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DeBare
02-14-2004, 10:11
I've been sitting here on this cold morning asking myself why do I want to hike the AT.
Is it to get back to nature- No I could do that camping nearby,
To get in shape- No I could go to the gym,
Is it to get away from it all- No once again I could go camping,
To find myself- shoot I'm not even sure what that means besides I could just travel for that,
meet new people -no I could do that anywhere
put all of it together and it only adds to the real reason.

I'm going to be forty this year and when I look back on my life, the dreams I had as a child of being and doing something great has faded. No sports hero, astronaut or what ever...
My life has become stagnate, working a job I don't enjoy, watching TV an getting fatter in a city I've come to hate ( yes I know that's a strong word).

I guess the main reason is to change the direction my life is going and to accomplish something that in the end maybe meaningless but it's a goal that I could be proud of. Many try but not everyone can do it. Who knows maybe I'll find myself :-?

Kozmic Zian
02-14-2004, 11:27
I've been sitting here on this cold morning asking myself why do I want to hike the AT.
Is it to get back to nature- No I could do that camping nearby,
To get in shape- No I could go to the gym,
Is it to get away from it all- No once again I could go camping,
To find myself- shoot I'm not even sure what that means besides I could just travel for that,
meet new people -no I could do that anywhere
put all of it together and it only adds to the real reason.

I'm going to be forty this year and when I look back on my life, the dreams I had as a child of being and doing something great has faded. No sports hero, astronaut or what ever...
My life has become stagnate, working a job I don't enjoy, watching TV an getting fatter in a city I've come to hate ( yes I know that's a strong word).

I guess the main reason is to change the direction my life is going and to accomplish something that in the end maybe meaningless but it's a goal that I could be proud of. Many try but not everyone can do it. Who knows maybe I'll find myself :-?Yea.....Why Hike AT? Wilderness. That was John Muir and the Transendentalists idea of why we would want to go out in the woods. HD Thoreau said, "In Wildness is The Preservatin Of The World". Now, we all know the AT is not 'wild' in any manner of speaking('cept maybe some of ME). But, because it's structured like it is ( a narrow, say 1/2 mile wide ave. belt of woods) one has the illusion of being in a great, huge forrest...with breaks for roads and towns. It's an illusion of wilderness. It works! It's rugged, it's alpine, it's woodsy, it's the essence of all of the reasons anybody wants to hike! And it's right here on the east coast of N. America, with easy ageis and exit. Everybody hikes for their own reasons. I find when I'm up there, its a good time for self study. To 'find oneself', to take into account lifes blessings. To cherish lifes losses, too. To come to terms with ones 'god' or spirituality. And, to get right with Mother Earth. All these things and more, can occur on a distance walk. It's just part of the mystery of what makes hiking more that just a 'sport', or causual undertaking. Some folks never get that. Its all relative. I tend to believe that the more you are in proximity with the Earth, the more you 'get it'!

waldo
02-14-2004, 12:34
Today, as I woke up, brewed my wonderful coffee, sipped my coffee, read the newspaper --- somethign was missing, as usual .... it was a typical morning in my life, however, typical isnt always the way it should be! Yearning to be living in the wilderness, with nothing or no materials except for what I was carrying on my back .... it's calling me back. I want so badly to be back on my thru hike, but somethings are not practical. Why did I thru hike in '03? Honestly I have no idea why I decided to hike, maybe to give me something to do? But as I was hiking and after the fact many lessons were learned, and numerous morals (for lack of a better word) were gained. As Bebare stated the reasons for wanting to thru hike, but being able to get themselves elswhere, which is true, but only in a sense. There is something unsaid, unpractical, very surreal about hiking the AT - that you cannot get anywhere else in the world ... whether that be camping, going to the gym, meeting friends at a local bar, or traveling internationally. The goal and accomplishment of getting to Maine or Georgia after 5-6 grueling months makes you so rich, and much richer and more accomplished than any person who has accomplished the monatary world. There are few people who can walk the entire trail, but anyone can get lucky and win a million bucks. There is no luck in thru hiking, determination and perserverance prevails in the true winners .....the one's rich in love, peace, and harmony with others and nature ....

Waldo

Peep
02-14-2004, 14:24
The AT is an entity of pure nature that keeps drawing you back because it is what it is. Sure it isn't true wilderness in the since that there is civilization at its sides, but the AT's essence is pure wilderness. We all remember our first footing on the Trail, and we all took with us different memories of that first time. Mine was the sense of raw nature with a spirituality, a sensuousness that you absorbed and became one in rhythm with. In my experience the AT is a living thing, and each of us that has and will set foot on its path adds a piece of their self to it. And it gives back something intangible. You can't say that about every place you camp or hike.

