7 Questions You Will Have to Answer After Your Thru-Hike

Congratulations! You have successfully completed a thru-hike. After months of climbing mountains, freezing in the rain, and starving, you have reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin and you are emotionally and physically done with your journey. Little did you know, the hardest part of hiking the AT may not be the trail itself, but the months following its completion. You will be constantly be drilled with questions from your family, friends, and acquaintances. These questions will be annoying and difficult to answer, but you will need to find a way to answer them. The following questions are ones that I, and the people I hiked with, have been asked the most. Some of them are annoying, some of them are ridiculous, and a lot of them were hard to answer at first. With time, patience, and practice, I was able to answer questions well enough to satisfy my family, friends and acquaintances. Let’s get started…

Question: How was the trail?

Answer I give: It was good.

Answer I want to give: Clearly, if it weren’t enjoyable, I wouldn’t have lived the hiker trash lifestyle for 4 months. The trail is 1000000x better than real life.

This question is so vague, but I don’t blame people for asking it. I asked my friends similar questions about how their experiences were this past summer. I have found that if the person really cares to know about your hike, they will continue with more questions like the following…

Question: Did you see any bears?

Answer I give: Yes, but they always ran away.

Answer I want to give: Yes, I got attacked a couple of times but I was able to defend myself.

Yes, there are bears on the Appalachian trail. Some people see a lot of them, while some people don’t see any at all. As a thru-hiker, bears are nothing more than big dogs that are terrified of you. You have to realize that society, however, is absolutely terrified of them. 

 Question: Did you carry a gun?

Answer I give: No. Just no.

Answer I want to give: Yes. I used it to scare away all of the bears that attacked me.

People in this world constantly live in fear. The trail taught me to look for the best in all people and not be afraid of anything. There are crazy people on the trail, but I never felt like I was in a position where I would have needed to defend myself from a person or bear. Plus, carrying a gun would have doubled my pack weight.

Question: Where did you go to the bathroom?

Answer I give: In the woods.

Answer I want to give: In the woods, on top of mountains, on every cliff, on the Blue Ridge parkway (sorry I’m not sorry), and in some questionable town locations.

The world is my bathroom. I miss pooping wherever I want to.

Question: How did you get food?

Answer I give: I hitched to grocery stores and gas stations that were close to the trail.

Answer I want to give: I hunted bears with my gun and ate them daily.

The trail isn’t in the middle of nowhere. There are roads, grocery stores, and food EVERYWHERE. People thought I was out roughing it in the wilderness when I wasn’t roughing it at all.

Question: When are you going to shave?

Answer I give: Never.

Answer I want to give: Never.               

The more people ask me this, the longer I will grow out my beard. Society expects me to shave. I refuse. At 5 months of growth, I trimmed it and was immediately filled with sadness and regret. Is it really that tragic for a 19 year old to have a full beard?

Question: Were you alone the whole time?

Answer I give: I hiked alone during the day but camped with people almost every night.

Answer I want to give: Yes, I didn’t see a human being for 4 months. 

To put a number on it, I was the 1012th hiker to make it to Harpers Ferry and the 440th hiker to summit Katahdin. So, no. I was never really alone. If you’re looking for absolute solitude, hike in the winter or find a different trail.As a successful thru-hiker, people will ask you these questions, among many others, whether you like it or not. Answering questions about the trail was the hardest thing I had to deal with after my hike and I have only gotten better at it with time. After completing a thru-hike, you need to realize that the only people in this world that will fully understand what you’re feeling and going through are other thru-hikers. Try to find a thru-hiker to talk to after your hike, whether it is someone from your year or a previous year. Talking to other thru-hikers has helped me reflect on my experience and transition back into society easier. We’re all in this together and it is comforting to know that the AT is a community that extends well beyond the duration of your thru-hike.

– poptart NOBO 2013 – 

“Grow a beard and be somebody”

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Comments 4

  • Don : Jul 16th

    You forgot the hardest question…. So, What are you going to do now?

    • Draggin Tail : Sep 2nd

      Yes! Yes! This was the question most asked of me by day hikers on Katahdin. My answer depended upon what they wore. Those that had ANY football attire on got the “I’m going to Disneyworld” Super Bowl winning quarterback answer. All others were told I was going to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory (which my son and I did on our return to the Midwest). ~Draggin Tail and Sherpa 2010 NOBO’s

  • Delores : Oct 1st

    There is definately a great deal to find out about
    this subject. I love all of the points you made.

  • Cumulus : Oct 25th

    I have nothing against clean-shaven men, but it annoys me when someone who mutilates himself in order to look prepubescent acts like I owe him an explanation for why I don’t do the same mutilation.


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