Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Q & A With Standing Bear 7-31-12

Mike & Brooke are in the home stretch on their journey along the Appalachian Trail - they have less than 400 miles to go!!  I think that's incredible and so inspiring.

Last week they achieved another milestone - they reached the summit of Mt. Moosilauke, which is 4800 ft. high!  To read Mike's exhilarating account of their climb and to see some really cool photos, go to his blog.   And if you want to read about Mike's latest "Day in the Life of a Thru Hiker" experience, go here.

Here's a little teaser photo or 2....

Now on to this weeks Q & A......

We had a huge Midwest heat wave the beginning of July, where temperatures were in the 100’s. Did you experience any of that? If so, how do you tolerate it?

It got up into the 90's many times, but never topped 100.  I think we were lucky because we were pretty far north when the heat wave hit.  Even so, hiking uphill on a 97 degree day is not fun!  We tried to keep an eye on the weather reports, and if we saw a really hot day on the horizon we'd take a day off in town.  Humidity plays a big role too, as sometimes when you're hiking on a really muggy day it feels like it's hard to breathe. 

Some people will hike at night to avoid the heat, and other people like Tortoise Chef will jump into every pond they see.  Brooke and I just tried to plow through it, taking frequent breaks and fantasizing about air conditioning at a motel or hostel in the next town. 

How far off the trail do you have to go to get to most towns?
Towns are usually at least 4 or 5 miles off the trail, which makes hitchhiking so important.  There are a few towns that are directly on the trail, and these towns are known as "trail towns."  For example, the Appalachian Trail passes directly through the downtown area of Hanover, New Hampshire, and we were able to grab lunch at a Subway and watch the new Batman movie!

How do the town people treat you?
Many people in town treat you like a mini-celebrity.  They frequently come right up to you and start asking questions about your hike, what it's like to be a thru-hiker, etc.  Many hikers love this, and it's one of the main reasons they hike the trail.  For my part, I get a little bothered by it.  I am fine with it when people are friendly and polite, but sometimes people are kind of rude.  For example, when I popped into Skyland Resort in the Shenandoah National Forest to check my wifi and call Brooke, this couple came up and started asking all kinds of questions about how long the trail is, where it starts, where it ends, etc.  I was in a hurry as I was running out of daylight and needed to do my errands and get to the next shelter, so I answered their questions and then explained why I needed to leave.  But they kept asking questions anyways.  They didn't seem to care about me or Hike4Kids but just wanted information about the AT, so I felt like they were treating me like an information kiosk so they could avoid doing the research themselves!  But when people are friendly and courteous it's always nice to chat with them about the hike, and I've had some great experiences with people in towns.  After watching the 4th of July parade in Williamstown, MA, I chatted with a very friendly lady who was kind enough to donate $40 to Hike4Kids as well as provide lots of encouragement!

Some hikers like to start at the south end and go north, while others choose to start north and work their way down. What are the advantages of each and why did you choose to hike the direction you did?
Most people start in Georgia and head north for several reasons.  (1) Mt. Katahdin in Maine is seen as a more dramatic ending because you can see it for miles in the distance as you're hiking toward it, and it's a 4,000 foot climb to the top.  (2) The terrain in the north is brutal and a rough place for novice hikers to start.  There are few towns in Maine to resupply at, and you have to do the "100 Mile Wilderness" (100 miles with no towns, hostels, etc.) right off the bat.  It's easier on your body and spirit to start in Georgia, where you can more easily get off the trail to resupply or take a break in town.  (3) Black flies are really bad in Maine and thus you have a very small window of time to start up there (most southbound hikers start in June).

I started in Georgia for these reasons.  It seems that many people who start in Maine are wanting to buck the trend, be unique, or show that they're hardcore.  There are also some people who have scheduling conflicts and need to start in June. 

There is a small but growing number of people who flip-flop or leapfrog the trail.  This means they start in the middle at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and hike north, then flip back down to Harpers Ferry and hike south.  This kind of hike has the advantage that you start with the easiest terrain (the middle of the AT is the flattest!) but it introduces the logistical issue of having to get a long hitch or bus ride in the middle of your hike to return to Harpers Ferry.  Plus, it psychologically doesn't seem the same as one long, continuous hike from Georgia to Maine, even though you're doing the same mileage. 

But to each his own!   

You hike for days on end eating very little food. When you go to town, do you tend to gorge yourselves? Is there a favorite thing you like to eat in town?
I often feel like I'm starving and this is something I'm concerned about.  When I lay down I can feel my hip bone, and when I scratch my back I can really feel my shoulder blades.  I'm glad to have lost weight but I think I'm starting to lose a little too much.  I get very hungry on the trail but I try not to think about it. 

I do gorge myself in town.  At the beginning of the hike, I craved fruit- melons, pineapples, anything I could get my hands on.  Now I crave chocolate milk and lemonade.  I think it's the sugar!!  I can easily drink a half gallon of chocolate milk and a thing of lemonade like it's nothing.  I could literally just sit in town and drink stuff all day!

Go to the Hike4Kids page to read Mike's post about what's ahead for them on the last 400 miles.  It sounds grueling and I applaud their grit and determination.  Please consider making a donation to their cause.

You can also check out their FB page for more news as well.


Lightload towels is sponsoring another giveaway of their amazing towels.  Click on this link to leave comments under the original giveaway post to be entered.  The giveaway runs thru Saturday August 4th and you have multiple chances to enter and win!

(All photos courtesy of Mike McLaughlin. Do not use without permission)


  1. Four hundred miles is a loooooong way to walk/hike! But such a short distance compared to how many miles he has already come. I think I would want a nice BIG juicy steak after hiking the AP for months on end.

  2. I recently saw the movie, Southbounders (Netflix), about 3 "thru" hikers that walk the trail from Maine to Georgia. It was great to get an inside view of people's struggles, motivations, and triumphs. Congrats!


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