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  1. #1
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    Default Thoughts before upcoming thru-hike

    Ok, this is just a meandering type post. I've gotten a ton of advice in the other two threads (big bad scary bears and ripping my gear down).

    Just curious - is it ingrained in the thru-hike (culture? past experiences? not sure what to call it) - that towns and motels and hostels and shuttles are part of it? I planned this entire trip (before coming online and drilling down details) with the (wrong?) assumption that it's me - the trail - those I come across - and the occasional long haul into a town to refill food and then back on the trail out as quickly as possible.

    I've yet to read about someone seriously forgoing all of the finer things and planning on being solely on trail (again - with the exception of food resupplies). Am I completely wrong in having this mindset going forward?

    I know how to repair gear and rig fixes.
    I know how to make due with what I have.
    I don't mind going hungry if it's for the bigger goal and I know I'll get food in me at point x in time.

    Unless it's going to be something that kills me instantly (lightning, tornado, tsunami) - weather isn't going to get me off the trail.

    Thoughts? Tell me I'm an idiot - OR - tell me that it's just a difference on how things get done out there? I def. understand (and love) the HYOH idea, but I figured there'd be a camp of people out there with similar mindsets as mine. Maybe they just don't online and ramble as much.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    No matter what you may think now, no matter what anyone may have told you, you WILL visit towns and You WILL stay at hostels and/or motels. Everyone needs the rest (a zero day here and there) so you can do laundry, get mail, shop for food, eat real food. But especially simply rest from hiking ever day. Some take lots of off trail days some take less, but All will take some.

    I am glad you don't mind going hungry. because no matter how much you eat, no matter how many restaurants you plunder you are going to be starved. 1000+ miles in Food becomes an obsession. For many, just a few miles in it's an obsession.

    Don't worry about losing weight before hand. You will lose plenty on the trail. Even if you aren't in optimal shape the trail will take care of that.

    True weather probably won't kill ya, and how easy it is to say now what's a little rain in one's life. But spend 8 + hours hiking in an all day rain and waking up the next day and it is still raining and your feet are soaked and much of your gear may be wet.. well than can change one's attitude rather quickly. Those hikers who can get past miserable weather conditions, and sore feet, and wet gear are generally the ones who make it. Those who can't deal with that tend to go home early.

    personally, I would suggest not trying to avoid the finer things in life as you put it. If there is a big barbeque bonanza that some hikers put on as trail magic, by all means stop and enjoy. If the trail goes near some restaurant with an AYCE buffet or great pizza etc then by all means stop and enjoy. The AT thru hike is an adventure, one most of us only get to do once. You want to be able to look back on it as a fun and exciting experience rather than a time where you feel like you were constantly roughing it and over coming challenges.


    Everyone stops in town to enjoy restaurants, rest, hostels etc. In fact.. I'll offer up a challenge to whiteblaze folks. See if you can find ANYONE who has thru hiked the AT in the last 10 years (or even section hiked for a month or two) who never left trail other than to pick up a food drop or shop at a grocery store... some one who never once stayed at a lodging establishment or ate at a restaurant. I bet no one has.

    DavidNH

  3. #3
    Punchline RWheeler's Avatar
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    As I sit in my bedroom, trying to keep my mind from destroying itself with anticipation of me leaving for my thru, I'm thinking of spending limited time in towns/hostels. I'm considering staying at a few hostels of note, and only really went through to give them a serious consideration when trying to organize some information for people that would want to send me letters/care packages.

    Although, I can definitely see this changing drastically once I get on the trail.

    It's definitely HYOH, so definitely don't feel wrong for feeling the way you feel. But at the same time, you aren't hiking yet. So who's to say that you won't change that mentality once you're immersed in the culture?

  4. #4
    Registered User turtle fast's Avatar
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    The Appalachian Trail is a social trail...by that I mean you get to know people as you run into them at shelters, towns, hostels, etc and you build up natural friendships. You will find that you have a "bubble" of people you constantly meet who have roughly the same schedule and speed as you. Town stops become points to socialize, resupply, and get information on the trail. Its a normal thing to develop these friendships on the AT. Its not a prerequisite to stay in towns and such but the beauty of it is is that you can make it what you want it. Social trail, endurance challenge, solo reflective hike on your direction in life...the trail has it all.

