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stonedflea
09-04-2010, 22:47
hey y'all. =)

i know the success rate for completing a thru-hike is relatively low, but i was just wondering how many of y'all have attempted a thru-hike and whether you finished or not? if you didn't finish, why not?

i am contemplating my first thru hike this upcoming march. i've not done any LD hiking; the most i've done at a time is a day hike, but thru-hiking is something i'd really like to do.

i'm the kind of person who, when i set my mind to something, will finish it come hell or high water. barring personal injury or personal events outside of my control, i can visualize myself at springer and then six months later, having my picture taken beside the katahdin sign. =)

i guess i'm basically asking, "if you didn't make it, why not?" did you sprain your ankle six weeks in? did you receive news of an event back home that took you off the trail? did you just have unrealistic expectations of the level of difficulty of the hike? or did you go into it fully aware of how hard it would be, say that you were going to do it anyway, and then simply "have enough"?

thanks in advance for the response.

IronGutsTommy
09-04-2010, 23:01
i believe youve listed the most common failure reasons. family deaths, weddings, ankle foot or leg problems due to falls or stress fracture, lyme disease.. im attempting my first thru and have the resolve and resources to do it.. we shall see how the story plays out. im making sure to have the extra cash that if a malady does sideline me for a few weeks, i can heal up and get back on the trail. Ive accomplished everything ive tried when my heart mind and willpower were in it 100 percent. id like to see what the success rate is tho that would be interesting.. if i had to ballpark it, and this is just one guys thought, id say around 1 third, 33 percent.. i dunno

4eyedbuzzard
09-04-2010, 23:03
I got bored with it after 450 miles.
As I said to someone else here on WB recently, I loved the idea of thru-hiking, I didn't like the reality of thru-hiking.

IronGutsTommy
09-04-2010, 23:09
yeah thatd be the only thing that would stop me.. myself.. i want to thru cause its something i want to do, but not something i feel i have to do... if i decide im done hiking, like forrest gump, ill just stop running

Grampie
09-05-2010, 19:32
I got bored with it after 450 miles.
As I said to someone else here on WB recently, I loved the idea of thru-hiking, I didn't like the reality of thru-hiking.

A thru-hike is a hard job..Too many folks just don't like hard work..

4eyedbuzzard
09-05-2010, 20:06
A thru-hike is a hard job..Too many folks just don't like hard work..

A thru-hike isn't a job, just like climbing Everest isn't a job - unless you're a Sherpa. Hiking is a hobby and a thru-hike is a long vacation pusuing that hobby - hopefully for enjoyment and not to prove anything to anybody except perhaps one's self. Like many other avocations, that it's a challenging undertaking requiring extreme physical and mental effort and sacrifice is a given.

Lone Wolf
09-05-2010, 20:38
A thru-hike isn't a job, just like climbing Everest isn't a job - unless you're a Sherpa. Hiking is a hobby and a thru-hike is a long vacation pusuing that hobby - hopefully for enjoyment and not to prove anything to anybody except perhaps one's self. Like many other avocations, that it's a challenging undertaking requiring extreme physical and mental effort and sacrifice is a given.

a thru-hike is a marathon. most who attempt a thru-hike have never backpacked. fantasy and reality...

MuleDeer
09-05-2010, 22:42
I've noticed that too, a lot of people who try havn't had any experience in the field that they are throwing themselves into. I'm setting out next March, after 2 years of consideration, and 5 years of backpacking.

Given with that I had a local friend who did it with zero experience, he was asking me what kind of backpack to get 2 weeks before he left. took him 7.5 months to do it, but he made it.

