My Big, Not So Fat, Thru Hiking Tramily

One of the best things about thru hiking, for me, has got to be the people. The group dynamics you find on trail are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. Similar to make believe, hikers take on different persona’s and interact with each other in an almost ridiculous way. It develops from the smallest things but becomes something that changes strangers into friends and friends into family (tramily). Whether you’re all acting like people from the Jersey Shore or passing around a forgotten mouth guard, your bonds strengthen and you feel the need to stay with these individuals who you never knew would become so important.

As people pass by you on trail or you meet in trail towns, slowly, an unspoken agreement occurs that you will hike together for as long as you both see fit. This bond is unique because of the instant connection you feel with another human being that doesn’t occur in the front country. An instant trust that you’ll ‘live’ together and help each other out until the time comes when you part ways. And out of that comes a million inside jokes and hours of laughter, usually making your ribs hurt along with all the other aches and pains of the hike. The pain I mind the least.

Maybe it comes from all of the time we spend together with no other distractions. On the PCT, a group I was with created a pseudo family, complete with mom, dad, adolescent teenager, bratty sister, and lost child. Later on, in a different group, we became people from Jersey with accents and back stories. On the AT, we were the Locomotives and I took my place as the Goose Caboose before getting sucked into a group called the Vortex, that derailed hikers along the trail. On the Te Araroa, a group member picked up a used rugby mouth guard and stashed it in another’s sleeping bag. When found, and investigated into who may have owned it, it has since traveled almost 500km. Jumping secretly from pack to pack in the hopes of reaching Bluff, the southern terminus.

These are the people who have your back when you run out of food or water or just need a pick me up. The people you can talk to for hours and not get sick of. You fall in love with them a little bit more every day. Yet every group comes to an end, whether it be taking an extra zero day or the end of the trail. Then these people, who you love, go back to their homes all over the country, never knowing when you’ll see each other again. But hopeful and trusting that these incredible friendships you made will stand the test of time. 

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