View Full Version : question for thru-hikers

10-18-2003, 11:10
What was it that finally made you do it? I'm finishing school in june, and I think that a thruhike is what my mind needs. I've been reading this board for about a month now, and I cannot even wait to take off.

10-18-2003, 11:17
DESIRE. Ya gotta want it.

Senor Quack
10-18-2003, 12:13
I'm gonna do it next year and I really, really want that 2,000-miler rocker patch from the ATC!!

It would also give me the first real need to get a tattoo, (I saw a beautiful one on the net somewhere of a hillside behind the AT logo).

10-18-2003, 15:19
You've got to NEED it. Doing it for bragging rights isn't the greatest motivation, neither is doing it because it sounds cool. Quite a bit of the AT is actually pretty boring. It gets to be a job after a while, you hike for a living. So usually your commitment ot the trail or some internal quest has to be such that it can sustain you through day upon day of wind and rain, day after day of pretty much exactly the same food, missing family and friends, putting up with nuissance level pain, etc. If you aren't 100% commited to the hike, you WILL quit.

As for actual reasons to hike, those are about as numerous as there are hikers.

From personal experience and direct observation, I can tell you that the people who get the most out of their thru-hiking experience are folks who are using the hike as a physical framework for an internal journey. Trying to regain a sense of self after a divorce, a traumatic event, retirement, a suddewn life-change, etc. Many kids hitting the trail after finishing college or in between high school and college seem to be dodging life and responsibilities. FOr many it SEEMS like the AT is just an extended Summer vacation that is easily justified to friends and relatives looking to see their young loved one make something of themself because of the AT's almost mystical positive PR. This is a MASSIVE oversimplification of course. THe fact of the matter is that the young hikers who are hiking in a true spirit of discovery and communion do not stand out from the crowd. The party hikers and vacationers do. I can honestly say that I am biased against the party hikers. Whether they mean to or not, there is something about them that offends me, whether it should or not, and I react poorly toward them. I try not to be offensive myself, but neither do I make ANY effort to be social or even particularly polite, I mostly try to avoid them.

Why do I mention party hikers? Because I don't want you to be one. I want you to remember that hiking the AT is a privilege that most people never get a chance to indulge. Whether you approach it as a pilgrimage or a party, it is not a right. At the same time, the fact that you choose to thru-hike the AT doesn't make you special. From a broad, objective perspective, an AT thru-hike is nothing more than an extended vacation. What you choose to do with the time you spend on the trail is what makes it something special or mundane. But again, completing a thru-hike doesn't make you special. Virtually anyone without severe physical disabilities, enough time on their hands and a compelling wish to do so, can thru-hike the AT. Blind people have done it, people on crutches have done it. Children have done it, 80 year old men have done it. So don't look at it as some sort of extreme sport, you'll be sorely dissappointed as you trudge along the long green tunnel.

Each day you are on the trail you should say a prayer of thanksgiving that you have the opportunity to be out there. At the end of each day of hiking, you should give thanks for being allowed to experience that day. I'm not saying you have to be religious to enjoy the AT, but it helps to approach each day with a feeling of reverence and humility.

Pulpit mode off.

10-18-2003, 16:56
For me it was the realization that I wasn't getting any younger and there would always be reasons NOT to do it THIS YEAR. I had put off my thru-hike for years, telling myself that I needed to be in a BETTER POSITION to take that kind of time off. Bottom line is that there is NEVER a really a GOOD time to take 6 months off from your life and disappear on a trail. If a thru-hike is important to you then you will set aside the time and commit yourself to it. Just for the record ...saying you're going to do a thru-hike and actually hanging in there for 6+ months are two totally different things. I just summitted Katahdin on 10/9 of this year and I can't tell you the number of days I questioned WHY I was out there in the middle of nowhere, sweating, freezing, hiking in rain and mud, eating noodles to the point of nausea and etc. A thru-hike sounds like a neat idea but I'm here to tell you that it is a major undertaking. We all KNOW that in advance but your resolve does not get challenged until you are out there for a while. Why do it ...cause it's something you REALLY WANT TO DO. Be flexible and realistic in the setting of your goals along the trail. Listen to your body. Most of all ...decide that you are going to have fun and then do what ever to takes to make sure that you are having fun on a regular basis. If you stop having fun most likely you will begin to question why you set out in the first place. Hope that helps ...

GA -> ME 03

10-18-2003, 17:02
Thank you for the replies. I'm not a "party" hiker either. I'll be doing it to get inside my own head for awhile. I've done tons of solo hiking, and I rather enjoy it.

10-19-2003, 17:57
For me I just got to my breaking point. I couldn't concentrate on school and I felt like I was wasting my time in class while my mind and heart was set on the AT.
Don't do like many folks do and just decide 'hey ill hike the AT!' cause your life sucks, or your unhappy or you think it'll change you. Like many have said already, you need to really want to hike the AT. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, you need to not just want to get to Katahadin. Many folks are mistaken here. You have to want to be out there, every day for 5-6 months and deal with all the trail dishes to you. Its work. You gotta show up pretty much every day no matter the conditions, but it sure can be fun if you keep an open mind and stay flexible.
Good luck with your decision. They say the hardest part is deciding to do it, and the rest falls into place. I'd agree with that 100 percent

10-20-2003, 08:36
Someone once asked, what was the hardest climb on the AT? I said the one out of the car!

It's all easy downhill after that... Hahaha :banana