View Full Version : Appalachian Trail Institute

Little RunOn
08-24-2003, 23:23
Any thoughts on the Appalachian Trail Insitute run by Warren Doyle? I was wondering if folks thought it was worth the $$$.

max patch
08-25-2003, 08:20
Every year someone who had never backpacked a day in their life before coming to Springer/Katahdin successfully completes a thru hike. The year of my hike a young lady in her 20's who barely weighed 100 lbs fit this description.

All you need to know about the trail is in the Data Book and WF's guide or the Companion. You will have plenty of help from fellow hikers if you have any problems or questions when you start. Even if you made a serious gear mistake you will literally walk through an outfitters store on the 3rd day or so of your hike.

No need to pay for advice from anyone.

08-25-2003, 08:22
Warren Doyle has done probably more than a dozen thru-hikes. (I don't keep count of his hiking.) He is a passionate supporter of the AT and thru-hiking, but has ruffled several feathers by his approach.

From what I know, he offers a supported group hike. His goal for everyone that starts is to finish together. I believe it's a fairly fast paced hike, like about 3 months.

I have never seen one of his groups. I have listened to him talk and seen his slide shows.

There are many different ways to do the trail. I'm sure that Warren Doyle's works for some who need that type of a hike.

08-25-2003, 13:59
I spent a couple days with the 1995 "Doyle Expedition" it was fun. I wouldn't want to do a whole thru-hike that way, but it was fun for a couple of days. Lots of nice folks, great esprit in the group, but also a tremendous amount of peer-pressure and an IRON CLAD SCHEDULE. The miles may seem big, but since you are not carrying a full pack, they are very doable. We did a 28 mile day into Pearisburg in 6.5 hours (well, some of us did) the rest of the group did it within the day without undue effort and were able to hit the swimming holes and hang out at the overlooks.

If you want to take a day or two off outside of the schedule, you need to hike ahead so that when you get back on the trail, you are where the expedition is. This can be daunting and can mean taking a couple days of 40+ mile days carrying minimal gear, etc. Again, it can be done, but the price is pretty high.

The Expedition is mainly billed for people with REALLY tight schedules, people who want to be finished by the time school starts. and can't start until school is over (college students).

"The Circle" is a group within the Expedition who make a vow to one another and themselves that they WILL NOT QUIT or otherwise leave the expedition. The idea is to put peer pressure, ego and personal honor to work to keep the hiker on track as well as to build an interdependant team that pushes each other forward to the end. It's an interesting exercise in group psychology, but I think I would find the peer pressure to be too intense.

It ain't for everyone, that's for sure. As far as the impact of the Expeditions on the thru-hiking experience, it is minimal. THe Expedition is not part of the thru-hiking community, it passes through the community and builds no ties to it during any given year, it is an entity unto itself.

The Expedition is fully supported along the trail except in the Smokies and the 100 Mile Wilderness, where it is not practically possible to support them fully. So hikers must also have basic backpacking gear to sustain themselves. Having the support of the van allows hikers to feed themselves better, use canned and other fresher foods, etc.

I wouldn't spend the money unless you are really pressed for time.

max patch
08-25-2003, 14:26
We're talking about a couple of different things here.

The Expedition is a supported thru-hike as accurately described by iceman. The only thing I'll add is that I cannot imagine a worse way to hike the trail.

Doyle also has a 5 day seminar on how to thru hike the trail. This is what I believe the question that started this thread referred to. And again, you don't need to spend the time and money on a seminar on how to thru hike the trail.

Spirit Walker
08-25-2003, 15:30
True enough, you don't need the class in order to hike the trail, but it may help someone who isn't sure whether or not they really want to hike the AT to get an idea of trail reality. I've talked to people who have done the class, and supposedly a lot of the people who take it never end up actually on the AT. After hearing stories, going for a couple of practice hikes, and learning about trail reality, they decide that it really isn't what they want to do with their time/money. Seems to me I'd rather know that after a five day class than after quitting my job, putting my stuff in storage and totally disrupting my life. Given the huge dropout rate on the AT, at least in part because so many who hike it really don't have a clue what they are getting into, this is one way of improving the odds of success.

An alternative is to come to the Gathering in October (www.aldha.org). Warren teaches a three hour class on hiking the AT, and there are a lot of other AT hikers doing classes and slideshows on the AT (and many other trails and other aspects of long distance hiking) so you can get a better idea of what thruhikers are like and what the trail is like and whether this is a world that you really want to join.

I think Warren's class would be a hoot. He is a very unique character.

Little RunOn
08-25-2003, 18:55
As for the expedition--definitely not. One of the main reasons I am hiking the trail is to get away from schedules. If it weren't for safety issues, I would do it alone (and still might). The five day institute this fall just sounded like a good way to get gear info and meet other thru-hikers. I've already quit my job, and I've read a lot about the realities of the trail. I at least have an inkling of what I'm getting into. The gathering sounds like a great option. Gear tips are the main thing I am looking for. Thanks for all of the feedback!

warren doyle
09-08-2003, 19:36
The replies to this topic have been quite good.
The Appalachian Trail Expedition (127 days) which I organize every five years is different than the Appalachian Trail Institute (ATI) which I run out of my home. The ATI is five days of realistic preparation that helps people increase their chances of completing their planned thru-hikes. I follow-up ATI participants and find that 75% of them complete their thru-hikes. I consider this a reliable factor validating the effectiveness of the ATI. As was pointed out by Spirit Walker, the ATI has also served to help people decide that a thru-hike is going to be much more difficult than they imagined and not for them. In my 30 years of walking the trail, I have seen too many people drop out. As an educator, I am concerned about the personal costs of 'deferred dreams' besides the financial and time sacrifices made for naught.
The cost for the ATI ($300 for instruction/room/board) is very reasonable when compared to Outward Bound, NOLS, Sierra Club and the AMC. People can save more than that in learning not to buy equipment they don't need - one of the areas we cover.
By the way, five of the six expedition groups have had 100% completion rates - a fact that is hard to ignore or to criticize.

warren doyle
09-22-2003, 17:14
For folks planning future AT hikes, the Appalachian Trail Institute will be held at the following times this fall:
Oct. 6-9; Oct. 20-24; Nov. 3-7; Nov. 17-21; Dec. 1-5; Dec. 8-12; Dec. 15-19.
For more info: contact me at [email protected]

09-22-2003, 17:49
I ran into a bunch of folks on a Doyle expedition in Maine (August, 2000)... they said they'd been having a lot of fun. Some of them were pretty curious about the more "individual" unsupported thru-hike experience... but they seemed pretty happy with their choices.

There are all kinds of ways to hike the trail.