And that's why if we're not there we keep dreaming of going back.

Kerosene
02-14-2004, 14:42
I view my aspiration of completing the AT as a life goal. It may not be on the same level as helping save lives or make them materially better, but it is something that I can accomplish with perserverance. For me, setting and achieving goals, no matter how seemingly trivial to others, is what makes life worth living. When each day becomes more or less the same, regardless of how good that day is, I start to get depressed and yearn for something more. This isn't the result of a mid-life crisis either, but more the result of having attained many of the professional goals I set for myself out of high school. Note that I have not set for myself the goal of a 5-month thru-hike for a number of personal reasons, even though I'm pretty confident that I could do it physically and mentally. As I start to see the potential to reach my goals, I'm find myself starting to set the next level to attain. As it relates to hiking, this means experiencing trails in other parts of the U.S. and the world. To me, variety and attainment is what keeps life worth living.

Smooth03
02-16-2004, 01:16
Unlike Waldo I thru-hiked the trail to enhance my abilities to interact with women in a romantic way.

Turns out no women SOBOed this year anywhere near me.

eldwayno
02-16-2004, 02:18
Unlike Waldo I thru-hiked the trail to enhance my abilities to interact with women in a romantic way.

Turns out no women SOBOed this year anywhere near me.

Hence the handle Smooth I take it. Anyway's I'm 18 years old with no idea what I want to major in, no idea where I want to go with my life... so I'm taking a semester off school to thru-hike. What better a way to figure out what one wants to do than to hike a long trail.

chris
02-16-2004, 08:37
All these responses are great, but are more like answers to the question, "Why hike a long trail?" rather than what it is about the AT that is attractive. What is it that draws so many more people to the AT than, say, the PCT or CDT? For example, spring in Appalachia or the social aspects (cause or effect?). Or, is it something simple, like the fact that the AT traverses through such a heavily populated area, and so many people know about it. In debating whether the AT or CDT is in my immediate future, I've tried to think of what the AT can present that is really unique and special. I'd like some help if people can give it.

Lilred
02-16-2004, 12:27
All these responses are great, but are more like answers to the question, "Why hike a long trail?" rather than what it is about the AT that is attractive. What is it that draws so many more people to the AT than, say, the PCT or CDT? For example, spring in Appalachia or the social aspects (cause or effect?). Or, is it something simple, like the fact that the AT traverses through such a heavily populated area, and so many people know about it. In debating whether the AT or CDT is in my immediate future, I've tried to think of what the AT can present that is really unique and special. I'd like some help if people can give it.


One difference that sticks out in my mind is the history around the AT. Thoughts of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, longhunters to the Civil War. One of the reasons for the revolutionary war was so we could cross over those mountains. There's a sense of history in the Appalachia's that draws me to hike the AT, along with being outdoors.

Kozmic Zian
02-16-2004, 14:48
Yea....History. You know, I have this theory. In the days before the white man came to N. America, Native Americans had to communicate between Tribes. So they sent 'runners' back and forth between the Northern Tribes (Algonquian) and Southern Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Fl Tribes). These runners could not move progressively up & down the coasts because of the broad, deep rivers and the time envolved in crossing them. So, they used the Ridges of the Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mts as a 'Trail Of Communication'. They did this for thousands of years. And, now as you progress up and down The Trail, you'll see remnants of these early travelers in the form of a sort of natural way The Trail moves from Mt to swag to Mt and sometimes a hand hold here and there, that are ancient. Not, just carved out in the 20th Century for Trail use by the CCC or some maintainer. These things I describe are pre-Columbian remnants of a system of traversing the East Coast of North America by early Native American Tribes. 'The Original Appalachian Trail' as it were. I'm positive about this theory. And when you go up there, if you have a mind, you can see some of this continum concept in different sections, particularly where the ridge gets very narrow and rocky. Look, you'll see. KZ@

Footslogger
02-16-2004, 15:32
We'll ...I think for me, having been raised in the eastern half of the states had something to do with it, I'm sure. I just wasn't oriented to the PCT or CDT. From the time I was around 11 years old and in the scouts I have dreamt of just taking off and following those blazes from one end to the other. In my younger days, the whole thought of serenity and peacefulness didn't have much to do with it. I had plenty of those things as a kid. The original draw of the AT for me was the "adventure" and doing something that not too many people do. As my dreams grew older, along with my mind and body, the concept peace and serenity did enter the picture but to be totally honeset, in the end it was still the adventure and the sense of accomplishment that I knew I would feel if I was ever able to get out there and hike the entire trail.

