On Not Being An AT Purist
My name is Lil’ Wayne and I am not a purist.
I say that phrase with confidence and pride. And it hasn’t taken me that long to get to this point! Why would I even be afraid to admit I’m not a hiking purist? Because it means that I am skipping parts of the trail during my hike.
YOU’RE DOING WHAT?!?! (gasp gasp murmur murmur)
Yeah. You heard me. I am skipping parts of the trail during my hike.
So you’re not a real thru hiker then, Wayne.
Alright. Simmer down. Technically, you’re right. I am not a “real thru-hiker.” That’s because putting my foot down on every inch of Appalachian Trail is not what this hike – my hike – is about. Regardless,
It simply can’t be in everyone’s cards to be a purist and completely complete a thru-hike.
If you’re still out there, kudos to you. I hope you keep chugging along with exuberant strength! And are keeping yourself healthy.
Unfortunately, there are tons of us who’ve gotten kicked off the trail because maybe we didn’t have the right gear for that super freezing (I mean FREAKING FREEZING) weather on Springer in early March and had to get scooped off the mountain and brought to a hospital. Or maybe we fell suddenly and dislocated our knee and still hiked 7 miles before seeing said knee grow to the size of a cantaloupe and getting a ride to an urgent care center. Sometimes the twists and turns twist and turn your body into unsustainable and painful forms. That’s going to happen in high stress situations. C’est la vie.
Right now I’m sitting in a comfy chair on the beach basking in 75 degree sunshine trying (but not succeeding) to get rid of my hikers tan while drinking just enough beer or vodka sodas to sustain a responsibly tipsy chill state. And I am not happy about it.
The point is this is all happening because I busted up my knees and had to take a week off. And as people saw me limping or heard stories of my stubborn persistence to keep hiking, they stopped me and said, “You got to take care of you first. Better one week off than the rest of your life.” Permanent damage is way less fun than having to take time off.
This all means I’ll be heading back onto the trail….100 miles past the place I got off.
OH NO WAYNE! Don’t do that!
Why is skipping trail not a terrible thing?
Remember when you were preparing and someone told you to make a list of all the reasons why you’re hiking? Look back at that list. Deciding on whether or not to skip trail is one of the moments that you’re going to need it.
It’s not easy to get off the trail when you aren’t severely debilitated (ok, some would argue that I actually am very injured, namely Pineapple). It totally bites to be forced to stop. Your mind is still hiking, but your body won’t let it happen. You need to keep yourself healthy and strong to sustain 6 straight months of hiking.
Thus I was led to a difficult decision: to be or not to be a purist. I have to leave the trail. Do I want to start back where I left off or do I want to keep up with my friends?
The answer was incredibly simple. My Tramily is everything to me. They are the reason I’m still here, the reason my pack doesn’t weigh 50lbs, the reason I wake up every morning and fall into a fit of laughter. Plain and simple, the people on the trail are enriching my existence. They make me happy to be alive. I don’t want to lose that. Look at all these beautiful people. Look at how HAPPY we are. That’s not worth losing!
But Wayne, this is YOUR hike.
Exactly, Peanut Gallery. So I think it’s about time you shut up now.
Everyone has different reasons for and different ways of hiking.
And the community is so incredibly accepting of that! It’s so fantastic. I have not received any flak out there on the trail for not being a purist, for skipping trail for my friends. The world of AT Hikers is so kind and supportive, and you know this if you’re out there. If you’re not yet, and you’re worried, know that no one will judge you for doing what you need to do. Stay true to your goals, my friend. That’s what’s going to get you the furthest.
I can go on and give you all my personal crap, but I can’t imagine you particularly would want to hear that boring, stars-in-my-eyes speech.
The whole point of this post is that I want you to finish your hike’s goals. The GOALS. I want you to find what you need out there in the wilderness. I want to make sure you bend with your trip, because that’s the only way you can truly get what you need out of it.
If you’re at home or just starting out, it’s easy to imagine that you’re going to be invincible. But that’s not the case, and it’s not a negative thing. You are going to learn so much about yourself, about creating a community, about helping others and asking others to help you. You are going to get hurt in some capacity, and you are going to have to make decisions about how to fix yourself up again.
Remember what you’re seeking. Open your mind and your heart to the beautiful and painful surprises that are waiting for you. You’re going to have a wonderful time.
I kneed a break. This injured girl is going to go grab 3 beers and 2 hot dogs and sit down on the beach to watch the waves crash and the children play around. And she’s totally not going to enjoy a second of it.
Well, ok, maybe a little.
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