View Full Version : Is the current breed of AT hiker soft?

Desert Lobster
12-11-2003, 13:34
1. light weight high-tec gear
2. many more hostels
3. blue and yellow blazing becoming prevalent
4. slack packing
5. increased info on the net and in libraries and bookstores
6. switchbacks in difficult areas
7. cell phones: "I just have to talk to a loved one!"
8. more hikers on the AT to lend encouragement and a social atmosphere

Lone Wolf
12-11-2003, 13:35
All of the above.

12-11-2003, 13:45
Hear Hear! We need more Luddites in the world...

compared to Grandma Gatewood, you're all a bunch of raving lunatic gearheads!

12-11-2003, 17:14
At 54, I'm one of the older crowd and sometimes pretty slow to adopt new ideas right off the bat. Having said that, there are a lot of things I heard and/or read about that I still think aren't all that realistic or practicle. But I've gotta tell ya ...after my thru hike this year I learned first hand that there are a lot of great new ideas out there. One such idea is lightening the load by taking advantage of a lighter/smaller backpack and cutting back on unessential stuff. I may be young at heart but this chassis still has 54 years on it and it was very obvious to me that a lighter pack meant less wear and tear. It didn't necessarily mean that I could do more miles in a day than I otherwise would have ...but it sure made the miles I did hike all the more pleasant.

Honestly though ...there are some ideas out there that are ...well, let's just say are OUT THERE !! Maybe they're just a little ahead of their time or something along those lines. But taking advantage of the many advances in gear, clothing and food (at least in my humble opinion) does not make hikers softer ...it makes them smarter !!

12-11-2003, 18:47
The current breed of hiker is soft only if you cook him correctly.

12-11-2003, 18:54
It is all about choice - YOUR choices are the only ones that matter.

12-11-2003, 19:10
I am under the impression - perhaps incorrect - that many of the re-routes over the last three decades have taken the trail away from roads and back over peaks and across rivers, making the trail itself longer and more strenuous.

Screw it. Give me lighter equipment, better food, more hostels - so many of which were a delight to stay at - better information (if nothing else it at least kept me from completely having to refit once I halfway figured out what was going on. Gentler on my wallet at any rate.) and more resupply points.

It's a tough crowd if the average AT thruhiker is considered "soft".

12-11-2003, 21:58
1. light weight high-tec gear
2. many more hostels
3. blue and yellow blazing becoming prevalent
4. slack packing
5. increased info on the net and in libraries and bookstores
6. switchbacks in difficult areas
7. cell phones: "I just have to talk to a loved one!"
8. more hikers on the AT to lend encouragement and a social atmosphere

Hmmm - Desert Lobster..... uh huh. Any relation to Maine Lobster? :)

light weight high-tec gear - smart hikers use it - has nothing to do with "soft"

blue and yellow blazing - has always been with us - ask Sloetoe - or WF - or Spiritwalker - or or Exile - or anyone else who hiked "way back when." Fact is that even today more than 95% of thruhikers do some of it.

slack packing - same story -

info - (like the hi-tec gear) doesn't hike the trail for you - you get to do that for yourself (but I may have more to say about that in another thread)

switchbacks - try the PCT --- infinite switchbacks - and yet most AT thruhikers think it's tougher than the AT. They're right.

cell phones - don't mean one is "soft" - just not bright enough to understand how negatively they'll change the hike. Those who NEED "to talk to a loved one" are far more likely to go home to that loved one and not finish the Trail.

more hikers on the AT - is the greatest impediment to my ever hiking the AT again. Even the PCT is too crowded. I think I'll go back to the CDT - or maybe Australia or Alaska. I'm procrastinating here - cause I agree with this one - without their "Trail family" some hikers wouldn't make it to Katahdin.

percentages - a greater "number" of hikers finish because a greater number start and the percentage of finishers has changed only a little over the years.

And finally - the Trail has gotten tougher over the years - not easier - at the same time the finishing percentage has risen slightly and the "numbers" have increased. That doesn't equate to "softer"

Yeah - some of today's hikers are "soft" - but that's always been true. You just don't hear about the "soft" ones 50 years ago - or even 10 years ago. But some of us knew them. So -- tell me something I don't know ...................

