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.

Lazy Non-Purist
As much as I love cotton underwear and endless perishables and showering and sleeping in a bed, I feel constantly unsettled. I need to get back on the trail. But that’s a story for another blog post.

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!

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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.

Epic Views, yo.

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.

So now?

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.

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Well, ok, maybe a little.

xo Wayne

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Comments 12

  • Bloodhound : Apr 11th

    Hey Lil’ Wayne! Refreshing to see such candor. Kinda goes against the grain of a lot of well-meaning idealists who consider themselves self-appointed guardians of everything that is good and proper on the trail. No wonder hikers have begun to pushback’ with the ‘Hike Your Own Hike’ (i.e., f**k off and mind your own business) philosophy.
    As a trail angel, I too face a fair amount of critcs telling me how what I’m doing by packing food and drink way back into remote shelters is destroying the essence of of the trail and corrupting hiker’s purity of experience, which both pisses me off and makes me even more determined to keep on keeping on. I heard that hiking the trail is the ultimate in freedom of expression or, in my day (1970’s) referred to as ‘screw the man’! So, I raise a glass to you and say, keep on keeping on!

    Reply
    • Therese Masotta : Apr 13th

      Hell yeah! Rock on and THANK You for being a Trail Angel. So very real, it’s crazy the reactions you’ll run into. Yet I feel even the things that irk you are still so positively enhancing, just like you said – a motivation to keep on keepin’ on. Positivity is part of the trail and the journey, which is so amazing. Anyway, the glass is raised right back atchya, this girl will keep on so long as you do too! xoWayne

      Reply
    • Rigby : Apr 14th

      Bloodhound-
      You packed apple cider and fruit in to the shelter we were in last fall and it was an incredible act of kindness that made that whole day better. There were only two of us there that night and, if I remember correctly, it hadn’t been the greatest day.
      Thanks again for hanging out with us that night, it was a great and much needed dose of magic.

      Reply
      • Bloodhound : Apr 15th

        Totally my pleasure! Glad I was able to help in some small way.

        Reply
  • emily sue : Apr 12th

    fuck yeah, girl! i love this perspective. <3

    Reply
  • TicTac : Apr 12th

    By definition, a “purist” is a hiker who walks every single foot of the AT, never misses a blaze, doesn’t take blue blaze trails from shelters that might cause missing a few feet, and does all of that in one calendar year. That person deserves to be called a thru-hiker upon completion of their hike and can in good conscience apply to ALDHA for thru-hiker recognition and request a 2000 mile rocker from the ATC.

    According to most people who love and follow the AT, the definition of a thru-hiker is a person who walks 2,189 miles – give or take a little – of the Appalachian Trail in one twelve month period (and most will say irregardless of whether all of those months are in one calendar year). Anyone who does that can reasonably call themselves a thru-hiker, and in good conscience apply to ALDHA for thru-hiker recognition and request a 2000 miler rocker from the ATC.

    And while I accept the fact that you injured yourself and rightly need to take time to recuperate, and acknowledge that we all have to define what our AT hike is, if you have no plan to go back and make up the 100+ miles you very intentionally will skip after you summit Katahdin, you will not be a thru-hiker. So I appreciate the fact that you are drawing a distinction between the HIKE and your GOALS. If your goal is to experience your tramily as long as it sticks together, then decide what you will do, then go for it.

    So, to get back to your statement about not being a Purist, just keep in mind that the difference between a THRU-HIKER and a PURIST is a matter of feet, or at most a mile or two, not 5% of the entire length of the Trail.

    Oh, and I hope you enjoyed the beer and beach, time to get back to the hard work. And if you are blogging on Trailjournals.com, post your blog name so we can all follow your hike.

    Reply
    • Therese Masotta : Apr 13th

      Snapcracklepop I’m not going to lie, I honestly didn’t know about that definition! Thus the info is much appreciated – puts more into perspective, and a very interesting read!
      Hey, as much as beer and beaches are cool I really cannot cannot wait to get back on the trail. Everyone around me is decidedly tired of hearing me yammer on about how much I miss it, as you can imagine. It’s so consuming.
      I only got this one and my personal one on WordPress, but I’ve heard trailjournals totally rules! I just can’t do three blogs haha.
      xo rock and roll, my friend.

      Reply
  • Ghost of Joe Hollywood : Apr 15th

    The Trail is like life. You get what you give. It can predict your life and reflect your life. If you have the discipline, the mental toughness and the good fortune there’s a good chance you will walk 2,000 miles to Maine. If you are a weak person in life, who regularly makes excuses for failure, accepts half measures, then those traits are likely to reveal themselves on trail. You’ll have plenty of company. The trail is ripe with yellowblazers. Take this golden opportunity to see what you are made of and to chart a different course for your life. The road to success and fulfillment is littered with “easy” detours. Avoid those and choose the hard and solitary path. It’s a narrow path you walk on trail and in life. Best of luck

    Reply
  • Reset : Apr 15th

    You do you. It’s cool. Being a purist is cool too. Anyone who judges another hiker for anything but a serious foul (like washing dirty undies in a water source) needs to rethink why they are on the trail. If they aren’t on the trail they need to rethink whether they should open their cake hole at all.

    Here’s the thing. The ATC recognizes 2000 milers. There is NO “thruhiker” award. I figure you can skip about 200 miles before anyone can even talk about of your hike is pure. Even then, they can bite me.

    I’m hiking every inch. A close friend is l yellow blazing at the beginning to keep up with the group because she has some serious blisters and is out of shape. God help anyone who gives her a hard time about yellowblazing in front of me.

    Reply
  • Steve : Apr 15th

    HYOH but if you start 100 miles past the place you got off the trail then you better not claim you thru-hiked the AT. Skip 100 miles = didn’t complete a thru-hike of the AT no matter how you rationalize it.

    Reply
    • Therese Masotta : Apr 16th

      No worries on that front, bro! I am ugly and proud. But I hear ya, I’m not stealin’ titles I don’t own.

      Reply
  • scott herndon : Apr 16th

    Hike the way that makes you feel that your hike was a success and stop worrying about explaining it justifying it to or seeking validation of it from others. Why do you care what a bunch of strangers on the internet think about whether your hike was pure or not. Who cares whether you get a certificate at the end saying you did this or that. Do what makes you happy, do what provides meaning and growth for your life and stop worrying about gaining the approval of social media followers. Its your life your hike live it your way. Share your hike with family and friends who will support you encourage you and help you grow and ditch this insipid blog with vapid people who do nothing but try to justify the faded glory of their own hike by insisting it was better or harder than someone else’s nothing sadder than people who did a thru hike 5 years ago still desperately seeking attention for something they did years ago.

    Reply

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