View Full Version : Purpose for Thru Hikes

The Weasel
09-04-2002, 14:09
Share your purpose or goals for your thru hike, both for those who have attempted one, and those who plan to. A life change? Walk 2,160 miles? Do what Benton MacKaye suggested? Share!

"Well a promise made, is a debt unpaid, and the Trail has its own stern code." -- Robert Service

Hammock Hanger
09-04-2002, 17:27
I love long distance hiking and having done many trips of varyng lengths, I felt it was time for the ultimate long distance hike, the AT. It was everything I dreamed of and more... Hooked on it for life! :p HH

SGT Rock
09-04-2002, 20:20
Honestly I'm happiest in the field. I come home and love cold beer, good food, family, etc. But I'm always thinking of the next time I can get to a trail. Ending a hike is always torture for me. If I could get paid to hike for the rest of my life, I would do it.

I want to hike the AT because it is a good excuse to be in the field for 6 months.

My family all think I'm nuts, but somehow they can grasp it as a stunt or wierd goal (which in a way it is) to walk the whole length. But If I could just walk in circles for 6 months in the field - I would do it.

When I read a journal or book on thru-hiking, the end seems sad, the end of a great lifestyle. Maybe if I still have some time left at the end of my hike before I have to leave the trail, I'll invent an excuse to turn around and head south a few weeks.

Maybe I'll change my story after 6 months on the trail LOL.

Hammock Hanger
09-04-2002, 20:43
No you won't change your mind after six months, you will want it even more. I've spent 2 summers working on my goal to hike the length of the AT, it is always in my thoughts and feels so like home to me. I related to every word you wrote... To be out on the trail is the best thing for me, it is there that I feel the most alive. Is that weird or what? HH

The Weasel
09-04-2002, 21:42
This is mostly a reply to Rocky, but it sort of sums up why I enjoy backpacking generally, and how the AT fits into it so well. Some of you will recall my previous "signature" to messages here, and know that I like Robert Service, sometimes called "The Poet Laureate of the Yukon" and one of Canada's (and the world's) great poets. This is one of his shorter messages, from his book, "Ballads of a Bohemian":

The Wistful One

I sought the trails of South and North,
I wandered East and West;
But pride and passion drove me forth
And would not let me rest.
And still I seek, as still I roam,
A snug roof overhead;
Four walls, my own; a quiet home. . . .
"You'll have it -- when you're dead."

The Weasel

SGT Rock
09-04-2002, 21:49
Sweet. I like it.

09-05-2002, 18:12
i love the outdoors, and when im out there i just feel like im at home. every time i go out i feel closer to my roots and to myself. the peace and solitude draws me but so does the comradery of fellow hikers who see things the same way i do, and at times differently than i do, and that makes it all the more fun. the outdoors is a place for me to just get rid of all stress. a thru hike would also offer a great challenge, and challenges make life interesting. im hoping to hike in 2006 and i cant wait for it.

"Do what you love, love what you do"

09-07-2002, 13:13
Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is a goal for me because of FEAR...
Fear of becoming an 'average' American, content to sit on my duff with my eyes glued to a babble box, mind full of inconsequencial nonsense that has no true bearing on me or mine. Fear of losing contact with nature and myself, physically, mentally and spiritually, thus losing the ability to be the best humanimal that I can be.
That which does not kill me, makes me want to hike.

Hammock Hanger
09-08-2002, 17:09
Such truth be printed!!! :cool: HH

12-08-2002, 12:58
Man, that’s a tough question to answer. What are my goals and why do I hike? After retiring from the Air Force, 24 years of service, I found myself needing something new to keep me charged up. I missed the people I used to serve with and the sense of a shared goal. Rock… I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. I had long had a dream of hiking the AT but had kind of put it away and figured I’d never get to it. One day I stumbled upon Dragon’s Breath AT99 website. I read his entire journal in less than 24 hours. I was instantly hooked. I knew what I wanted to do, what my goal was. Once on the AT, I fell in love. I loved being with the other hikers, loved being out on the trail, loved seeing what was over the next ridge, what the next town was, what tomorrow would bring. I loved having a shared goal again with those around me. The camaraderie was as close to being on active duty as I could get again. However, my trip ended at Bear Mt, NY. By the end of Sept 2001, I knew I had to go back to the start and give it another shot. Working 9 – 5 everyday in a little cube was just making me insane. I needed to do something to make me happy. Luckily, I have a wife who understands what’s driving me. I always tell her this might just be my mid-life crisis!! Hey… some guys go nuts, buy expensive sports cars, leave their wives, and try to act like they are 30 something again. Me, I just quit the best paying job I’ve ever had and go live in the woods for 6 months at a time. Not once but twice! (oh.. and I keep hearing this little voice in the back of my head whispering PCT. Haven’t told my wife yet thought!!!)

