be scared of the “hiker funk”  I will be wearing as a badge of honor. That alone would cause any human to go running. In all honesty the people that live near the trail that are on the trail and in the little towns along the way are rumored to be some of the kindest and nicest people on the planet. Sure there might be a bad egg or two but you just have to trust your gut and if you do not feel comfortable around someone keep hiking and go find a little spot all to your self off the trail.

Q. How long will you be gone? A. On average it takes five to seven months to hike the trail. It all depends on the weather, how many 0 days you take (a day with no hiking), your health and your pace. I am planning on 6 months but It is safe to say it could be closer to five.  I would much rather have extra than not enough food so I’m planning ahead.

 Q. How long is the trail? A. Survey says 2,184 miles. This is according to the 2012 distance by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Q. Will you carry all of your food? A. No. I will carry enough food to get me to my next town or mail drop. A typical thru-hiker only packs at any given time 4 – 6 days worth of food with them. Hikers have the opportunity to stop at trail towns and pick up mail that has been held for them, send packages up the trail, or even buy supplies at local shops.  Many of the hostels and shelters in the towns have been known to accept a packages on behalf of the hikers and then give it to the hiker when they come to claim it.

These are just a few questions I have been asked thus far. There are many more to come.

Happy Trails



Adam Nutting relishes being an avid backpacker, hiker, and all-around adventure junkie. While he currently spends his time hiking in the backcountry of southern Arizona, he grew up in Missouri, where he was naturally inclined to spend as much time as he could outdoors. Adam’s passion for the outdoors grew as he climbed the ranks of the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

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