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Posted: 7/2/2003 4:42:24 AM EDT
Me and some friends at work were talking about trying to hike the trail sometime. There are some questions I had about it. Since it's technically a national park, what are laws concerning firearms? Open or concealed carry? Rifles and shotguns? The firearms aspect concerns me mostly cause the trail runs through communist states like MD, NJ, NY and MA. Also has anyone hiked all or part of the trail? How long would it take? Other than usual camping gear what else should I bring? Any help will be appriciated.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 4:50:05 AM EDT
I've hiked most of the North East done in small 3-4 day hikes. How long would it take? If you do the whole trial end to end it would take you from early spring to late fall. And you should schedule food drops along the way. There are a ton of resources on the web that will help you prepare. As far as firearms I think that they are technically not allowed. But who would know? Just don't tell or show anyone.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 4:53:05 AM EDT
Originally Posted By FullRange: I've hiked most of the North East done in small 3-4 day hikes. How long would it take? If you do the whole trial end to end it would take you from early spring to late fall. And you should schedule food drops along the way. There are a ton of resources on the web that will help you prepare. As far as firearms I think that they are technically not allowed. But who would know? Just don't tell or show anyone.
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BINGO!!! With all the wacky shit happening in the national parks these days, I pack EVERY time in Maine and NH. Then again I've got the permits. But I wouldn't hesitate to pack if I did the trail. I hiked the AT in Virginia in one trip, and the Maine AT as well. Shenandoah is cool.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:01:03 AM EDT
The type of hiking in VA is alot different than the type of hiking in NH/ME (type = terrain and miles per day) :) I really like being above treeline on a sunny afternoon - the feeling of peace and the awe of nature is amazing!
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:09:05 AM EDT
second to none in my opinion! That's in fact why I chose to live in Maine! It was after my AT hike. Too many moments of 'zen' looking out over the mountains. Katahdin was amazing.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:18:56 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:24:08 AM EDT
[url]http://www.appalachiantrail.org/[/url]
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:27:24 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 5:48:26 AM EDT by fight4yourrights]
Originally Posted By FullRange: As far as firearms I think that they are technically not allowed. But who would know? Just don't tell or show anyone.
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NJ - hollowpoints = 2 years in jail, mandatory NJ - pistol = 2 years in jail, mandatory MD - loaded magazine = loaded gun = felony MA - big time illegal w/out a FOID card NY - pistol = felony charge It matters.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:29:10 AM EDT
Then clearly those are states not to hike through. They don't have much to offer vista-wise anyway. Skip em!!!
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:36:58 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 5:38:24 AM EDT by JH225]
Originally Posted By SMProud: Me and some friends at work were talking about trying to hike the trail sometime. There are some questions I had about it. Other than usual camping gear what else should I bring?
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Sounds like you are used to doing the regular old camping with a car deal. Thru-hiking the AT is a MUCH different kind of camping. ear, the weight of the gear, food, clothing, etc. It all comes into play. If you and your friend have never had any experience in this type of hiking before, you are better served by doing some 2-3 day hikes first, and seeing if it is for you or not. As far as weapons go, carry concealed and don't let others know you have a weapon. State laws come into play, and I'm not real sure if anyone would have a difinitive answer.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 5:44:43 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 8:45:52 AM EDT
I thru-hiked the AT in 1995. Don't bother with a gun, it's A LOT more trouble than it is worth. I considered it, researched the legalities at the time and opted to leave the gun home. A rifle or shotgun will land you in jail FAST. In many state parks and national forests possession of a firearm is presumption of hunting activity. If you do not have a hunting license and or nothing is in season, you are out of luck. Some state forests also band hunting within a certain distance of trails and paths, so carrying a loaded weapon along the trail gets you in trouble again. There are 14 states and countless municipalities, each with their own regulations and interpretations of regulations concerning firearms. It is IMPOSSIBLE to comply with all of them. Getting properly licensed in each of those states would be very costly and in some cases, impossible. Getting caught in New York would land you in jail, the same with MD (which you can get past in a hard day of walking, two easily.) Vermont has no firearms laws, so you'd be fine there, but ostracized by other hikers. New Hampshire's laws are loose, but a permit is required for concealed carry. National Parks prohibit possession of firearms except in a motor home or vehicle while transiting and they must be unloaded and locked up seperately from their ammunition...this is into possible for a hiker. Baxter State Park also prohibits firearms for hikers (they may allow hunting under very limited circumstances, but I doubt it. Here's a few basic practical facts. A self-defense situation always develops rapidly. You have a second or two to respond before things get beyond control. Concealing a firearm is critical to keeping out of trouble