As I have started to speak with people about my plans several of you have expressed concerns about safety related issues so I wanted to devote an entire page to this question.
Before I go in to the nitty gritty of safety preparations I will encourage you to ask yourself why you are especially worried about my safety. Every year a few people walk across the US, and while my trip is longer than most of those people the safety concerns are the same.
If you are especially worried about me because I am a woman, or because I am currently obese I would like to challenge this foundation. In spite of my weight I am in really good health. I am aware of my limitations, as well as my strengths, I am training for this walk and doing everything in my power to do this safely. This type of walk is a challenge for anyone to do initially. I am sure it will be a challenge for me as well, but I doubt my weight will make it that much harder.
If your worries for me are because I am a woman – well, let’s take a deep breath and think about this. I have camped out, and camped out alone since I was 18 years old. It feeds my soul and I love it. I am used to the wilderness, and while I have a deep respect for the wild places I do not fear them. Some people have expressed concerns that I will run in to human predators and of course that is a risk. It is a risk no matter where I am in the world. A human predator could break in to my house tonight. I have plenty of life experiences traveling alone, hitch hiking and keeping myself safe while on the road. By far most people are wonderful, and I have faith that the risk of this walk are not that much bigger than staying home.
So now a deeper look at the actual risks of this trip. The risks can be grouped in to three types. Animal Predators, Human Predators, Health or Injury.
I will be walking alone through several wilderness areas with top predators. The most dangerous of those are Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Mountain Lions, Snakes, Scorpions and Wolves. Of these, I think the bears are by far the most dangerous, and a lot of energy has gone in to protecting me against bears. I will be carrying bear spray, keep my food in bear proof containers and have a small electrical fence around my camp at night. I have spent extensive time researching how to protect myself from bears and believe I am as prepared as I can humanly be. Mountain Lions are another predator that rarely attack humans. The chances I will even see one are honestly minuscule. That said, I definitely believe in paying attention to my surroundings when I am out and about. Wolves pretty much never attack humans – I should be so lucky as to see one. Snakes are dangerous, but I will be walking on roads and clear paths so I will see them in advance. Besides, I will be pushing a cart so the cart would hit the snake before I do. Scorpions can make me feel like crap, but won’t kill me. I need to check my shoes before wearing them, and shake out my sleeping bag before getting in it.
Human Predators – I am a woman and as such I always have in the back of my mind that someone I meet might be a predator. As a woman I remain aware of my surroundings and pay attention to my gut. I think by far most women know what I refer to. This trip will not be any different. So far I have been out in the world traveling in many different places, often alone, and I have never truly been at risk. I am good at listening to my gut, moving away from something that makes me uncomfortable and staying alert. That said, human predators are always a risk no matter where I am. Some of the bear preparations will probably also work on human predators.
Health and Injury. Let me say to start with I am very healthy in spite of my weight. My resting blood pressure is within normal parameters. My blood sugar is within normal parameters. I have a few issues with my lower back, that usually improve with exercise and training my core. My knees and ankles carry my weight, and I have big well developed muscles in my legs. That said, of course I can get hurt. Again, I can get hurt here at home as well, and frankly if I do not get my weight under control then my health will probably be much more compromised by staying at home. I think the biggest risk is a broken limb if I stumble and fall. During the early parts of my trip I will be walking through some extremely hot areas so I have to watch out for heat stroke as well. I really do not think dehydration is that big of a risk. I would have to ignore my body and basic safety precautions to an extreme degree for that to become an issue. I will have contingencies in place to have people send help if I need it even when I am in the depth of the wilderness.
Hopefully this answered any safety related questions.