I lived near Atlanta for around 16 years and during that period I had the opportunity to hike all of the Georgia AT (many times) and most of the NC section. Coming home after a long weekend or 7 day stint on the AT was always bittersweet. But in the end it only served to strengthen my drive and desire to hike it from end to end.

Well ...in 2003 I got my chance and I went for it. It is one of the very few things I've done in my life that was as true and exciting after the fact as it was in my dreams. It taught me a lot about myself and my limits, which in retrospect were a lot wider than I had formerly thought. As I neared the end of my hike last October I must admit that I was ready to be home with my wife, eating regular food, sleeping in a real bed and taking regular showers. However, having now been home for about 5 months I find that the feelings are still there. The friends I made and the experiences I enjoyed during that 6 month sojourn will be a part of me forever.

Although this saying gets beat to death a bit, the AT is so much more of about the journey than it is about reaching the destination. Arriving at Katahdin is exhilarating but GETTING THERE is the real thrill and adventure. It is everything I thought it would be and more. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, much less putting it in writing ...but my wife and I are actually talking about another thru-hike, but this time together. Because of life's realities we were forced to hike it alone, with her hike having been in 2001. One thing for sure ...when we are fortunate enough to make that happen it will be the day by day and not the grand finale that will feed our drive and keep us going.

Jumpstart
02-16-2004, 17:24
Why hike the AT? For me it was simple. Why NOT hike it? Beats workin' for a living! :)

funkyfreddy
02-16-2004, 20:53
Interesting thread........ sometimes one can wonder - Why do anything? I think thruhiking the AT is a healthy goal and certainly a transformative experience if one accomplishes it.

I've been thinking about long distance hikes lately...... OK, maybe dreaming as well. Perhaps it's time for me to take a long walk.

freewheelinmilo
02-17-2004, 03:56
i think the reason the at is so popular is because of the outrageous culture. not only the culture of the south, but thru hiking culture. there are so many folks out there, and it really is about as pure as a social community can get. people relate to eachother on a basic and pure level, there are hearty laughs (too many to recall) and long philisophical talks. i always found honest interaction out there, and 5 years later many fellow ATers remain my closest friends. at times, its a party (again, too many to recall.) there are wonderful people surrounding the trail providing kindnesses, services, understanding and compassion (yes, too many to recall.) this huge support group undeniably makes the AT easier than its two wild sisters. the people on and surrounding the AT are really special. but the solitude and ruggedness of the cdt i am sure is incredibly special too, but in a completely different way. if you hike the AT in peak season i think you would be lucky to spend six waking hours the whole trip without interacting with someone. on the pct, which is more popular than the cdt, on my second day out i went 48 hours. another main difference is the pressure of the seasons. on the AT you can totally freewheel for 7 months, but on the others you gotta have your game together with an airtight plan, and an iron will to carry it out. lastly, some sections of the CDT are non-existant, make your own trail with map and compass (from my understanding) on the AT i never carried a map.

the wild dramatic west, or the old gorgeous east? both are appealing.

DeBare
02-17-2004, 08:42
I agree with freewheelinmilo that the culture of the A.T. is what makes it so attractive. Even someone that has never really hiked could make a go of it but it's hard enough for an old hand at hiking long miles.

beatbox
02-17-2004, 10:28
Wow, I never even considered another trail. While I would love to hike all 3 someday, I grew up in Maryland. My first hike was to Pine Knob Shelter on the AT. When I think of hiking, I think of the AT. Having just finished 6 years of school consecutive between grad school and undergrad I was burn't. Furthermore I do not necessarilly know where I want to be in a year or where God wants me. About a year and a half ago I heard a friend talking about thru-hiking the AT. I started reading everything I could and within a month I knew I had to do it. Since then I have bought gear, gone on short hikes, and become slightly enveloped in preparation. Even finishing grad school my focus was not on getting a job but on going on a hike. I want to have time to break free from monotony, to meet new people and friends, to gain perspective, and to seek God with less distraction. Already, I feel like I am involved in something bigger than me or a hike. I am SO READY to go...I leave in 27 days. To me the PCT and CDT would be an awesome feat but the AT will be an experience and the fulfillment of a dream. AWESOME TOPIC! Hope to see some of you out there, Beatbox.

SalParadise
02-17-2004, 13:02
Wow, what a great topic and some awesome posts. Why literally? Because the AT has the most history and loreóthe same reason why athletes want to play at Lambeau or Yankee Stadium. Thatís why I chose it instead of the other trails. I wanted some sort of adventure and hiking is ideal. The AT is cheap, surrounded by nature and challenging but possible for me, the novice hiker.
Why figuratively? Transcendentalism was mentioned before, and Thoreau interpreted nature as God unspoiled by man, as a way to meditate on God without those thoughts being spoiled by the sins of man (or at least my interpretation). Paralleled with that is the opportunity to consider personal goals without the increasingly negative and intrusive influences of media, politics, society and acquaintances. I think in part the Trailís increasing popularity is a value statement.

