11 comments on “Some Observations From the Appalachian Trail

  1. Aside from crowds at the beginning of our hike in 2010, we managed to get to the ‘back of the front’ of thru-hikers by the time we’d finished Virginia. I credit this with having skipped Trail Days. I’m incredibly thankful we did not experience the amount of insanity that you’ve brought up as have others who have been stuck in the bubble. We also never experienced the amount of hiker feeds that others talked about, likely because we weren’t in the bubble.

    I guess I’m a weirdo, but I don’t get the use of filters on the AT other than you can drink the water immediately. Aqua Mira worked so well for us, was small and portable, and for we didn’t really have an after taste. I think filters are great in areas where the water is more sediment filled, but with the access to clear water most of the time, why pump?

    • There is a sweet spot on the AT where you can avoid a lot of the craziness like that. I didn’t really experience any of it in 2007 because I was way ahead of the bubble. Luckily, it sounds like you were able to do the same without the breakneck pace 🙂

      As for the filters, I am also a huge proponent of Aqua Mira, but what made me switch to filtering was a mixture of things– First, I started thinking that adding chemicals to all the gorgeous, crystal clear mountain spring water just seemed a travesty, whereas the filter left me with just the spring water. Second, after many years of intestinal issues, I figured I’d try taking the chlorine products out of my trail diet and see how that worked. Now it’s just habit.

  2. Really appreciate the observations of the Virginia A.T. As an A.T. maintainer (in SNP’s Southern District) and a frequent hiker (collecting GPS data for the PATC), I have seen a lot of discouraging stuff on the trail, especially over the last year. I’ve picked up used toilet paper and underwear within feet of a trash receptacle, and every shelter’s fire pit seems overflowing with trash that some hiker thought could be burned out of existence. If I ruled the world, a weekend LNT training session would be mandatory for all section and thru-hikers, and if said hiker could not produce evidence of training on demand, that hiker would be subject to mandatory evacuation to Ohio where the hiker would have to decide whether to return to the trail (with training) or go home. More people need to come to grips with their responsibility to society, both on and off the trail.

    • It’s funny about the trail condition complaints. The trail conditions I saw in VA were immaculate– a few water bars that weren’t cleaned out recently, but otherwise it seemed like the PATC was on the ball all around. As someone who has worked on professional trail crews, volunteer trail crews, and on individual trail maintenance, I agree that most hikers out there really don’t appreciate what goes on to keep the trails and campsites up. Let’s add mandatory trail maintenance to that, too, since it really helps people see what it takes.

  3. We are a family currently thru-hiking the AT, we’re at mile 900 something, and we use a speaker to listen to music together, and hopefully soon audio books. Using a portable speaker has been a great boon to our hiking experience. Hiking with children for 9+ hours a day is a different experience than a lone “wilderness” (which the AT at this time of year is not) wanderer. Shared music has saved many a day and motivated us on difficult climbs. When we approach other hikers we turn in down or off.

    As a day hiker or weekend backpacker I used to look down on hikers with earbuds. I don’t anymore. Music has gotten me through many difficult trail sections.

    On another note, as a mother hiking with children, I have found behavior at many shelters, especially in the early days, to be distasteful. I had been warned about the “party” atmosphere of the trail but it was still disconcerting.

    • Renee, I’m sorry I didn’t meet you at Trail Days or on the trail, but maybe in Maine… I met the rest of your family briefly, and was pretty happy to do so.

      I think the fact that you turn the speakers down when you see other hikers is the key factor there– The fact that you’re aware that not everyone wants the intrusion means you’re way more considerate about it than anyone else I met on the trail this year. I think that’s commendable.

      As for the partying, to say it’s disconcerting and distasteful is a big understatement. I am not a fan AT ALL. That’s all I’ll say for now.

  4. Thanks for that great tip on cleaning the Sawyer. Never thought of that but it makes sense.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with your observations being a resident of Virginia and one who has noticed the same issues this year. I attribute this to the fact that this is the reality of the entitled generation, a generation that was given trophies for merely existing and a generation who maintains social etiquette learned from a machine. They are under educated, under skilled, under motivated, but extraordinarily entitled. When you have a liberal President promising them everything for doing nothing – there is no incentive to do anything else. This is the start of the history of America which will eventually ruin it.

    • The 17-19 year-olds on the trail, the ones that are coming of age during the current administration, are actually a much better behaved bunch than the 20-27 year-old generation, which are those that came of age in the previous administration. But presidential politics really don’t have anything to do with the partying or other behavior on the trail. It’s just a factor of actual age.

      The entitled attitude of the 20-something hikers has more to do with the hordes of “trail angels” and AT groupies who regularly go out of their way to do nice things for the hikers. When you get used to people bending over backwards for you on a daily basis, you get used to it. We’re not talking taxes and religion here– it’s people giving you food alongside the trail, or giving you rides into town, or letting you use their computer and wifi just because you’re hiking the AT.

      The partying and drinking is just what 20-somethings have been doing since time immemorial. The kids weren’t any better behaved in regards to drugs and alcohol throughout the 1980s than they are now.

      As for the speakers and music, that’s more a factor of technology than anything else. Again, it doesn’t matter who the president is– if the technology exists, people use it. And technology is always expanding and improving.

  6. Few comments: Music speakers on trail are never excusable. People hear them before you see those people. Sorry, but it’s never ok to play music or audio books outloud, ever. I have 49 audio books–and earbuds.

    The 20-something cliques are the worst aspect of any thruhike. I call them ‘hiker bros’. We get it hiker bros–no one has ever downed as many brewskis as you do on trail broseph..NO ONE*

    *except for the same hiker bro cliques from every year before you, bro.

    And entitlement IS a thing of the current social and political make-up. Yes, it’s always been around, now it’s federally sanctioned.

    The AT can be crowded, so annoying things will happen. The PCT is right behind it.

  7. This is the information I have been seeking for some time. This news is not good, but necessary to make choices.

    I am saddened that the Trail has deteriorated. I don’t need to go to the AT to listen to loud, rude drunks. I can hear them under the bridge by my house. I am old enough to have hiked the John Muir Trail when days would pass without meeting any hiker. No more. It sounds like the AT has “gone downhill” in more ways than one.

    For the cost of first quality light hiking gear, I can buy a kayak or small sailboat and cruise the coasts of Florida. There is still solitude there. See you on the water.

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