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