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    I'm planning on it being me, the trail and the occasional stop in town... and that's after I've been perusing this site for the past 6 years and planning my thru this past one. I'm guessing it's a personality type (extremely introverted) that lends itself to that kind of thru experience. In which case it might make sense that that group would be less vocal in the online community. I think it’s unusual for someone with that mindset to question it – after all, someone with an HYOH mentality shouldn’t care what everyone else is doing.


    So my vote is: “...it's just a difference on how things get done out there”. Cheers!
    Last edited by VTATHiker; 03-28-2012 at 12:01.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidNH View Post
    No matter what you may think now, no matter what anyone may have told you, you WILL visit towns and You WILL stay at hostels and/or motels. Everyone needs the rest (a zero day here and there) so you can do laundry, get mail, shop for food, eat real food. But especially simply rest from hiking ever day. Some take lots of off trail days some take less, but All will take some.
    The last thing I'm going to do is be argumentative on a board I just joined (and gotten great advice from) - so please don't think that's what I'm doing. But I completely disagree with the /mindset/ that those are mandatory things that WILL happen.

    Nobody informed me of those things - it's just what I've been reading. I went into this with the idea that things like "hostels/motels/shuttles into town - hell laundry even" weren't even OPTIONS. (...and /I think/ have planned accordingly). Those were before the days of getting online and drilling down details and seeing how drastically different people plan.

    Down days are going to happen, that's inevitable. But my down days are going to be spent sleeping (love naps, who doesn't) - exploring the immediate area around my campsite (planning on poaching some awesome views for those days) - doing some photography. All of that will happen in my tent. Why go to a motel for a down day?

    Restaurants and the "finer" are great - and I'll know I'll gorge myself on a burger or pizza occasionally - but it's that - pick up any food/mail - and then straight back out.

    If those bonanza's are happening on the trail or within walking distance - of course I'm going to take advantage! I don't hate people after all.

    Who knows - maybe I'm dreamy, and wrong - but at the end of the summer - I've certainly planned on being someone who only went into town for food and mail drops. I doubt I'm the first - but if it's true - maybe I will be.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by RWheeler View Post
    It's definitely HYOH, so definitely don't feel wrong for feeling the way you feel. But at the same time, you aren't hiking yet. So who's to say that you won't change that mentality once you're immersed in the culture?
    Glad I'm not the only one going crazy with anticipation.

    And I don't feel wrong per se' - just wanted to directly ask if I'm just completely bonkers, of if there are those out there who do it, but maybe just aren't vocal online about their plans? I know things can (and probably will) change drastically (both mentally and with prep - and I'm ok with that). - but I know what I've been through/endured before - and besides the sheer distance/toll on my body - I feel beyond well prepared to pull this off.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by turtle fast View Post
    ...but the beauty of it is is that you can make it what you want it. Social trail, endurance challenge, solo reflective hike on your direction in life...the trail has it all.
    I think that is a perfect sum of how I feel about my trip, I just don't see a whole lot of people "going the same... direction?" with prep/plans as I have - and I was curious as why. I certainly don't want to come across as hating people. I love meeting people and stories (and I love beer) - but plan on keeping all of that on the trail is all.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by VTATHiker View Post
    I'm planning on it being me, the trail and the occasional stop in town... and that's after I've been perusing this site for the past 6 years and planning my thru this past one. I'm guessing it's a personality type (extremely introverted) that lends itself to that kind of thru experience. In which case it might make sense that that group would be less vocal in the online community. I think it’s unusual for someone with that mindset to question it – after all, someone with an HYOH mentality shouldn’t care what everyone else is doing.


