One thing about the eastern side of our country --- we don't get eaten by grizzly bears here. I am a bit south to the Appalachians. We don't even have black bears except once in a while. Lots of nice timber rattlers.........
How in the world do you not have black bears? I'm a few hours south of you and we have a ton of bears.. They've even reopened bear season a few days during the fall.
So when riding in "big critter country" is it feasible to say a bell around my horses neck would be a good thing?....Cougars will still be lurking, my guess. ....Encountered a black bear in MI. Awhile back on horseback.....cool and iffy at the same time. Our horses just looked, no spook.
I've ridden with pack horses over trails that were less than a foot wide, crumbling edges and steep drops with no stumps to slow you down. All a matter of perspective and experience.
I can tell you that there are parts of the Appalachian Trail that I would not take a horse on, and I don't believe any horse could safely traverse them.
I grew up & rode in the Mahoosucs, part of the White Mountains of NH. The AT follows its ridge, and old logging roads and hiking trails lead from the valley up to the ridge. I've been up many of them, and along parts of the AT. But parts of the hiking trails in the Whites can be something no horse could follow - I'm not talking about narrow or slippery as mentioned before, I'm talking boulders that a human scrambles over, smaller rocks with holes between them waiting to break a leg, steep ledge or staircases of rock, some you might climb with help from your hands. Horse hooves & legs are not made for that terrain.
I rode over some pretty rough terrain - very rocky trails but without holes (i.e. Rocks sunk in dirt instead of precariously stacked on other rocks), ledges that weren't so steep a hoof lost traction, washouts in the old logging roads - but I knew where a horse just couldn't make it. And I don't think horses got much better at it than mine, with a lifetime of this sort of riding. You can get to some of the same places the AT goes, but not always by following the AT!
My experience with cougars is that they will avoid humans if given the chance. I really don't worry about them. I've seen enough of them in the wild, They snuck up on me, because they were curious, but if I jump up and yell at them, they run off.
Most black bears, just get into trouble because they trying to get into your food. Even the Grizzlies that I've run into. Will usually leave the area if you have given them enough space. Of course the exceptions are if they are protecting cubs or food.
I've never hiked or ridden any of the AT, So I can't speak for how rough it may or may not be. I can't believe it can be any worse than some areas of the west. Wilderness areas don't get any trail maintenance. So dealing with rocks, blow down trees etc is a natural occurance. And yes there are areas that I have to just tie my horse up and go explore on foot.
Once we have explored a path thru the talus field or blow downs we can ride or lead our horses thru.
I've chased enough cougars, That I'm just not worried about them
If people are uncomfortable with this natural things, They should stick to ridding on their farms in the arena.
Unfortunately, since I did my riding in the '70s and '80s, I don't have pictures of where I did go vs. where I don't think a horse could go, but trails in the White Mountains can look like this:
I'm not quite sure where that is - the page it's on doesn't give the trail they hiked, and as the photo credit isn't the writer of the blog entry it might not be the trail he took - I don't recognize the road or buildings in the notch below so it's not Pinkham Notch on the E side of Washington - and it's probably not on the AT itself, but it's fairly typical terrain at altitude in the area. Unfortunately, most online shots are either scenery shots, or they show the parts of the trail above treeline where it's flat and VERY well traveled, looking in photos (or to those standing on Washington's summit) like a dirt road across the rock garden, so this was the best I could find for typical steep/rocky part of a trail in the region.
Unfortunately, I don't think I can hike out this summer & post any picture of specific AT spots for you because I have an ankle (seems like the achilles tendon) that mysteriously started aching when I wake up or exercise and just doesn't want to heal up. Maybe if this thread is still alive in a few months I can get you something.
OK, I removed most of my previous msg and added in a bunch of great new info I found, but when I hit "save" I'd taken too long! Grr. So sorry for the double post & for all the unnecessary wordiness before when the following gives actual, on-topic AT info.
After posting the previous I did a bit more searching and found the info you guys really want - at SectionHiker.com: "I just got back from the hardest hiking I've done in the past year, hiking southbound on the notorious Mahoosuc trail section of the Appalachian Trail, from Grafton Notch in Maine to Gentian Pond in New Hampshire. . ."
"The Mahoosuc Notch is a narrow ravine situated between the vertical cliffs of Fulling Mill Mountain and the Southern Peak of Mahoosuc Mountain. It is one mile long and filled with car sized boulders that you have to scramble up, over, through, and under. It took me 2 hours to hike this one mile and it required every rock climbing trick I know, wearing a full pack no less. The trail weaves in and out of several caves . . ."
And then the next day, "After hiking up from the shelter and rejoining the AT, I met my first challenge of the day, a rocky scramble up a cliff face. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out if it was even possible to scale this obstacle."