on the trail, your gun must be invisible to other hikers throughout the course of your entire day. There must be no circumstance under which you accidentally reveal your weapon or someone is likely to snitch on you and get you into trouble. So it's gonna have to be kept in a pounch or pocket that never gets used for anything else and which you can take with you EVERYWHERE (which, in itself is likely to arouse suspicion.) Perfect concealment and rapid deployment tend to be mutually exclusive on the trail. If the gun is concealed well enough that no-one is going to find it on you, it's probably buried away too deeply to do you any good. Care and maintenance: The AT is a tremendously humid and corrosive environment because just about everything you carry gets saturated with humidity and sweat. So your firearm, should you decide to carry it, will need regular care and maintenance and should feature a highly anti-corrosive coating to prevent corrosion and damage. The need for regular maintenance makes concealment difficult. Weight: You are going to be carrying a fair load anyhow climbing up and down mountains all day long. Adding three - five pounds for gun, ammunition, cleaning kit and concealment solution is a bad trade off on other needs like camera, film, water, food, shelter, dry socks, etc. Lack of need: In all the history of the AT there have been only a handful of murders ON the trail or in trail shelters. In one recent case the two people killed were not actually hiking on the trail, but near it and were stalked preceisely because they were females and evidently lesbians. The only other murder case on the AT I can recall involved a husband and wife captured and killed at a shelter north of Pearisburg, Virginia. On my thru-hike, which lasted a bit over six months, thanks to efforts to enjoys some towns, as well as sickness and injuries that ate up about 3 weeks to a month of rest and recovery time, there was only one occasion in which I didn't feel 100% safe and that was in Vermont when some locals came out and decided to invade a shelter close to the road. I simply picked up and moved to the next shelter. probably things would have been fine (less than restful, but fine). The biggest hazards on the AT are not human or animal, but physical. If you push too hard you will end up with repetitive motion disorders like tendinitis, stress fractures, etc. Food related illness is common including self-contamination of food by improper hygeine resulting in coliform bacteria infections and diarhea. SO WASH YOUR HANDS. Heat injury, while uncommon, is possible, so drink water. Exposure related injuries are also possible. You can get hypothermic in 55 degree weather. Don't carry too much weight. It's relatively easy to get your packweight under 40 pounds and still have plenty of luxuries. There are a lot of weight reducing gear choices you can make that can take your packweight well under 40 pounds and even down into the twenties. I'd be happy to provide additional information about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and you can contact me at IcemanAT95@yahoo.com.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 9:02:35 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 9:03:37 AM EDT by CavVet]
Just an idea.... What about the Federal statue that covers movement through a state with firearms legally? Could this not apply?
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 9:08:59 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 10:34:37 AM EDT
Huge stretch. New York doesn't always honor that statute. Also I believe there is a provision for states to set requirements that they deem reasonable, most of those include locked in a case and ammunition stored seperately. This is not feasible in a backpack. Also most transit regs seem to assume you are travelling in a motor vehicle, not hiking on foot. It takes about 6 weeks to transit Virginia on foot. The bottom line is that it's not really practical, not from a legal standpoint to be certain, and not from a backpacking standpoint. The risks outweigh the benefits and the realistically assessed threat doesn't justify the risks. In the real hiking world, people do not climb up into the mountains to cause trouble or victimize people, it's too damned much work. And hikers don't have anything really to offer, plus they tend to group up making them harder targets. Once thru-hikers hit Virginia, they are also hard, toughened people who can run faster and move more confidently over trails than any likely attacker as well. When I was on the trail I could smell a non-thru-hiker about a hundred yards away. Deodorant, soaps, cologne, shampoo, fabric softeners and detergent scents all carry unbelievably well. Someone who is not a thru-hiker is painfully obvious to a thru-hiker. They also have trouble sneaking up, because thru hikers get a lot quieter as their walking muscles tune in. It takes less energy and they control their movements more precisely than do even veteran day and weekend hikers, so they hike quieter, this helps them distinguish between other thru-hikers and occasional hikers. Thru-hikers also tune into the normal sounds of the woods and readily recognize sounds that don't fit in. Metallic clicking, people huffing and puffing, loose gear clanking around, etc. It's a pretty neat thing to see happening in yourself. It was December before I could stand sleeping in a quiet room again, I needed to hear wind in the trees and animals rustling around to get to sleep. It's been more than seven years and I still sleep better in the woods than I do in a bed. A thru-hiker is just not an easy target for an attacker, they are too alert, too fit and too hard to get at. Try knocking over a thru-hiker sometime, especially if they have their pack off. Fine tuned sense of balance becomes standard equipment over time.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 11:04:03 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SMProud: Also has anyone hiked all or part of the trail? How long would it take? Other than usual camping gear what else should I bring? Any help will be appriciated.