IronGutsTommy
09-05-2010, 22:54
if theres a will, theres a way

DaveSail
09-05-2010, 22:57
To date , about 11,400 have completed the whole trail ; 3/4 of them
" Thru " . Completion rate is about 20 % . Say 2000 start at Springer in the Spring . 400 will finish . The great majority give - up before getting through Virginia . Some after only a day or two ! DVW

mweinstone
09-05-2010, 22:59
a thruhike is a fart

Memphis Tim
09-05-2010, 23:25
Try to give yourself at least six months (you may find that you prefer a faster pace and finish in five but give yourself the option) You want the freedom to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and you don't want downtime due to illness or injury prevent you from finishing in one season. You should have about $5k in the bank and no fixed dates to be in any particular place. Start slow and go at your own pace. Keep an open mind and you will meet amazing people who will fall in and out of your life over the course of the hike. Adaptability is key.
The one thing I can tell you is that no one making generalizations can predict who will and won't finish. Give it your best shot.

peakbagger
09-06-2010, 06:52
A friend and I did a extended hike in 2002 with no real end date. We were going south bound (in virginia) but were north of most of the thruhikers and had the trail and shelters to ourselves. After about 4 weeks we encountered the first wave of the northbounders and it started to be less fun. After the fifth week we both decided independently that we prefered doing section hikes of one to two weeks duration. We finished the trail a couple of years later doing it in one to two week chunks off season.

GeneralLee10
09-06-2010, 08:37
Me 1835miles, I came home on fathersday before the miles posted. And found out that my wife had a health condition she was not telling me about. Had not told me for two years. Till I came home, then I went back out made it to Crawford Notch, said to myself this is not worth it. Time with family is. Does it bother me?, yes, will I go back?, yes. Was her health issue/condition a seriuos one, I'm not sure at this time. She has a cysts on her penial(spelling?) gland in her brain. Which is the cause of many problems, headahces, dizzy spells, and not able to sleep, a few others too.
I made many good friends along the way, it was fun as hell to hike what I have. Easy?, nope, it is like a marathonday after day. Does it get old yes and no. The whole trip was the best time of my life. The people you meet along the way and hike with make it all worth while. A lot of very good folks out on the trail.

jersey joe
09-06-2010, 08:38
hey y'all. =)

i'm the kind of person who, when i set my mind to something, will finish it come hell or high water. barring personal injury or personal events outside of my control, i can visualize myself at springer and then six months later, having my picture taken beside the katahdin sign. =)
Being stubborn shouldn't be undervalued as a quality needed to complete a thru hike!

sbhikes
09-06-2010, 10:31
It does get to be a job after a while. On the hike I was the meanest boss I ever had.

I did not attempt a thru. I had planned to hike the state of California and leave it at that. I did not make it because partway through the hike I bought a pair of shoes that ended up crippling me. It took 6 weeks before my feet didn't hurt anymore.

I decided I would return to the trail and finish it. I succeeded due to determination more than anything. There were lots of reasons to quit and lots of days I wanted to quit but I wouldn't. I'm glad I didn't because it was the most wonderful thing I ever did.

You are out there long enough that it stops feeling like a vacation and starts feeling like it's your normal life. There are lots of days when you might start thinking of other things you used to do and miss them. I missed my pets, I missed playing my fiddle in the park with my friends, I missed sleeping in and reading books. I even actually missed working because at least I did different things throughout the day. That's how hiking becomes like a job. Once in a while you take a zero day and then it's back to work.

Bearpaw
09-06-2010, 11:02
When I thru-hiked in 1999, it was a drought year. The usual cold spring rains were not bad. I started March 24, and I got rained on maybe a dozen days of the 5 weeks from Springer to Damascus. The longest sustained rain I dealt with was the final four days into Damascus. I only got one snowfall, on the 4th day of walking.

So there were a LOT more folks making it that first big chunk. That translated into over 20% of those that started actually finishing, a much higher percentage than usual, since in the 80's and 90's the average completion rate was only around 10%. On the flip side, there were more folks than usual quitting in Pennsylania and further north due to intense heat and long stretches with unreliable water sources. There were a lot of folks flip-flopping from PA and NJ and NY up to Katahdin and heading south.

But the better weather at the start meant a LOT more folks finished.

With the heavy southern snow of this past year, I wager the percentage of finishers was down a good bit.

Don H
09-06-2010, 13:38
a thruhike is a fart

Care to expand?

Do they both stink?
Are they both here one moment and gone the next?
Are they both very personal endeavors?