Sleepy the Arab
12-11-2003, 23:43
1. light weight high-tec gear
2. many more hostels
3. blue and yellow blazing becoming prevalent
4. slack packing
5. increased info on the net and in libraries and bookstores
6. switchbacks in difficult areas
7. cell phones: "I just have to talk to a loved one!"
8. more hikers on the AT to lend encouragement and a social atmosphere

Hey, I've got an opinion on this! I'll tackle each subject in no particular order.

#2. More Hostels. True there are more hostels for todays hiker to take advantage of. On the other hand, back thirty yeas ago, a "through-hiker" was welcomed into more folks homes as they traveled north. Anyone practicing this these days, would soon find themselves overrun with stinky hikers. It's more practical to open a hostel, or just ignore us.

#5 Net usage. I don't quite understand the fascination with staying wired. Personally, I have a no internet policy when I thru-hike. This definitely contributes to the softening of hikers. Time to cut the cord guys!

#7 Cell Phones. Nothing screams "pantywaist" more to me than a hiker with a cell phone. Next subject.

#1. Lightweight high tech gear. Lightweight, shmightweight - todays hikers do carry more high-tech gear, but they also carry more gear - about the same weight as hikers did thirty years ago. While old school gear was heavier, there were many things that they simply did without. Stove? Gone. Sleeping bag? Probably gone. Tent? Substituted a poncho. Water filter? Not even invented. However, the go-lite fad has created a breed of hiker used to conditions even the old school hiker would find spartan. On the other hand, go-lite is only possible thanks to high-tech gear and synthetics. Oh yeah, synthetics - something else they didn't have way back in the good old days when they hiked in cotton T's and jeans...and not by choice, but by necessity.

#3 Blue/Yellow Blazing. Blue blazing ain't new. Yellow blazing I believe to be a newer phenomena created by the increase of people on the trail. After all, what is the motivation for skipping a few hundred if there are no friends up the trail to be with?

#4 Slackpacking. Well, the term is new if the practice isn't. However, with the increase of hostels along the trail, so have the opportunities for slackpacking. It's a bit of a moneymaking scheme that is tough for hikers to pass up.

#6 Switchbacks. Huh? Where?

#8 More hikers etc. Does this really make it easier? I would say only as much as it makes it harder. But either way I would say it is a negligible influence.

I'd like to say that hikers these days are soft but there are other factors to consider. Most of these points are skewed to how things got easier for today's hikers. As one earlier entry pointed out the trail has gotten harder over the last 30-40 years. Some ridiculous percentage of the trail has been rerouted away from tote roads, secondary roads and so on, over crazy-ass peaks that are waaaay out of the way. There are also new concerns over disease (hanta virus, giardia, Lyme disease) that were non-existant ages ago. Not to mention that few people were concerned enough about marauding bears making off with their food to hang it from a tree. Are today's hikers soft? Maybe. Are yesterday's hikers tougher? I wouldn't necessarily say so.

12-12-2003, 00:35
The Trail this yr was 2172.6 miles. More than any other year. Period. I wonder how many old schoolers had years with this much rain?

12-12-2003, 08:24
#3 Blue/Yellow Blazing. Blue blazing ain't new. Yellow blazing I believe to be a newer phenomena created by the increase of people on the trail. After all, what is the motivation for skipping a few hundred if there are no friends up the trail to be with?

What's the difference between yellow blazing and blue blazing?

12-12-2003, 08:50
yellow blazing - get rides to bypass sections of trail
blue blazing - hike other trails to bypass sections of trail

Lone Wolf
12-12-2003, 09:36
Blue-blazing - taking alternate trails that are sometimes longer, sometimes tougher, but most always more scenic than the AT.

12-12-2003, 10:18
Wait, I think I have heard this argument before. Oh yea, my grandfather used to tell me that he had to walk to school back in his day... uphill... both ways... in the snow...

Does anyone else remember Earl mentioning in 1998 that the trail was much harder today than it was back in 1948? I think that might help offset some of the newer comforts of the trail. The trail itself is longer and harder than it was 50 years ago.

