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  1. #1
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    Default Failed Thru-hike attempts. What happened?

    I would like to here some experiences from people who started a thru hike but left the trail. How long did you hike? why did you leave the trail? Any words for would be thru hikers?

    I ask this because I myself am a failed thru hiker for 2006. 419 miles from amacalola falls to Laurel Fork, TN. Hiked too far, Too fast, isolation, boredom, and a complete overwealming, uncontrollable impulse to quit. Which I did.

    I'm planning to return and try a 2nd time using lessons learned.

  2. #2

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    Do as you please but if I were you I'd just start where you left off (or perhaps even go southbound). Atleast this way, if after another 400 miles you feel like quitting again you've seen that much more trail and can finish at another time. If you make it all the way north, you could come back and hike the 1st 400 miles over again if completely the enitire trail in one season is your goal.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by esmithz View Post
    Hiked too far, Too fast, isolation, boredom, and a complete overwealming, uncontrollable impulse to quit. Which I did.

    I'm planning to return and try a 2nd time using lessons learned.
    What lessons did you learn? I think that would be helpful to know. If you were bored on the trail, and felt isolated, how do you plan to address those issues on another attempt?

    Thanks in advance.
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

  4. #4
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Good point. It is sometimes easy to identify a problem, coming up with workable solutions and implementing them are not always easy. Simply knowing a problem can happen is not going to stop it if it happens again.

    As to the thread, I am interested in hearing this. The only time I ever felt like bailing on a hike was when I got lonely. I pushed through it by physically challenging myself - it didn't change that I was lonely, but it did take my mind off of the problem.
    SGT Rock
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    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    On my PCT attempt, I had to pull off around the 1200 mile point because of injury to my left foot and ankle. I'll get back out ther some day.

    My AT thruhike I also got injured, but was able to hike through it and go the entire distance.

    Words of advice? You have to want to be out there. Don't just do it because you didn't make it the first time. Do it because you want to be hiking. The end shouldn't be the goal, the journey should be the goal.

    Also, take things along with you to do other than hiking if you're getting bored... for me it was books. I'd read every night, sometimes even cut my hiking day a little short to read. It was a good way to keep the brain occupied. Also, music can help from time to time, but I found if I listened to it too much it irritated me. Ended up mainly just listening to it in camp some nights from time to time.

    Listen to your body. If it tells you to stop, or slow down, or speed up, do it. Don't hike just to keep up with people, or because you have nothing else to do. Do what your body is telling you to do.

    Anyway, congrats on your 400+ miles!
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

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    Thanks Sly for the advice. I seem to have this idea that doing a full thru hike in one season is heroic and I want to have bragging rights. I think this is the wrong attitude and is probably contributed to my burnout on the trail this year.

  7. #7
    Registered User Ewker's Avatar
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    Trail Journals has a section called Journals from Hikers Who Got Off the Trail. There has been some interesting stories as to why they got off. It includes all the trails

    http://www.trailjournals.com/journals_type.cfm?status=4
    Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves

  8. #8
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    Got bored. Bad attitude. Wasn't having fun. The heat & humidity were getting to me. Hard to stay clean.. a week without showers sucks when you're hiking in the heat all day. OK, I'm a weenie, I admit it. I did about 650 miles, quit near Blacksburg. Never did find a hiking partner I could stay with for more than a few days. Did the 100-mile Wilderness later that season so I could meet up with the folks I'd started with down south. That was fun!

    I'm much happier hiking sections. Since '90 I've filled in the gaps between Monson and Lehigh Gap. It's been 16 years... 30 years if you count all those years of aimless red-eyed stomping thru the Whites.

    These days I think of the AT as the "framework" for my hiking... but not the end-all. But seriously psyched to do the final 600 mile section in '07.