    So my vote is: “...it's just a difference on how things get done out there”. Cheers!
    I think it's turning out to be I'm only an extrovert online. As much as I love people and all... Thanks for the words. Good luck on your hike!
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  10. #10
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    Part of the allure of the long trails for me was to visit towns and see the local culture, whether "Logger Days" in Darby, Montana, a music festival in a small town, just hanging out in a New York deli, a play at the famous Shakespeare festival in Ashland, OR, etc. It's definitely tourism and I saw nothing wrong with that. (I skipped Gatlinburg though--I'd been there before.) One of my hiking friends did not respect that, and asked me if I were out there to see towns or to see the wilderness. I realized for me the answer was, "Both." So what? Isn't it a shame when we get upset over how someone else travels?

    On the AT there are so many towns with such frequency, I don't think I missed too much when I skipped a few that required a hitch or more than a two-mile walk. And if you really don't like towns, it's easy enough to do your business quickly and leave.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    I approached my thru hike the same way as any ultra run I've ever done and live by the motto that Doug "Boogieman" Dawkins of the Mangum Track Club says:

    "Come with no expectations and you will not be disappointed."

  12. #12

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    It would be interesting if those who say they plan on not staying in town or hostels (much or at all) come back and report how well that worked out in the end. We see that plan talked about enough times here, there should be some feedback.

    You definately don't have to go to every town or stay at every hostel. If you lug enough food and do big enough miles, you can skip a lot of them. But I suspect most end up staying over night in more towns and hostels along the way then they thought they would when they started. A good dinner, a warm and dry bed and then a good breakfist in the morning can do wonders to your outlook.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  13. #13
    Punchline RWheeler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    It would be interesting if those who say they plan on not staying in town or hostels (much or at all) come back and report how well that worked out in the end. We see that plan talked about enough times here, there should be some feedback.

    You definately don't have to go to every town or stay at every hostel. If you lug enough food and do big enough miles, you can skip a lot of them. But I suspect most end up staying over night in more towns and hostels along the way then they thought they would when they started. A good dinner, a warm and dry bed and then a good breakfist in the morning can do wonders to your outlook.
    I'll be sure to share my findings. I'm looking at staying at somewhere around a half dozen hostels/towns at this point.

  14. #14
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    I guess I'm approaching it (for whatever crazy reason) as they would've way "back in the day" (whatever that means). I know the trail has improved, there are more people, more civilized luxuries, more towns along the way - but I'm at a time where I don't want "stuff" and "luxuries". I've literally packed the last 10 years of my life away into a 5X5X7 - parked my car behind an Aunt's house - and have never felt so unburdened and zen like in my entire life. Yes - a day full of driving rain is going to kick my ass, but if I trudge through, still end up headed north, and collapse in my little tent at the end of THAT day - I can't imagine anything more peaceful (especially when the sun and weather comes around totally rejuvenating me for the next hard day/climb/whatever).

    I hesitant to expect anything other than some amazing views and excellent quiet time. Nature (and the trail) aren't there to provide anything for me - they're "just there". Who knows what I'll find, not find. That's all up in the air. But on the back-end - I know I want something different/quiet/more peaceful for me - and that includes for the duration of the trip.

    Thanks for the conversation dudes and ladydudes. See some of you out there in... 15 days or so.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

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    ..and once again not rechecking my typing skills means grammar errors abound in the above post. One day I'll have money again and can donate for the edit feature!
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  16. #16
    Registered User The Old Boot's Avatar
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    If there's just one thing I've learned from WB it's that the concept of HYOH is not honoured often enough. I'm one who holds the concept in highest regards.

    I know that come the day I get to hike the AT, I'm stubborn enough to make sure that I do it MY way and no one elses'.

    I read here that towns, hostels, shelters, taverns, AYCE buffets and pizza joints described as the 'finer things in life'. Ummm, MY definition of the finer things is polar opposite from that definition. A wonderful sunrise, a spectacular sunset, rainbows, mountain vistas and wildlife sightings are on the top of my list of 'the finer things'.

    Yes, I'll need to go to town for laundry but given my dietary restrictions, I WILL be supplying most of my own food, not shopping along the way at the convenience stores. I don't drink beer, eat pizza and know better than to fill my face at an AYCE (it's guaranteed I'll be sick for at least a day). Will that keep me from having fun on my hike...not a chance, I don't consider any of them crucial to MY concept of fun!!