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Camping equipment: Lightweight shelter is a must. I highly recommend that every AT thru-hiker carry their own gear. Sharing gear is nice, but groups seldom survive, someone almost always chooses to go off on their own, go home, slow down, speed up, etc. the remaining people must be able to go it on their own. I highly recommend personal shelters of under 4 pounds. The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight is about as much tent as I would recommend. The MSR Zoid 1 and it's brethren are nice, as is the North Face Canyonlands and Sierra Designs Lightyear 1 person tents. A lot of thru-hikers are going to ultralight tarps and hammock systems such as the Hennessey Hammock. Stove: Alcohol stoves are in vogue these days because they are super light (fractions of ounces) and they are dirt simple. I just bought a Brasslite Turbo II and am going to make it my primary backpacking stove and reserve my MSR Whisperlite International for winter work. It takes about twice as long to boil 1.5 liters of water, but that's not all that big a deal. MSR does have a new lighter weight version called the Simmerlite or something like that, that may serve a more conventional approach. There are also a variety of lightweight cannister stoves from MSR, Primus and SnowPeak that offer lightweight cooking and good heat output. Clothing, keep it simple and synthetic. leave the blue jeans, t-shirts and cotton sweatshirts behind. You want polyester fleece, nylon and similar wicking fabrics. Goretex is still popular, but not critically necessary. You will sweat out a goretex jacket nearly as fast as a coated nylon one in the rain. When it gets warmer, you won't bother with raingear at all. I recommend a two set system for clothing. You keep a set of hiking clothes, that will pretty much always be wet and nasty, and a set of camp and town clothes that will remain dry and clean(er). You should never let the two touch except in the washing machine. Your hiking clothes will generally smell like someone buried a dead goat in them for a week. Water: I recommend water filters over chemicals or just trusting the water source. Katadyn makes the Hiker filter (formerly sold by PUR) it is an excellent backpacking filter, weighs about 11 ounces bone dry, somewhat more in practical use and works very well. The MSR Microworks is also a good option through much slower. I hate teh Sweetwater filters, total junk in my opinion. Water bottles: I use either Nalgene 1 liter lexan widemouths or a Camelback or Platypus water bladder. Any are good. Soda bottles have an annoying tendancy to develop pinprick leaks. Carry 2 liters at all times. There are some stretches where the ability to carry as much as a gallon of water is a good thing. Packs and boots are foundation systems. You need boots that fit well and provide enough support for your feet. I wear Merrell Chameleon Ventilator High's these days and have saved myself a few pounds in weight on my feet and knees by doing so while sacrificing little support. With a lightweight boot choice you need to keep packweight low though. Packs: Military packs are frighteningly overweight and provide piss-poor ergonomics. You can use army packs successfully, many have, but you can't load them Army style. I recommend an internal frame pack of around 4000 cubic inches. This is what most gear stores would call a weekend or long weekend pack. They will often try to steer you toward 5000-6000 cubic inch expedition packs. You don't need that. What you need is to exercise a little packing discipline and keep your load down. If you must have more space, there are add on pockets that lash onto the compression straps, top lid, or back of the pack that will buy you a little more space. External frame packs are fine as well. I think Kelty and Jansport still make good externals, the K2's are a bit heavy. Camp Trails made some good ones as well. Overall packweight should be kept as low as possible without sacrificing practical safety. You must retain the ability to get out of the weather, get warm and get dry. Sleeping bags: I recommend high quality down sleeping bags if you can afford them. I'm talking Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends bags here, not The North Face which offers sleeping bags of inferior quality down. If that's the price range you can afford, you are just as well off with a TNF Polarguard delta 3D bag which is almost as light and isn't as intolerant of moisture. 