You MUST have item X to complete the trail! Failure will come unless you listen to me!

I wasn’t planning on a post tonight, I am knee deep in grad school reports right tonight, but something has been festering in my mind lately and I have to get it off my chest. SO MANY BODY PARTS!

Why do people who write gear reviews for the AT use so many absolutes? “You must have this to complete a thru hike” or “You won’t make it 100 miles with this particular piece of gear” or “you shouldn’t even start the trail if you’re going to bring this”.

I know there are plenty of ex thru hikers who want to help out future hikers with their gear reviews, and by all means I thank them for it. I’ve been reading so many gear blogs to help gauge what I’m bringing and to help solve space/weight issues I stumble upon. Some of the authors absolutely love using absolutes. They love telling people they have to use this piece of equipment or you’ll never complete the trail. I know they have a lot of wisdom after their 2,000+ mile journey, but using absolutes in this situation is ridiculous.

Just because you’ve hiked the trail doesn’t make you the know all, be all god of the Appalachian Trail. People have completed the trail before not using the same gear as you did.

I come across this a lot when it comes to footwear. So many people will say in their gear blogs that you’ll never complete the trail in boots, you HAVE to use trail runner. Period. End of story. I myself am already set on using boots and and no one is going to change my mind. I have always loved wearing boots in the back country and I hate wearing trail runners in the back country. If it winds up being a mistake, I’m glad I made it. There is no learning unless you make mistakes first.

I know for a fact people have completed a thru hike wearing hiking boots. Trail runners aren’t waterproof (I’ve stood in a stream for 10 minutes with water up to my boot laces and my foot remained dry), they don’t provide ankle support or protection, and they’re not anywhere near as durable as boots. I hate hiking with wet feet, I can be unstable at times while hiking so ankle support has always been a big asset for me, and I don’t have the money to buy 5 pairs of trail runners.

The point of this is to state that everyone’s hike is their own, making everyone’s gear list their own. Bring what you feel will be most effective for you. Don’t bring something just because it worked well for a past thru hiker. Use those gear reviews/lists as a guide for yourself, but don’t copy them. I found a couple gear blogs and the authors listed all their thru hiking gear, talked about the pros and cons to each piece of equipment, then stated if they’d use it to thru hike again. Those are the best kinds. You can get a feel as to why something worked or didn’t work for someone. Then if there was a piece of gear they wouldn’t bring again, they still listed the advantages it did have. That is helpful. Someone telling me to never bring boots and that I will never finish with boots is just attention grabbing and not very helpful.

I keep using the boot example, but I’ve stumbled upon this use of absolutes when it comes to many types of gear. Tents vs. ultralight shelters, chemical vs pump water filtration, 1 sleeping bag vs. 1 summer and 1 winter sleeping bag, self inflating sleeping pad vs. foam, maps vs. no maps, more socks vs. less socks, etc. I have seen bloggers use absolutes when it comes to all of those gear categories. It amazes me they feel they have the authority to tell someone what they have to do instead of just suggesting something. All hikers need to find their own path (figuratively, we’re all hiking the same physical trail). If that means someone winds up making a packing mistake, but then learns from it, then more power to them. In the end, that’s more helpful than just doing what others tell you to.

My journey on the Appalachian Trail will be just that, mine. It’s my experience. It’s my pilgrimage. Even though I will be traveling with my girlfriend it will still be two trips. 1) My trip and experiences. 2) Her trip and experiences. We could come back from completing the trail and have completely different advice for future thru hikers. I haven’t hiked the trail yet, but I feel the best advice to any upcoming thru hiker is they need to make it their own trip. Don’t go to a particular trail festival just because someone said to. Don’t hike northbound or southbound just because someone said one is a better idea than the other. Don’t bring a piece of gear you’re not comfortable with just because someone said you have to. Don’t hike the trail because of the reasons someone else presented; hike the trail for your own reasons and ambitions.

The AT is a different journey for each traveler, there are no absolutes as to what makes for the best trip.

68 days til Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advertisements

Gear Review pt. 3 – Little red wagon edition

So much gear and so little space! What are you supposed to do as an AT thru hiker?! Easy, just don’t bring so much crap. There’s lot of things that you could bring on a backpacking trip, but when preparing for the AT I’ve realized you have to take a step back and really think about it. I mean you can always bring a little red wagon on the trail but you’d have to bring a raft to float it across stream/river crossings. That would just be a pain in the butt. Pulling a wagon over 2000 miles is just an after thought, right?

