Got a Few Questions

Posted by: nm4272

Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 11:31 AM

I'm wondering if anybody has any experience with backpacking along major and not so major highways?
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 01:03 PM

Only insofar as road walking is needed to connect together a long trail in an area where no actual trail is able to be built.

There's a pretty vast difference between different types of road walking. In the long distance hiking community, perhaps the most agreement you can find on any topic is that "road walking sucks". And it's the type that you're talking about --- highways or more major roads. I'm happy as a clam walking arbitrary distances on forest service roads that go through public lands.

The ugly type of road walking is where cars are whizzing by you, often without much shoulder to separate you from them. Private property all along, so you can't just stop to take a break anywhere you want, and there's no place to sleep unless you want to trespass somewhere or hope that a motel is close enough to about where you would like to stop. Typically no shade to be had, and water sources often difficult to get to, but the flip side there is that you will periodically pass gas stations or fast food stops or the like. That latter is about the only upside.

Walking only on smooth pavement sounds like it might be easier than walking on trail, but for extended periods it's not good at all. Many long distance hikers report that they start having foot problems doing this when they've been walking for months on trail with no problems. I had that very issue on the CDT, laid me up for a few days healing a foot issue that came on me after a couple long days of highway walking.

I suspect that what you have in mind with the word "backpacking" is very different from what I like to do. If you're thinking of being a sort of noble vagabond having adventures along America's highways then all I can say is ... good luck with it, I hope you have a great time, but you couldn't pay me enough to stick to major roads on foot for any extended period of time.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 07:40 PM

Speaking as a member of the "weekend warrior" hiking community, I've noticed that there is likewise a consensus opinion that "road walking sucks." smile
We all hate it - and on a typical weekend, it may be nothing more than a half mile of forest service road to get back to a car, but that's enough to get to suck-level.
Posted by: nm4272

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 09:51 PM

Thanks for the replies. Something I was wanting to do one day is backpack from where I live to Austin, it's about 275 miles. The problem is that there aren't any back country trails to take me there. I figured if I walked off of the side of the road, in the grass, it might not be as punishing as actually being on the pavement. How do y'all think that would be?
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 10:27 PM

I don't know about Texas, but in Ohio all the roads have a sloped shoulder (usually down into a ditch or other runoff channel.) The slope may not be very steep, but it's still like walking along the side of a hill, with your feet pushing against the sides of your shoes instead of the bottoms - in your case, it would be for hour after hour after...
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/07/17 10:45 PM

It would work great for you if one leg were shorter than the other....provided that it's the correct leg.

the real issue is not just the pavement--it's the loud and unpleasant vehicle noise. And don't forget the cross traffic. Not much fun.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/08/17 11:10 AM

I figured if I walked off of the side of the road, in the grass, it might not be as punishing as actually being on the pavement. How do y'all think that would be?

I suggest you take a bus or hitchhike or whatever.

To see how it would be, find a close-by stretch of highway, put on a pack about the size/weight you expect you would have, and walk a few miles.

Then take advantage of the satellite view setting of Google maps to have a look at random places along your proposed route to see how that looks to compare to what you just walked. You won't be able to see the slope that was already referenced, but you'll have an idea.

The problem with "off road" is that highway builders don't think in terms of making that at all useful for walking, so it will likely be rough and inconsistent to walk on, and sometimes just non-existent in effect.

But really --- if you're keen on this idea, spend a weekend afternoon sometime and do some highway walking and *try* to think about how you would feel after a week or more of that.

One GOOD thing about highway walking is that it's easy to do a lot of miles per day. Walking the rough completely-off-tarmac side of the road negates a good chunk of that, however.

Sorry to be such a downer! Not so much trying to discourage you as make sure you're aware of the downsides before setting off. I've done a fair bit of highway walking, but in bits and pieces, never more than a couple of days continuous. The amount of traffic makes a huge difference to how much I (dis)like it. I would not contemplate walking entirely off the prepared highway surface, except for specific conditions you occasionally find where it really is pretty smooth grass or packed earth or the like.

Note also that when doing extensive highway walking, I'll look at stored maps on my phone to periodically find a longer detour route that takes me on quiet roads for a while, just to get away from the $%^#! traffic and give my head a rest from it.
Posted by: nm4272

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/08/17 12:45 PM

I definitely will make sure to test it out near me before taking off on a long trip. How long do most of y'all hike for each day? I know that it will always depend on terrain and things of that nature so if you have any experience hiking in fairly flat areas that would be good. Also, if I go through with doing this long trip what kind of shoes would most people suggest? Boots with ankle support or maybe just some trail runners since it wouldn't be any crazy terrain?
Posted by: aimless

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/08/17 03:28 PM

Road walking in Texas? Trail runners by all means!

You'll want something with enough breathable mesh in the uppers that it doesn't trap heat inside the shoe. Heat is one of the major contributors to blisters, the hotter your feet are, the less friction is required to raise a blister. Even so, asphalt in the sun gets hot and your feet will be an inch or less from that asphalt much of the time. frown

Taking care of your feet would be a major concern for such a trip, in my opinion.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/08/17 07:25 PM

There was a guy on here who was pretty big into road walking (username: Gershon), but it looks like he hasn't posted for about a year.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Got a Few Questions - 05/09/17 11:12 AM

Definitely trail runners for me too, or just plain road type running shoes for what you're doing --- light, breathable, and lots of cushioning.
You might consider getting a different kind of shoe insert, and if at some point your feet are just tired or ache --- and you have more miles to do that day --- swap to an alternate insert that might change pressure points on the foot. Pretty light weight and if you find you aren't using one set, can always throw them out along the way. If using running type shoes I would also make sure to start with a new pair. You want the shoes in good condition, and to cushion well.

That all assumes that you're not carrying a really heavy load on your back, however! People who advocate boots are more often I think carrying heavier loads. If you're really staying near highways and you're not too picky about what you eat, you at least don't need to carry too much weight of food, though there can be some long, lonely stretches of highway with no amenities for many miles.

How long to hike each day? Hiking on the highway, it's partly about where you can reasonably stop ... for quiet and perhaps shaded breaks, for meals, for getting water somehow, and most importantly for sleeping ... somehow. After that it's just about how fit you are, how heavy your pack, how many miles you need to do based on any schedule dynamics ...

I tend to think in terms of miles per day rather than hours, at least in late Spring to early Fall when there are a lot of hours of daylight. But this too varies a lot by the individual. On more normal (away from road) hiking trails, a lot of people are out for the experience, not looking to do a whole lot of miles per day. Others --- often including me --- do longer distance trips where for whatever reason it makes sense to crank out more miles. After I'm up to speed (a couple of weeks on trail typically), I'll be looking to do 20 - 25 miles per day on decent trail. On highway can crank that up to 30 mpd. But this isn't typical and partly reflects that I don't LIKE highway walking and usually want to just get through it and back to actual trail.