20 degree bags are a good target rating. Rectangular bags have needless materials, you want a mummy bag to cut down on weight. Using a warmer rated bag and wearing more clothing on cold nights is a viable alternative and allows you to use the bag longer into the warm weather season. Spare clothing makes a decent pillow. For your sleeping bag I highly recommend replacing the factory stuff sack with an OR Delux roll top stuff sack. Those are pretty close to absolutely waterproof and go a long way toward making certain you have a dry bed at night. Sleeping pad. The Ridgerest or Z-rest are the weight kings, but I recommend sacrificing a little weight for comfort by going with a Thermarest ultralight sleeping pad. They pack down a lot smaller and offer greater comfort. the 3/4 length weigh about 15 ounces, but you need to pad your legs with extra clothing, your empty pack or something else. Headlamp (Princeton Tech Aurora) three lamp LED headlamp provides enough light for camp activities and a little night hiking and weighs a fraction of what the old Petzl Micro did. That's a start. Plan on 4-6 months and having enough money banked away to cover your at-home responsibilities for 6 months, plus 1-2 dollars a mile or 2-4 thousand dollars to cover expenses, gear repairs, town stops, resupply costs, etc, along the way. Actual hiking will take 4-6 months. I recommend leaving yourself 6 months so you can really enjoy the trail without having to stress out too much over the schedule and the miles.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 11:08:39 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 11:21:44 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 11:23:52 AM EDT by TomJefferson]
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 11:23:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 11:33:40 AM EDT by CavVet]
Originally Posted By Aimless:
Originally Posted By CavVet: Just an idea.... What about the Federal statue that covers movement through a state with firearms legally? Could this not apply?
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No it doesn't apply. It's written to apply to cars (locked in a trunk etc) [:(]
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Well I am glad they had cars to use in the Civil War....[;)] Is that the [i]spirit[/i] or the [i]letter[/i] of the law? Off to search the web for that damn statue.... Edited to add, it is the letter of the law. You must have a vehicle...[:(]
Section 926A. Interstate transportation of firearms Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
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[url]http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/18/parts/i/chapters/44/sections/section_926a.html[/url]
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 11:34:02 AM EDT
Thanks for all the advice guys. Looks like hiking the whole trail will be something for retirement. I'll probably try the southern part of the trail since it's closer to home. Right now GA, PA, VT and NH recognize my permit (FL), hopefully NC will soon and hiking the southern part of the trail armed would be easier. If I could get a large enough group together we wouldn't have to worry about being attacked.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 12:02:26 PM EDT
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 12:10:53 PM EDT
Originally Posted By SMProud: If I could get a large enough group together we wouldn't have to worry about being attacked.
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This is real simple: You don't have to worry about being attacked anyhow. It's just not an issue. The reason why ANY crime at all on the AT becomes a national story is because it is insanely rare. It is FAR more dangerous to walk down the streets of your home town than to hike the AT. Now if you walked into Suches Georgia and started talking shit to someone, you might be able to find some trouble, but it isn't going to find you out on the trail. I hiked solo. Six months hiking on my own and I was never even remotely threatended in any way, shape or form, nor was anyone I know. It's simply not an issue on the AT unless you are acting the pratt and looking for trouble. And remember, you cannot legally carry in a National Park. There are also state park and other regulations you could fall afoul of. While it is your right to exercise your Second Amendment rights, sometimes it's just not worth the trouble, there isn't any value in it. A lot of folks get good "sea-story" mileage out of making out the AT to be some wilderness adventure and making references to "Deliverance" (the Nantahala River was the river the movie was filmed on and the little albino boy has grown up and still lives in the hills above Hiawassee, GA) it's a fairly civilized trail. As far as groups go, hikers on the AT tend to form up into little ad-hoc groups. In the Spring, there are a lot of hikers on the trail and the thru-hiker population forms up into a loose gypsy family. They take care of one another. You have to work to camp alone, typically hikers bunch up in the evening at the shelter sites, eliminating any vulnerabilities. By going out with your own fireteam, you insulate yourself from this and those the benefits of it. In fact, you may end up being seen as a potential threat by other hikers. Really, don't waste time thinking about this, violent attack on the AT just isn't an issue. I know guys who have essentially spent the last seven or eight years hiking the AT every Summer who have NEVER seen or heard of a violent attack, except maybe when someone gets drunk and stupid in town. Avoid that and you'll not have a problem. Don't get your knickers in a twist over this, it just isn't an issue.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 4:09:40 PM EDT
What kind of wild animals might I encounter? Would it just be wise to carry bear mace on a hike like this?