Well I’ve been going through my gear and, through all my trips this year, have been trying to figure out the best combination of gear to bring for the trip. I’ve also been replacing old gear so that 1) I can get lighter gear and 2) get better quality equipment. I don’t really feel like having everything break while hiking the AT. I know some of it will have to be replaced as I go along, but I’ll try to avoid as much as possible.

Here is a list of some more stuff that I will be bringing on the trail:

Cooking and Water Gear

Stove – MSR Pocket Rocket. I got this on sale at REI on Black Friday and it’s been bomb as hell. It boils water so much faster than my old whisper light stove. It’s just so easy to get ready and use. I can’t get enough. I feel like I’m barely using any fuel because I can get water to boil so fast. I know some of the fuel canisters can have problems when it gets cold, but I used it when I was backpacking at Red River Gorge in single degree/teen temperatures and it still worked like a champ. Did I mention it weighs nothing?

Cookware – I also got a new pot because my old cookset was kinda heavy and awkward. Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium. It’s been good. Done is job and it’s super light. I mean it’s a pot….there really isn’t much boasting I can do about a pot. I could say a genie comes out when I open it after a day of hiking but I’d be lying. No matter how awesome that would be.

Utensil – I got a spork…..made by Snowpeak. Weighs nothing. A little annoying to pack just because it’s long. But it is a spork, so it’s awesome in it’s own right. Better than a spoon. Better than a fork. It’s a spork. The superhero of utensils.

Fuel – MSR canisters. I hear it does better than other brands in cold weather and it’s the same price as other brands. Screw on, screw off.

Primary water treatment – Iodine tablet + neutralizer. Iodine is super convenient and reliable. Though iodine tastes like ass, no matter what my dad says, so the neutralizer is mandatory in my mind. It’s also fairly cheap for as many liters of water as you can get out of a bottle of tablets. Only drawback is the tablets will break if you’re not careful.

Secondary water treatment – Life Straw. I am a firm believer that giardia probably sucks….a lot. Therefore if something happens you want a back up water treatment system. I’m not bringing a pump on the trail, because I’m not stupid, so this is a great choice. It’s light. Cleans tons of liter before it goes bad. You can either dip it in the stream and drink or fill your bottle and drink out of the life straw. Last thing I need is explosive diarrhea while hiking the AT. I am too lazy to dig wide cat holes for the explosion of poop.

Water bottles – 2 Nalgenes. I thought about using 1 nalgene and a hydration system, but I would rather preserve the room in my back. Those filtration systems can impede how much space you have in your pack. They’re awesome and reliable. If you’re an outdoors person and you don’t know why I’m using Nalgenes, then you should get out more often.

Towel – I have a very small towel that I found at REI for kitchen stuff. It’s good for cleaning out my pot after cooking and has a clip so I can hang it from my pack while hiking. I can store it in my pot with my stove, so it’s not any sort of burden. It beats using a bandanna that is covered in sweat.

The day I start the trail edges closer and closer each day. It’s unreal to think about. Getting through graduate school has been tough enough, so the AT should be simple, right? And again, since I am a poor grad student I don’t mind asking the 3 readers I have for a small donation to my AT fund! You know you want to! Well, maybe you don’t. That’s cool too. It would be a huge help though.

http://www.gofundme.com/sjrvsk

71 days til’ Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Zaleski State Forest aka Awesome, scary tunnel, cancer stricken ghosts, big stone furnace….oh yeah, and a great backpacking trail

Off on another adventure this past weekend, this time at beautiful Zaleski State Forest in Southeastern Ohio. It has everything a nerd could ask for in a backpacking location: great trails, historic iron furnaces built into the hillside, a self guided naturalist trail, a haunted tunnel, great campsites, and a wicked cool tree plantation.

If you’ve read my blog before you know my last backpacking trip was to Shawnee State Forest and I was less than pleased with the backpacking trail conditions. I’ve never been to Zaleski before but it was like night and day. Ohio Division of Forestry must have realized how terrible Shawnee was and decided to actually try with Zaleski.

You pull into the backpacking trail parking lot and across the street sits the Hope Furnace; an old iron furnace from the mid 1800s when iron was being pumped out of Southeastern Ohio and wilderness preservation was a joke among the cancer stricken miners before they kicked the bucket at 28 years old.

hope

It’s just a cool thing to see before the real fun starts. Overall the backpacking trail were great. The difficulty wasn’t too high nor too low. There were good sections where you just traveled on a ridge top or in a valley for awhile but also getting some good up and down over distance. Since it was early spring all the dogwoods were blooming and so the color was beautiful. Wildflowers were starting to pop up but the trees had no leaved out yet so you could see the early color all the way down the valleys.

