Stability, the only thing you need to hike the AT

During my hike I tried my best to figure out what the successful thru hikers had in common.  What is the difference between a person who makes it the entire way, makes it part of the way, or doesn’t make it to the trail at all?

It wasn’t until my final white blaze that the answer finally sank in.  I had a hunch I was getting closer to finding my answer after about 1500 miles.  Then I reach the 100 Mile Wilderness.  For those of you new to the trail it’s a 100 mile stretch of well, wilderness.  No towns and very few roads.  Just lots of woodland and tree roots all over the trail.  I was planning to summit the big K on Sept 2nd with Kid.  We had been hiking for about 1,000 miles at this point so it was kind of fitting.  Two days before we finished the AT I met a friendly dog, and two amazing grey haired hikers.  They started on April 2nd, just a few days before I started.  However I had not heard their names or seen them in any shelter logs.  Braids and White Cap were amazing people.

We spoke briefly about how we must have passed each other so many times along the trail without knowing it.  They were excited to be finishing in exactly 5 months.  They would be met Sept 1st at Katahdin Stream campground by their son, his wife and their two children, ages 8 and 10 I believe.  The following morning all 3 generations would summit Katahdin while Braids and White Cap completed their AT thru hike.  The children and grandchildren were excited to see their parents complete something they had also done in 2015.  On Sept 2nd 2016 the 3 generations hiked up the final mountain of the AT northbound.  They had then all completed the trail aging from 7 to 70ish in 5 months.  This is amazing and inspiring.

This for me solidified my theory that a person needs stability of 3 things to successfully complete the trail.  Financial stability, mental stability and physical stability.  That’s it.  If you have the desire to do it, you’re good to go.  I felt as though at 34 I was in the prime of thru hiking age.  My sweet spot of all 3 was the largest it could be.  It has nothing to do with age or experience.

I noticed a lot of the younger crowd running out of financing early in the trail.  The older crowd although financially stable was physically more challenged.  The mental game(which is the most difficult in my opinion) is the unpredictable one.  Some of the younger crowd showed immense mental stability while the older crowd lacked the gumption, or maybe just the desire.  I’m not saying the young crowd just parties and quits when the party stops.  I spent a few days hiking with S.L.A.M. , a 19 year old that was completing her Triple Crown.  I also saw folks thru hike on very very slim budgets.  For them it didn’t take a lot of money.  I also saw folks dropping cash like it was 52 pickup or my boy Dizzie with his cash cannon.

Think of these 3 subjects being lines on a graph.  For each one of the lines will go up and down at different ages.  Some need to save money for a few years, some a few months.  So it’s hard to rule anyone out for anything.  The lines on the graph will be different for each one of us.  Regardless of age or experience level.  If a person has the financial, mental and physical stability with enough gumption to show up, anyone can do it.  The only person stopping us from doing it, is ourselves.



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Comments 1

  • New Hampshire Bob : Apr 6th

    Dylan I started my 2016 thru hike on April 6th and finished on August 25th. I was lucky to have spent some time with S.L.A.M. (amazing girl) near the end. We also must have crossed paths along the way. I agree with you that anyone can hike the trail if you put your mind to it. The power of positive thinking. I turned 66 on the trail.


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