The Dreaded Bear Bag Hang

Following the legendary white blazes and a path beat deep into the soil as I leave Neels Gap, I am left to wonder how people lose the trail. This attitude my friends, is exactly how one gets lost! I did lose the trail for a bit at one point on a rocky section months later, but it was easy to spot once I was off the rocks. The ease and flow of the trail, except for that one instance, left a lot of time for thinking and reflecting through this journey to Maine. I am not a fan of reflecting, so I listen to audio books and podcasts a lot of the time.

One evening while listening to 3 Mph The Adventure of One Women’s Walk Around the World, brought about by thoughts of “Where should I hike next?” “What’s longer/harder?” “Oh, I’ll listen to a book about hiking around the world that sounds like the fun thing to do next”, I came across signs warning me that there are bears in the area. These signs all happened to be posted on the left side of the trail, so I thought it prudent to set up camp on the opposite side of the trail to avoid the bears. At this point in time, I was still hanging a bear bag. In fact, I pretty much hung one the whole time I was hiking the AT. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) three years later in 2016, I didn’t hang my food unless it was mandatory. As a matter of fact, I used it as a pillow with the exception of the Yosemite area and a few others where I know bears are used to people. For an example of why you should hang your food see Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe.

Have you ever tried to hang a bear bag? Just finding a tree to hang one from on the west coast is a challenge without actually getting to the hanging part. On the AT, in the east, it’s a bit easier. For starters you can find a tree with a limb that extends far enough from the trunk of the tree so a bear couldn’t just reach over and grab it. Finding a tree fitting the first criteria, one then has to verify that it’s high enough. Next comes throwing the rope over the limb. The easiest way to accomplish this task, that I have found, is to put a rock in a sock, tie the rope to the sock with the rock inside, then throw it over the limb. Once across, the sock with the rope attached then falls to the ground, easy right? Not so much. One time I couldn’t find a rock, really I looked! So I tied a stick shaped like a miniature old war club, bulbous on the end, to the end of the rope. After finally getting it over the limb, the stick wasn’t quite heavy enough for gravity to take it to the ground. Flipping the rope from the opposite end of the war club like stick, it was painstakingly slow to lower it inch by inch until I decided it was easier to just jump up and grab the stick end pulling the rope to the ground. Another time I was walking around with my food and rope looking for one of those perfect tress when I finally found one I came to the realization that I had left a sock in my pack back at camp, looking down with disparity at my sock less feet I decide it would be easier to tie the rope to my rock instead of walking back for the sock. Wrapping the rope around the rock I throw the perfect throw, the rock landing but the rope was still nicely coiled by my feet. Hmmmm, more wraps this time repeated the throw and the rope flys over the limb and then I watch the rock turn end over end like thread being pulled from a spool until the rock comes free and the rope is still not quite on the ground. After finally hanging the bag, I decided it was easier to walk back for a sock next time. I went to sleep dreaming of how to make the perfect throw.

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