Hiking or biking but not getting eaten by bears
August 5, 2014 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a break from tech-life and have a friend who recently solo thru-biked the Colorado Trail. I'm on the east coast, but would love to do something similar.

The Appalachian Trail seems like the go-to answer for this, but it's a little more time than I have to play with - something between 2 days and a week would be better, both for my work schedule and sanity. I think I'd prefer biking to hiking.

As far as myself: I'm in good shape, and run a bit (around 300mi so far this year). I bike daily, and have mountain biking experience. I don't a lot of camping experience, but know the basics.
posted by tmcw to Travel & Transportation around Shallotte, NC (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You don't have to do the whole AT at once. I've heard of lots of people doing "section hikes" where they drop in, camp and hike a bit along the way. and then get off where it's convenient. In fact, Ms. Robothead and I are planning one for next year. Something to consider, anyway. I'm not sure of the AT is all that bike friendly, though. If you're into biking, you could bike a big chunk of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stay in some of the wayside hotels and inns alone the way. I always see pelotons of bikes there in the early fall.
posted by littlerobothead at 1:48 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bike the New River Trail! It is so beautiful. My stepmom's family used to go fairly often (eh, okay, every few years); there are shuttle services and a whole bunch of amenities to make the logistics work.
posted by magdalemon at 1:50 PM on August 5, 2014

If you're serious about the bears I can assure you that, on the East coast, you have nothing at all to worry about as long as you practice common sense camp safety, such as not eating or keeping food in or near your tent, securing your food at night (either in a bear proof container, provided at most campsites, or hanging from a tree a good 15 feet off the ground and 10 feet from the tree itself) and generally respecting a bear if you do see one. Black bears are mostly harmless, kind of like big raccoon.

You could look into hut-to-hut hiking trips offered by the Appalachian Mountain Club. For pretty much no-brains hiking with lodging each night.
posted by bondcliff at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2014

There are certainly a few things to be careful of in the wilderness (don't expect cell and gps to solve your problems) but bears are way low. Why not ramp up by a regular camping trip to get the camping experience solidified? But there should be any number of sections of the Appalachian trail if you can have someone pick you up at the other end.
posted by sammyo at 1:59 PM on August 5, 2014

How about biking up the C&O canal to the Great Allegheny Passage. I've done sections and would love to do the whole thing some time.
posted by exogenous at 2:03 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you know about the Benton MacKaye Trail? It's about 300 miles long and traverses the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. It is very challenging terrain and it is absolutely beautiful. I've day- and section-hiked parts of the BMT and would love to through-hike the whole thing someday. Actually, I found one of my dogs on the BMT.

On the off chance you take my advice and hike in this area, you are not being unreasonable in worrying about bears. Bear encounters here are not even slightly uncommon. They have been unusually active this summer while foraging for food because a hard winter damaged the mast crop. The National Park has had to close several trails for a week or more at a time because large numbers of bears were browsing the cherry and persimmon trees. The Park's website has some good bear advice.

If you decide to pursue a southern Appalachian adventure, feel free to memail me. I spend a lot of time in the backcountry and can help you plan and prepare.
posted by workerant at 2:10 PM on August 5, 2014

The AT is impossible to traverse on a bicycle. It's very much a hiking trail that follows the ridgelines and peaks of the Appalachian Mountain range and has very few flat or groomed sections. You can certainly do section hikes or loop hikes that incorporate part of the AT. The AMC also publishes a wide variety of guidebooks for regional backpacking routes that you may find to be handy (I live in New England and their Backpacking New England book is my default guide for researching weekend adventures, and they do have suggestions for 5-7 day expeditions (Maine's 100 Mile Wilderness! The Pemigewasset Wilderness!) )

For biking, Crazy Guy on A Bike is the classic online community for this. It's chock full of various people posting about their bike touring trips. Give yourself a couple of evenings to browse around and get an idea for how to plan one of these trips and roll your own.

I will suggest that if you don't have a lot of camping experience or gear, consider a modest two or three day trip to get yourself started, before plunging into a week long adventure. Or if you do want to go for a full week, consider going with someone who does have some experience and can give you good feedback on the route, gear and contingency plans. You don't want to put all this time in to your week long adventure only to realize that the weather turns to shit and you didn't pack a suitable set of rain layers; or that conversely you overpack and wind up turning your entire adventure into a slog because you insisted on hauling a bunch of firewood that you don't wind up using.

If you do choose to go big right away, then at least read this brief guide on Sidetracked
posted by bl1nk at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2014

2nding the Great Allegheny Passage. I knew a guy in Pittsburgh who did the whole ride through to DC and really loved it.
posted by jabes at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2014

Nthing c&o canal, it's lovely
posted by brilliantine at 2:38 PM on August 5, 2014

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