12-12-2003, 11:09
With all of the couch potatoes sitting around these days, I don't think it makes sense to imply that thru-hikers are soft!

I'm a golfer and always insist on walking and carrying my bag. Typically, playing 18 holes is equivalent to walking 5 miles---or more if I'm not hitting the ball straight! It's usually a very easy and leisurely activity---certainly not aerobic by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet, it's shocking how many people out there wouldn't even consider walking. They insist on riding in the cart and taking any possibility of exercise out of the equation. Now, that's being soft! Let's put this whole thing into perspective.

12-12-2003, 11:55
I think your logic is all wrong. It still comes down to " hike your own hike."
You don't have to spend a lot of cash on all the latest light weight, high tech stuff. I did my thru with a 1978 Kelty external pack. A lot of other gear was stuff I had. My average pack weight was around 38 lbs. High tech, light weight, I don't think so.
Hostels, like towns along the way, are there. Knowone makes you go to use them. My average was a stop every five days. Resupply, wash cloths, shower and a couple of off trail meals. Never spent extra days off the trail.
Blue & yellow blazing? The opertunity to skip, or take the easy way has always been there. I think the younger generation, more frequently, tend to take the "easy way." I'm 68.
Slack packing has become popular. I don't blame folks for doing it once and awhile. It can get expensive to have to pay for a shuttle. My theroy was; I started out carrying all this gear, so I might just as well carry it the whole trail.
Increased info? I don't think so. Some of the older books on thru-hiking prep are just as usefull as getting info from the computer. I can't see how any additional information can make you have a sucessfull hike. It still comes down to you walking.
I never saw what I would consider, too many switchbacks. I think some are put in, on new relocations, to take some wear and tear from the trail and make it easier to maintain.
Some people need security while out in the vast unknown. If it helps to cary a cell phone by all means do. It doesn't make your hike any easier. In fact look at all the extra weight. I carried one for a while when I passed through Mass. CT. I live in CT and my wife was able to meet up with me a few times. The phone made it easier to make arrangements.
More hikers? I guess the figures show more and more hikers are on the trail. I guess it depends on what kind of group you want to hang with. I see more younger folks staying together in larger groups. I have been a caretaker at UPper Goose Pond for the last two years. I can look back on my hike and say, other than a few weeks, around Trail Days, I didn't experience what I would conside crowds. In the Whites there were a lot of people, but you have to expect that and I think it has always been like that.
I think it's all relitive. You still have to put the pack on your back, walk all day, walk in rain and sometimes snow, eat crappie meals, get bitten by bugs, get up in the morning and put wet cloths on and be dirty much of the time. If you can take all that, it hasn't changed since thru-hiking started.

12-12-2003, 13:09
Switchbacks aren't built to make trails easier - they're built to keep trails from eroding. You'll also find more switchbacks on western trails because they tend to be stock trails as well as hiking trails.


Rain Man
12-12-2003, 13:33
Wait, I think I have heard this argument before. Oh yea, my grandfather used to tell me that he had to walk to school back in his day... uphill... both ways... in the snow...

That wasn't your grandfather, that was my daddy! And the weather was 95 degrees to boot, even in the deep snow, and somehow his kept getting frostbite, as I recall, while sweating. LOL

All kidding aside .... something readers of history will have heard before is "lightweight backpacking." This was the topic of one of the original PATC/ATC conferences, back in the 1930s or so. Plus, plenty of hikers back then had 20 lb packs.

So, lightweight backpacking might SEEM like the latest thing, but it ain't.

Rain Man

Jack Tarlin
12-12-2003, 15:52
Chomp raised a good point---

Years ago, hundreds of miles of the A.T were either roadwalks, or involved walking on pavement, dirt roads, lumber tracks, etc. Only in recent years, thanks to the ATC land-acquisition program and other efforts to widen and protect the Trail corridor, have we gotten to the point where something like 99% of the A.T. is now in the woods, hills, or mountains. This did not use to be the case.

There are certainly developments in recent years, such as lightweight gear and the proliferation of trail services, lodging places, etc. that have made certain things easier for hikers. The information explosion, i.e. the greatly increased number of books, guides, and publications aimed at helping thru-hikers, has also helped make things easier, and of course, the Internet makes it much easier for hikers to exchange information with others, to ask questions, and to learn from other folks. People are undoubtedly heading out on the Trail these days MUCH better informed, and much more knowledgable about the Trail and what they're likely to encounter than in previous years.