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 8:41:02 PM EDT
Unlikely to encounter anything dangerous outside of a snake or two. You will see deer, wild turkeys, moose in Maine, you may see wild boar in the TN, North Carolina zone around the Smokies, but probably not. Black bears are up and down the trail, but they don't want to be seen by you and generally stay the hell away. Most bear encounters take place in the New Jersey, New York area and usually involve stolen food that is improperly secured for the night at campsites. (hang it high in the trees and away from your campsite. Bear bag should contain cooking pots and utensils, food, toothpaste, toiletries, trash etc.) Anything that smells like food should be up in the bag. Shelter registers generally give fair warning of local bear issues. Rattlesnakes are most common in Pennsylvania, the place is crawling with them, but they are easy to avoid since they make such a racket. Once you get past New Jersey you won't see another rattlesnake (it's not that they aren't out there, they are just so uncommon that you won't see one.) The northern most pockets of rattlesnakes are in isolated spots along the southern Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire and Vermont. There are pockets of Copperheads in Massachusetts, but mostly in Eastern Ma, well away from the AT. Mice will be the biggest pain in the ass animals on the trail. They infest the shelters and can do a lot of damage overnight if you don't take reasonable precautions like opening all the pockets of your rain clothing and pack so they can get in, look around and leave without feeling the need to chew holes through stuff. Don't leave food or food wrappers in pockets or pack. All that stuff needs to be in your food bag, which can be protected either by hanging it from an anti-mouse hanger in the shelter or by bear bagging it in the woods. Mountain Lions are being sighted again in New England. A friend spotted one near one of his tree stands while hunting in Northern Maine, and a little girl in Eastern Mass. spotted one near her home. It evidently came down a transmission right of way. Again, I wouldn't worry about them, they are so rare as to be negligible and an adult male is a formidable opponent for a mountain lion, just too big a risk for them to bother with unless you are obviously in distress already. There are tons of coyotes in New England and they are larger than the western coyotes. Speculation is that they interbred with wolves at some point introducing greater size into the breed. They still won't attack a human being though. Some shelters occasionally have problems with skunks or porcupines that visit to chew the wood from the edges of the shelter where people sit and their sweat soaks in. Porcupines and skunks get to craving salt and will eat wood and leather to get the salt out. At one shelter in Ma, a porcupine reduced a hiker's boots to the soles, eating all the leather and salt bearing materials. If the shelter register warns about porcupines or skunks, hang your boots out of the way. In Mt. Rogers State Park in Virginia (just a couple days North of Damascus) there is a small herd of wild ponies. They will come right up to you and lick the salt off your skin. They are completely harmless and a lot of fun to have around. Probably the most dangerous animal you will encounter on the AT is the deer tick. Lyme disease has knocked more hikers off the AT than bears, coyotes, snakes and the rest combined. Do a lot of tick checks and consider using insect repellent. That's pretty much it for animal hazards. I suppose there are spiders to consider as well, mainly in the privies (which I stopped using) I found a cathole in the woods a lot more comfortable and sanitary until I got up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire where the privies are generally very sophisticated and comfortable in the AMC maintained areas. Many of them are solar powered composting privies. I saw only one brown recluse bite during my 1995 thru-hike. The hiker got it treated quickly and was able to continue his hike after a short delay.
Link Posted: 7/2/2003 8:53:55 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/2/2003 9:22:09 PM EDT by JackBurton]
Originally Posted By Aimless: Get caught with a pistol in NY and you are looking at a felony charge.
