Feel free to ask additional questions in the comments below.
How do you have enough money to take so much time off?
The short answer is that we’re really good at saving money. We’re not afraid of being uncomfortable (we didn’t own a bed for almost a decade, as a bad example, and we’ve never considered owning a TV). We almost never eat out, we don’t buy “stuff”, and when we do, it’s second hand. We also travel on an extreme budget. Hiking is as expensive as you make it. The only real necessity is food. Everything else, the trail provides.
What about bears? Are you scared of them?
At first, like most sane people, we were nervous about bears when out backpacking. We soon learned that they are much more afraid of us than we were of them. In fact, we started thinking of them more like large raccoons. They are always after food, and often times they will raid trash cans or campsites. We’ve seen the most bears while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in NJ. The Shenandoah National Park was a close second.
If bears aren’t the scariest thing on the trail, then what is?
Definitely the weather. Hiking in thunderstorms is scary, and it’s always a tough choice to stop or keep going when you know the trail takes you right over a vulnerable area. Snow is going to be scary too. Proper back-country knowledge is the best tool you can have for scary weather. I think one of the times I’ve been the most scared on the trail is when we were walking off of a ridge during a lightning storm towards a wildfire.
What happens to your feet when you hike so much?
Our feet usually hurt a lot after a lot of hiking. That makes sense, right? After many hundreds of miles on the AT, our feet grew by 1 or 2 shoe sizes! For this reason, it is a bad idea to pre-buy shoes for a long hike. You never know what shoe size you may become.
What do you eat while hiking?
Click here for a recent blog post all about food. Honestly, mostly junk food: candy bars, snack bars, gorp (trail mix), chocolate, salty snacks like chips, nuts, and beef jerky. For dinner on the Appalachian Trail, we ate a lot of mac and cheese, ramen, instant mashed potatoes, instant stuffing mix, and couscous. We are going to make a real effort on the PCT to eat healthier. After hiking the AT, both of us had lots of cavities. This time around, I’m planning on carrying a toothbrush in my hip pocket along with some toothpaste so that I brush after (almost) every snack (after EVERY snack would be a bit crazy, we eat almost every hour…). We’ve packed ourselves powdered hummus, homemade oatmeal, probars, lots of almonds, and dark chocolate. My mouth is watering…
You don’t hike with 5 months’ worth of food in your pack, do you? How do you get more food once you start?
You’re right, 5 months of food would weigh two or three hundred pounds at least. We actually do not hike with more than 3-6 days worth of food in our packs. In fact, hiking a long-distance trail is more like doing a long series of 3-6 day backpacking trips. We hitch-hike from road crossings into town to “resupply” with more food, and get a shower, and do laundry, and then we hitch-hike back to the trail for another 3-6 day stretch of backpacking. We also sometimes mail ourselves food. Post offices accept packages and hold onto them for several weeks. In a town where food is scarce or expensive, it is often more convenient to pick up a “mail drop” full of our favorite foods.
Don’t you smell a lot when you hike?
Yes, yes we do. Synthetic is especially bad for this. Wool is much better. Keep that in mind when making clothing purchases.
How did you get your trail names?
Hikers often get trail names when they do something memorable or dumb. Sometimes people give themselves their own trail names so as not to wind up with a particularly bad one.
Dirt Stew was named after he spilled an entire pot full of mac and cheese in the middle of the trail, and then tried to put it back in the pot and eat it. It was definitely a dirt stew. yuck. This was not the first time in his life a pot of pasta was dropped on the ground by Dirt Stew. It also wasn’t the first time that he tried to salvage some from the ground.
Dormouse got her trail name when someone wanted to call her “zzz” because she sleeps so much, and would always sign the trail registers with “zzz” at the end. Since “zzz” is an unpronounceable trail name, the name Dormouse came into being, which is a reference to the always sleeping mouse in Alice and Wonderland. It turns out nobody else knows this reference. Oh well.
Why did you want to hike the PCT Southbound don’t people normally go Northbound?
Originally, we had decided to follow the norm, and go Northbound with “the herd”. Then, due to some logistical issues, we wouldn’t be able to make the start date in late April early May. We learned that southbound may be more our speed anyway, and the starting dates were more feasible for us (late June/early July start)