12-08-2002, 19:18
We hiked in to get away from work burnout, becuase it was something we had both always wanted to do, and becuase we could finally afford it. People all along the way asked us this question, and I always wished I had had a more "romantic" answer, but there it is.

12-16-2002, 18:56
To have fun, be free, and because we can!!!!!!!!

Bad Ass Turtle
01-01-2003, 17:50
I really had two reasons to hike:
1. I've always been motivated by the thought that (as my mother told me over and over again as a young girl) I can really do anything I set my mind to. That has been reinforced for me over the years by my determination not to let fear stop me from doing something.
2. It was a way to do my dissertation research and accomplish a fantastic goal -- two birds with one stone!

01-02-2003, 23:38
Not sure this is a purpose per se but for me it is about not wanting to grow old and wish I had done things I had always dreamed of doing. From the time I knew that there was such a thing as the AT I was drawn to it.
I spent most of my youth as a scout out in the woods. There was just something more "real" about being out there than inside. I used to take off on Saturday mornings with a lunch bag and a pair of binoculars and just disappear into the huge park at the end of our street. I'd climb a tree and sit there for hours and observe. What I found was that after a while even the birds and ground animals would start to accept me as part of the scenery and just go about their business.
Even after 3 years in the Army ('68 - '71) I still can't get enough of the outdoors. As Sgt Rock put it ...being out in the "field" is where it's at. Anyone who was in the service during that period can relate to the difference between being in the field and being in base camp where there always seemed to be a "mickey mouse" preoccupation with a bunch of senseless rules and monotonous details.
Anyway ...nuff said ! Bottom line is if I could make a decent living hiking the trail my permanent address would likely be "General Delivery".

Blue Jay
01-03-2003, 09:03
There really is no purpose. Does a sunset need a purpose, does a Lynx need a purpose. It's just a great place to be, for no reason at all. You don't have to think about the past or future, in fact you don't have to think at all. Most people live in the past and the future, the now just slips away. We get to enjoy the now, therefore tiny little things like drinking at a surprise spring, becomes a trancendant experience. If you make it a purpose, the joy slips away.

01-03-2003, 11:29
Bad Ass Turtle, what was/is your dissertation topic?

01-03-2003, 11:35
Kerosene ...I'm BA Turtle's partner. She's out of town at a conference and won't be back until late Monday. But I can tell you that her dissertation dealt with "The Literacy Practices of Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers". It was an in depth study of how AT hikers uses various means and methods of communication with themselves and with others. Definitely some groundbreaking research (Naturally I'm a tad biased !)

01-03-2003, 12:06
My reason for hiking the AT? As Lester Burnham said in American Beauty "I wanna look good naked." Alas, the results were but temporary.

01-06-2003, 02:06
Gawd I hate that question. Worse yet "What did you learn about yourself?"
Being a bit of a Heathan my whole family wants some mystical sphere of knowledge. I think the pictures alone should answer the question!

01-11-2003, 16:43
I have a question for Baltimore Jack: Having hiked the trail so many times I was curious as to why you do so over and over. I think it's fantastic that you do and I'm sure it's different each time but is there any other reason (that would be anyone's business) or do you just need a life?:D

Jack Tarlin
01-11-2003, 16:58
Because it's fantastic and different every time. Couldn't have said it better myself.

02-19-2003, 19:25
As a wise man once said "To travel hopefully is better than to arrive." Or as Edmund Hillary once said when asked about climbing Everest; "Because it's there."

Sky Rider

02-20-2003, 18:31
Hey, im 18, ive always loved the outdoors since ive been a very young child, I want to do a northboung thruhike to pretty much prove to my self that i am capable of doing whatever i put my mind to, and i like to push my self both mentally and physically

12-20-2004, 22:25
Was just reminiscing about the days of preparation before my 03' attempt and thought I'de dig up this old bone. Hope some of my fellow 05'ers enjoy and contribute. We all have different reasons, which I'm sure if looked at long and hard enough, all come back to the same thing, love of the outdoors and the need to escape the modern world for just a bit. Be well!


Edited for bad spellin'

12-21-2004, 03:42
"Because it's there" really is all i can explain to people (and that was by George Mallory, not Edmund Hillary)


The Old Fhart
12-21-2004, 04:42
Like The Weasel said in post #5, I like Robert service, and have left the following poem in registers along the way.