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Carry a samurai sword in your belt, anyone would have to be a fool to fuck with you then! [img]http://hexbox.com/mifune/photos/gen3.jpg[/img]
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 2:55:48 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 3:37:49 AM EDT
My Father-in-Law is on the Appalachian Trail right now. Last year He started in Georgia, walked to West Virginia. In March I dropped him off, I think he's in Jersey now. He didn't bring a gun or any communication gear, no cell phone etc..
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 3:48:42 AM EDT
I have been told by some through-hikers that there are places in the south that it is recommended that you should not delay or camp - hike through as quickly as possible. Something to do with the "locals" (hillbillies/stills/sabotage). Can anyone confirm?
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 5:34:02 AM EDT
Originally Posted By FullRange: I have been told by some through-hikers that there are places in the south that it is recommended that you should not delay or camp - hike through as quickly as possible. Something to do with the "locals" (hillbillies/stills/sabotage). Can anyone confirm?
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Guess I should run if I hear a banjo then.
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 5:37:44 AM EDT
There is only one such place just north of US 19 in the North Carolina/TN borderlands near the towns of Elk Park and Roan. A piece of land was seized by eminent domain, seriously pissing off the family that owned it. For a while there were occasionally fishhooks and such hanging in the trees along the trail. In 1995, the trail actually still needed to be routed over a road through a residential neighborhood in the area and hikers were warned not to ask for aid at the local houses unless they were in obvious and serious danger. I remember one of the houses had a pair of large Rottweilers chained in the yard. THe chain was attached to the half-buried rear axle of a truck. The strategy for getting around the area is to camp just a couple miles on the other side of the road (doesn't seem to be a problem for some reason) and then hike through the area. It's a hard day's hike to the next shelter, but doable. As a general rule folks are extremely friendly to hikers in the South. It's easy to hitch rides into town for re-supply, people say hello on the streets, there are folks who will set up at road crossings and give out soda, coffee, snacks, beer (to those of age) and even stage little barbecues for passing hikers. This behavior vanishes completely North of Virginia. You get spots of it in PA, and there is a guy in Dalton, MA named Tom Levardi who lets hikers sleep in his yard and on his porch and often will provide pizzas, produce, baked goods etc. for any hikers staying at his house. The trail passes through town on the sidewalk in front of his house. Tom is a manager at a local supermarket (which is where the produce and baked goods come from.) Good guy. Hostile locals just aren't that much of a problem anymore. A friend of mine was harrassed a bit in 1993. Some local stalked him for a couple of days and occasionally took pot shots at him with a bb gun. No big deal really. I haven't heard any reports of such behavior since, and I am pretty deeply involved in monitoring trail issues. Actually, the worst problems encountered on the trail recently have originated in the hiking community. The problem is the attitude of younger hikers who just don't seem to understand the privilege they have in being able to thru-hike the AT. They feel that they are special, elite in some way, and that locals and hostel owners and the like should all defer to them and allow them to get away with whatever outrageous and often drunken behavior they choose to indulge in. Many younger hikers feel that the rules of society do not apply to them anymore because they are hiking the AT. They hide behind the anonymity of their trail names and seek to avoid all responsibility including responsibility to their fellow citizens by obeying the law. Unfortunately drug use and abuse by younger hikers has been on the rise over the past ten years. Marijuana is the drug of choice among hikers, but other drugs have been seen as well. It's extremely unfortunate. Drunkeness is the primary problem though. At Trail Days 1995, ( a hiker festival put on by the town of Damascus, Virginia to celebrate the AT, the Virginia Creeper Trail and the American Discovery Trail each year in mid-May) was so out of hand that the town called in the Virginia State alcohol enforcement agency (whatever it's called) to curb the drinking. They used nightvision cameras to document hikers drinking in public and issued reams of tickets. I wasn't caught or ticketed, but I, like many hikers, was pretty outraged about the tactics. In hindsight however, I feel that the town was justified in trying to keep outrageous hiker behavior in check. In 1998, I was down to Trail Days with some friends from 1995 and some 1998 female hiker decided she wanted to make a point about the double standards around toplessness (men can, women can't). Of course the town is full of little kids watching the hiker's parade and the police, rightly enough, wrapped the idiot girl up in a blanket and