Frequently asked questions

S. Ben Melhuish • Thursday, March 23, 2017, updated Monday, April 3, 2017
Wait, what?
The E5 trail goes from the Pointe du Raz, on the west coast of France, to Verona, Italy. It goes past Mont St. Michel, Fontainebleau, Dijon, and Lake Constance, before crossing the Alps from Austria to Italy. It’ll be about 2000 miles or so. I’m doing this as a through-hike, like people do on the Pacific Crest Trail (or the Appalachian or Continental Divide Trails), but I expect it to be more rural than backcountry. It is not technical, even in the Alps, though I will get to about 10,000′ at one point.
When are you leaving?
My flight leaves April 5th; I start walking on the 8th.
How long will this take?
I may finish by early September: if I keep a steady pace of 14 miles (20 km) per day, I’ll finish by late September, but I hope to speed up as I go (which most through-hikers do). I will note that from everything I’ve heard, the best time to cross the Alps is in August.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
Who’s going with you?
I’m doing this alone. Meghan and the kids are staying back home, but once school is out, I’ll take a break to meet them (along with other family members) for a two-week tour of London, Paris, and Italy.
I don’t know! The nearest I can figure is that this is a mid-life crisis, only without a girlfriend or a stupid car. I don’t even remember where I heard about the network of European hiking trails (there are a dozen of them); it was almost a year and a half ago (a tweet is the earliest record I have). The idea kept nagging at me until one day I kind of decided I wanted (or maybe needed?) to do it.
Um … what does Meghan think about this?
I think she’s okay with it? I mean, if I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be doing it at all. We’re both a little anxious about this, but think it will work out for both of us. (This isn’t me trying to avoid a failing marriage, if that’s what you’re wondering.)
How are you training?
The only real way to train for a through-hike is to … go on a through-hike. That said, I have been wearing my backpack to work and taking an hour-long walk at lunch, to keep from being too shocked when I start. Now obviously that’s nothing like a real through-hike, but I do average something more than five miles over the course of less than two hours each weekday (to the degree that my phone’s pedometer can be trusted). I feel pretty confident that I can triple that distance without too much difficulty (q.v. “14 miles per day” above).
What gear are you bringing, what’s your base weight, &c.?
This is a big question — I’ll eventually do a separate post just on gear.
Will you be totally unplugged during the trip?
Not totally. I’m taking my phone, and I expect to have cell service most of the time, just like here in the States. I’ll be in touch with my family whenever possible. I will uninstall Twitter and my RSS feed reader, among other things, and I don’t plan to closely follow the news.
Can I get in touch with you?
Sure! I’ll be using European SIMs, so it’s probably not best to call me, but you can email me, or contact me via my email address on iMessage. Like I said, I won’t be checking Twitter.
How can I follow along?
I plan to post (write-only) to @sben_walks, and on Instagram at sben_walks. I also expect to post on this site periodically; if you’re as old-fashioned as me, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. And you can follow my progress on the map. In any case, if I find some better way of staying in touch, I’ll post about it here on this site.
Can I meet you over there?
That’d be great! I can’t really predict where I’ll be at any given point, but I may have a pretty decent guess; get in touch.
Can I do anything to help?
Offer your help to Meghan!