  9. #9
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Hey, thru-hiking isn't going to be for everyone either. I suppose some people would be more happy if they figure that out and just do long sections when they can. Sometimes you gotta try to find out.
    SGT Rock
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    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  10. #10
    Addicted Hiker and Donating Member Hammock Hanger's Avatar
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    First time after hiking 650 miles with a sewing needle in my foot I was in so much pain, kept hiking but at 900+ had to leave the trail for good. -- Second time after 1000+ miles I was rushed to hospital with West Nile Fever amd Lyme. Third time (different trail) at @ 700+ I was missing home and the group dynamics were getting me down.

    If you were lonely perhaps next time you should start later.
    Hammock Hanger -- Life is my journey and I'm surely not rushing to the "summit"...:D

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  11. #11
    Registered User Michele's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by terrapin_too View Post
    Got bored. Bad attitude. Wasn't having fun. The heat & humidity were getting to me. Hard to stay clean.. a week without showers sucks when you're hiking in the heat all day. OK, I'm a weenie, I admit it. I did about 650 miles, quit near Blacksburg. Never did find a hiking partner I could stay with for more than a few days. Did the 100-mile Wilderness later that season so I could meet up with the folks I'd started with down south. That was fun!

    I'm much happier hiking sections. Since '90 I've filled in the gaps between Monson and Lehigh Gap. It's been 16 years... 30 years if you count all those years of aimless red-eyed stomping thru the Whites.

    These days I think of the AT as the "framework" for my hiking... but not the end-all. But seriously psyched to do the final 600 mile section in '07.
    I don't think anyone is a weenie for realizing that they aren't having fun and then doing something about it. I call that good judgement personally.
    The Most Important Things In Life Are Not Things....

  12. #12
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    In 04 I had to quit for injury after 700 miles. Got a stress fracture in my foot and bursitis in my knee. The weight of my pack (45-50 lbs.) mostly contributed to it, and the weight also made me dread every grueling ascent.

    Still wanting to thru-hike, in 05 I got new gear and cut my weight down to 23 lbs. fully loaded. Knowing all that extra gear and clothing I didn't need to take also helped. That light pack was a big factor in my successful thru that year.

    I did re-hike the 700 miles from the previous year. I wanted my hike to be a traditional thru-hike, end-to-end, and I'm very glad I did those miles over again. I'm glad I did Springer to Katahdin. I remembered exactly where I had to get off the Trail in 04 (702.1 in fact), that it was my first goal early on to pass that point, and I was able to put Katahdin out of my mind for a while.

  13. #13
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    I''ll second that- the entries on Trail Journals for those who left is very interesting.

    I guess I already know this is not going to be fun. I'm not doing it for fun. So that is out of my system. It's going to be really tough. There are going to be great days and lousy days.

    I'm going on it to find out more about myself, others, to see the trail blessings that come about when you least expect it, to see the grand mountains, rivers, foliage, towns, to just walk THE AT. Also I'm doing it for my son so he gets this opportunity. And since this is something that has been in me FOREVER it seems, I think of it as my destiny.







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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blissful View Post
    I''ll second that- the entries on Trail Journals for those who left is very interesting.

    I guess I already know this is not going to be fun. I'm not doing it for fun. So that is out of my system. It's going to be really tough. There are going to be great days and lousy days.

    Life's too short to deliberately spend 5 or 6 months of it not having fun. I hope this attitude works for you... but I know it wouldn't work for me.

    Another mistake some folks make is feeling the need to "prove" something -- to themselves, their friends, or whoever. I dunno, but that's not gonna cut it for me. Nobody knows what it's like on the trail... until they've done it or tried it for themselves. Why suffer for 5 or 6 months... to prove to yourself that you can withstand suffering?? Seems silly to me.

    This is ultimately a very narcissistic endeavor. Don't pretend you're doing it for anyone else. You're doing it for yourself.

