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  1. #1
    Registered User Veetack's Avatar
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    Default Logistics of a thru-hike

    Hi guys, this is my first post.

    I am just beginning my run of the entire trail in sections starting with a run from Spring to Fontana (hopefully, time permitting) at the end of May. The time permitting thing is a big deal, as I only have 10 days to try and go 161 miles, but I have early outs at NOC and Franklin, just in case.

    I would love to do a thru in the next year or so, but I simply can't understand the logistics of it all.

    Physically, I can handle it. I'm 29 and a former Marine. I routinely do what I like to call "heavy pack" conditioning day hikes of around 15 miles while working on my SB6K where I intentionally overpack my pack with significant amounts of extra weight so it'll be that much lighter when the time comes. I live close enough to GSMNP that I go there quite often, and this weekend is the first of many weekend 30 or so milers as conditioning.

    Financially, I'd be ok. I could save the 4-6k necessary for the trip no problem. I'm on VA disability which could cover any further expenses I would have such as cell, health insurance, etc...

    Herein lies the problem: I don't understand how it is even remotely possible to commit to the time requirements. I have little doubt that it would take me longer than 6 months to complete, but would a company even allow someone to take that much time off? I love my job and I'd hate to quit.

    I guess my question is how does a through hiker deal with putting civilized life on hold while on the trail?

  2. #2
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    First, thank you for your service.

    From your info I would think 4 months would be possible but with your question about work, 4 or 6 months probably is not much of a difference. Regarding work vs hike: Only you know the answer.
    Fear ridges that are depicted as flat lines on a profile map.

  3. #3
    Registered User Veetack's Avatar
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    I completely understand. I really want to do it in a timely manner, but still have the opportunity to truly enjoy what I am doing. And the fact that I have to cram 160 miles into 10 days really means I have to stick to a strict itenerary and I won't have the available spontaniety provided by a thru.

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    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Yep, section hikes are almost always tied to the calendar. Thru hikes are only tied by the season.
    Fear ridges that are depicted as flat lines on a profile map.

  5. #5

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    The answer to your question is that most thruhikers are either young or old, with not as many in between. The young are people who just finished high school or college and haven't yet entered the work force. The older ones just retired. The ones who don't fit into the above 2 categories mostly just quit their jobs and hope they can find another job when they complete their hike. I imagine with the economy the way it is there are quite a few who have the time because they are unemployed. Some people are able to get a leave of absence from work, but they are few and far between.

  6. #6

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    I think this is why you are reading over and over again on this site that most of the hikers who are committing to the thru fall into several categories:

    1. Just finished school and may be financed by their parents or graduation gifts or they have saved up.

    2. In-between jobs and have some money saved.

    3. They have been downsized and have a severance package or unemployment insurance and want to figure out what to do with their life.

    4. On disability from the government.

    5. Some teachers and others have received a Leave of Absence from their employers.

    6. Retired or semi-retired.

    7. Wives or husbands where the other spouse is supporting their dream.

    8. In my case, I own my own company and I am working hard to get things in place so that I can delegate certain tasks.

    I'm sure there are more reasons. If you are Hell bent on going, I would suggest that you go to your employer after a LOT of thought and ask for a LOA. You might even agree to sign a contract where you will agree to work there for the next 3-5 yrs or take a voluntary pay cut when you return. Some companies might even welcome your LOA if they need to cut costs for a while. Just try to get it in writing that your job will be there for you when you return. A lot of it depends on high specialized your work is.

    And frankly? You may just have to wait. Many people have spent years planning their hike. Good luck.

  7. #7

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    Life is priorities.
    Simple as that.
    If your highest priority is to hike the AT, then you will probably do it.
    If your job is more important, that will probably win out.

    Personally, I liked hiking so much, I formed a company that would have me working in the winter so I could devote my spring/summers to hiking.
    Gave up my other skills and just hiked for about 15 years until I got a new priority in my life (my kid)

    So, it's up to you what you will do with your life. Not your employer.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  8. #8
    Nalgene Ninja flemdawg1's Avatar
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    If you love your job and have a good relationship with your boss. Ask for the LOA. A good boss/leader will always welcome back a hard working employee. If he says no. THen you have a tough choice to make.