However, the "completion" rate for folks attempting to hike the whole Trail have stayed pretty much the same for many years (if we overlook the hundreds of false claims each year which obviously skew the "completion" figures). Roughly the same percentage of folks complete a thru-hike as they did years ago, which leads one to think that new hostels, restaurants, outfitters, gadgets, books, and so on may help people out, especially in the eary days of one's hike, but ultimately, it's NOT this stuff that will get them to Maine (or Georgia). They've got to get themselves there, and in that the physical trail has gotten tougher than it originally was, I wouldn't say today's thru-hikers are "soft." Do they have some things a lot easier than folks who hiked in the sixties or seventies? Absolutely. But to say they've gone soft is neither fair nor accurate. I've met hundreds of thru-hikers over the years, and I can't think of more than a handful who could honestly say at the end of their trip that it was easy. "Soft" hikers don't make it, and that's one thing that will never change.

warren doyle
12-13-2003, 11:01
As one who was there, and has been there since (i.e.,1972-present), except for the trail being about 120 miles longer than it was in the early 70's and for western Maine, eastern NY, and northern Virginia, the trail is EASIER (in terms of physical stress on the body) than it was then due to extensive switchbacks in the south, better trail maintenance overall, and remarkable trail work (i.e. footway) in New England.
Yes, there are more hiker services as well which have had a tendency to extend the average duration of a thru-hike from the 90's to the present, beyond the expected days added by the additional 120 miles.
Also, the amount of road walking (i.e. passable by passenger vehicle) was actually much less than posted on previous entries by people who weren't even there.
And as I have mentioned before, the percentage of blue-blazers among thru-hikers was much lower before the AT land acquisition program kicked into gear in the late 70's and before the publication of Maret's Philosopher's Guide.
I met and talked to Earl S. several times during his last hike, the 'difficulty' of the southern trail which he expressed his frustration about was, in my opinion, a factor of his age rather than the trail itself.
One will change more through the years than the trail itself and I have, and will, accept that reality without frustration and complaint.
Also, I will have to respectfully disagree with Lone Wolf's interpretation of blue-blazing because his entry gives the impression that blue-blazers pick the longest, more difficult, and more scenic alternative.
In my opinion, and based on actual observation, the popular blue-blaze routes a) Laurel Gorge/Rt. 321; b) Virginia Creeper Trail; c) Old AT north of Mt. Rogers; d) Mau-Har Trail; e) trails skipping the northern Presidentials - these are shorter and with less elevation changes (i.e., easier) than the Appalachian Trail. And one could also question whether the blue-blaze alternative in the five areas mentioned above are more scenic than the AT (but 'scenic' and 'softer' are subjective terms and open to much interpretation).
However, a mile is a mile - not a half-mile; a mountain climb is an ascent/descent - not a road walk or a railroad grade; and, a white blaze is a white blaze - not a blue blaze (unless one pleads 'color blindness').

12-13-2003, 13:11
I think that most of us really don't know. This question is best answered by those who thru-hiked years and, and did it again recently. So, thank you Jack and Warren for your insites.

Some where there was a thread asking "How did we do it way back then?" But, it's a reflection on how things have changed. We have traded the campfire and ax for the pepsi can stove and alcohol. Traded wool clothing for fleece. Traded canvas for nylon. Added water treatment. Traded hob nailed boots for trail runners.

But, volunteers have also moved the trail off logging roads and onto the ridges of Maine, They have increased the length by about 200 miles, one relocation at a time. (Warren, I'd add that another popular blue blaze is the old AT/Long Trail at Pico).

I wish that we could have insites from others like Earl S. and Ed Garvey.