    Heck there's hardly anything I would or could eat from them now, why would I start just when nutrition is even more critical.

    I won't sleep in hotel/motel beds when I travel now, why would I change that on a hike. There's a reason I'm intent on buying a better sleep system for hiking. And yes, when I absolutely had to motel it for business trips with a couple of other staff members, I gladly let them have the beds while I carried my BYOB.

    Guess since I have no desire to keep others up all night with my snoring, I won't get to 'enjoy' that part of the trail experience either.

    Do what's comfortable and convenient for you. Don't let either those on WB or the new friends you meet on the trail tell you how to HYOH. Oh and don't tell them how to hike theirs' either!!

    Enjoy all those amazing vistas, save the energy for taking as many blue blazes as you want and make sure that you stick to your own hike.

    Oh, and if it took a 5x5x7 to store 'all your stuff', you still have way too much stuff...rofl!!

    Have fun, make this hike what you want it to be!

  17. #17

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    Did you get all your shots for the trip?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Boot View Post
    If there's just one thing I've learned from WB it's that the concept of HYOH is not honoured often enough. I'm one who holds the concept in highest regards.

    I know that come the day I get to hike the AT, I'm stubborn enough to make sure that I do it MY way and no one elses'.

    I read here that towns, hostels, shelters, taverns, AYCE buffets and pizza joints described as the 'finer things in life'. Ummm, MY definition of the finer things is polar opposite from that definition. A wonderful sunrise, a spectacular sunset, rainbows, mountain vistas and wildlife sightings are on the top of my list of 'the finer things'.

    Yes, I'll need to go to town for laundry but given my dietary restrictions, I WILL be supplying most of my own food, not shopping along the way at the convenience stores. I don't drink beer, eat pizza and know better than to fill my face at an AYCE (it's guaranteed I'll be sick for at least a day). Will that keep me from having fun on my hike...not a chance, I don't consider any of them crucial to MY concept of fun!!

    Heck there's hardly anything I would or could eat from them now, why would I start just when nutrition is even more critical.

    I won't sleep in hotel/motel beds when I travel now, why would I change that on a hike. There's a reason I'm intent on buying a better sleep system for hiking. And yes, when I absolutely had to motel it for business trips with a couple of other staff members, I gladly let them have the beds while I carried my BYOB.

    Guess since I have no desire to keep others up all night with my snoring, I won't get to 'enjoy' that part of the trail experience either.

    Do what's comfortable and convenient for you. Don't let either those on WB or the new friends you meet on the trail tell you how to HYOH. Oh and don't tell them how to hike theirs' either!!

    Enjoy all those amazing vistas, save the energy for taking as many blue blazes as you want and make sure that you stick to your own hike.

    Oh, and if it took a 5x5x7 to store 'all your stuff', you still have way too much stuff...rofl!!

    Have fun, make this hike what you want it to be!
    Thanks! If anything - I'll be saving the shelters/motels/etc... from my sawing logs. It's ridiculous - even my dog barks and growls at me to shut the hell up when I'm sleeping.

    And that 5X5X7 space includes furniture! Not sure if I'll need it right away post hike - but didn't want to offload it for cheap and have to spend any extra in the future.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    Did you get all your shots for the trip?
    ...and submitted my immunization paperwork to the ATC. Should be all set.
    …and he lost himself in those woods, as one would in the desert, till he thought himself bewitched and cut off forever from everything he had known.

    2012-AT Blog - http://underscore-at2012.tumblr.com

  20. #20
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    I've known people who spend really minimal time in towns; it's certainly do-able, and for folks on a limited budget it's kind of a good idea. The majority of thru-hikers do, however, look forward to and enjoy time in trail towns along the way.

    IMO, unless schedule or budget constraints come into it, I wouldn't worry about it. Before you do a thru-hike, you can only have a limited sense of what kind of a thru-hiker you'll be. The people you end up hiking with will impact this a lot too --- you might well find yourself enjoying the company of one or more trail companions to the point that you opt to spend less or more time in a trail town as you otherwise might have done.

    I think this is another in the list of things to relax about and figure out as you go. (and I say that as a long-term "planner type" ...)
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

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