The Lone Trail -- by Robert Service
Ye who know the Lone Trail fain would follow it,
Though it lead to glory or the darkness of the pit.
Ye who take the Lone Trail, bid your love good-by;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow till you die.
The trails of the world be countless,
and most of the trails be tried;
You tread on the heels of the many,
till you come where the ways divide;
And one lies safe in the sunlight,
and the other is dreary and wan,
Yet you look aslant at the Lone Trail,
and the Lone Trail lures you on.
And somehow you're sick of the highway,
with its noise and its easy needs,
And you seek the risk of the by-way,
and you reck not where it leads.
And sometimes it leads to the desert,
and the tongue swells out of the mouth,
And you stagger blind to the mirage,
to die in the mocking drouth.
And sometimes it leads to the mountain,
to the light of the lone camp-fire,
And you gnaw your belt in the anguish
of hunger-goaded desire.
And sometimes it leads to the Southland,
to the swamp where the orchid glows,
And you rave to your grave with the fever,
and they rob the corpse for its clothes.
And sometimes it leads to the Northland,
and the scurvy softens your bones,
And your flesh dints in like putty,
and you spit out your teeth like stones.
And sometimes it leads to a coral reef
in the wash of a weedy sea,
And you sit and stare at the empty glare
where the gulls wait greedily.
And sometimes it leads to an Arctic trail,
and the snows where your torn feet freeze,
And you whittle away the useless clay,
and crawl on your hands and knees.
Often it leads to the dead-pit;
always it leads to pain;
By the bones of your brothers ye know it,
but oh, to follow you're fain.
By your bones they will follow behind you,
till the ways of the world are made plain.
Bid good-by to sweetheart, bid good-by to friend;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow to the end.
Tarry not, and fear not, chosen of the true;
Lover of the Lone Trail, the Lone Trail waits for you.

12-21-2004, 06:29
i'm NOT a thru-hiker...............yet!

but, as a section hiker...my goal is to..."get out & enjoy the wilderness", ..."commune with nature" & enjoy the company of the scenery & fellow hikers....along the way.

i'm working on scheduling a THRU-HIKE when i retire...2019...if i can still walk.....hehehehe :D

The Hog
12-21-2004, 08:49
I never merited this grace, that when I face upstream
I scent the virgin breath of mountains,
I feel a spray of mist on my cheeks and lips,
I hear a ceaseless splash and susurrus,
a sound of water not merely
poured smoothly down air to fill a steady pool,
but tumbling live about, over, under, around, between,
throught an intricate speckling of rock....
I never merited this grace,
that when I face upstream
I see the light on the water careening towards me,
inevitably, freely, down a graded series of terraces
like the balanced winged platforms
on an infinite inexhaustible font.
"Ho, if you are thirsty, come and sit and eat."
This is the present, at last....
This is the now, this flickering, broken light,
this air that the wind of the future
presses down my throat, pumping me buoyant
and giddy with praise.

Lion King
12-21-2004, 12:58
Over the past six years of my life I have spent three of them totally outdoors.

5 months here, three months there, 7 months here and there...and I cant say why, other then that my mind and soul are at peace at those times more then any other time.

SUre, I hurt, my body aches, but my physicality also improves to such a degree everytime I go out for a while it makes me feel great overall for months afterward.

The only purpouse is for those who choose to do it, or to be a part of it for a while, is to become closer to their true humanity. Well for me anyway.

Thru hike, partial hike, section hike, crosscut adventure hike with paddling, biking whatever...its all good and its all good for you on so many levels. I feel closer to myself and 'God', for a lack of a better word, then any other time or place I go.

Their is magic in them thar hills. Believe it.

12-21-2004, 14:04
As a new registered user, I think it's interesting to see the variety of people who have similar reasons for hiking the AT. I'm planning on doing a thru-hike in either 2005 or 2006 and I think that the reason is because I want to see what's out there, experience it for myself and test my limits. I think John Masefield describes my general sentiment best in "Roadways":
My road calls me, lures me
West, east, south, and north;
Most roads lead men homewards,
My road leads me forth.
To add more miles to the tally
Of grey miles left behind,
In quest of that one beauty
God put me here to find.


Pooja Blue
12-21-2004, 14:15
Be outdoors, explore the east coast, get fit/lose weight, find some serenity that the "civilized" world just doesn't offer, and talk with God. Those were my reasons.

SGT Rock
12-21-2004, 15:10
A 5 month long vacation.

12-21-2004, 16:03
Wow! I didn't expect this much of a response, especially so soon. Great stuff folks, thanks! Here's a poem I found just after returning to Texas after my 2000' SoBo attempt that has encompassed my on and off trail life...