There are three loops to this trail, totaling just over 24 miles. My girlfriend and I hiked them all in our three day, two night stay in the forest. We started on the south loop which was the easiest loop to hike and was a great way to start the trip. It was comfortable all the way to our first campsite, the second on the map, which was just over 6 miles from the parking lot. Got to the site early, chilled out, and watched all the other backpackers come in through the afternoon, evening and night. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Including us, there were 29 people in the site. It was like free burrito day at Chipotle. The site was the top of this entire ridge and it was a lot bigger than you could see from one point. Great stay at our first campsite though.

Sammi just hanging out, literally.

Sammi just hanging out, literally.

And our tent, which we have named the Puffer Fish.

WP_20150424_009

My tent is a single walled, Sierra Design ultralight.

The next morning we set off and hiked the eastern half of the middle loop, up to the third campsite, which is also the beginning and end of the northern loop. We wanted to do the entire trail so we bypassed the campsite and hiked the north loop. You could tell the north loop was not heavily traveled. The edges were completely covered in multi flora rose and it’s really not that nice of an area until you reach the Doolittle Tree Plantation, which is a beautiful white pine forest. Great hiking through the tree plantation. I would have taken pictures if it wasn’t pouring down rain at the time. The last mile and a half of the north loop was the absolute pits though. Up steep hills that were completely rutted out by ATVs and trucks and completely muddy. The longest mile and a half of my life.

Side note, my new Patagonia Torrentshell rain pants are killer awesome. Kept me dry, shed the water and were just great.

When we got back to the campsite after our rainy hike we were grateful to have a single walled tent. We were able to throw up the Puffer Fish in the rain and the inside of the tent stayed perfectly dry. Threw in our sleeping stuff, food and clothes and stowed the rest in the side vestibules. The rain kept coming for the next three hours and we stayed completely dry. Since my tent has a sort of awning in the front I was able to make dinner with the front door open and stay completely dry. Killer awesome.

Our view for 3 hours.

Our view for 3 hours.

Getting to the chase…..the next day came and it was just over 6 miles back down the western side of the middle loop to the parking lot. It was a fairly easy hike. The trail hiked through this great wetland area at the end of the trail. It was beautiful. If the trail wasn’t so narrow and flooded in areas I would have been paying more attention to the birds and taking pictures.

Overall it was a great trip. I would definitely go back to Zaleski State Forest. It was beautiful, great birds, great color, wasn’t completely ugly where they had recently logged (unlike Shawnee), great trails, and had some absolutely beautiful wetlands. I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to wetlands.

You might be wondering where a haunted tunnel comes into everything. Well, the Moonville Tunnel is in the forest but not along the backpacking trail. It would be worth checking out another time, I just didn’t feel like searching for it once I got back to the car. I’ve researched it though and it seems pretty badass. Ghosts and everything. You should check it out.

SCARY!

SCARY!

Anyone who has read my blog before, you know I’m thru hiking the AT beginning this July. I’m also a super poor graduate student trying to fulfill a dream so I don’t mind asking people to check out my Go Fund Me site and consider helping me out. Anything will help! Please and thanks 🙂

http://www.gofundme.com/sjrvsk

74 days til Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” ~John Muir

You don’t need any money on the AT, right?

Sometimes I wish times were simpler where I could just go hike the trail with a collapsible fishing pole, a wool blanket, a water bottle, 50 bucks, and my dog and be just fine the entire time. Luckily I am making fairly decent money at my internship, but as we all know, once you take out taxes and all your bills it’s really not that much.

I’ve been challenged to make sure I have enough money when I start so that I can pay all my trail expenses as well as my back home, off the trail expenses. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far. I am a frugal person by nature, so forcing myself to save has come pretty natural. It can be discouraging though at points. It feels like life just forces you to shell out a few hundred here and a few hundred there, and by the time the end of the month has come, you’ve barely been able to save.