Just wondering.

stonedflea
09-06-2010, 17:33
Being stubborn shouldn't be undervalued as a quality needed to complete a thru hike!

lol... i think this is one of the first times that someone's told me my stubbornness might actually do me some good. ;D


You are out there long enough that it stops feeling like a vacation and starts feeling like it's your normal life.

that's actually what i'm afraid of. =/ i'm afraid i'll get out there and love being stinky and dirty and living in the woods and i won't want to return to civilization, haha.

thanks for the responses thus far, y'all!

sbhikes
09-07-2010, 12:23
that's actually what i'm afraid of. =/ i'm afraid i'll get out there and love being stinky and dirty and living in the woods and i won't want to return to civilization, haha. [/FONT]


You won't want to return to civilization. I didn't. I still don't. I like being clean, but I don't like the pointlessness of civilization. Really, what is the point of all this?

4eyedbuzzard
09-07-2010, 12:32
You won't want to return to civilization. I didn't. I still don't. I like being clean, but I don't like the pointlessness of civilization. Really, what is the point of all this?
People found over the centuries that civilization made life easier and less harsh. Civilization does have a lot of negatives, but the reality check is when we start criticizing it while sitting around camp with all our titanium, aluminum, nylon, and plastic and abundant food without giving credit to how it positively impacts our existence. For most of us, it beats wandering around the savannah wondering where our next scavenged meal will come from.

Old Hiker
09-07-2010, 12:56
a thruhike is a fart

matthewski!

You don't know me, but I haven't seen any posts from you in a LONG time. Hope everything is going well. Welcome back!

Dogwood
09-07-2010, 15:38
StonedFlea, there are an infinite number of reasons why those who intentionally set out on a course to complete something, that is actually follow through with their ideas, dreams, goals, etc, fail to follow through. True, even if one doesn't follow through/quit we can learn from those experiences and from the experiences of other's failures.

However, we tend to get what we focus upon, so don't study/focus primarily on those who quit or why they have quit, if indeed your ultimate definition of success is to complete what you start, that is to entirely thru-hike a trail. If it's your intention to finish a thru-hike might I suggest you focus on the how, why, with what attitude, etc exemplify those who meet with success rather than those who have quit!

Bronk
09-08-2010, 04:22
I was mostly bored with it...felt I had nothing to prove...after 850 miles I knew I could do the rest if I wanted to...I just didn't want to...got home and found out I had Lyme.

I liked the idea of not having to be anywhere...if I got to the next shelter/road/town/landmark today then fine...if not, that was OK too, as long as I didn't run out of food...and I did that a couple times because I spent 4 days laying in my tent by a stream reading a book. I think part of it was that I like being in the woods more than I like hiking...I don't really care if I get anywhere...I just like being out there. So it was nice to spend 4 months with no timetable and no responsibility...I could go back to the real world any time I wanted, and eventually I did...

Spokes
09-08-2010, 07:43
I'll agree with others who said the biggest problem is being forced off the trail with a debilitating injury. Everything else is just a bunch of sniveling.

To paraphrase a line from the opening speech in the movie "Patton":

"Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, "What did you do on your thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail?" -- you won't have to say, "Well, I yellow blazed and slack packed mostly then dropped out in Virginia."

10-K
09-08-2010, 08:11
People found over the centuries that civilization made life easier and less harsh. Civilization does have a lot of negatives, but the reality check is when we start criticizing it while sitting around camp with all our titanium, aluminum, nylon, and plastic and abundant food without giving credit to how it positively impacts our existence. For most of us, it beats wandering around the savannah wondering where our next scavenged meal will come from.

Couldn't have said it better myself. I'll only add that it's hard to play like Jeremiah Johnson when most of your gear was made by children in 3rd world countries.

People are just so extreme... I find it best to live in the middle. I like the solitude of the woods and trail but I like tetracycline, the internet, a good dentist with modern equipment and I think it's really, really cool that I got to watch a human being walk on the moon. I love it all, mostly I'm just glad to be alive.

