Is an AT Thru-Hike a Vacation, a Job, or a Cult?

How do you look at this phenomenon called thru-hiking?

Is it a vacation?

Several of the books about thru-hiking urge potential AT travelers to think about it as a vacation. (I’m looking at you, Zach Davis!) Isn’t it everyone’s dream to spend six months hiking over mountains and through creeks, freezing in the Smokies and sweltering through the Shenandoahs, sleeping in tents, and eating instant mashed potatoes for 3 nights in a row?

Is it a job?

Others, like Little Peak from New Zealand, say hiking the AT is like a job. You get up each morning, pack up your stuff and start walking.  You might take a break or two, eat lunch along the way, and after 8 to 10 hours stop to set up camp. You eat dinner, sleep, then next morning get up and do it all again — for six months or more. Your job is to make it from camp site to camp site using only your legs and carrying everything you need on your back. You might actually love this job (Little Peak clearly does) or you might hate it but most days you just walk.

Is it a cult?

My partner, Buttermeister, says AT thru-hikers are actually a cult. Wikipedia defines “cult” as “a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs and rituals; or its common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal.” Beliefs? We believe it’s well and good to subject our bodies to travel 2,194.3 miles on foot. Our goal? Katahdin! (Or Springer Mountain for SOBOs.)

AT hiker Sunrise says that everyone with any sense has left the trail already and those of us that are left (at or near the halfway point) are more than slightly bonkers. 

Does it matter?

Whether you think of it as a vacation, job, or cult, the rewards are amazing – mountain views that seemingly go on forever, cascades of cold spring water,  and a human kaleidoscope spanning the globe from Latvia, to Ireland, to Australia.
Did I mention blackberry milkshakes?

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Comments 1

  • Pinball : Jul 2nd

    A vacation taken by cultists


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