I don’t know how out of the ordinary this is for a thru hiker (or maybe it’s really common, i don’t know) but I started a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for my off the trail expenses while hiking. Car payments, car insurance, cell phone bills, rent, health insurance, etc. I know most crowd funding goes to people with debilitating diseases or just had something terrible happen in their life, but some people have gotten a lot of money for really stupid things. There was that one guy who got all the money for making potato salad. So in an attempt to make some coin for this trip I figured I might as well try. If I make zero dollars it’s not like I will be in a worse position than now.

 http://www.gofundme.com/sjrvsk

So go check it out. See what a Go Fund Me page with zero dollars looks like.

Thinking about it, it’s really depressing how difficult it is for people to make time in their life to take a trip like this. We live in a society of bills and little to no vacation time. If someone didn’t take vacation for 20 years at a large company they might then have enough vacation time to hike the AT. Society definitely punishes people for living their dreams, so a trip like this can be a huge gamble. When I get back will I be able to start paying my bills immediately before I can get a job lined up? I hope so. Business doesn’t really care what I’m doing, all they care is that they get the appropriate amount of money from me when they ask for it.

I already did a post about money so I won’t go on any longer. I just hope some bored millionaire stumbles upon my Go Fund Me page and feels generous. If not though, I will still be financially stable enough to hike the trail. There’s no chance I back out now, unless I break my leg or something.

80 days til Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Congress is always willing to appropriate money for more and bigger paved roads, anywhere — particularly if they form loops.” ~ Edward Abbey

AT Workout Plan….aka work dat’ ass

If walking to the refrigerator during the commercial breaks of your Duck Dynasty marathon is what you consider exercise, hiking the AT is probably not for you.

Hiking the AT is going to be a huge ware on my body, and I consider myself a very in shape person. I have always been a big runner, biker and I’ve always loved lifting. Staying healthy and in shape is important to me, just as it should be for everyone. For the AT I am ensuring I stay in shape to avoid any sort of injury on the trail. The last thing I want to do is pull a muscle or anything of that sort that will slow my progress significantly or force me to get off the trail.

  • Running. Running will help boost my cardio and build muscles in my legs. I don’t want to gain too much muscle so that I’m carrying more weight around. Running is good exercise for anything. As my girlfriend says, “you can always go run for at least 20 minutes.” I always try to do more than just 20 minutes but sometimes you have to settle.
  • Push ups. I don’t have access to a gym anymore so I do body weight exercises, including push ups. This will help with upper body and back strength, which comes in handy when you’re lugging around 30 pounds on your back everyday.
  • Leg exercises. Building up and conditioning my legs. I want to strengthen those muscles enough to avoid as many muscle strains and pulls during my trip.
  • Ass exercises. Tighten up that butt! All the bears will be checking me out as I walk away. It’s important. Just don’t question it and trust me.
  • Core exercises. Core strength is important with all fitness. I will be upright most of the day supporting 30 pounds on my back, so  keeping up my core strength is important.
  • Biking. Biking is a low impact way to build cardio and lots of leg strength. I’ll go bike for 30 miles or so on a trip and my legs will be burning at the end. It feels awesome and I can tell my legs have gotten a lot stronger since I started biking again.

That’s about it for now. I know I’m no Arnold or Michael Phelps, but I always get a hard workout in when I can and it’s going to pay off. Granted I would be working out regardless if I was hiking the trail, I’m just more focused on a fitness goal now.

I feel like I’ve been doing a great job getting ready for the trail and fitness is just apart of getting ready. If you’ve ever watched the documentary Mile, Mile and a Half that one guy dropped off the John Muir Trail in three days. You definitely don’t want to be that guy. I feel he mentally prepared himself but did not prepare fitness wise. I know so much of hiking the trail is mental, but fitness is still important. I’ll wind up being in great shape a couple weeks into the trail, but I want to go into the trail in as best shape as I can get myself into.

81 days til’ Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~John Muir

How much do you tip the bellhop to bring your wardrobe to the next AT shelter?

So where do you buy backpacking dressers and wardrobes? Should I hire someone to haul my wardrobe around or should I risk just taking it all myself? I know it would cost a lot, but my suits might get wrinkled on the AT if I carry them myself. So many decisions……

On a second thought, I’ll just bring the essentials and be perfectly content. I know what clothes to bring can be a pretty big decision when you’re going to hike the AT; and through my experiences and what I’ve read from previous thru hikers, I believe I planned out everything I will need (and hopefully not anything more).

This is what I’m planning on bringing currently. It’s all subject to change, but I can’t imagine it would change drastically.