  15. #15
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    These experiences are excellent. Thanks for all the input. What lessons did I learn? I over planned. Read too many books. Read too many web sites. I wish I had instead spent more time out on the trail getting comfortable with my gear and knowing my limits. I started the one week later than I planned due to politics at the office. I felt I was always trying to go a few extra miles each day to make up for the lost week. The biggest problem I had was something I'm not sure I can do anything about. The hike went well for me up until Irwin TN. However; at Irwin I had caught up with "the crowd" that started in March and things went downhill fast. Mud and crowded shelters as far as the eye could see. I'm claustrophobic in large groups so I opted to start sleeping in my tent. This isolated me from people. Now I'm doing section hikes on and off the AT because I love the freedom of a pack and miles ahead. If and when I try a thru-hike again I don't know. If I do try again I'll plan it in such a way as to avoid the crowded shelters. Maybe start sooner and plan lower mileage each day. Try to find 1 or 2 people to start with. When I did attempt my thru-hike I took someones advice and got lots of people involved. I had one relative keep an online journal for me (I since deleted the journal). Another relative to mail supplies. Had my girlfriend drive down with me to the trailhead at Amacalola, told all my friends, bought too much gear. All of this was way too much and just not my style. Next time I'll keep the trip under wraps and take it the same way I take all my vacations/time away. Last minute and without any fanfare. I havn't talked about my trail experience with anyone until now. At least no one who has any idea of what its like. Thanks.

  16. #16
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Yeah, I have to agree with TT on this one. Sure, some days are worse than others on the trail, but every day I am hiking is fun -- a bad day on the trail is still way better than a good day at work for me. Not sure I could plan a long hike thinking (knowing?) it's not going to be fun.

    Just wake up in the morning, stretch out, grab some coffee, and say to yourself, "Today is a good day to HIKE!"
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  17. #17
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    esmithz--

    We were writing at the same time there. Your post gives a lot more information. You might consider one of the ways I like to approach a day, and that is to stop at a shelter for dinner and company, then hike on for a few miles to camp alone. That way you get some interaction with other hikers, and a nice place to cook dinner, but you avoid sleeping with the crowds. Just a thought.

    Good luck with the planning.
    Ken B
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    Our Long Trail journal

  18. #18
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    Default 2nd time was a charm

    As for me .. I started in '04. made it about 1100 miles to the 501 Shelter and had to bail because of a real bad stress fracture. Pushed to hard, too early, and to fast. Finally hit me there.

    I restarted from the beginning in '05 and made it. Took it a lot slower. Had a lot more fun and wouldn't trade my restart over for a minute. Oh, I could have started from where I left off but it was a personal thing for me. I wanted it to be from end to end.

    I can honestly say there was only one time in '05 when I was hating the trail and just wanted to be done. Not quit, mind you, just be done. That was around Stratton Pond in VT. I was calculating how many miles I could do to finish as fast as I could. That all changed when I arrived in Manchester Center. Funny how one email can change your thinking

    Basically I loved every minute out there.. even in the mid summer heat and humidity. It is a mindset. You have GOT to want to be out there or you won't make it.

  19. #19
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    esmithz -- I sure can relate to some of what you say. It's hard sometimes to find a balance between "too much company" and "not enough." I love a good night at camp with friendly, simpatico folks. OTOH, I have seen some big crowd situations around shelters that I could certainly do without. I want folks to talk to and share the joys & sorrows with -- but at the same time, I don't ever want to be competing with others for miles. This last section was a bit lonesome -- there was only one night in the woods (out of 10) where I had company. Shelters to myself almost every night. That's almost too much solitude. But it was an excellent adventure, nonetheless.

  20. #20
    Registered User Michele's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cuppa Joe View Post
    As for me .. I started in '04. made it about 1100 miles to the 501 Shelter and had to bail because of a real bad stress fracture. Pushed to hard, too early, and to fast. Finally hit me there.

    Out of curiosity, how many miles/what pace did you do that was too hard and too fast at the beginning? What did you slow down to the second time?
    The Most Important Things In Life Are Not Things....

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