  9. #9
    Nalgene Ninja flemdawg1's Avatar
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    logisticsplural of lo·gis·tics (Noun)

    Noun:
    1. The detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies.
    2. The organization of moving, housing, and supplying troops and equipment
    The logistics of the AT is part of what makes it so popular. Its all been found, proven, and, documented. In the companion-style books is listed most tentsites, watering hole, shelter, road crossing, hostel, grocery store and other resources. Planning a section hike is as simple as looking up a pizza delivery in the phone book.

    Try planning a hike on any other long trail, its a pain. I thought about weekend sectioning the Pinhoti here in AL.No shuttles so I have to arrange cars at both ends. There are some sections that are entirely dry in summer too. Trail town, hostels? forget it. THe logistics of the AT are a breeze.

  10. #10
    Registered User Veetack's Avatar
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    Well, I'll finish school in 2014, and I think I'll try to make an attempt at that point, assuming I have the financial means. Guess I'm confined to section hikes for now.

  11. #11

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    If nothing else, get the 2012 AT Guide by David AWOL Miller and start planning your trip on paper/computer. It will make it all the more real for when you are finally able to hike it.

  12. #12
    Registered User Veetack's Avatar
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    I have the through hikers companion and I've been using that. Headed to Springer in just a couple weeks to try to reach Fontana in 9 days, but NOC is a more likely outcome.

  13. #13

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    Normally I plan a long-distance hike in conjunction with the planning of other parts of my life rather than having a long-distance hike be an island. These are the eight areas of my life (as with most people) -- adventuring and long-distance hiking fall into the "Other" category for me since that kind of activity is so unique:

    * Financial
    * Family
    * Social
    * Spiritual
    * Physical
    * Career
    * Community
    * Other

    From an initial planning standpoint, I start out with a Microsoft Word Document using Word's outline form and lay out the above eight categories and begin detailing out what I want to accomplish in each of those eight areas over the course of, say, the next 18 months. I call this "The Plan". Some categories might be highly detailed while other categories might be only a single layer deep in the outline. The most important elements in this type of planning are:

    1) Get it written down -- this not only firms up things at a moment in time but writing it down allows you to come back to it later
    2) Put a timetable to what it is you wish to accomplish -- without the timetable, it's so open-ended that it'll likely never be done
    3) Get some kind of budget to what it is you're planning to do
    4) Whatever it is you're planning to do or accomplish, make it and the parts leading up to the "It" measurable. This allows you to see where you are in the accomplishing part of what it is you're intending to do. For instance, if you're planning to spend $5,000 for a thru-hike next year you may say that in order to do that you have to have saved $3,000 by December 2012 to use toward your upcoming thru-hike. It's a stipulated amount that can be measured and the measured amount has a timetable put to it describing when that element must be accomplished.

    It's important to allow time, after the initial creation of The Plan, for the goals to gel. I usually give this a 30 day period before formalizing and committing to The Plan.

    From creation of The Plan in Microsoft Word outline format, I move to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel. I use Project to lay out the time line (Project is an excellent tool for this because of how the dependencies related to getting something done). I use Microsoft Excel for budgeting since Excel deals with numbers and math (in case you haven't used a spreadsheet before). You can also use freely downloadable or open source tools that are similar to Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel if that is your bent.

    Once The Plan is formalized, I look at The Plan every morning and assess whether I'm heading in the right direction to get the important things done or whether I've somehow gotten off track and need to rearrange things so I stay on target with what I have outlined in The Plan.

    One of the things using computer tools like the Microsoft suite allow in this type of planning is to allow for the unexpected which always occur. I may tune The Plan on an irregular basis to take into account unforeseen events that have occurred in my life or necessary expenses that have come about that I can't avoid.

    But generally I stick to major thrusts of The Plan.


    Datto

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by WIAPilot View Post
    I think this is why you are reading over and over again on this site that most of the hikers who are committing to the thru fall into several categories:

    ....
    That's a great list. My own informal survey during my thru hike revealed thru hikers fall into 3 main groups:

    1- those recently graduated
    2- those recently experiencing a major life changing event like loss of job, death of spouse/child, or divorce.
    3- those recently retired

  15. #15
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    I'm in that middle crowd myself. I can't speak beyond my own experience on this subject.