  • 1 short sleeved hiking shirt: Made with moisture-wicking material of sort. I will either just use one of my current work out shirts or something else if I come across something I like better.
  • 1 long sleeved shirt: I figure this would be good when it’s cooler up on mountains, cool nights, when black flies or mosquito’s are everywhere, etc. The sleeves can also be pulled up and VOILA! I will have another short sleeve shirt. Magic. I have a work out one made with moisture-wicking material again. I don’t really like it, I never have. I’ll use it if I don’t find anything else that I like that is affordable.
  • 1 pair of running shorts: Super light material. Pack small. They don’t hang down to my knees. Really comfortable. Adidas. I already own them. What more could you ask for? Better decision if you just want a pair of hiking shorts compared to something specially made for hiking.
  • 1 pair of convertible hiking pants: This will give me a pair of pants and a second pair of shorts. There is a reason so many hikers use convertible pants and I don’t plan on arguing with them. I’ve been using a great pair from Columbia for about a year now and I have no reason to get anything different. I could always be super fancy and hike with one leg as pants and one leg as shorts. #Superstar!
  • 2 pairs of underwear: I wear Adidas boxer briefs. They’re cool and light. 2 pairs just seems like a no brainer and they’re super light, so it can’t imagine it will matter. I don’t have a problem with my thighs chaffing, but boxer briefs would definitely help if I did.
  • 3 pairs of socks: I know some people swear by only bringing two pairs, but I love my feet too much for that. I will bring two pairs of regular weight, Smart Wool socks. I own four pairs currently and they’re great. On top of that I’ll bring one pair of heavy weight socks for cooler weather and sleeping. I figure your feet are too important while hiking to skimp on a few ounces because you’re a super nitty gritty weight freak. I would even consider bringing 3 pairs of the regular weight socks and one heavy weight pair. Most would say that’s overkill, but my feet would stay dry and happy.
  • 1 pair of boots: This could be the boots I start out with or they might wind up changing to trail runners when I wear out my current boots. Regardless, I will always have one pair of trail boots/trail runners. Waterproof, duh.
  • 1 pair of sandals: I have a pair of Chaco’s. Not the lightest, I know, but they’re great. You can hike in them and they’re great for stream/river crossings. Also, wear them around camp to dry my feet.
  • 1 pair of gloves: I have a good medium weight pair of gloves right now that I’m going to bring. Could be useful on mountaintops in the warm months and definitely useful in the colder months. I’ve hiked in fairly thin gloves before in single digits/teens temperature and my hands were perfectly fine while hiking. If my hands get cold as winter sets in I might send away for my thick pair. We’ll see.
  • 2 hats: One ball cap from my alma mater that I wear on all my adventures and a cold weather hat. The ball cap will be good in all weather except for really cool temperatures. It’s a ball cap, no reason to explain why I would bring it. I also have a great Arcteryx winter hat that will be useful in colder weather, especially when I sleep on cool nights.
  • 1 pair of long underwear: Hand me downs from my dad. Patagonia. They’re a great base layer. Bottoms and tops.
  • 1 pair of sunglasses: Because duh. And I’ll look awesome. #Superstar!
  • 1 raincoat: Because I heard rumors it rains while hiking the AT. I doubt it will ever rain on me, because I’m just so positive, but it’s better to be prepared. Plus, it’s a good outer layer on cool or windy days.
  • 1 pullover: I have a Columbia pullover that I love and is really comfortable. It’s not super light or anything, but I own it and it will be a great mid or outer layer.
  • 1 winter coat: I have the Arcteryx cerium LT hoody down jacket. It’s super warm and light. I can use it folded up as a pillow in the warm months. It was expensive but definitely worth it from the use I’ve gotten out of it so far.
  • 1 pair of rain pants: I’ve been up in the air if I wanted rain pants or not, but recently decided I should bring them. I don’t know which ones to get but I already know I hate the REI ones. If anyone has a suggestion for a pair that doesn’t cost $200, that’d be great. I figure they’d be good if it gets cold suddenly and I need some leg protection while I hike over a mountain. I hear they also do well in the rain.

I think that’s it. I might have missed something, but that is close enough. I’m pretty sure I hit everything. It does seem like a lot when I write it out like this, but I have to remember I will be wearing a lot of it at all times. I could probably go without my pullover, but I find a lot of use out of it now on my backpacking trips and don’t want to part with it quite yet.

Clothes are important. It’s so easy to bring way too many so you have to think how different combinations can replace something else. I feel I have a good grasp on it right now. I won’t be surprised if that changes by the time I leave, so any advice would be great!

