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Scree - April 19, 2011

AT at Fontana Dam

Bears on the AT

In yesterdays Journal entry, LNT - Southeast, I referred to a short section of the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia being closed for camping because of bears. Well, I guess it was actually hikers that caused the closings by not bear proofing their food.

Thru hikers often push limits. Pushing limits often means cutting corners. I don't mean shortcutting switchbacks; but simplifying life. If for example, a hiker is backpacking 16 hours a day, then the hiker only has 8 hours for camping chores, eating, sleeping, and body maintenance. After a couple of days of this routine, chores diminish to only eating and sleeping. Everything else just has to wait. That is the beauty and simplicity of long distance hiking.

I found this entry on a blog today from a thru hiker ...

"We still have yet to see a bear and frequently have trouble working up the energy to hang our food correctly while in camp. We figure they're still hibernating anyway! " (Gabe Blanchet)

Note: while this fast hiker had not seen a bear, the bears have been out of their caves since February (the quote was from a post three days ago.)

It is not like the hiker has been doing anything wrong, it is just that we live in a world of balance, and it seems he has not been leaving time for trail essentials. For a long distance trail hiker, the items of balance are miles, health, and duties (or chores). Time has to be allocated for each item in order to maintain balance.

The bears also live in a world of balance; but their concerns are food, food, and food. Coming out of hibernation, the bears are hungry and looking for something to eat. If they find easy food, they will quit their natural scavenging and continue looking for the fast food humans provide. Their lives will be thrown out of balance. In many ways, bears are much like humans, they want to live on easy street. The closed section of the AT was an easy street for the bears.

To help maintain balance in a bear's world ... all hikers just need to keep clean camps, cook away from the tent or shelter, and bear proof all food storage. If just one hiker gives a bear an easy way to food, the bear will continue to look for food on that easy street.

To keep a hiker's world in balance, they must allot time for miles, health and duties. Bear proofing is a duty. A special trail etiquette helps govern life on the trail. This etiquette should include keeping cooking, eating, and storing food away from where campers sleep. It is important for the hikers to maintain a balance in their lives, but equally important to help maintain the balance of nature.