Why I’m Not On The Appalachian Trail


I absolutely loved my time on trail.  I want to make it clear that it was an awesome experience and I recommend it to everyone.  It is an opportunity to meet all kinds of new people and experience some very unique situations.  Just because I got off trail does not mean that I did not like it.  It just did not align with what I was looking for at this time in my life.  However, to new grads, retirees, or just anyone with a wild hair, go hike the Appalachian Trail.  You will not be disappointed in how much fun you will have.  Even the worst times on trail are better than a bad day at work.  You will find that you can weather any storm and get through incredibly difficult circumstances if you put your mind to it.

I Am Off Trail

After two months, and around 632 miles, I have gotten off the trail.  This comes as a shock to many, but I felt this was the right decision to make for me.  I had been toying with the idea of getting of trail for around a month, but finally made the decision to do so.  The trail was amazing, but I felt like it was time to move on.  I was honestly somewhat ashamed at first of the idea of quitting and did not want to tell anyone.  I am the type of person that the only way I quit something is if I physically no longer have the ability to go on.  However, in this instance I decided to throw in the towel, but it was for the right reasons.

Core Values

I am an avid reader, and try to learn as much as possible about what it means to be a man.  It is my belief that every person should have core values that guides them on their way.  These values should be used in every decision making process to determine what is right and wrong so that they may behave in a way that aligns with these values.  In my decision making process I had two values of mine that were clashing which made it difficult to make a decision.  On the one hand I always finish what I start, and believe I should do things that I say I am going to do.  On the other hand, I only have one life, and if something I am doing is not what I want then I should change that thing.

I am not one to let someone else’s opinion of me determine how I should live my life.  However, I felt as if I were letting everyone down by not completing this task.  People are most definitely going to talk about how I “failed” at thru-hiking the AT.  However, I will not let their opinions shape the opinion of myself.  I am the only one that knows why I went out there, and I am the only one that can determine what is right for myself.  I will most likely hear things such as, “I told you you wouldn’t do it.”  Maybe even, “It was too tough for you huh?”  However, I refuse to allow any negativity about it to get to me, because other people don’t understand.

My Reasons For Leaving

Environmental Factors

  1. I went into the woods to challenge myself.  However, hiking the Appalachian Trail is pretty easy.  As a matter of fact I found out that I’m pretty damn good at hiking.
  2. Rather than a significant challenge and spiritual journey, I found myself to be on an extended vacation.  I was focused more on hanging out with people than developing myself personally.
  3. The purpose of going on the trail and being in the woods is to escape society.  In search of peace and quiet I found myself talking to people more than I do at home.  Hiking the AT has become a very social affair as opposed to the ideal solitude that most seek.
  4. I was constantly surrounded by people.  One SOBO hiker told us that he passed 86 NOBO hikers in a 15 mile day.  There was most likely over 1,000 hikers within a 100 mile radius of our location at any given time.  This is insane.  I tried to get away from people, but they followed me into the woods.
  5. There are constant distractions, which take away from the experience.  It is hard to reflect inward when there are so many people talking and doing things around you.  It was almost impossible to escape them all.  One of my favorite things to do is look at the stars at night, and I only did this around 5 times in those 2 months.  I was so wrapped up in hanging out with my new friends that I didn’t pay attention to the natural beauty around me.

Personal Factors

  1. I enjoy writing a great deal, and was keeping a journal pretty religiously at first.  I also am writing blog posts for the trek as well so I imagine you can guess how important that is to me.  However, the last several weeks I barely wrote at all due to all the distractions.
  2. I cannot justify going on vacation for that period of time, when my goal was so much deeper than that.  I was essentially on an extended camping trip rather than a significant journey.
  3. My goals were reasonable and the outcome from this trip was to make myself into a better person.  I could justify leaving everything behind because I knew there would have been a positive outcome.  My loved ones were understanding of this and supportive, and I wanted to make them proud of me.  However, I could no longer accept this was the right thing.  It would have been incredibly selfish to take several months off just to party away from home.  I cannot leave the things that I love most in this world behind for something as shallow as that.
  4. After a great deal of thought, I realized that I would not regret leaving the trail.  This always concerned me about “what ifs” as I like to live my life without regret.  After I was sure that I could leave such a large task and not feel bad about it I knew it was time to get off trail.
  5. The trail had nothing left to teach me.  Several of the goals I set out to do I accomplished, and the rest of them I could not accomplish due to the distractions.  I learned what I needed to about myself, and gained some valuable skills in the process.

Going Forward

After leaving the trail I still had some money left over from my budget.  With this  I decided to take a small road trip and knock some things off of my bucket list.  As you can tell from the picture, I ended up in St. Louis, Missouri.  I set the money aside to go on an adventure and I did exactly that.  Even though what constituted as an adventure changed I still used that money to do it.  I have no regrets on how I decided to spend that money and time.  However, my definition of adventure is changing once again as I take on a new life.  My girlfriend and I are moving to Nashville, TN soon and will be having a lot of new experiences together.  My life with her is an adventure in itself, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us.