12-13-2003, 14:03
I think we should steer this argument away from who's better than who and who had it harder. To me it should be an appreciation and celebration of all trail hikers from years back to the present. We all love this trail, no matter how it changes, whether it be on roads or ridges.
Its neither fair nor really scientifically possible to measure who had it harder and so on. I'm sure most of the older legends of the trail (Garvey, Shaeffer) would say its just different. The fact is that it is the 21st century. Of course some people are gonna insist on carrying a phone. Of course more businesses are gonna wanna capitalize on a popular trend in this consumer/business oriented society we live in today.
I don't really think the blue v.s. white blaze argument makes a bit of sense. How can someone honestly say more blue and yellow blazes are taken now? Some of the old legends such as Grandma Gatewood blue and yellow blazed tons.
My uttmost respect goes out to any man or woman who walks this 2000+ miles trail no matter where it is located. Afterall, all the businesses, info and gear are still not gonna make you walk all that way. you simply gotta do it yourself. The Trail changes everyyear thru mileage, relocations and terrain. It is not the fault of those neither past, present or future who have walked the trail in a certain yr where it may have been considered a bit "easier". Each year will present new challenges.

Moon Monster
12-13-2003, 14:11
However, the "completion" rate for folks attempting to hike the whole Trail have stayed pretty much the same for many years (if we overlook the hundreds of false claims each year which obviously skew the "completion" figures).

This is a very interesting and telling stat regardless of its cause.

But, in the spirit of this thread, what would everyone think if the completion rate actually was starting to go up in recent years?

Looking at ATC's compiled stats, from 1998-2002, NOBO completion rate has done this: 15.0%, 14.4%, 14.9%, 16.7%, 19.0%. And, already as of mid-Nov., 17.7% of 2003 NOBO starters have reported as 2000 milers. (Since, the '03 ratio being photographed at Harpers was 6% higher than in '02, the eventual 2003 compiled rate may certainly be over 20% this year.) Looking at just the Harpers photographed to estimated starters from 98-03: 29.0%, 26.2%, 26.6%, 30.2%, 36.6%, 42.3%. Just based on those figures, there's a definite recent jump in NOBO successes.

Of course, there's the issue of false claims and other problems with ATC's stats. But, those still may be relevant to talk about because either: (a) more NOBOs are having success recently (possibly for the reasons already discussed in this thread); or (b) more NOBOs are making false claims recently (if the actual, and forever unkown, truth is that the completion rate has indeed remained steady).

I don't think there are suddenly more false claims, I think it's (a). And, I think the reasons certainly include those in this thread, particularly as Jack pointed out: increased information.

Jack Tarlin
12-13-2003, 17:30
There is no question that hikers are going out better equipped, and more importantly, better informed, than they were in years past. What this means is that while the early days and weeks on the trail are still very tough for a lot of folks, it probably isn't as tough as it used to be, for any number of reasons:

1. Pack weight is lighter; in the old days, one used to see 50 and 60-plus pound packs all the time. People are going lighter these days, which inevitably makes it physically easier for them.

2. In addition to hauling less gear, people are hauling lighter food----more and folks are carrying lighter-weight processed foods as well as stuff they've dehydrated back home. And as they're relying more on more frequent town stops/hostels/services, etc., and less on maildrops, it generally means they're carrying fewer days worth of stuff than they used to. Carrying 3-5 days worth of supplies most of the time instead of 6,7, or more inevitably means less stress on backs, knees, etc. They're also eating better and healthier as they're relying less and less on pre-purchased maildrop items.

3. There are more shellters, as well as more hostels and other places catering to hikers. Due to the information explosion, people know where these places are, and plan accordingly. More and more of their "rest stops" are pre-planned and not spontaneous. They also have the option of taking unplanned town or hostel stops in order to rest and recuperate when they're beat up, need time off, or during spells of bad weather. This extra rest, decent food, town time with its associated benefits, and so on means a great deal physically and psychologically.

What all of this means is that the critical eary days of a thru-hike are without question "easier" that they used to be; this inevitably means that while folks are carrying less weight, stopping more often, eating better, getting more rest, and are taking more time off especially more time off out of the elements and bad weather, this means that folks are simply lasting longer than they used to; all of the things that make things easier for thru-hikers during the critical first few weeks have combined to create a situation where people are sticking around longer than they used to, and not as many folks are getting discouraged early and quitting prematurely. Every year, more folks make it to and thru the Smokies; more make it to Hot Springs, etc. Especially imoportant, more make it 450 miles to Damascus; in the old days, perhaps 50% were gone by then. I suspect this figure is less nowadays. Obviously, if one lasts longer than one might have years ago, and is in better shape physically and mentally, having gone thru less wear and tear, fewer snow days on the Trail, enjoyed better health thru better nutrition and more rest, etc., one's chances of completing a thru-hike go up as well.

