The Class of 2017: All Geared Up, Ready to Trek, and Here’s Why

The number one question every prospective thru-hiker gets asked during their preparations is, WHY?

Why would you ever want to spend the majority of six months of your life living out of doors, exposed to the elements, sleeping and pooping in the woods, traversing difficult terrain daily, and, of course, fighting off bears single handedly?

I attempt to show them pictures like this as explanation, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.


The ever beautiful McAfee Knob

So I took the liberty of asking all of my fellow Trek bloggers along with the extended class of 2017 and sorted their answers into a few separate categories. I have been struggling with how to explain why to my family, friends, and co-workers and I am hoping this article will help our loved ones understand and support our decision to thru-hike.


Many responses expressed a need to get away from the stress and routine of daily life…for a long period of time. Sure, one could simply fly to a beach for a week or so then return home and that could be a lovely vacation or a way to spend the retirement money…but the fun ends so quickly then you are right back where you started. Hiking the Appalachian Trail (or any long trail) provides a way to escape for an extended time, and even on a decent budget if one is careful.


We wish to confront the most simple needs of life, to get back to the basics, to live in a minimalistic fashion. To realize that all you really need is water, food, a warm shelter, and good company. Then to fully be able to appreciate everything extra beyond that.


Adventure/Fitness/Communing with Nature:

Chances are the majority of potential thru-hikers already feel more at home in the woods. The hustle and bustle of the city can drive us insane at times. I guess you could say insane enough to want to hike over two-thousand miles. Consequently hiking for weeks on end will whip one in to shape if you stick with it, so many of the 2017 class are hoping to lose weight or stay in shape. The Appalachian Trail gives you the freedom to roam as you choose, on your schedule, easily allowing for changes in plan or finding something new to do along the way while on a visit to town.

Also…how can you say no to views like this?


Personal Trauma:

It made my heart so heavy reading the massive amount of responses involving personal tragedy. From deaths in the family, to battling life threatening illness, to facing the past… I am sad to say the class of 2017 seems to be one heartbroken bunch. But somehow Katahdin and all of her sisters called out to us, screaming into our souls to at least allow the mountains a chance to heal us. We can do nothing but helplessly answer, yes, we’re coming and whether we meet Katahdin at the end (NOBO), at the beginning (SOBO), or somewhere in the middle (most flip flops) does not matter, all that matters is we walk amongst the ancient Appalachians…and hopefully find peace along the way.


And… finally the majority of the answers why: Because we want to!!!

Technically, do we really need to owe anyone an explanation? We are spending part of our lives attempting to complete an insanely challenging goal…with no one to measure our success or failure but ourselves.

All in all it adds up to one thing, as Zach says in “Appalachian Trials”…Dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction in where we currently are in life and we need some time to learn how to become satisfied with ourselves and the world around us. The feeling can be summarized in the ever-popular statement by Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

The class of 2017 is geared up, and we’re coming, Appalachia. Be ready.

 And bonus…my personal favorite answers to why:

(you know who you are)

“I just feel like walking.”

“To return to the wolf pack that raised me.”

“Mountains, Gandalf!”

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Comments 4

  • Sirwalkingtree : Jan 29th

    Well said!

  • Troy : Jan 31st

    I don’t know you, may never (and that’s ok!). Because you didn’t ask & you are working hard to accomplish what I hope to do in 2018 I want to help add a little to your “savings” if you are serious? about an all in effort.
    You have may email address

    T Wit

    • Ashley Hill : Feb 1st

      No way? Seriously?
      It would be easier for me if you messaged me through Facebook or Instagram if possible. The link is available on my profile on this site. I am nervous for my upcoming journey and I wish you well next year!

  • Bob : Jun 29th

    Great story telling and writing, the humour is in fact, very humerous. I am planning to do the trail in 2020, retirement year. I have been reading every blog I can get my hands on, doing soft planning as I call it. Avid hiker in northern Canada, I Am enjoying your excitement for the AT and the prep, this is definitely making me want to do the trail even more ????, thanks……… looking for the next story!


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