USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Appalachian Trail’
Legends

Coconut butter lotion

Main piece:

Out on the trail I saw plenty of bears. And there’s all kinds of advice now where you’re supposed to hoist your bag up in a tree, or spray stuff to mask your smell, piss in a ring? You name it.

I slept with my food in my tent every night. And I knew a ton of folks who did the same! People’d say it was crazy now, but we did it. And the whole time, believe it or not, not a single bear in a tent.

The only guy I ever knew to get bit by a bear was in his tent, sleeping. And the bear bit him straight through the tent! We found out later he was a segment hiker – just in for one night. Not doing the whole trail, and he wasn’t sleeping with his food! But he was slathered in coconut shea-butter lotion. Must’ve smelled pretty tasty.

Context:

Maggie hiked the Appalachian Trail (The AT) in Spring to Fall of 2004. She took the South-to-North Route, passing over 2,200 miles of wilderness trail.

Background:

Bears are a nuisance along the AT, as they are attracted to human activity because of the prospect of food. They are dramatically overpopulated along the trail, especially in the Smoky Mountain region.

Analysis:

This is a cute story which emphasizes an important reminder – that proper food storage, which contains smell, will prevent bear attraction. However, use of scented cosmetic products is just as bad, and can lead to hikers being bitten or attacked!

In that sense, this is is a warning tale!

Legends

Hooks

Main piece:

People used to say that on the part of the trail, right after you cross into North Carolina, there were a lot of locals who weren’t crazy about having so many outsiders pass through the backcountry. So they’d hang hooks from the trees on fishing line, to catch the eyes of passersthru.

It freaked me out a lot passing through there. I heard gunshots, and it was foggy a lot of mornings. There was a feeling on that part of the trail that I never got anywhere else.

I never really understood why, but that’s where most hikers would disappear too… and you could see the nerves on everyone else’s face as well. Now, they were also just getting started. The adrenaline had worn off by then, and we were really feeling rough for the first time.

It still freaks me out to think about looking up some time to get a hook straight in my eyes or my mouth. Or to catch one on my ear. No warning. And then you’re stuck til you can cut it out.

Context:

Maggie hiked the Appalachian Trail (The AT) in Spring to Fall of 2004. She took the South-to-North Route, passing over 2,200 miles of wilderness trail.

Background:

I think that it reflects the morale of AT hikers that the Georgia-NC border is considered to be a dangerous area. It’s topographically unremarkable, but is probably the first point at which the adrenaline of starting the trail wears off.

Analysis:

This is a warning tale unique to the AT in that it is about people rather than about natural threats to AT hikers. The AT is so remote, it’s very infrequent that hikers are set upon or threatened by other people. Typically, bears pose a much greater threat. This threat is passive – a trap set by a maniacal and unknown adversary who is long gone by the time hikers are hurt.

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