'How Did You Die'
-Edmund Vance Cooke-

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way,
with a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day,
with a craven heart and fearful?
Oh, a troubles a ton or a troubles and ounce,
or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
but only how did you take it?

You are beaten to Earth? Well, well, whats that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat;
But to lie there- thats a disgrace.
The higher you're thrown, well, the higher you'll
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight and why?

And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
the critics will call it good.
Death come swith a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

Edited for spelling.. man eye aer bad et shpellin!

12-22-2004, 02:22
Because it's there. That's the only thing I can say too. Because it's another way to challange yourself. It's a way to get outside the "norm" and find out who you are in silence, in darkness, with strangers and with yourself.

Wherever you go, there you are.

And this sentiment from Theodore Roethke's poem The Waking:

This shaking keeps me steady, I should know.
What falls away is always, and is near.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

12-22-2004, 03:04
I am doing it for myself. I have wanted to do this trail since I was a little kid. It has been a long time coming. I have bounced around from job to job and school to school. Come this February I will have five degree's in five different areas. I have been a paramedic, a teacher, and now own my own business. I have never found satisfaction. Completing this thru hike will finally give me something that I am proud of. All of my life long accomplishments have been to please other people and to make myself successful in society. This through hike is all about me and how I feel when I am “in the middle of now where”. The world doesn't care if I make it or not. It really doesn't even care if I kill myself trying. The only person that cares is me. Personal satisfaction is what my thru hike is all about, and I will love every minute of it. (Except when it is cold and I have to crap in the middle of the night.)

12-22-2004, 03:59
My reasons for thru hiking were; 1) to learn as much as I could about nature and everything that surrounds us and changes as we walk from south to north 2) I wanted to be alone to think about life for a while and not participate in it 3) to "suck the marrow out of life". Although my experience was different than I had intended it to be. Hell, it took me two months before I could accept the fact that there are a hell of a lot of people on the trail. I did learn a lot. More about myself and other people than I ever thought I would. The trail community is as beautiful as the trail itself. ;)

12-22-2004, 14:18
I am not sure there is just one reason that I like long distance hiking, but short hikes just don’t do much for me. I think it is a lifestyle thing. I consider the experience of being on the trail for months to be a lifestyle that you become engrossed in. I like the feeling of staying in a different place each night and the satisfaction of having gone from here to there. Where else but on a trail can one spend so many nights without having to ask someone’s permission, or paying? It is an escape to a time when the land was open and free for anyone to travel and set up camp where ever they pleased. Short hikes take too much logistical energy – a trip on the Appalachian Trail only involves figuring out how to get to the start. You don’t have to worry about how to get home until you are finished. Of course you have to get your equipment together, but you would have to do that to go on short hikes as well, and from my experience you end up taking more stuff on shorter hikes. An A.T. hike gets a person down to the bare minimums…hopefully. Everyone takes a little luxury of some sort, be it a radio, or even a journal. Other than that it is just you taking on the “wilderness” with just what you have and what you can create with what is around you. I also must say that I have never been with any other people like the trail hikers who stick together and support each other to help make it possible for each one to reach the end. These are my reasons for wanting to hike the A.T.

12-22-2004, 15:52
My reason is, in part at least: Obsession. I first saw the AT at clingmans Dome in 1963, I have wanted to hike it ever since. In fact I wanted to hike then & there, but as I was only 9, Dad wouldn't let me, "But dad, it's only to Georgia!" Said I, for some reason that didn't convince him :p So, After school (should have done it then) & job & marrage & a 35 year wait I finaly began to section. I still want to thru, maybe someday. My current boss will allow me a Hiatus, only for about 4 months, but ,,,,,,,,
SO, as soon as I can afford it &/or retire, off I go.

I think Shakespeare said it best in "As you like it", at least in relation to being in the woods:
"Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, the seasons' difference, as the icy fang & churlish chiding of the winter's wind, which, when it bites & blows upon my body, even till I shrink with cold, I smile & say 'This is no flattery: these are counselors that feelingly persuade me what I am.' Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly & venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; & this our life exempt from public haunt finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones & good in every thing. I would not change it."


12-24-2004, 22:03
I'm going because I need a change; I still reside in my hometown, I have a job that's going nowhere, and I don't have anything to look forward to... Therefore, I thought it would be a great idea to embark upon a journey! I'm excited to have a goal and a purpous now! I'm going to boldly step into the unknown (with the best possible preparations) and see what happens.

