FAQs on Long-Distance Hiking

So, imagine that you are 11, 12, or 13 years old and you have just completed a 10-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. Now you’re watching a slide show about long distance hiking. What would YOU want to know?

I spoke to a group of adventure-program campers at Lakeville, Connecticut-based Camp Sloane’s. The kids asked dozens of questions. Interestingly, they were much more concerned about the experience than the equipment. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more of these awesome kids on the trails.

Q) Did you ever get into really bad trouble or think you were going to die?
A) No, but that’s mostly because I’m the kind of person who reads everything before doing anything, and if the book says take two quarts of water, I take three, and if it says be sure you know how to use a map and compass, I take a class or get someone to show me. Most backcountry emergencies can be prevented by planning ahead, following the “rules,” and using common sense.

Q) What were the most dangerous animals?
A) Besides mosquitoes? Rattlesnakes and bears are two animals you’ll often see, and many people fear, but while both can be dangerous, neither of them is usually a problem unless something weird happens — like stepping on a snake, so keep your eyes peeled!

Q) Who were some of the friends you made while hiking?
A) There’s a long list, but one example is that I met some Norwegian girls in Nepal, and we kept in touch, and I later visited one of them in New Zealand and the other visited me in Massachusetts. We still keep in touch. I have many other hiking friends scattered around the world.

Q) How long is the longest you ever went without a shower? (meaning a real indoor shower with hot water).
A) About 20 days. But there were lots of cold showers and lakes and streams during that hike. The longest without washing up at all was an eight-day winter trip.

Q) How much water did you carry?
A) Anywhere from none (in the snow-covered High Sierra, where water was everywhere) to almost two gallons in the southern California desert. Of course, as soon as you start drinking, you are carrying less.

Q) Who did you hike with?
A) My husband (now ex-husband). We invited friends to join us for short (and sometimes long) sections along the way, and we also met people while hiking with whom we hung out for a while.

Q) When did you first feel like you were a successful hiker?
A) Well, I was pretty proud of my first really long hike, which was 200 miles in California’s High Sierra. But I think success in hiking really means enjoying all the days you’re out there… You don’t want to have 180 miserable days and then call it a “success” because you finally got somewhere. So I would say that really feeling like I was enjoying every day on the trail made the hikes feel successful.

Q) How did you adjust back to regular life after you stopped?
A) I tried not to. I don’t live in or near a city anymore; I live here in the mountains. I work at home, and I travel about six times a year.