Doc Mike
09-08-2010, 09:12
Those that follow there dreams to completion are always proud of it. Those that don't always have an excuse. The reality is some people have the drive to finish what they start and others don't. Others hedge ahead of time and say I would like to do this but if it doesn't work out thats ok also.

Doc Mike

Pedaling Fool
09-08-2010, 10:02
You won't want to return to civilization. I didn't. I still don't. I like being clean, but I don't like the pointlessness of civilization. Really, what is the point of all this?
Life is pointless. What's the point of it when it sprouts up and all is good then an asteroid slams into earth and all is obliterated. Personally I think it's mother nature just amusing herself. And I have to admit I kind of get a kick out of watching things explode -- it's kind of cool.

Hikemor
09-08-2010, 10:07
I didn't complete my thru-hike because of injury (tendonitis).
Keep an open mind. In an activity as unconstrained as LD hiking, you have the opportunity to define "success" for yourself. However, sometimes medical/personal/financial situations do demand a reordering of priorities.

Spokes
09-08-2010, 14:32
Life is pointless. What's the point of it when it sprouts up and all is good then an asteroid slams into earth and all is obliterated. Personally I think it's mother nature just amusing herself. And I have to admit I kind of get a kick out of watching things explode -- it's kind of cool.

John, sounds like you've explained the concept of entropy.... that is, all systems in the universe move from a state of order to a state of disorder.

10-K
09-08-2010, 14:59
Those that follow there dreams to completion are always proud of it. Those that don't always have an excuse. The reality is some people have the drive to finish what they start and others don't. Others hedge ahead of time and say I would like to do this but if it doesn't work out thats ok also.

Doc Mike

How true, how true... But some dreams require timing.... If you were planning a thru hike would you pick the week your residency started to start your hike to Maine?

Just because someone can't drop everything *right* *now* and chase their dream doesn't mean that they're not following their dream. It just means (maybe) that they understand their priorities.

"Following your dream" can also be a facade for an unwillingness or failure to follow through on your obligations - an escape under a false pretense.

"Following your dream" doesn't mean anything really.

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 15:15
Life is pointless. What's the point of it ...?

If Life is so pointless what keeps you from swimming so far out into the Atlantic Ocean until you can't swim anymore and simply give up? Go swim with the fishes.

Doc Mike
09-08-2010, 15:20
How true, how true... But some dreams require timing.... If you were planning a thru hike would you pick the week your residency started to start your hike to Maine?

Just because someone can't drop everything *right* *now* and chase their dream doesn't mean that they're not following their dream. It just means (maybe) that they understand their priorities.

"Following your dream" can also be a facade for an unwillingness or failure to follow through on your obligations - an escape under a false pretense.

"Following your dream" doesn't mean anything really.


No wouldn't have picked that time it is too hot in July. lol
It just seems to be a common theme for some to start but not finish (wether it is a thru hike, sports team, or other activity) and the excuses run the gammit but are consistent among those that quit.:D

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 15:24
People found over the centuries that civilization made life easier and less harsh. Civilization does have a lot of negatives, but the reality check is when we start criticizing it while sitting around camp with all our titanium, aluminum, nylon, and plastic and abundant food without giving credit to how it positively impacts our existence. For most of us, it beats wandering around the savannah wondering where our next scavenged meal will come from.

Indeed! I guess, depending on who we are, when we are, and where we are, we can all define civilization differently. But there is no denying that at the current moment the lure of the positive attributes of civilization are keeping me inside in this library at this computer and not outside in the driving rain that has lasted the past two days!

10-K
09-08-2010, 15:24
If Life is so pointless what keeps you from swimming so far out into the Atlantic Ocean until you can't swim anymore and simply give up? Go swim with the fishes.

But take a SPOT in case you change your mind.

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 15:26
... I like the solitude of the woods and trail but I like tetracycline, the internet, a good dentist with modern equipment and I think it's really, really cool that I got to watch a human being walk on the moon. I love it all, mostly I'm just glad to be alive.

Nicely stated!

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 15:38
Following your dream" doesn't mean anything really. - 10-K

Tell that to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin!