    Civilized Life tends to follow a few basic tenants: Money, Family, Friends.

    When it came to my family and friends, my solution was easy. Everybody is supportive of my decision to hike the trail in 2013. The ones that question that decision are not very close. I am taking some time off before the hike to connect with family and friends. I plan on doing the same when I finish before I plunge back into 'adult life'. I plan on keeping a trail journal to share my experiences with family and friends and I will call while in town.

    Money. I think this is the biggest hurdle to overcome. Most of us have significant debts which would require huge amounts of savings to allow for a thru-hike. This includes: saving for retirement, homes, vehicles, college loans, credit cards, utility bills, etc. The more you owe, the more you have to save beyond the estimated $5,000 for trail expenses. Young hikers don't have this financial baggage to hold them back. Retires have managed their savings to be able to live on a fixed income. The in-between folks like me do not have either advantage. What did I do?

    1. I paid off all debt. Unfortunately, I chose to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle so now I'll have that ONE piece of debt during my hike.
    2. I saved $5-7K for the hike. Self explanatory.
    3. I saved enough money to visit with friends and family before and after the hike. Call those visits transitional times.
    4. I am still in the process of saving enough money to be unemployed for a while. (I chose not to ask for a LoA). I know that IF my employer gave it to me, I'd be dealing with work every day I was in a town. I have that sort of job. I've already discussed my hike with my boss and I am confident that if I choose to return to my company afterwards and a position is available .... I will have it. My savings plan assumes that I may choose to take my career in a different direction. Assume the best, plan for the worse possible financial outcome. I will have enough saved to be unemployed for one year.
    5. Savings does not include my retirement accounts. Those MUST remain untouched.

    Once I paid off all my debt, saving became incredibly easy. Seriously, add up the monthly cash flow lost to paying off credit cards and loans! I found having no debt very liberating. I am no longer trapped at any job due to my financial obligations. My dream to hike the AT really didn't gain clarity until my financial chains were broken.

    I'd also like to say one last thing. Nothing is more civilized than taking time to grow as a person, explore self-imposed limitations, and gain insights into your life's journey. Those are possible discoveries you may find while you hike the AT. I'd argue that hiking the AT is embracing your life and putting other people's expectations of you on hold.
    Last edited by Live_for_hiking; 05-03-2012 at 10:43.

  16. #16
    Garlic
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    I started my thru-hiking career in my early 40s, an unusual age as noted above. I get asked innumerable times how I could have the time to do that. My stock reply is that you'll never just "have" that kind of time, at any point in your life. You have to make the time. In my case, it took 20 years of hard work in a fairly successful career and disciplined saving with a long-term goal in mind. No way did I just "have" that kind of time and it wasn't easy to make it, but the hard work paid off. People who never will hike say, "I would do that if I just had the time," and I just shake my head. There are many ways to structure your life around a thru hike--good luck finding yours.
    "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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    To the O.P.'s question of finding enough time to do a thru-hike --- I think that either your life situation makes this possible or not. Or maybe it makes it technically possible, but realistically really really "expensive" in terms of a combination of social, family, and/or work costs of various sorts.

    What I suggest is that you consider "chunk" hiking. A lot more than a section, but less than a thru. Pick your trail and do it in, say, two to four years in large pieces at a time.

    IMO chunk hiking makes even more sense on the other long trails; for the most part a person can do the AT without super tough weather-related issues, but not so the PCT and CDT, it's really a squeeze to fit in a thru-hike without some challenging snow-related conditions. Chunk hiking at offers at least the chance to miss the worst of that. You get a lot of the benefits of thru-hiking, but without as long a time committment. You might or might not miss out on the social aspects, depending on how you schedule and structure your trips. Kind of cool that, IMO: do some trips where you enjoy going solo, others where you enjoy the company of fellow travellers.

    About all you miss out on are "bragging rights" of saying that you did a particular trail all in one year. Assuming that's at all meaningful to you, it's just something to trade-off vs. all of the other benefits of long distance backpacking that can actually fit in with your current life situation.
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

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