What I learned from AT hiker videos

Today, a large number of people headed north following a trail 2189 miles long, with nothing but a backpack. They are called thru-hikers, and out of the thousands who attempt it, only one in four will be successful.

I am going to make my own Appalachian Trail attempt in a few years. So I have been watching a lot of AT hiker videos. And I have noticed a couple of things about thru-hikers in general.

First, those who finish the trail have one thing in common, mental strength. While physical strength is essential, the ability to persevere is paramount. 

While there will undoubtedly be beautiful days on the trail, many of them will not be so pleasant. Hikers will have to walk long distances on a daily bases regardless of cold, wind, snow, rain, mud, lighting, etc. and will take around five to seven months to finish the trail. Injuries, bugs, and mosquitoes will taunt them as well, making life so miserable many will quit.

But not the trail survivors, they will continue on

The trip from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin Mountain, the trail’s northern terminus, in Maine will be a journey of ups and downs. Compared to trails in higher elevation mountain ranges, many falsely assume the AT to be relatively flat. But it’s not, throughout the Appalachian Trail’s 2,189 miles, thru-hikers will gain and lose over 464,464 ft. or more than 89 miles. The equivalent of climbing up Mount Everest 16 times.

Second, while hikers may claim their love for the trail and wilderness, most will seek out the comfort of civilization whenever and wherever they can. If towns are nearby, many will hitch a ride in to eat at local restaurants and often stay overnight in hotels.

The truth of the hiker videos is this

Very few have what it takes to make it to Katahdin, and all, no matter how bad they want to be off-grid, can live without it. They will resupply from grocery stores, use the postal service to pick up new shoes ordered online from smartphones. A GPS will mark their progress, and some will use Garmin’s inReach satellite technology to text their loved ones when cell service is unavailable. There is even a campsite along the trail from which you can have a pizza delivered.

In conclusion, civilization has made us soft. And for those who think they can just pick up their bug-out-bag and head into the woods, I suggest they try and make a thru-hike first.