This is the frequently asked questions page. I'm sure folks out there have many questions but first let's start with a definition.
touron /tor'-on/: a cross between a tourist and moron. Behavior includes asking thru-hikers many questions, some for really, really stupid things.
What is the Appalachian Trail?
The Appalachian Trail (abbreviated A.T.) is a 2160 mile long foot path that extends from Springer Mt. in Georgia to Katahdin, a mountain in Maine. It was conceived in the 1920's and completed over a span of ten years. It is not an old Indian path as some mistakenly believe. Trust me, the Indians were much smarter than that.
What's with the stupid names?
Alond the trail, almost everyone acquires a trail name. These names can come from a particular incident invloving the person, appearance, idiosycracy, or whatever. The best ones are ones that happen somewhat spontaneously. A good trail name is not carried over from the real world; a good trail name will find the hiker, much like the Native American finds his spirit guide.
How was your hike?
No question is harder for me to answer, yet I managed to sum it up in three words: A Good Time. It really is a hard question to answer. You may as well ask a Zen Buddhist what Enlightenment is like. Was it hard? Yes. Was it easy? Yes. I met lots of people and saw so many new sights and different things. It was incredible and incredibly hard. I loved every minute of it and hated quite a bit of it. It was sunny and it rained. I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats.
Did you hike alone?
Yes and no. For 99.7% of the time I hiked alone. However, there were very few times when I was truly alone. Almost every day I would bump into people I knew and every night I would camp with other thru-hikers.
You hiked alone??!!
Yup and really, it's not as big a deal as you think.
Did you camp every night?
Yes, no and sort of. Sometimes I slept in my tent. Often, I would throw my sleeping bag into one of the ubiquetous shelters along the trail. In town, I usually stayed in a hostel or a hotel.
What did you eat?
If you want the lowdown for the 2001 menu then check out the new section on Food.
In '99 it was oatmeal or Pop-tarts for breakfast, Bagels with either peanut butter or E-Z cheese for lunch, and Lipton noodles, sometimes with a small can of meat, for supper. Of course that's just a summary. I carried plenty of snack foods and other goodies, like Snickers bars, for sustanance.
How far did you walk each day?
In the beginning of the hike I did 9-12 miles per day. I hiked 15-20 miles other times. However, my average for all days hiked was 12.7 miles per hiking day
Did you see any bears
Of course! I saw three bears. Two were in the Shenandoahs running away from me. The last was looking really sad in the Bear Mountain Zoo. Poor bear.
How much money did you spend?
I spent about $2800. Some hikers spent less and some spent more - one hiker estimated his expenses at around $6000! But on average, it's about $1.50-$2.00 a mile.
Did you get lost at all?
No. It's almost impossible to get lost on the trail. Every ten yards or so, there is a white paint mark on a tree called a blaze. The diligent maintainers painted these marks the entire length. The only time it was possible to get lost was at road crossings. Sometimes there was no telling where the trail went when going down a street.
How much did you carry?
I started out carrying 55 lbs on my back from Amicalola Falls. For the most part, that varied very little. The pack would always be heaviest coming out of town with 5 or 6 days worth of food. Halfway through the trip, I did experiment with sending things ahead to make my load lighter but the difference was negligible. The least my pack weighed was 45 lbs. Sad really.
I just checked out the 1999 List of Days. Why does it seem you only stayed at shelters?
Convenience. One reason was that I could always expect reliable water at a shelter. There were other niceties like picnic table, privy and an acquaintance or two. Sometimes I slept in the shelter and other times, I tented nearby.
I just checked out the 1999 List of Days. Why so many days off?
Why not? I was notorious for taking an succession of zero mile days down south, with May being my worst month. Damascus itself chewed up 8 days, which is reasonable considering I went there twice. I have no excuse for Waynesboro and Harpers Ferry; sometimes the days off avalanche into a small vacation from hiking.
I just checked out the 1999 List of Days. Is that a negative mileage day I see?
Uhh, yes it is. On May 17th I went .5 miles in reverse. Was I stupid? Did I go the wrong way? Neither. The Slack Pack had managed to get a hitch back to where we had left the trail for the Trail Days celebration. The ride took a good portion of the day and the 14 miles from 19E to the next shelter come with a warning. A few years back, locals did not like the idea of the trail passing near their property. About 10 years ago, fishhooks were found strung up at eye level and a shelter was burned down. It was highly recommended that hikers not camp within that 14 mile length. You see, we had to stay at that shelter.
Besides, there was a liquor store down the road.
You make reference to a Bounce Box. What is that?
A Bounce or Bump box is a maildrop I prepare to send to myself at a town further down the trail. Things that get put in the box are generally usefull enough to have access to but not used enough each day to necessitate lugging them in the backpack. It's a common tactic to reduce weight. While things going in the box might not weigh much, the ounces do add up. Anything done to lessen pack weight is good.
What is slackpacking?
Not to be confused with the group I traveled with in '99, slackpacking (a.k.a. freedom hiking) is simply hiking with just a daypack. Normally a thru-hiker will arrange to be dropped off and/or picked up at a certain time and place while their heavy backpack is safely stored somewhere. This allows the hiker to cover more miles than normal or to traverse more difficult terrain. Most hikers do it to leave the heavy pack behind regardless of these factors.
What is Blue Blazing, Yellow Blazing, and the issue of being a Purist?
The A.T. as I mentioned previously, is marked with white marks on trees called blazes. Most (but not all) side trails are marked with a blue blaze. Regardless of what color the blazes of a side trail might be, taking any side path to get futher down the Appalachian Trail is referred to as blue blazing. Yellow blazing is similar except that a car is used to get further down the trail. Yellow blazing is not looked upon too favorably by most thru-hikers unless a person has a good reason (like a nasty case of shin splints).
A purist is a person who follows the white blazes - and only the white blazes - from Springer to Maine. No blue blazing. No yellow blazing. No exceptions.
Wait a minute
did you say someone got struck by lightning?!
Err yes. The dangers on the trail are few and far between, but (like evrything else in the world) it's not a totally safe activity. While at Byrds Nest Shelter #3 in the Shenandoahs (in 2001), a terrific thunderstorm passed through the park. Two thru-hikers were struck by lightning, however, they were not direct strikes. The first hiker got a jolt as he walked up Calf Mountain that blew apart the lower half of his wooden walking stick. He arrived at the shelter somewhat dazed but (for the most part) a-ok. The other hiker was Atomic, a guy I had been bumping into off and on since Kincora Hostel. His was also an indirect strike (by Mary's Rock) but he was less fortunate - while he could walk, he needed assistance hiking out from park rangers. He left a farewell note by the trail near Front Royal, saying that he was leaving to spend time with friends and family.