Starting the A.T was a big excitement and a real eye opener. There were a lot of people. I let this go knowing that it would thin out in time. Our first day we met a ranger. He spoke in depth about cleanliness. I was not too concerned, I couldn’t hear. When this became evident to him, his eyes got wide, then Captain Planet explained she tell me. She told me some, but not enough to really alarm me, had I heard I might have turned around right at that point and gone home.
In 2012 & 2013 huge outbreaks of this occurred.
Outbreaks of highly contagious norovirus (stomach bug) have occurred at various locations on the A.T. the last two years in a row, with the northbound thru-hiker “bubble” disproportionately affected. Hygiene measures such as hand-washing, avoiding sharing of food, and prompt reporting are critical in helping prevent an outbreak or containing one should it occur.
Captain Planet told me enough to let me know there was a problem with overcrowding and hygiene.
We saw evidence of “problems” early in our hike. Soiled boxer shorts crumpled lay right next to the trail. A few days later, paper drifted & floated with the breeze, also soiled. Even Captain Planet was not inclined to clean this up.
I wondered what happened to the mantra….”dig a hole at least 6” deep”. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people that don’t dig a hole at all. Even with it buried, too close to a water source, bacteria can travel through the soil &contaminate the water.
Yet, we all depend on filtering water to drink, that these incidents lie near.
The old adage “a chain is as strong as its weakest link” can be altered to; “a trail is as clean as its dirtiest hiker”.
It was pretty dirty at times.