12-29-2004, 01:25
It started in 1957. I had to walk 1/4 to 1/2 mile to round up cows for milking. A lot of days spent on the dusty cow trail :) from the age of 6 until I was about 14, when we quit milking. No money in it. On weekends away from school, I would easily hike three to four miles through the neighbors fields and timbers. Just out all afternoon, walking. It was a way to get out of the house and have time to myself and enjoy the surrounding in any weather. It was PEACEFUL. That all stopped when I went to college, then into the military, then three daughters, and an excellent job with rotating shifts. Oh sure, I kept walking, but rarely on my own and not more than a couple of hours at a time, and NEVER overnight. I retire in two years, and my first retirement goal is to hike the AT, and see what is new and amazing ahead of me. I can barely wait that long...


12-29-2004, 12:21
Wrote this in Feb 98, a few weeks before my own thru-hike. Answers, for me, why I did the thru-hike:

“The most asked question about my hike is a simple “WHY GO?” I have several
reasons, but I think the best answer is for the journey itself – all the pains
and joys, all the experiences that comes with a 2160 mile walk in the woods”.

12-31-2004, 18:36
Reading these is making Spring 2007 seem impossibly far away...in the best way possible.

The Eleven
01-10-2005, 13:17
Just a section hiker doing the A.T. in pieces, but to sum it up in 2 words.....
TOTAL FREEDOM! LittleBear 2 in CT

The Weasel
01-12-2005, 03:55
Damn. Four THOUSAND members of this Forum? Been away awhile. For too long. But this is home, and it's nice to be back. And the reason for the walk is still the same...

...'cause it's a good place to be with friends.

The Weasel

GAVA '00
VAME in this life

01-12-2005, 06:47
Damn. Four THOUSAND members of this Forum? Been away awhile. For too long. But this is home, and it's nice to be back. And the reason for the walk is still the same...

...'cause it's a good place to be with friends.

The Weasel

GAVA '00
VAME in this life

Welcome back!

01-12-2005, 08:11
Welcome Back Weasel!

01-12-2005, 10:00
I hiked to finish unfinished business. In 1968 there had been a huge newspaper article about a guy who had thru hiked that year. I had just gotten back from Vietnam after two tours in the 1st ID. I had begun dating my future ex-wife. Her mother and I planned to thru hike using that newspaper article. With marriage, children and time the thru hike plan faded. In 1998 my ex-mother-in-law sent me the article when she was diagnosed with cancer, which relit the idea of the thru hike. In 1999 Winter and I hiked the LT to train Winter and shake down our gear. My younger son got a leave of absence to start the AT with me and insisted on doing a journal (on Trailplace). He hiked to Gatlinburg and was adamant that I keep the journal going. The journal was not a work of art. I wrote it just before going to sleep every night while I had only three brain cells still awake. People told me that they read my journal because it was "brief." I summated on 7 October 2000. My ex-mother-in-law passed away in January 2001. I was told that she lived for each journal posting and that she vicariously hiked the AT with me.

When I started the AT most people were saying that they were hiking because they want to hug a tree or something like that. Those reasons faded away and my general understanding is that most people were at a junction in their lives. That included: just graduated from college, just retired or relationship changes. There is also a separate group of people who keep re-hiking the AT. My guess is that they have a hole in their lives that they fill with the AT. All these reasons are good and maybe essential. There are times that are not fun or easy on the AT. In the course of many hikes there are times when hikers have problems health, feet, cold, heat, rain and muds and puds. I think it’s good to have something in your gut or in your motivation to power you passed the difficult times. Early in my hike there was a guy who was a great hiker. He knew all about flora, fauna, gear, hiking and had no physical problems. All he talked about was his home and family. I finally pointed out to him that we are all out there because we choose to be…not because we have to be. If he really wants to be home he should go there…he was actually relieved. He went home.


steve hiker
01-12-2005, 13:12
Welcome back Weasal. I hope you're right with the Lord. Did you REPENT while you were gone? There is not much time left before He returns and we stand exposed on Judgement Day.

I try to keep these hikers on the right path, but it isn't easy. We have crossdressers and all sorts of blasphemers here, some who shout out their sinful ways with the most disgraceful glee. And of course there's always that dog contingent who use their pets to gain an unjust advantage in God's wilderness.


The Weasel
01-13-2005, 12:29
Feels like I never left...crossdressers, blasphemers, dogs and a total lack of repentance. That's why I hate those damn dogs that sniff under my kilt during Ramadan.

The Weasel

01-13-2005, 12:59
Damn. Four THOUSAND members of this Forum? Been away awhile. For too long. But this is home, and it's nice to be back. And the reason for the walk is still the same...