bundled her into a police car until they could talk some sense into her. She was not ticketed or charged, just warned sternly not to repeat the behavior. In Hanover, NH, the trail passes right through town. Hikers are put up at the fraternity houses at Dartmouth College and frequently spend several days enjoying the town's pubs and restaurants before climbing up into the Whote Mountains (some of the most challenging terrain on the AT.) I was out drinking with a group of guys I had known since my first or second day on the trail. We didn't hike together, but we remained within a week of one another all up and down the trail and we happened to land in Hanover at the same time. Well, we were out doing rounds of jaegermeister and getting pretty well lit. We were still within normally drunk college kid behavior when I left, but the drinking continued and when I woke up in the morning with a viscious hangover, I found out that two members of the drinking party had gotten arrested after the pub closed down. They decided it would be a good idea to streak across the Dartmouth Quad A big common lawn area a the center of campus (and also right off Main Street). They lost their bearings in their drunkeness and couldn't find their clothes again. As they blundered around the police came, helped them find their clothes, and arrested them. Dumb behavior. The best way to avoid trouble on the AT is to behave in a polite manner and keep yourself in control. Getting drunk every once in a while is one thing, but getting out of hand is another and acting like a punk is completely unreasonable.
Link Posted: 7/3/2003 5:48:07 AM EDT
For practical information on hiking the AT I recommend a couple of books: Every year the ATC and ALDHA (the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association) put out their "Companion." It is a book detailing the shelters, landmarks, goods and services available along the trail. It is available through the ATC's website www.atc.org. Another excellent data source is Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce's "Thruhiker's Handbook" you can get it through his website at www.Trailplace.com. It's a great book and Dan spends a lot of time and effort updating it each year. Dan's trail views have gotten a lot more radicalized over the past five years or so, but the book is still great. Dan is a bit of a legend in trail circles having thru-hiked the AT seven times. Dan also used to publish a planning guide, but I haven't seen it in a while. ATC has a number of planning guides available though. For a look into trail society I recommend a video available from ATC called "5 million steps" it follows a group of thru-hikers and gathers their thoughts and impressions along the AT. It is dated, but it's still essentially accurate. Another great book on the AT experience is "An Appalachian Adventure" it follows a group of reporters from various papers who hiked teh trail tag-team style. They interview other hikers, especially thru-hikers, and documented trail life. I know a lot of the folks they interviewed as that was my hiking year. Kenneth Wadness wrote an excellent book called Sojourn in the Wilderness. It is the story of his 7+ month southbound thru-hike. Ken started late on his trip and ended up hiking south throuhg the Winter. Because he was late and because he was hiking south, he hiked essentially alone. This was his aim. He wanted to spend his time in the mountains getting to know God better. Ken is a converted Christian. He was raised as a Jew and became a Christian as an adult. His theological views are therefore, very interesting. An occasional companion of his along the way was a Chassidic Jew named Reuven who was on the trail to escape persecution in his community for seeking to divorce his wife or something like that. He was a trip. Very paranoid, especially about hunters. The guy dressed in head to foot blaze orange. He also continued to keep the religious practices of his tradition. WWW.whiteblaze.net is an excellent online forum for long distance hikers. It tends toward the ultralight side of hiking, but there are good lessons to be learned there. A hiker called Baltimore Jack frequents Whiteblaze, he has been on the trail every year since 1995 and is a surprisingly objective commentator on trail culture and activities. He and I don't always agree, but we are still friends and have been since 1995. Lone Wolf, another many times AT, PTC and CDT thru-hiker also frequents the site. Both he and Jack are pretty conservative for hikers. DON'T GET INTO POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS ON HIKING SITES though. Most hikers who actually put a lot of time into discussing trail stuff on the Internet are VERY liberal. They tend to be one-issue voters and will vote for whoever promises the most money for land acquisition and trail protection, even if the economy is in freefall, enemies are pounding at the doors and buildings are crashing to the ground. Get too political and you will find yourself on the outside looking in and with no-one willing to answer your questions. Politics tore Wingfoot's reputation to shreds. There are enough conservatives out in the hiking world to raise a serious ruckuss if a fight brews up, most of us just want to focus on the hiking on those sites however.
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