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Comments 15

  • Gene : May 31st

    2 months (60 days) roughly 600 miles. 10 miles a day. What were you doing after 10AM ? I mean with all due respect, it’s just walking. It’s just the perseverance to see it through. Maybe you needed more of a challenge

    • Tyler Burnette : May 31st

      Was hiking with a partner and had to stick with their pace as opposed to mine. Took lots of time off also in between that time. Was cranking out 20+ mile days towards the end… If you read my original post about why I went out there in the first place then you’ll see it’s not about the amount of time but about what took place in that time. However, this goes back to the part where people may not understand my reasoning, but I don’t really care. I got what I needed to out of it.

    • Spirituaql MECA at SufiLodge.org for those on a speiritual quest we welcome you all. : Jun 4th


  • Scott : May 31st

    Hike New Zealand Instead that will challenge you I guarantee it.

  • Karen : Jun 1st

    Your reasoning makes complete sense to me. There will always be people who think you ‘failed’ but it sounds like you realized this journey was not going to get you any closer to your personal goals. Great reason to move on to the next adventure. I am planning a long hike next year and will also feel no shame in leaving the trail when I believe it’s time to do so. Getting to the end of the trail isn’t my goal. Living the journey, learning and growing is. You have a great outlook on life. May your dreams and desires grow and change as time goes on.

  • Marcia Powers : Jun 1st

    Hiking Idaho Centennial Trail will solve your hiking issues:
    You will have absolutely no socialization because you are in designated wilderness with no towns
    The rough, at times disappearing, trail demands a damn fine hiker
    You and the wild animals are alone with your thoughts
    The challenge is so epic that it is no vacation
    Yo u will learn things about yourself that you didn’t even know that you needed to learn.

  • Benny : Jun 1st

    Sometimes its not all about learning or some Quest. Nothing wrong with doing because you just want to or not.

  • Gene : Jun 1st

    Life is not a race or a competition.
    Life is all about us too many people want to share stuff on social media and get approval or likes but honestly we all should be more true to our self and do what is right for us with out the need for explanations to anyone.

    As we get older we realize this more, time moves faster and we realize our days are numbered.

    When we are young we feel indestructible and that we can do anything. As we get older we wish we were indestructible and that we could do more. Reality comes to the forefront. “You are only in competition with your self” Live with out regrets and fill your life with Memories this is only important to you if you choose to share it is a way of reliving those memories.

    Make the best of every day

  • Drew R : Jun 3rd

    Hope you had (or are still having) fun here in my fair city! Not a whole lot of mountains to hike, but it’s a fun place with a lot to do and even more to eat!

  • Stevie : Jun 4th

    lol at the trail being easy, or yeah what gene said, maybe it is when you hike 600 miles in 2 months. you don’t like hiking, it’s chill. don’t undermine others hikes though. literally the first time I’ve ever heard it described as “easy.” smdh

  • Kirk : Jun 4th

    Obviously you did learn any humility during your abbreviated conquest of the trail.

  • Bill Smith : Jun 4th

    You describe it as “easy” yet you failed to complete it. Arrogant. You are “good” at hiking one of the trails known to have the best hiker services along it. I know you would fall apart in a real hiking setting.

  • Tyler Burnette : Jun 4th

    I don’t like to be misunderstood so I’ll clarify. While climbing mountains provides a physical and mental challenge it’s purpose is easy relative to other tasks in life. The only task each day is to get up and walk north (or south) and get a little further up the trail. There are really no other concerns rather than that. I do not intend on trying to undermine the efforts of anyone else. I think anyone willing to get out there and do it is a badass. However, the goal is pretty simple, and anyone who wants to do it can do it. I was surrounded by a large group of people who negated the purpose for going into the woods. I sought solitude, but instead were surrounded by hundreds of people. Most of which only had the concern of getting drunk or high on a regular basis, and made what should be a peaceful place quite rowdy. This did not serve the purpose in which I set out to accomplish. Looking in the past the trail was about solitude and getting back to nature. Now it is about partying with a bunch of strangers in the woods. It is extended car camping, but the only difference is your feet are the vehicle that carry you forwards. I learned quite a bit about humility while I was out there, and I was not attempting to boast and say that it was too easy. It can be difficult which is what I enjoyed the most about it. However, it was not the deep philosophical or spiritual journey that it may have been in the past. It is a social affair, and it was not what I hoped it would be. That is all I was saying, and I am not trying to knock it whatsoever. I was just in search of something different. The AT is awesome and a ton of fun, and I don’t want to shine a negative light on it. It just was not what I was searching for.

    • Bill Slabonik : Jun 19th

      Tyler, thanks for sharing your personal observations and sentiments concerning your hike. I found them thought provoking and relevant. All the best,


  • Donald : Jun 19th

    If u really want to get away from people, have an adventure, reflect inward, and challenge yourself; i suggest the PCT,, Pacific Crest Trail.


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