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As Time Nears To Hit The Appalachian Trail, Some Stats For Thru-Hikers To Keep in Mind


With an eye on the prize, this year's crop of would-be Appalachian Trail thru-hikers are getting ready to hit the trail. With that in mind, here are some stats, courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, to help them stay focused.

* From the 1930s, when just five people are credited with hiking the trail, the tally has grown to 1,008 during the current decade.

* The ATC points out that "in 1948, Earl V. Shaffer became the first to report a thru-hike, walking the entire Trail from Georgia to Maine. He hiked again—this time from Maine to Georgia—in 1965."

* Mildred Norman is the earliest female thru-hiker on record, having reported a flip-flop hike in 1952, according to the ATC.

* The first decade of the 21st century was a popular one for hiking the AT, as 5,839 hikers are credited with hiking the entire trail.

* Lee Barry serves as inspiration to many aging Baby Boomers, as he thru-hiked the trail in 2004 at the age of 81. Nancy “Magellan” Gowler become the oldest female thru-hiker in 2007 at age 71, the ATC notes.

* Last year 1,700 backpackers started out from Springer Mountain, Georgia, with their eyes aimed at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Four-hundred-fourteen made it. Fifty-nine who started at Kathadin made it to Springer Mountain.


My wife and I began hiking north from Springer on April 27, 1971 and made it to the first leanto in Pennsylvania before deciding that we were burned out on the effort. But walking the entire length of the Blue Ridge was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. My nephew set out hiking the AT a few years ago and was impressed with how obsessed through hikers were with goals and schedules and how much they were not focused on their experience. He soon became disillusioned and left the Trail for a different kind of journey.
His experience reminds me of an encounter we had with a group of guys that had started out hiking in Maine and then decided to just travel down the mountains by car stopping to hike the portions of the Trail that interested them most. One of them confronted us, saying, "Don't you think that insisting on the goal of hiking the entire trail is an ego trip? Don't you think it's an ego trip?" I said that I hadn't thought about it. I thought about it for the next 250 miles, finally conceding the point at that lean-to in Pennsylvania.
That said, I've had a number of friends who have finished the trip and didn't feel that way about it at all. But I do encourage anyone contemplating the journey to not get obsessed with the goal and concentrate on the here and now daily experience. If you don't reach Katahdin (fantastic as that mountain is), that's fine. If you do, then bless you.
I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and we have a wonderful trail across the state, the Finger Lakes Trail, which is confluent with much of the North Country NST. The FLT offers great opportunities people across the state to get out and walk the land, which would not be possible without it. I maintain a blog about the region and its natural wonders called, "The Finger Lakes, Gorges, and Waterfalls," at http"//

As someone considering a thru-hike, I apprecirate your perspective, Tony. It's easy to get excited to about it but as you suggest, it's important to check yourself and motivations every so often.


I think people walking the trail are commonly doing as a time to get perspective on their lives. It's good to keep that clear and not be overly pre-occupied with the doing orone could miss the point. There is a lot of magic out there.
By the way, I mis-typed my blog url above. Http://

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