33 Things Only Thru Hikers of the Appalachian Trail Understand

To be honest, anyone who has done a sizable chunk of any long distance hiking trail will be very familiar with many of these, but for the sake of avoiding an overly wordy title, I only mentioned thru hikers and I only mentioned the AT. Don’t feel left out if you have experienced these things as a section hiker on another trail! Add on your own ideas into the comments section!!

1. Tripping because a stick got caught in the hole in your shoe.


2. Realizing that the reason your pack is so light is because you are going into town to fill it back up again.


3. When you can smell fresh clothes from 100 yards away.


4. Not knowing whether to feel proud or ashamed when someone rolls down the window while giving you a ride.


5. Learning the exact number of days where the smell of your own body begins to intervene with your ability to sleep in a confined space.


6. Wearing crocs in the shower.


7. That sometimes a .3 side trail to a view is just WAY too far.


8. How the idea that hitchhiking is a reasonable method of transportation.


9. How your sock can go from a soft warm safe place to a stiff sandpaper hell hole.


10. Washing revolting socks in the sink of a halfway decent restaurant. And then walking around with them pinned to your pack to dry.


11. Even if it’s 90 degrees with 100% humidity, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear rain gear in the Laundromat.


12. The deep appreciation and respect of clean water to drink.


13. Having ice, or even just cold water, when hiking in the summer.


14. The wonderful taste of anything liquid other than water.


15. Having a new appreciation for soft sitting surfaces.


16. How blowing snot-rockets is easier than wiping your nose.


17. That it’s possible for a carnivore to actually enjoy a vegan meal (thank you Elmer and the Sunnybrook Inn!)


18. That it’s possible for a vegan to actually enjoy a carnivorous meal at McDonald’s.


19. How many different ways there are to make Ramen noodles.


20. That the five second rule does not apply. Dropped food is still food and you’ll have no qualms in eating it.


21. How many miles you can carry the same three instant oatmeal packets before finally admitting that you’re never actually going to eat them.


22. How the sight of a cooler at a trail crossing makes your heart skip a beat in anticipation of the goodness that might be within.


23. How the sight of a cooler at a trail crossing makes your heart skip a beat in anticipation of the goodness that might be within, and then have your hopes and dreams crushed when its empty.


24. How exciting it is when you see a garbage can.


25. How liberating it truly is peeing and pooping in the woods.


26. Seeing multiple of your friends poop or being seen by multiple of your friends as you poop. On accident, of course.


27. The bliss of falling asleep in a real bed.


28. How many items can be used as a pillow.


29. The serenity of learning that “The Trail will provide”.


30. When you play the thru hikers flash computer game the places you stop at, zero at or bypass is due to experience regardless of game play.

appalachian trail thru-hike game

31. When in doubt the AT goes always up.

Florida and Appalachia 321

32. How sometimes NOT shaking hands IS being friendly.


33. The value of Ziplock bags!




A Big Thanks To: Katherine Woodward, Michael Goodwin, Mike Swanson, Linda Daly, Dominik Nagel, David Starchild Koehler, Jess Culton, Garrett Fondoules, Emily Olive Oyl Roberge, Lynn Stuve, Matthew Bongiovanni, Tom Kennedy, Zach Davis, Rick Bearfoot Hatcher, Erick Andrews, Allison Zettwoch, Daniel Wilkerson, Dawna Covert, Cindy Arnold Porter, Mary Faith Phillips, Jared Reggi, Simon StinkBug Aspinall, Brad Rohman, Julie Tinsley and so many more for submitting!

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Comments 8

  • Hiker BigTex : Aug 30th

    You nailed it! I say no more than a side trail of: .3 to a shelter, .4 to water .5 to soda/ice cream.

  • John Walker : Sep 5th

    #34 – Getting thrown out of an AYCE Chinese restaurant and being proud of it!

  • dana e troese : Mar 10th

    loved your remarks….other than the vegan meal….no….

  • Paul Boulay : May 5th

    The bliss of sitting outside the doorstep of a nearby grocery store with a half gallon of Triple Chocolate ice cream and devouring it in 20 minutes.

  • moonbaby : May 17th

    washing your hair in a gas station bathroom

  • Mary (class of ‘00) : Dec 3rd

    Yes. Yes. And yes! Nailed it! LOL! One addition….the miraculous exquisite luxury of an ice cube. And never ever again will I not be completely in awe of hot running water w soap.


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