Might also try pushing that idea on Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Lance Armstrong, or if they were alive Thomas Alva Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., and Roger Bannister!

Or, perhaps, anyone associated with the 1980 U.S. Gold Medal Winning Hockey Team!

Mr. Right
09-08-2010, 15:42
There are two sides to a successful thru-hike: the physical and the mental.

I personally think the physical is the easy part. Most of those I know who dropped out, did so because of physical damage that they directly caused. That is, they didn't fall and break a leg. Rather, they tried to hike 23 miles their first week, or they gave themselves shin splints hiking 14 miles a day everyday for the first month. Baring some accident, simply taking your time and never pushing yourself too hard will result in a healthy hike.

The mental is the tougher part. Those who dropped not for self-inflicted physical issues, said they got bored. And it's true. There can be something stagnant feeling about waking up at dawn, walking all day, falling asleep at dark and then walking up to do the same the next day. What keeps you on the Trail at the hard times? I found that having expectations back home helps. That is, giving yourself a big party before you leave, telling everyone what you're going to do. They then expect you to do it. Also, going into it with the mentality that you're going to be sweaty, wet, cold, hot, thirsty, stinky, tired, bored for six months, then you'll expect the bad times and be pleasantly surprised how often you love everything that is happening to you out there. Also, and perhaps strongest, your fellow hikers can really help motivate you. If you meet a group you really like, stick with them. Most of the "bored" hikers I mentioned above were over half way done and decided to go ahead of a group of friends or took two weeks off and couldn't catch up with their friends.

All in all, patience and mental preparedness are your best tools for a successful Thru-hike.

10-K
09-08-2010, 15:47
Following your dream" doesn't mean anything really. - 10-K

Tell that to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin!

Might also try pushing that idea on Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Lance Armstrong, or if they were alive Thomas Alva Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., and Roger Bannister!

Or, perhaps, anyone associated with the 1980 U.S. Gold Medal Winning Hockey Team!

What I meant was just saying "I'm following my dream." doesn't mean anything. They're just words (that's why I had them in quotations).

Anybody can say, "Well, I'm just following my dream." but we have such a deep ability to deceive ourselves that we often have an ulterior motive for doing it.

stonedflea
09-08-2010, 16:00
I suggest you focus on the how, why, with what attitude, etc exemplify those who meet with success rather than those who have quit!

this is a very good suggestion! look to the bright side and ask the few who managed how they did it, rather than look to the masses as to why they quit. thanks for the different viewpoint. =)


To paraphrase a line from the opening speech in the movie "Patton":

"Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, "What did you do on your thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail?" -- you won't have to say, "Well, I yellow blazed and slack packed mostly then dropped out in Virginia."

i really, really like that quote... it made me laugh. thank you for it. =)

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 16:03
Mr. Right, for some, there is also the spiritual side. The spiritual impulse/flow/Zen, etc9whatever you feel comfortable calling it) that can supersede the physical and mental aspects of a hike. When I get to that place hiking goes beyond just the need to physically grind it out or having a mental toughness. It's an amazing way to live, and hike!

Dogwood
09-08-2010, 16:12
What I meant was just saying "I'm following my dream." doesn't mean anything. They're just words (that's why I had them in quotations).

Anybody can say, "Well, I'm just following my dream." but we have such a deep ability to deceive ourselves that we often have an ulterior motive for doing it.

For some, saying "I'm following my dream" is only a meaningless bunch of words. That's all they will ever be, for some. But words do have meaning! Words are the foundation of a thought. And a thought can develop into a belief. And a belief, in its truest form, moves a person to action!

leaftye
09-08-2010, 21:08
There's dreaming and then there's planning. Planning to me means taking action. That is, doing unbiased research, training and carefully selecting appropriate gear.

Pedaling Fool
09-09-2010, 08:27
If Life is so pointless what keeps you from swimming so far out into the Atlantic Ocean until you can't swim anymore and simply give up? Go swim with the fishes.
Donít you see, thatís the genius of Mother Nature? She gave us this self-preservation mechanism that makes us fight like hell for our lives, this is what provides the entertainment. How much fun would it be if we just rolled overÖ

River Dog
09-09-2010, 13:19
I thru-hiked this year from March 15th-August 12th GA - ME. I had never backpacked, but had plenty of experience with day hikes and weekend camping trips. I finished on Katahdin with several other thru-hikers who had become my friends; all of which had never done any long distance hiking prior to their AT thru-hikes.