...'cause it's a good place to be with friends.

The Weasel

GAVA '00
VAME in this life

About time you showed up again! We need all the eccentrics we can get. :D

SGT Rock
01-13-2005, 16:46
About time you showed up again! We need all the eccentrics we can get. :D

I thought we already passed our quota years ago.

WELCOME BACK WEASEL! It wasn't the same when I got back here and I didn't see regular posts from you. Hope you are doing well!


03-25-2005, 20:35
I'm kicking up this old thread because I leave for my hike in a couple weeks. Of course the question why comes about. I don't know if I should say that hiking the AT is the only thing I want to do, or the very thing I have to do. Maybe I just don't want to grow up. Maybe I feel the need to prove myself. There are many things I do that I don't want to do, but when I am done I know I did the right thing. I know all that HYOH stuff, but I really want to finish. I want to enjoy every step, but I if was pure misery I would want to finish it still. I'm not expecting magic, but a test in perseverance- with small joyous moments. Some people say it'ss about freedom, but there isn't much freedom in going to point A to point B. People say it's a simple life, but words cannot explain is complexity. There is many things to learn on the trail. At least that can be said.

I thought some more- of course I can't sleep. So here is more rambling.

One journey ends and another begins. I am heading back the states in a few hours. There isn't opportunity to change my mind. I am talking about the combination of leaving the Navy and setting Katadin as a goal. I had made the decision to leave the Navy on my first cruise a couple years ago; I am a explorer and there is to many restrictions on a US sailor for my taste. Rationalizing, I thought it's all apart of the Master Plan. The Navy gave me the chance to go to collage, since I pissed away my high school years being mad at the world. According to plan I was to merely go to school learn the ways of the world and find another career. Live happy ever... What is satisfaction- self-actualization? My daily motivation is what if I die tomorrow, have I made the right choice? That question has become too easy. It's what if I live that is the problem. Can I live the choices I made? Is this just another way for my to escape? I have however chosen hard chalanging path. If I fail to finish the trail I can simply say it wasn't for me- that I made that right choice for me. Life will move on. But what if I make it? That scares me just as much as the aspect of failure. I don’t believe in an ultimate right or wrong or meaning in life. Faith in myself, could that be what I am looking for.
Or maybe the answer is that I love trees and haven’t seen autumn for six years. That I love the smell of leaves and soil, the sounds of brooks, the music of birds (Guam has no birds). The way the trail goes of into the distance saying follow me, follow me, there's more to see. That smile I get because I'm doing it, in the rain, under blue skies, even in the dark. There's a maple, a popular. Of course that come with the bug bites, chaffing, and everlasting pain. Heat, wet wet and more wet. Not to mention the lightning that threatens your life. However there is that swim in the creek when no one is watching. That skunk that moseys through the shelter saying this is my town.

03-26-2005, 11:55
It is terribly important to me to hike, and almost equally as difficult to put into words exactly "WHY".

Last night, mildly exasperated with the 12-hour workday I'd just put in, clothes already dirty from some stuff I muddy ground conditions, with a light snow falling and moderate wind, I put on my training pack, and set off for a 3 hour 15 minute training hike. The snow came down heavier before I was done, and I did the last 1/3 of my hike in 2" snow. I would have loved instead to have immediately after work gotten a hot shower, changed into clean dry clothes, fixed a big meal, pigged out, read about 10 pages in a book, and fallen asleep to get at least 9 hours of sleep before working again the next day. Instead, I had cold ears, thighs, and cheeks for 3 hours, while my feet mildly ached from several hours of walking in the heavy boots that the deep mud and slush (intermixed with loose rocks on the dirt road that I could not thus see) mandated.

I only considered not going on my hike for about 5 seconds. I knew that I would lose ground with my conditioning, making my next hikes and my upcoming AT section hike shorter and less enjoyable. Too, I would miss out on my hike that night, which I would not have done for $20.00. There was a poetry in the quiet of the snowy woods at night when I stopped to listen. I had not noticed there were such things as a moon or stars that day until I set out on my hike; I remembered them then, and marveled anew that such existed where I could see them. When I paused at tops of hills or edges of dropoffs to take in the view, to prolong the moment just a bit longer, I could hear the sound of the snow falling. As I hiked on, my awareness was again refreshed of how the woods are all related, but each curve brings just a bit different place to be blessed to be in. On the longer uphills that stretched on and on, I was vaguely aware of differences in my legs from the increased exertion (a couch potato would think it was discomfort, but I know it to be the feeling of using my body), but did not slacken my pace. I was in "the zone", and neither needed nor wanted to reduce how much I was able to see. Walking on, I was a bit cold, despite the body heat produced by my exertions, and reflected once on what I had read a time ago about how people who sit down in the snow when cold and tired may never get up again, and thought of that as a metaphor for most people. I think most people sat down in their own version of the snow long ago, never to get up again, but weren't tired of anything but the inadequacies of their own life and mind, not from having exerted themselves beyond the limits of their current conditioning.