To sum up: There are various factors that have absolutley made it easier for hikers, especially in the early parts of their trips, and people are lasting longer than they used to, thus improving their chances of sticking around for the duration. Nevertheless, in spite of all of these developments, the true completion rate really hasn't changed all that much over the years, leading one to believe that the main factor of whether or not you're going to finsih your trip is still primarily mental.....if you really want to stay on the trail and see the thing thru, and if you're truly committed to hiking the entire Trail, you have an excellent chance of making it happen, but that is up to YOU. Better food, smaller packs, more hostels, better guidebooks, etc.---these all help a great deal, but it's still the individual hiker who has to lace his boots and hoist a pack each morning and find the motivation to continue. The primary factor in whether or not one will complete the journey lies within each individual hiker and I don't see this ever changing.

12-14-2003, 10:00
Thank you A-Train, Baltimore Jack, Bob Fowler, Rumbler et al who essentially are recognizing that completing a thu-hike is a real accomplishment in and of itself. I'm sorry if lighter gear, more hostels, more zeros, etc take something away from those who "did it their way." I totally respect anyone who hikes the Trail without a zero, never stays in a comfy motel room or eats only Ramen noodles. I'm not sure I would have made it without some of today's comforts. That's why the cardinal rule is HYOH!

Blue Jay
12-15-2003, 10:43
This is such a funny question. The "softest" thru, one who slacks the entire way and stays in a hotel or hostel every night, walks more in 20 minutes than the average american does in a WEEK. By the time his or her thru is completed, they will have spent more time out side than many Americans spend most of their lives (20 minutes per day). To call any thru "soft" is like calling Lance Armstrong a fairly good athlete.

12-28-2003, 21:27
I think that anyone who has the courage to get out there and try a thru hike cannot be considered soft by any means. Most Americans live out their useless lives in stultifying security, never taking chances and centering their whole lives on consumption of goods and services. I have a coworker who drives a $35,000 SUV five blocks to work. Now THAT is the definition of SOFT!!! :jump

12-31-2003, 17:24
I read a lot in this thread about people making making false claims of hiking the entire AT. Who determines these claims are false?

Jack Tarlin
12-31-2003, 17:55
When you've been hiking with folks for awhile, you get a very good feel on who's actually hiking every mile, and who isn't. There are very few folks who consider themselves absolute "purists"; i.e., very few who make it a point to hike the entire A.T. without skipping sections, blue or yellow-blazing sections, etc. Absolute purists represent a very small percentage of folks out on the Trail; therefore, if the vast majority of folks out there aren't purists, and aren't determined to hike the entire Trail, this leaves one with the inescapable conclusion that most folks who report in to Harper's Ferry that they've hiked the whole A.T. in fact, have not actually do so. If 500-odd folks report into Harper's Ferry each year that they've just completed a thru-hike, and if only 10 per cent of them were purists, (a very generous guess) this means that of the 2500 or so folks who start the Trail each year with the intention of thru-hiking, about 2 per cent actually do so; the "completion rate" figures you may have heard such as 10% or 17-20% are simply untrue---there just aren't that many purists out there; in fact, once you get to a certain point, say Massachsetts or Vermont, if you're in a large gathering of thru-hikers, it'd be unusual to find more than 1 out of ten who has actually hiked every mile; it's far more frequent to be in a shelter or campsite with a group of hikers NONE of whom have done this.

But to get back to your question, this isn't a difficult thing to "determine" or discern. And most folks, in fact nearly everyone, is honest about this sort of thing, at least while they're on the Trail; if you're skipping sections, it's pretty apparent to everyone you know, so there's no point in lying about it. And there's no real reason to lie, either, as most folks don't really care about what other folks are doing or not doing. Unfortunately, the "honesty" about this lasts til people are finished their trips; it's when everyone starts sending in for a completion certificate and a 2000-miler patch that people start stretching things a bit, and in fact end up seeking and claiming public recognition for something that all too many of them did not, in fact, actually accomplish.

