Trail Journal
Volume 2019:9
Trail Ahead
Of all of the spectacular moments I experienced hiking the AT, the one that is seared most in my memory is the first encounter I had with a bear. I had reached the ridgeline of the Smokies after having started out at Fontana Dam. It was mid-afternoon and the trail was relatively flat and easy. My mind had drifted far away from the trail as I walked happily along.

All that was shattered in an instant when I heard a tremendous roar and found myself within about 20 feet of a bear who was clinging to the bottom of a large tree just ahead on the trail. He was not happy that I was so close to him, and he was more than willing to let me know it. It took me several minutes to very, very slowly back away from the bear until I was able to get around a corner and out of his line of sight. Then, after several more minutes, I was able to get past the bear who by this time had climbed much higher up in the tree.

Of the two parties involved in this encounter, the bear was infinitely smarter than me. While I had been blissfully walking towards him, he was trying to flee. When I described the incident to a park ranger a couple of days later, he listened intently to what I had to say and was especially interested in the bear’s reactions. When I asked him why, he said that he had to assess whether the bear had shown aggressive tendencies towards me. Had the bear done the “right thing.” If he hadn’t, then the park would have to decide whether it had to euthanize him. Fortunately, for my bear he had done what he was supposed to do. However, I was struck that my stupidity could have cost him his life.

I was recently reminded of that encounter when I read about a bear that had to be euthanized in Vermont. The bear had been able to raid a shelter for leftover food and garbage that had been left behind by hikers. As he got used to eating that leftover food, he became emboldened to approach hikers whether they were in the shelter or on the trail. Because of his increasing aggressiveness, authorities had no choice but to shoot him before he actually attacked someone. In short, it was through the stupidity of careless hikers that a bear’s life was ended.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a fatal bear attack on the AT and the number of non-fatal ones is extremely small. Therefore, the danger that humans present to bears is far greater than the reverse. If you truly want to appreciate wildlife, you must be mindful that your actions may very well jeopardize the life of those creatures in whose house you have entered. Be careful out there! Not only for yourself but for them.

Leave No Trace
Principle of the Month Club

Respect Wildlife
Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed animals. It damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators.

In light of an increase in human-bear encounters in Vermont, the Green Mountain National Forest has issued an order to attempt to minimize black bear and human interactions.

The order states that all food, except when it is being consumed, shall be stored in motor vehicles, bear boxes, bear canisters or suspended at least 12 feet above the ground and not less than six feed horizontally from any other object.

All refuse containing food materials or containers (packaging, etc.) shall be either stored as above, deposited in receptacles, or removed from the GMFS property to be disposed of properly.

In a nutshell, pack out what you've packed in and make sure both the food and the containers it came in are stored securely in the meantime.

These are all common sense ways to deal with food storage and refuse, but are especially important to minimize contacts between bears and humans.
Two Tents Corner
This past month I had an experience totally unrelated to outdoor activities, but yet it holds a lesson that I think is appropriate for this month’s column. My family had to travel to attend a gathering, and we had reserved a room in a nearby motel. The motel was part of a national chain. When we arrived, the room still hadn’t been cleaned even though it was several hours after we should have been able to check in. In the grand scheme of things, this turned out to be a minor inconvenience. It’s not the reason that I’m writing this column.

A couple of minutes after we had been told that our room wasn’t ready, I received a text on my phone. The text thanked me for choosing to stay at this motel, and wanted to assure me that the motel staff wanted to make sure I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. And while the text was signed as if it were coming from the local motel, the phone number attached to it told me that it was probably being generated from the corporate office. In other words, it was a robotext masquerading as something genuine.

Even though I suspected that there was no live person on the other side of this text, I decided that I’d reply just to see what might happen. I texted back saying how disappointed I was with our check-in experience. There was no reply. Not that day. Not ever. When we went to check out the next day, we received another text asking how our stay was. There was no mention of the text I had sent previously. I replied to that email as well, knowing that I would not receive a response. I was right.
Here’s the lesson that I’d like to draw from this experience and one that will become the mantra that Trail Connections will live by: if you contact us, we’re going to respond. While we’re not yet at the stage where we have operators standing by 24/7, we will get back to you within at least 48 hours. We will work hard to make it significantly shorter than that.

Unlike some other sites, we have a fairly limited number of mechanisms by which users can contact us. You can’t directly post reviews about a particular business or comment about a particular trail. We’ve chosen to limit the mechanisms not because we want to suppress engagement, but instead because we want to make sure we’re responsive to comments that users post. We don’t want comments to simply go onto the site and not be acted upon. So, we ask you to go to the Contact Us page and notify us through there. You can also call or mail us information as well. Your feedback and comments are important to us. In fact, they’re so important we’re actually going to take the time to read them.
Wicked Cool Events
  • Oct. 3-6: Ludlow Antiques Show, Ludlow VT
  • Oct. 4: First Fridays, Bennington VT
  • Oct. 4, 11, 18 & 25: Foodways Fridays, Woodstock VT
  • Oct. 4-5: Okemo Antiques Show, Ludlow VT
  • Oct. 4-6: GMC Story Springs Shelter maintenance, Stratton, VT
  • Oct. 4-6: Manchester Fall Art & Craft Festival, Manchester VT
  • Oct. 4-6: Weston Antiques Show, Weston VT
  • Oct. 5-6: Fall Open Studio Weekend, Arlington, Bennington, Ludlow, Manchester, Middletown Springs, Mt. Tabor, Rutland, Shrewsbury & Woodstock
  • Oct. 5-6: Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, Tunbridge VT
  • Oct. 11-13: Weston Craft Show, Weston VT
  • Oct. 11-14: ALDHA's "The Gathering", Williamstown MA
  • Oct. 12: GMC Shrewsbury Peak hike, Shrewsbury VT
  • Oct. 12-13: Mount Snow Oktoberfest, Dover VT
  • Oct. 12-13: Vermont Harvest Festival, Woodstock VT
  • Oct. 12-14: Cider Days, Mt. Holly VT
  • Oct. 13: North Face Race to the Summit, Stratton VT
  • Oct. 19: Pumpkin Carving & Harvest Festival, Manchester VT
  • Oct. 26: GMC White Rocks Cliff hike, Wallingford VT
  • Oct. 26: Rutland Halloween Parade, Rutland VT
  • Oct. 26: Fallapalooza, Bennington VT
  • Oct. 27: GMC Fall Work trip (Griffith Lake to Mad Tom Notch), Peru VT
  • Oct. 27: GMC Prospect Mountain hike, Woodford VT

  • Nov. 2: GMC Smarts Mountain hike, Lyme NH
  • Nov. 9-10: Youth Deer Hunting Weekend
  • Nov. 16-Dec. 1: Vermont Deer Hunting Season
  • Nov. 30: Our Hometown Holiday, Bennington VT
Trail Connections
Phone: (978) 530-6883.
P.O. Box 15, Hathorne, MA 01937