Kozmic Zian
04-01-2004, 09:02
Yea.....Chris. Nice question. I'm sure you have your own answers. However, through my perception, the AT has many varied uniquenesses. The physical differences of the three major sections (South, Middle, and Northern) are certainly unique to the AT. The Southern has the Wonderful water and springs, the Rododendrons and Spring Flowers, the Southern Balds and their 360o views. The Smokey Mts section and its 6'000 ft peaks, some of the highest on the AT. The many steep ups and downs of the NC, TN section. The rocky, wild nature of these areas and the many 'views'. The VA Highlands area is truly wonderful and beautius. The Blue Ridge and Shenandoah region is lovely and has many 'wildlife opportunities'. Harpers Ferry area is very Historical, as is all of Northern VA, MD, and PA. Maryland and PA and the Central Areas have many great 'view opportunities', with the Delaware Water Gap being exceptional. The access to the many towns and peoples of the Central Region make this portion of The Trail Truly Unique in terms of Long Distance Hiking. Opportunity abounds to stay in Hotels and Hostels, campsites and friend's places, always meeting new and wonderful folks along the way. I personally, think this is one of the greatest and most memorable aspects of Hiking The Appalachian Trail. The Contact with unforgettable characters, is both rewarding and educational, always allowing for the unexpected and 'magical' pleasures. When the hiker reaches the Northern sections, new vistas open and a whole new perspective, with the approach of New England, insues. The Berkshires have a very unique application in that they seem to resemble a miniature Appalachians. That is, the turns and views and surrounding flora, seem to be kind of 'Deja Vu-ish' in a smaller vignette or setting, having passed already, the larger hills in the South. And, if one is walking South to North, the influx of Autumn around this time allows for the beautiful change of the Seasons. The New England Charm is truly wonderful and to be experienced in many unusual settings, towns, and waypoints. On the AT, the opportunity to have so many varied and memorable side excursions, is quite wonderful, I would think, in terms of other LDTrails one could hike. The White Mountains are certainly challenging and beautiful at the same time, providing the Hiker with experiences never to be forgotten. And as the wilderness of Maine approaches, the true solitude and beauty of The Trail, enfolds the Hiker moving North. Fall is usually in all of its splendor, with many varied leaf varieties. A gorgeous mellange of Maple Red, Oak yellow, and Birch orange, mixed in with the ever present emeralds of the furs and balsams. The many lakes, rivers,bogs, boards, and Mountains make Maine, truly one of the most beautiful hiking experiences anywhere. And, to finish this long walk, at a Mountain as majestic as Mt Katahdin, is a fitting climax. From South To North or Vice Versa, the Appalachian Trail is, without a doubt, one of the most unique experiences in life, and readily enjoyed by millions of people seeking 'the Road Less Traveled', and a unique perspective on Life. KZ@:sun

MOWGLI
04-01-2004, 09:37
Wow, I never even considered another trail. While I would love to hike all 3 someday....


Thatís why I chose it instead of the other trails.

Beatbox lives in Maryland and talks of "all 3", yet there are eight National Scenic Trails including the Potomoc Heritage National Scenic Trail which runs through Maryland. http://www.nps.gov/pohe/

While walking a canal towpath might not be everyone's idea of a long distance hike, people have done it and thoroughly enjoyed it. According to my co-worker (who has hiked all 8 National Scenic Trails) the Potomoc Heritage is a "great trail". It is a very different experience than the AT however.

SalParadise lives in Wisconsin, home of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. http://www.iceagetrail.org/ This is another great trail. The North Country National Scenic Trail also passes through Wisconsin and has some fantastic sections. http://www.northcountrytrail.org/

Then there is the Florida National Scenic Trail. The Florida Trail is a great 3-season trail, and I encourage folks to learn more about it. http://www.florida-trail.org/

And that's just a few of the National Scenic Trails. There are lots & lots of other great trails to backpack across the US.

Of course, I am not trying to diminish anyone's desire or reasoning for hiking the AT. It's a unique experience, and I have very fond memories of my thru-hike. I admire anyone who attempts a thru-hike of the AT.

There are tons of other trails out there however. Few of them are as easy to resupply on as the AT. Few will have as many hikers. If you're looking for more of a challenge logistically, or want to get away from the crowds and have some real solitude, I suggest you look away from the AT.


Whatever you choose, have a great hike!

Little Bear
GA-ME 2000

Jersey Bob
04-01-2004, 13:54
at least 10 characters

wlvn1
04-01-2004, 15:56
Because it's there............