The key to success, in my opinion, is making your mind up to finish what you start. That being said though, there are too many factors involved to say that being stubborn is the only thing that will get you from one end of the trail to the other. Luck and resourcefulness were equally important to me and by that I mean: lucky to not have any major injuries or illnesse, and to know when to change your plans and adapt to what the trail throws at you. Experience is always a plus, but it's not going to determine whether or not you finish, especially when were talking about walking; don't over complicate a long walk in the woods-not a bill bryson pun, sorry.

Oh, and don't carry a heavy pack, that can be overcome by stubborness but I promise your trip will be exponetially more enjoyable with a lighter pack.

Luddite
09-09-2010, 14:12
Really, what is the point of all this?

A question I ask myself everyday.

I didn't finish because I got mono at NOC and then my Mom was in a serious car accident while I was recovering in Hiawassee. That was in '06. Thru-hiking isn't always a once in a lifetime thing, though, and I'm thru-hiking next year.

Luddite
09-09-2010, 14:14
Couldn't have said it better myself. I'll only add that it's hard to play like Jeremiah Johnson when most of your gear was made by children in 3rd world countries.



Haha True.

stranger
09-09-2010, 15:30
I've attempted 4 thru-hikes and completed 2 of them.

On the AT, I'm 0 for 2.

My reasons...I get bored of hiking after about 500 miles.

Dogwood
09-09-2010, 17:08
I've attempted 4 thru-hikes and completed 2 of them.

On the AT, I'm 0 for 2.

My reasons...I get bored of hiking after about 500 miles.

Stranger, perhaps you might find ways of not getting bored or simply take on shorter thru-hikes!

I've heard this before as to why hikers quit their hikes. Is this what you are going to tell your wife/husband/children/significant other after a few yrs? Is this what you are going to tell the mortgage company you make your house payments to after a few yrs? Find ways not to get bored!

On my long distance hikes, foremost, I keep from dwelling on the thought, "I'm bored." If you focus on something long enough you tend to get what you focus on! I keep from getting bored by not just thinking about hiking. Some find the reverse of this helps them to complete a thru-hike; they settle into "grinding it out." I really like what SLY once posted here on WB - "thru-hiking isn't just about hiking." I find this can be so true, and, also keep a thru-hiker from getting bored, all the while possibly enhancing the depth and breadth of their hike. I think some hikers miss SLY's well earned wise comment.

I sometimes carry little plastic coated foldout phamphlets of local flora, fauna, geology, etc. Identifying plants, animals, trees, insects, geological formations, even things on a map, keep the boredom at bay. I also like going into towns learning about new architecture, culture, customs, art, botanical gardens, local history, museums, etc. No joke, on my current thru-hike, one of my lasting impressions was watching someone consume a 1/2 lb buffalo buger and a 5 lb steak! Perhaps, most of all when I start feeling a thru-hike is becoming too much like a job I slow down to see what I'm missing. Hiking should not be described as "boring!" Often, in some aspect, it's a case of not appreciating what I'm "getting to do." Joy comes back! Hard to feel bored when you appreciate what you are doing and you are joyous when you are doing it!

Lastly, as silly as this sounds and mistaken as I've been, I used to think doing a thru-hike meant having to hike 1000's of miles at a time or on well known thru-hiking trails. Not so! There are plenty of thru-hiking trails/routes lasting from a few days and under 50 miles to trails/routes lasting well in excess of 3000 miles and over 1 yr in duration. Chunk it down to find a hike that's right for you(duration, miles, financial situation, time off from work, distance willing to travel to a trail, concentration level, fitness level, etc). So many of us, including myself at times, get so caught up in having/wanting to do a well known long distance thru-hike that, perhaps, it would be better to take on a section hike or shorter less known hike?