Day 43. The weather continues to treat me well. During today’s entire hike, the wind was calm, the sun was shining, and the temp was in the high 60s. If it weren’t for the awful boulders layering the majority of today’s trail, I would have enjoyed it much more. But instead of looking out for ponies, snakes or bears … I looked straight down at my feet. And even doing so, I still had half a dozen twisted ankle steps. They weren’t anything serious, but damn it if they don’t hurt temporarily (and immediately reduce my speed).
If I had been looking up, I may have enjoyed much of the terrain. The few landmarks I did get to see were nice though. Immediately after leaving the shelter this morning, we walked into a horse corral called The Scales. This is a big open field with an outhouse that wad used to measure and weight stock in the past for farmers of this land. It acted as a great place to rest and have my 2nd breakfast. Later on was a nice waterfall called Corners Creek Falls where I ate a late snack and rested my exhausted legs.
Other than that, I traversed through 2 wilderness areas, which appear to be sections of the forest that are maintained and regulated similar to a national forest. (If anyone knows more on these, feel free to comment). First was Little Wilson Wilderness Area, then Lewis Fork Wilderness, and finally Raccoon Branch Wilderness. Contrary to its name, I saw no raccoons. The trails in these areas are well marked with blazes and sign posts … but apparently no one had the time to clear the trail of damned rocks. It was a long day.
When I got to Trimpi Shelter (20 mile day, woot!), I met a southbounder named Housekeeping who started last June with his dog Bullet (see pic above). In yesterday’s post, someone asked me in a comment about hiking with dogs, so I thought this would be a good time to explain the expectations, recommendations, and regulations about dogs on the AT.
First things first, know that I am a dog lover. I have a pup back home that I love and miss every day out here. Every time I see a dog hiking, I am excited to say hello and play with them. But truth be told, I would never recommend bringing a dog on a thruhike. Can it be done? Yes. But should it be done? No. I’m no veterinarian, but my wife is, and I think she’d agree with my assessment. Think of it this way…
- Your dog has no idea they are signing up to walk 15 miles a day for 6 months. You may think they can take it, but most probably can’t at the same pace as you. Even if you do a couple prep hikes, they can’t fully prepare for it the same way you can. They’ll follow you, because they are a good dog, but they will tire at a different rate than you. This means they could quit for the day before you are ready to. Or more likely, require extra unplanned days off to rest that mess up your ability to finish on time.
- In addition, every dog I’ve met has caused their owner to go off trail for long periods of time due to injury. Their paws get ripped up, ticks collect in their fur, wild animals spook them … or do worse. For example, Bullet was bit by a copperhead snake and needed emergency vet services. This cost him dearly in unexpected costs and months of time lost. And don’t forget heat exhaustion in the summer … dogs can’t sweat and cool down the same way we can. Living in LA, I have personally carried an 80 pound dog down a mountain because an owner pushed him too far in the heat.
- On top of all that, they are certain areas where dogs are prohibited. Besides hostels and restaurants (which have their own rules), you also have the the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and Baxter State Park in Maine. The former will take you at least a week to get through, so you’ll have to skip it or find someone to board your dog and drop it off to you after. And don’t pretend it’s a service dog to gain access, that isn’t cool and everyone knows you are lying.
- Resupply is tougher too. You probably have to do all maildrops for your meals to make sure they eat good/consistent food. You will not always find dog food in towns, so you’ll probably end up sacrificing the dog’s diet for your convenience. That probably isn’t best for your dog nor its digestive system.
- Lastly, for other people, your dog can cause a lot of frustration. They can muddy up shelters, poop on the trail, bark at night, cause allergic reactions, or even get aggressively-protective (even if they aren’t yet now). Bullet wasn’t originally aggressive, until a bear tried to enter Housekeeping’s tent in Vermont. Now he growls at every person who comes near the tent at night. Not every dog is the same, but every dog will eventually so something to hinder someone else’s enjoyment of their hike. That should be kept in mind.