01-02-2004, 02:37
Actually Baltimore Jack is right about the last post. Cuz, I seen qiute a few hiker names that Blue Duck and I hiked with in 2000 that were in the ATN Thur-hikers list and they claimed they went all the way, but I know for a fact they didn't. But what the hay. You either did or didn't. If you want to lie about it and say you did a thru-hike, who's to really know but yourself and the others with you. And you know that the others will never say you're a liar, because you'll probably never see them again.

03-30-2004, 11:16
1,5,6 = Intelligent. (6 is a lot to do w/ erosion, not just ease)
3,4 = Either soft if one is using them to be lazy, or intelligent if one is using them to be safe or quick
2 = Matter why you use them. I say hostels are great.
7 = Why not? You are not hiking to fit within others expectations of hiking. You hike to enjoy yourself. And as long as you are respectful of other's hike also, then talk away.

03-30-2004, 15:51

steve hiker
03-30-2004, 18:33
I think we should steer this argument away from who's better than who and who had it harder.
That's rite ATrain it's already been discussed. Warren Doyle, Jack Tarlin, Blue Jay, and Dan Bruce were sitting around the fire at Trail Days, drinking bourbon, and reminiscing about the good old days.

Doyle: Who would have thought, thirty years ago, we'd all be sitting here drinking Jim Beam, eh?

Tarlin: Them days, we'd be glad to have a cup of hot cocoa.

Blue Jay: Or a pot of ramen.

Wingfoot: Without flavoring.

Doyle: Or water.

Tarlin: In an aluminum cup and all.

Blue Jay: Oh, I never used to have a cup. I'd have to drink out of a grease pot - with the grease still in it.

Wingfoot: The best I could manage was to suck on a wet bandana.

Doyle: But you know, we were happy in those days, although we were poor.

Tarlin: Because we were poor. My old dad used to say to me, "Money doesn't bring you happiness, son".

Blue Jay: He was right. I was happier then and I had nothing. I used to live in these old rundown shacks with great big holes in the roof.

Wingfoot: Shacks. You were lucky to sleep in shacks. We used to live in a flimsy tent, all twenty-six of us, half the rainfly was missing, torn netting, and we were all huddled together in one corner to avoid the puddle in the middle.

Doyle: You were lucky to have a tent. We used to have to live in a hammock strung between the trees.

Tarlin: Oh, we used to dream of living in a hammock. It would have been a palace to us. We used to live under a plain piece of nylon, a tarp. We used to wake up every morning with the wind blowing rain in our faces. Hammock, harumph!

Blue Jay: Well, when I say "shack", it was just three sides of logs with wooden bunks hammered into the sides. But it was a home to us.

Wingfoot: I was evicted from our tent. I had to go and live in the privy.

Doyle: You were lucky to have a privy. There were a hundred and fifty of us living in the dirt in the middle of the trail.

Tarlin: The dirt?

Blue Jay: Aye.

Wingfoot: You were lucky. After we got booted out of the privy we lived for three months in a tarp rolled up like a taco. We used to have to get up every morning at six o'clock and hit the trail for fourteen hours a day, week in, week out for a cup of ramen and when we got home, the mice would thrash us to sleep with their tails.

Doyle: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the privy at three o'clock in the morning, clean it, eat a handful of mouse turds, hike twenty hours a day for two more mouse turds, come home and our trail angel would beat us around the head and neck with a broken hiking pole if we were lucky.

Tarlin: Well of course, we had it tough. We used to have to get out of the hammock in the middle of the night and lick the trail clean with our tongues. We had to eat half a pile of frozen bear scap whilst hiking all day for four more turds every six days and when we got back the bears would tear us to shreds with their claws.

Blue Jay: Right.

Wingfoot: And I tried to tell you fools you were all doing it wrong but ...you wouldn't listen to me.

Doyle, Tarlin, and Jay: No, no we wouldn't.

