Speed Dating and Going Steady – Is Breaking Up Hard to Do?

Thoughts (mostly) for NOBOs

Several blogs ago, I discussed some of those questions prospective thru-hikers hear over and over again. Aside from asking if I was carrying weaponry, the most common question involves hiking with a partner.

While there are many good reasons to hike with someone, these are my top six:

  1. Safety
  2. Companionship
  3. Shared hotel rooms and supplies to save $$$
  4. Motivation
  5. Overall assistance with pack load: tent, stove, bear bagging, water filtering, etc.
  6. Reassurance for loved ones

I was really leaning toward starting alone, knowing I would meet lots of folks along the way. But fate intervened, and I will begin with another woman “of a certain age” who also lives here in Florida. She is an experienced backpacker, so this provides a great deal of comfort for my family. For me personally, hiking with her also is a big plus for the items on my list.

There are also some good reasons to hike solo:

  1. Being able to plan your day, your way
  2. Truly Hiking Your Own Hike
  3. Not needing to share a room unless you want to
  4. Quiet time
  5. You are most likely in a group anyway
  6. Privacy

As I read the blogs and journals of prior thru-hiker classes, I saw hikers meet, hike together, separate, sometimes get back together, and occasionally stay together for 2,000 miles. However, it strikes me that hikers who met on the trail or during a preparation phase have little chance of staying together to the finish. After all, how many good friends would be good companions for any type of six-month trip? I think this is true of a backpacking expedition or a cruise on the QE2.

As NOBOs depart from Springer we may be in packs of 40-50 people per day during “peak season.” This group will travel at different speeds, meeting up with others in their bubble along the way. We will find those we click with and those we don’t. It seems a bit like speed dating. Every night at shelters all over Georgia, hikers will be getting to know each other and forming connections. Some of these partnerships will continue for a few days, meeting up at the next shelter each evening, perhaps hiking together throughout the day.


Unfortunately those we click with personality-wise may not be good hiking partners.

That entertaining and helpful 20-something guy may be ready to do 20 mile days while old Granny here is still sticking to single digits. Or, like many folks we meet, what was funny on Day 1 is like nails on a chalkboard by Day 10. The folks who need to stop every four or so days for mail drops may not work with those who resupply on the trail. A hiking partner may become sick or injured.

Sometimes hikers meet a person who helps on the bad days, has the same philosophy on Zeros, and hikes at a comparable pace. Now it feels more like you are going steady. You meet up for lunch and to camp. You stop at the same towns and hostels. You share basic supplies and make sure your partner is staying hydrated.

going steady

But like most relationships, cracks begin to emerge. How do you address this when you have publicly proclaimed your hiker buddy relationship on Appalachian Trials or Facebook? Isn’t it a bit like dating someone in the workplace. It may be hard to avoid the person for months!  What if only one of you wants to “break up.”  (If you go then I’ll be blue/ ‘Cause breaking up is hard to do)


In many cases, breaking up IS hard to do.


So this coming weekend, my hiking buddy and I are doing a preparation hike and camp here in Florida. It surely won’t mimic the AT in terms of terrain, but it will give us the opportunity to test out our tents, packs, boots, bear-bagging skills, etc. And more importantly, it will give us some time to discuss my wild-ass crazy spreadsheet and our goals for the state of Georgia. After that, we shall see…

And, yes, I realize that I am dating myself using terms like “going steady” and quoting a song released in 1962, but everyone knows I am older than dirt anyway.

*Quote from that classic hit from 1962, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka.

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Comments 1

  • RokinRonda- RokItArt : Jan 26th

    A fun read, Kate!!! I look forward to reading about the trials and tribulations, no pun intended, (Appalachian Trials)of your Life 2.0 adventure!!! LOVE the GIRLY TENT!!


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