94 days til Katahdin! #SOBO #Maine2Georgia

“Of all the featherless beasts, only man, chained by his self-imposed slavery to the clock, denies the elemental fire and proceeds as best he can about his business, suffering quietly, martyr to his madness. Much to learn.”

Finding Bigfoot on the AT

Which one are you more worried about when you’re hiking the trail?

bear

Oh look how cute he is 🙂

OR

bigfoot

I may watch Bigfoot shows a little too much.

I know bears can be an issue on the trail if you’re not attentive, but if Bigfoot is real he might be more willing to rip your head off than the bear. Maybe I should call up that Animal Planet show Finding Bigfoot and get their opinion, but I’m sure they’re busy doing important things.

When I worked in the Smoky Mountains this past summer I had a small close encounter with a black bear that made me pretty nervous at the time. In hindsight it wasn’t a big deal but it gets me thinking. I know most all black bears are afraid of humans but I think all hikers wonder if they’re going to run into that one pissed off bear. Seeing that bear up close was incredibly exciting and incredibly terrifying and I am wondering what to do if the bear winds up not running away.

I know you’re supposed to make yourself look big, make noise and throw rocks and sticks towards the bear but I also know that doesn’t work all the time. I always hang a bear bag out of caution, I always cook away from my tenting area, and I keep all things that smell in the bear bag.

I read before that bears are more attracted to the shelters on the AT so camping away from the shelters is a good way to avoid bears in the evening. They know more people and food are in the shelter because they’re regularly occupied. Though I also know tons of people who have stayed at AT shelters and haven’t been mauled in their sleep by bears.

Sometimes I think about getting bear spray just to be prepared while I’m on the trail. I will be in a party of 2, so it’s better than 1 when it comes to safety, but I feel like bear spray could be worth the weight. Though I’d have to keep it in a place where it can be accessed quickly. which could possibly make it a nuisance 99.78888888% of the time while hiking.

I would love to see bears at a distance while on the trail and would love even more if they didn’t come up to me. It’s like how Edward Abbey never saw a grizzly bear in Alaska yet he was actively looking for them. I will not be looking for black bears at all and I hope I don’t see any.

Enough about black bears though, what about Bigfoot tromping around the Appalachian Mountains? What if I start hearing whooping in the night? What if I hear logs being knocked against trees? If it happens I will be worried at first, but then realize it’s probably just these guys.

finding_bigfood

Then maybe I’ll just Bigfoot whoop back so they can feel they actually found solid evidence. Their show is just so entertainingly bad, I can’t turn the channel when I run across it on TV. It’s like watching Ghost Adventures, which is the most entertainingly terrible show that ever existed. You’re better off using those two shows for drinking games.

I digress. Bears are a small fear in the back of my mind that can consume my brain time to time. I know it shouldn’t but it does. It cracks me up how worried Bill Bryson was about seeing a bear before the trip and he never wound up seeing one bear. Granted he only hiked about 800 miles of the trail, but still. The only thing more I could really do is bring bear spray, which a lot of hikers say is a waste. I could wear a bear bell. Let me say that I know the bell does not actively scare off a bear, that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to make the bear aware of your presence ahead of time so they’re not startled when you come walking around a bend in the trail. Bears will only eat your face off if they’re dangerously starved, they feel their offspring are being threatened or if you surprise them. Bear bells can help eliminate that surprise factor. I read an article once where a researcher was actively going up to bears and ringing bear bells, trying to scare them away. The bears were not scared off so he deemed the bells completely ineffective. Again, my argument is that the bells are not designed to actively scare a bear off that is already there, but merely make them aware of your presence so you don’t startle them.

Bears; they’re big and fuzzy and sometimes you just want to pet them and get too close to take picture. But for god sake don’t people. It’s stupid and annoying. You might get your face eaten off or you might cause a bear jam in Cades Cove. I believe in evolution so if you’re stupid enough to try to get right next to a bear for a selfie and you die, I will feel no pity. You deserved to die because you obviously had some weak ass genetics if you thought going up to the bear was the best decision. It’s almost more annoying when someone causes a bear jam in Cades Cove while I’m trying to make it to some of the park trail heads. So do me a favor, if you’re going to be stupid around black bears, at least have the courtesy to get eaten and not cause a bear jam.

Thanks.

104 days til’ Katahdin! #Maine2Georgia #SOBO