The Life-Changing Addiction of Thru-Hiking

Salt Lake City, Jan. 21, 2019: The countdown has started. At the end of April—roughly three months from now—I will get dropped off at the Mexican border. Again!

The Thru-Hike Addiction

When I crossed the Canadian border in 2016, I did not think I would attempt to hike from Mexico to Canada ever again. I also thought I’d be done with hiking for a while. But just one week after finishing the PCT, you could find me on the trail again. Ever since I have completed multiple shorter (50 to 500 milers) thru-hikes.

A thru-hike is a life-changing experience. A six-mile hike seems like an easy Sunday walk. Your annual vacation has to be another thru-hike. You spend most of your savings on gear that makes your backpack lighter. Lastly, your friends don’t want to go hiking with you because they say you want to hike too many miles.

Many of my friends have asked, “Why do you want to do this all over again?” There is no simple answer to this question. Fact is that the annual thru-hike surveys report shows that about 80% of thru-hikers would thru-hike again. What makes someone addicted to thru-hiking? The feeling of thru-hiking and what makes it addicting is not the same for everybody. My personal thru-hike addiction derives from two feelings that I only experience when I hike for a long time and over a long distance:

The simplicity of the life on trail. All you do for months is wake up, have breakfast, pack up and start walking, have lunch, walk, have dinner and set up camp, sleep.

The continuous challenge on your body and mind. A thru-hike is very challenging on your body, but even more so on your mind.

If you need a few months off work to attempt a thru-hike, simply say you have a disease called “thru-hiking addiction.” The only way to cure this disease is to go on another thru-hike.

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