I love dogs and can’t tell anyone else what to do on their hike, but I simply would not recommend it. Most hikers would not recommend it. Some hikers who brought a dog with them don’t even recommend it. In Housekeeping’s words, “If you hike with a dog, don’t expect to finish your thruhike in one attempt. You won’t.”
If anyone else has a question you’d like a full detailed response to, feel free to comment below and I’m happy to build it in to future blog post updates.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start to Mile: 503.6
- Start Time: 08:45
- End Mile: 523.7
- End Time: 18:30
- Miles Hiked: 20.1
- Miles to Go: 1667.2
- Lodging: Trimpi Shelter
Thanks for the thorough reply. I think Wallace and I will enjoy some weekenders and short trips for now. I can’t imagine doing the trail without him, but he is 7, and is beginning to show it. Next year we will both be older and slower, so may just do some sections with him. We will see how we both do. Feel free to give Housekeeping my email, I would love to hear more about his experience with Bullet. Janice
LikeLiked by 1 person
Very thoughtful and well done. I really miss my dog. Friday was a great hiker and did much better than me. We did some hikes where I was the one that got overheated.
I would add two things to your list.
1. Getting lost or separated. Horrible feeling and consumes a lot of time. One of our dogs took off after a bear and was found miles away. It was very scary.
2. If something happens to the owner what happens to the dog? Hospitals don’t allow dogs. In 2016 I was airevacted out of a national park. Don’t know what I would have done if I waz hiking with one of my dogs.
I loved being out and about with my dogs. I would never recommend extended hikes.
Thanks for this.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Exactly my thoughts. 😋
Good comments re: dogs on the trail! Agreed!
LikeLiked by 2 people
Indeed an interesting post, and good info. concerning dogs on an extended wilderness trip! I concur entirely
I’ll add a dog tale however, that presents another side to the story. I had my dog, Jazz, with me on a six week trip up in Alberta, the Yukon and BC some fifteen years ago. We did a combination car camping and backpacking trip and I’m convinced Jazz saved us from a Grizzly encounter in Yoho NP (saved my life, as I like to say!) -primarily due to wind conditions, my poor sense of smell and his acute sense of smell. It was a mama bear with at least one cub, just around a bend in the trail ahead. Jazz was on a leash and was always straining to stay as far in the lead as possible -almost pulling me along the trail. It was a rainy day, and suddenly I noticed he had fallen back behind me -a totally uncharacteristic situation, and it put me on alert. Then I saw the bear and her cub less than 50 yds. ahead as I came to the bend in the trail -she didn’t see/hear us and we were luckily downwind! I’ll never forget it! Luckily you don’t have grizzlies to contend with on the AT!
May the good weather hold, Mike. Enjoy the scenery and the encounters with fellow hiker!
Great story, thanks for sharing! There are certainly great accretions like this one, glad you had Jazz there.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great post, brother
LikeLiked by 1 person
I understand the love and bond that people may have with their pets (dogs, cats, marmots and other assorted rodentia), but in fairness to the animals, I think it’s better to not have them on an extended trip like this. Your points are well taken. I’ll add one more. In bear country (black bear and grizzly) a dog can lead a bear back to its owner – not a welcome situation.
The rock situation is definitely something to consider as I prepare to join you. I have replaced my $1.99 shower thongs with my new Asolo boots to hike the trail :).
We’re expecting 10″-12″+ in a blizzard today. Remnants of it will hit you on Monday.
mom & dad
LikeLiked by 1 person
Keep your darn dirty snow away from me! Haha. Don’t ditch the shower shoes, we can be camp shoe buddies, as I of course have the same. 🙂
I think dogs would rather be included then left behind. Like everyone they have bad days on the trail and injuries but also love walking and being with their buddy. If we held people standards to the same standards people hold dogs to, no one would thru hike. Most doctors would not approve of thru hiking either. Love your blogs though. My pup and I are starting SOBO in aug. I will say that he’d much prefer a stay at home vacation over a thru hike. However hed definitely prefer a thru hike to being left
Everyone is different, I appreciate you sharing your opinion on this. Every dog owner I’ve met out here is very nice so I I wish you the best of luck!