Near the end, I saw the site lights approaching. I felt the need for sleep (which I often skimp on a bit to be able to indulge in my longer training hikes when working in the field) pass through my body, and again felt mild aches in my feet. My body felt some relief as I approached the day's end. My mind felt some regret; although the discipline of the trail was over, so were its joys. The snow on my jacket and hat somehow changed meaning as I walked through the door of the living quarters; they were but dampness that would take some hours to dry -- no longer were they a bit of nature I was as intimate with as a child is with its mother's body.

My coworker was on the couch as I came in -- smoking, 60 pounds heavier than me and shorter, watching a TV program I knew in under 3 seconds I would pay money to avoid seeing, with dishes adorned with unhealthy food remnants scattered near him, and exclaimed in surprise from his repose "You've been walking all this time?!?". I just responded affirmatively, that that is just what I do. How could I tell him I had the better evening of the two of us, and that he could not just pay money for the deep experience I just had?

There is a quarter-mile-long set of cliffs above me on one section of my route of which I am intellectually aware would be an ideal place for a mountain lion to crouch above and spring down onto prey. I have been told by people I find credible that they have seen enormous feline paw prints in the snow outside their work buildings in the past, and have read on news sites of occasional killings of humans by these great cats. Part of me wants to walk on the far edge of the rough lane of a road, where the footing is worse, but is psychologically more settling. I master the twinge of fear part of me knows when I pass this spot every time, and walk on the side a hiker would choose, closer in. I know that if a lion (rare, but not nonexistent) sprung on me in earnest, I would die. However, this is where and when I can walk right now, and if I did not walk, I would slowly certainly die anyway, of a slow low rotting, as my coworker has chosen to do. I choose the chance of death over its certainity.

Each time a vehicle passes (it may be five times during my hike, or none), I clamber into the woods on the side. shutting off my small dim light if I am using it then, endeavoring to put at least 2 trees between my hiker's body and the passing machine that means dust in dry times, glaring light at night, and a foreign noise every time. I have learned that people will often stop and offer me a ride, and are confused when I refuse, often miles on marginal terrain from anything. How can I tell them I want the other half of my meal, so to speak, and that their well-intentioned offer would be to deprive me, to take something away from me that I have earned? I don't have the words for it, so I smile, just say "No thanks, I'm out for a walk.", and begin walking again, before they drag me into conversation that is not the reason I am standing in mud with a pack miles from my food and bed.

When I am old, and my body has become like a 30-year-old Yugo, I don't want to have never done anything. I want to know that I stood on mountaintops whose crests and views I earned, that only those like me in this essential way also got to see the same way. I want with a deepness words don't scratch to know that I did more than work, bathe, eat, brush my teeth, screw some woman I don't really know or care about (or does about me), waste my wages, repeat, until death. (This unspoken urge is why many men have children, or write poetry, I think.) The line from the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby" comes to mind: "She was buried along with her name."; not my fate if I can help it, and I feel I take a step away from that each time I put on my pack and boots. No one will have hiked the AT just the way I did. Too, if fate and I can manage it, I may one day found another trail, this one in Alaska, my other outdoor region of reverence.

I'm not done, but I'm out of words for now.

The Hog
03-26-2005, 18:32
Very well said, Minnesota. I, for one, "get it."

03-30-2005, 19:06
physically and mentally challenging, to get in shape, time to think. also to meet good people but that didn't happen too much.

04-15-2005, 03:47
I have been on the "graveyard" shift for 19 years and counting. NINETEEN years of my life missing the days.

I WILL get on the AT in spring of 07. (hopefully '06) I have wasted enough of my life...

nuff said...

"ME & U"
04-15-2005, 13:05
Into my mind sears the thought becoming wild again! While I hate myself for what I've become in this world full of you... that thought of becoming wild again festers inside me and becons, all that is tried and true!

04-18-2005, 23:40
...to see if I could.

Next question: Why do it again?
Answer:To go without reason or purpose. Just to go.

"...I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson

01-12-2006, 20:43
I'm going to find a little boy that got forgotten in the woods a long time ago.

01-13-2006, 09:57
Years ago, I read this in an Appalachian Trail Newsletter:

The mute beauty of passage,
The hope of walking cares and morality and regrets into the dust,
The simple focus on taking the next step until there are no more to take
That is all there is here.

