How to be part of a thru hikers hike
Most of the posts you will find on this site are directed specifically towards hikers. This is a post will be a little different in that’s directed specifically to the thru hiker support teams at home. Please also understand that these are my opinions based off of my own experience and conversations. I speak only for myself not for the hiking community or Appalachian Trials as a whole . Before you get your jimmies all rustled, let’s have an open and honest conversation so we can all enjoy the trail.
Since I began talking to my friends and family about a future solo thru hike many of them have expressed a desire to join me on my hike. Be it for a day, a long weekend or even a week. They explain it would be a lot of fun to hike with me on my journey. I enjoy hiking so I share their sentiment. I also understand the desire to experience what I’m doing and be part of it themselves too. Typically I graciously accept their offer, all the while in my mind hoping they ultimately back out.
This thoughtful offer is a double edged sword and some hikers struggle to give a genuinely honest response. It would be a lie to say that friends and family are not missed while on a 6 month journey of epic proportion. I, for one, am a very independent person which can sometimes be perceived as selfishness. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish, especially when its your own 2,185 mile journey of self discovery and badassery. Remember thru hikers are trying to hike their own hike, and you should too!
In talking with both past and future thru hikers I’m not alone in these conversations. Many of their friends and family have also expressed their desire to join them for a few days or a even a week. All of the hikers I have spoken to offered varying view points on the topic. Some good and bad, others even regretful. With both success and failure stories.
The reasons seem to be similar as to why hiker support teams from home want to join thru hikers for some period of time. I don’t believe it to be necessary to go over them at this time. I think the reasons for someone to think carefully about joining a thru hiker are what needs to be addressed. Before they invite themselves. Yes, more often than not a member of the hiker support team invites themselves to join the thru hiker. That is one commonality I discovered in my discussions. Rarely is the request made by the thru hiker for someone from home to join them. I’m not claiming to know the reason, I’m just stating my findings.
In general thru hikers will be covering 15-20+ miles a day depending upon their distance previously travelled, and the overall terrain. Not many folks can begin their weekend hike by starting off with a hike over 10 miles a day. Keep in mind you’ll also be carrying a full backpack. Day after day thru hikers are covering ground like that. It’s like some sort of pleasurable self induced torture. While most people back home are making small talk at the office, thru hikers are climbing mountains.
With very few exceptions I would prefer to hike my own hike alone, or with fellow thru hikers. Specifically excluding my father. I hope our future time on the trail will inspire him to finally take the thru hike he’s been talking about my whole life. Similar to the way it has inspired me.
Many aspiring thru hikers have the same concerns I do but are unsure how to speak openly about it. Friends and family, please don’t be upset or feel left out. If you want to be part of a thru hikers journey I have a few suggestions. I truly hope my friends and family are able to share these with me on my hike. They are a critical part of my success. The same as you are a critical part of your loved ones success too.
Meet up with them and their new trail family with some super badass trail magic. Homemade food and fresh fruit and veggies go a long way! There’s no wrong kind of free beer to bring. (Although for the record light beer is not beer, it’s an abomination)
Spend a night or two in town with them instead taking a zero or nero
Offer to pick them up and do something non hiking related for a day or two like a mini vacation
Offer to send them care packages from their list of preapproved items(aka Microsponsorship)
2 words: SLACK PACK!
Go on a pre trail shakedown hike with them
If you absolutely positively must hike with your thru hiking love one please keep a few things in mind:
Ask the thru hiker when would be the most convenient for them and for how long.
They will have to cut their daily mileage down so you don’t get burned out.
Meet them earlier on in the hike, or in a section with very easy terrain.
Keep your time on the trail brief and enjoyable for everyone.
Come prepared, thru hikers only carry what they need. Plan and pack accordingly.
Put some miles on your boots before you meet up to hike along.
Plan to be flexible on meeting up with the hiker.
Keep in mind logistics on how you will get back home.
Don’t forget the corn whiskey.
Let’s both go on a mini vacation from our daily routines together. Please, before you invite yourself along let’s talk about it first. It should be mutually beneficial and fun after all!
Do you have any other suggestions on how a support team can feel like they are a part of the journey? Have you had any experience good or bad with people joining your thru hike? Let’s here about it!
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Good article and definitely a tough topic to discuss with people who in most cases have good intentions. However the lack the experience and/or physical ability needed to actually accompany you hiking is a real concern. In my experience as I plan for a 2016 AT thru-hike, I feel the disconnect comes in the lack of understanding of what kind of effort is needed to complete a thru-hike in the time frame that is available to finish. They hear that for the average hiker it is a 5 to 6 month endeavor and I think they feel like that is forever, not really being familiar with the distance or terrain involved. I have to admit this is going to be one of my concerns as the time to leave approaches and only time will tell if those who actually have mentioned hiking along actually attempt to join in.
Thanks for posting.