04-01-2004, 10:50
I guess you can call me a "purist" section hiker. Haven't had the time for a thruhike yet but would eventually like to hike the whole trail.

05-01-2004, 07:26
1. light weight high-tec gear
2. many more hostels
3. blue and yellow blazing becoming prevalent
4. slack packing
5. increased info on the net and in libraries and bookstores
6. switchbacks in difficult areas
7. cell phones: "I just have to talk to a loved one!"
8. more hikers on the AT to lend encouragement and a social atmosphere

Okay If you want to do it the old-fashioned way, go for it. Old Boy scout manuals from the first half of the 1900's and Backwoodsman Magazine have the info to do it the way Great Granddaddy or Daniel Boone did it. You could Legitamately start a hiking club based on Old time Methods. Sports like golf and tennis have changed over the years because of various reasons, mainly technology. There are guys that occassionally have golf tournaments with wood shafted clubs to get an appreciation for the old days. No doubt today is different maybe not always easier , but different

Kozmic Zian
05-01-2004, 16:58
Yea.....Different? It's still a long freekin' way ta' Maine. KZ@:cool:

05-01-2004, 17:17
Man, this thread reminds me so much of the conversations between old soldiers and young ones. Things just don't stay the same ... and that's a fact of life. When I went into the Army and then "volunteered" (yeah, I know ...who jumps out of perfectly good airplane) for the Airborne the training was based on the accepted practices at the time. Someone going into the Army and going through jump school nowadays is subjected to the "gentler and kinder" accepted practices of today.

Young and old ...we still wore the uniform and pinned the wings on our chests. All I know for certain is WHAT I ACCOMPLISTED AND WHAT IT TOOK TO ACCOMPLISH IT. The rest is just details and doesn't really matter.

Anyhew ...that's my .02 on the whole thing.


SGT Rock
05-01-2004, 17:34
And the guys that "have it easier" than I did, still get out there and do the job.

Maybe the weight is less, there more shelters, and more services, but none of that makes the hiker softer - just maybe the hike itself. It has been my experience that people can be a lot harder than the situation requires. So just because this situation doesn't require them to be as hard as it did "back in the day", they may still be hard enough to have done it back in the day if they had to do it that way.

Mountain Dew
05-02-2004, 02:58
Is the current breed of A.T. hiker softer than the previous generations of hiker ? I think so. More people are hiking b/c of better gear that makes it easier. A better question would be.... Is the current breed of thru-hiker softer ? I'd say yes to that as well.

05-02-2004, 04:45
Howdy All,
I am currently planning to take this long a**ed walk next march. I was active in Civil War reenacting for many years. My unit was what you would call the "ultra-light" hikers of the reenacting community. So when I decided to take this walk, I decided I would do whatever I could to learn the trail wisdom of people that have already done it, and that I would carry as little weight as possible. In reenacting the goal is to have all of your gear as exact as possible. Let me state that 19th century technology may be durable, and functional.....it is not light. So even with my scant gear, (Shelter half, rubberized poncho, and wool blanket rolled into an "ox" bow and worn over the shoulder. Haversack for food slung over the shoulder. Canteen. Cartridge box. Rifle.), I was packing 30+lbs. I figure since it is the 21st century, I might as well take advantage of 21st century technology.
First and fore most I have been reading everything I can find online that was posted by people that have already done it.
Course I got lucky too. Turns out the manager of the local camping store did it back in 99. Guess he must be "harder" than me? He has proved a most valuable resource. I walk in and say "Do I need to make out a will, or do I have time after the bears mawl me?", and he says, "Bears, Schmears...." Or something to that effect anyway.
Should I be expected to make the same mistakes that the previous hikers have made to really experiance the trail?
Hell I even thought to try it in my Civil War gearI. Sure I wouldn't be able to carry my rifle, but it's a pig to carry anyway. Than I put down the pipe, and came to my senses.
I guess what I am trying to say if learning from the past, and utilizing technology are to be equated with being soft. Then I am soft. But personally I equate it with wisdom.

steve hiker
05-02-2004, 04:47
Since there are more women thru-hikers than in past generations, and women's bodies are softer than men's, then on average, thru-hikers are softer today. Hope they get even softer.:sun

05-02-2004, 15:26