I have kept this on an index card with me since there. I haven't found a better way to sum it up since.

04-21-2006, 19:09
My mother gave me the "bug" she has been section hiking the A.T. for the last 5 years and has completed about 800 miles. She goes back every year for 3-4 weeks and does more. For me there are several reasons that I am planning a through hike. Starting with the highest, I love the outdoors. I love to be outside and to me, there is nothing better than walking in the woods with a light rain. I love the smell of a light rain on earth. Among other reasons is the people, I cant wait to meet other thru-hikers and other legends on the trail. People at work often ask me "why would you do that?" well, why not maybe I am not happy with a "normal" life maybe I dont want to waste my life working everyday 9-5, maybe I am just crazy. Either way I love the A.T. Everyday when I am at work just after the sun has come up at about 930am I go outside on a beautifull spring morning and close my eyes and imagine that I am hiking the A.T. and feel the breeze and enjoy life. Thanks so much for the chance to let that out...lol ShawnR80
Planning for 2008

04-22-2006, 06:31
First, I have only hiked about 80 miles of the AT in three different states, so I am not an expert per se on the AT or about the AT, but I can tell you that from the first foot that I placed on the AT, I was fascinated. I have intentions of hiking the whole AT come my retirement in maybe 4 years. I figure it will take me and my brother that long to assemble, collect, save, train, etc., for the thrill of our lives! But to answer the questions, I think, my opinion, is that those of us who find ourselves doing hiking and contemplating these huge hikes, like the AT, we are satisfying our "natural" intelligence. Howard Gardner, a famous Harvard psychologist, maintains that one of the human intelligences, that typically we under-value in our society, is a nature-intelligence that some people have. My wife for example has four degrees, she hates the outdoors. You might ask how we stay together after nearly 36 years of marriage...well it's not because she likes to hike, camp or otherwise be in the outdoors. For her, her intelligence is NOT in the area of nature. Mine is...and I have finally come to recognize what Dr. Gardner maintains. If we have this attribute, we have a natural tendency or propensity for having this part of life fulfilled. You certainly can't fulfill it sitting in front of a computer screen. So we head out, we strike out into the unknown, but at the same time feel at "home" and "connected" to this otherwise alien environment. I felt the same way when I used to scuba dive a great deal (like 3-5 times a week) in my earlier days. The "harmony" that some talk about while hiking, the sense of be "one" with the universe (to borrow from Kung Fu) probably speaks to our inability to describe and language-ize what we're feeling. So we use modern language conventions to describe something that you CAN'T really describe, it is a feeling or sense or perception. So we just go out into the woods and sit. Or we stop and pause and examine the smallest of plants or bugs...thinking of how marvelous it is. We don't even know what it is...it doesn't make any difference, because we know (intuitively) that we understand! So why do we hike, why do we enjoy the outdoors, why do we like communing with "mother nature?" I think it has to do with our nature-intelligence. We should thank God that not everyone feels this way, otherwise some jerk would pave the damn trail! I hope that helps contribute to the conversation. By the way, my trail name is "paradigm shift." That's a whole other story! Have fun, accept your being pulled into the woods, understand it's your NATURE! (Remember Aesop's Fable about the scorpion and the frog!):sun

04-22-2006, 07:11
Thank you fellow hikers! This tread has helped me remember why I hike. It is joy to realize there are other individuals with the same kinship and spirit to the woods. Maybe I found my roots after all? Keep up the great threads and on at this forum. What a great thing to share like this.

Lone Wolf
04-22-2006, 07:48
Purpose of a thru-hike? To get all the trail magic you can and to get drunk in towns and get hostels closed down.

neighbor dave
04-22-2006, 08:20
Purpose of a thru-hike? To get all the trail magic you can and to get drunk in towns and get hostels closed down.

:-? and cause anyting less iz fer kilt wearin' wannabes!!:jump

04-22-2006, 18:25
Purpose of a thru-hike? To get all the trail magic you can and to get drunk in towns and get hostels closed down.

Yeeeeeebuddy. DAT'S what I'm talkin' about! :jump

Tin Man
04-22-2006, 18:35
Purpose of a thru-hike? To get all the trail magic you can and to get drunk in towns and get hostels closed down.

Dang! All that drinking made me forget. Thanks for the reminder Wolf. Now, I just gotta get me time for a thru-hike. 2019 is looking good. :D

04-27-2006, 23:20
Why thru hike? To get the hell away from this rat race we live in for a meaningful length of time. Among a lot of other reasons.