Thru-Hiking in 2021, COVID-19, and The Trek’s Platform

It was roughly this time last year when it felt as if hell was rising to the earth’s surface. A virus we knew little about, aside from its ability to overwhelm hospitals and take lives in devastating numbers, was on an inevitable crash course for the US.

Life seemingly stopped in its tracks. Professional sports shut down. Businesses were forced to close. Toilet paper became worth its weight in gold. Guns were purchased in record-breaking numbers. All the while we sheltered in place, nervously watching the news and panic-scrolling Twitter.

It came as absolutely no surprise that the non-profits which oversee many of our beloved National Scenic Trails, namely the ATC and PCTA, asked people to postpone their long-distance backpacking plans in light of this emerging pandemic.

Fast forward one year. Not much has changed.

Professional sports are back and the nation’s TP supply has stabilized so that we can all wipe with confidence. But the pandemic still rages on as we chart toward a half-million lives lost as a result. Despite this depressing reality, there does finally appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel in the form of effective vaccines and ever-improving therapeutics.

You’re already living through this nightmare, you don’t need me to describe what’s happening. But, it’s worth dissecting the current state of the pandemic and how it relates to backpacking in 2021.

What the Trail Organizations Are Saying

To say that the trail organizations are giving hikers mixed messages would be a charitable take. Although the PCTA “(recommends) postponing long-distance travel on the PCT until 2022,” to the surprise of many, they—on behalf of the US Forest Service—are issuing long-distance permits for this year. Similarly, the ATC is advising people to postpone their hikes until next year, and recently announced that they will not be recognizing thru-hikes in 2021, but are still allowing people to register their thru-hikes and offering a page dedicated to hiking safely during COVID.   The CDTC hasn’t issued a statement advising people to forego their thru-hikes, but will not be operating their southern terminus shuttle until further notice (which is smart).

That brings us to the million-dollar question…

Should you postpone your thru-hike this year?

I have no idea. I’m in no position to tell you what to do with your life, nor do I believe that “because Zach said so” will be a reason many people decide one way or another.

That said, assuming I were planning a 2021 thru-hike and had the flexibility to push it back to next year or to start SOBO in the summer, I likely would.

But one of the best things about you is that you’re not me. You have your own circumstances and considerations.

What I can control, as the top in command here at The Trek, is whether we allow thru-hikers to share their journeys through our channels in 2021. Last year, we followed the lead of the trail organizations and asked 2020 AT and PCT hikers not to post to The Trek’s platform.

After a good deal of consideration, I will not be making that ask this year.

Here’s why:

1) Risk of Outdoor Transmission

Outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is significantly less common relative to transmission indoors. The science on this is clear. One study examining 7,324 Chinese COVID case reports found that only two could be linked to outdoor settings. A database examining 20,000 COVID cases found that just 461, roughly 2%, of these were tied to completely outdoor environments, and most of those were from events with crowds, like markets and rallies (source). I think this is widely understood, and thus not worth belaboring.

For this reason, day hikes and short backpacking trips that don’t rely on outside transportation are seemingly universally accepted as safe activities.

Things get murkier when a hiker heads to town, which is an inevitable byproduct of a long-distance trek (barring a full support system).

A traditional style thru-hike involves hitching from trail to town and back again, shopping at grocery stores, gorging at restaurants, and/or stacking bodies in hostels or motels. Additionally, during the height of the northbound season, crowding on trail can become an issue, especially at shelters. Bodies pile into picnic tables for dinner, around the campfire at dusk, and sardine into shelters for slumber.

These typical behaviors would present an unnecessarily high risk of transmission amongst hikers and consequently, to our trail communities. It’s imperative to recognize this if you plan to take on a long-distance backpacking trip in the coming weeks or months.  I’m assuming this is the precise reason why the ATC and PCTA are asking people to postpone their hikes. Presumably, in their eyes, giving their blessing would be an endorsement for this type of adventure.

Let me be very clear: I do believe backpacking can be a safe activity if and only if the proper precautions are taken.

If a traditional style thru-hike, as described above, is what you’re after, you should absolutely postpone your hike. You won’t be getting that experience right now—and for those who do engage in these behaviors, you’re endangering our trail communities. No two ways about it.

However, there are sacrifices that can be made which would mitigate much of this risk.  Walking to town (vs. hitchhiking), maintaining a six-foot distance from those outside your bubble, avoiding shelters (very important!!), wearing a quality mask (N95 or KN95) around others, avoiding indoor dining, and only lodging with others in your bubble, are just a few. More on this later.

If you’re resolute about backpacking this season, sacrifices will be necessary. Please take this to heart.

However, some adamantly believe that long-distance backpacking in any capacity presents too high a risk. Acquiring food, whether in the form of picking up a mail drop from a post office or resupplying at a grocery store, is an unavoidable part of backpacking. Consequently, the activity is unsafe in their eyes.

This is a tough pill to swallow.

If everyone were locking down, never leaving their homes, or at worst, hometowns, then there’s a good argument to be made for shunning long distance backpacking.  However, that’s not what’s happening.  The Colorado slopes are as busy as ever, I know plenty of people who’ve migrated south for various warm weather activities, even my own ~70 year old parents treat their 20-minute drive to Costco as their last remaining “adventure”.  In theory, it’s easy to tell aspiring thru-hikers to sit on the sidelines this year.  In reality, this would require asking them to abide by a standard that has virtually no compliance.   To cast someone who’s grocery shopping in the context of a thru-hike as an evil virus vector while we turn a blind eye to people who are going about some variation of their normal lives while engaging in the same behaviors is simply unfair.

If a hiker walks from trail to town (and vice versa), wears a quality mask around others- especially indoor settings- lodges only with those from their bubble, and is financially and emotionally prepared to quarantine for two weeks if exposed to COVID and/or exhibiting symptoms, it seems implausible to argue that they’re posing an increased risk to others relative to how the average person is going about their life right now.

This is to make no mention of the increased risk of depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse from prolonged isolation, which absolutely deserves to be factored into this conversation.  Some seem to imply that sheltering in place is a simple sacrifice- but this ignores the mental health impact related to isolation, severe financial stress, and confinement.  For many (myself included), being outdoors has been the lone lifeline to preserving some sanity during an otherwise punishing last twelve months.

It’s not hard to understand why our trail organizations advocate for people to forego their plans- they fear the behavior of the lowest common denominator. In their shoes, I’m guessing many would arrive at the same conclusion.

However, like most things in life, this isn’t black or white. Thru-hiking isn’t good or bad. There are nuances that make the decision much more challenging than do or don’t. It’s my hope that highlighting some of these subtleties helps to strip away the stigma attached to what could be one of the few safe and fulfilling outlets available to us right now.

2) Endorsing Bullying

Last year, when the ATC, PCTA, and CDTC issued their requests for people to postpone their hikes and for those currently on trail to get off, most followed suit.

But, some did not.

As a result, those who continued on were the target of extreme anger, hostility, resentment, and even threats from the various online hiking communities. Admittedly, I was less than charitable in my feelings toward these individuals, especially in the beginning, when it was less clear about how the virus was transmitted. Their unwillingness to heed the trail organizations’ calls felt selfish and reckless, both in my eyes and what seemed to be the opinion of the community at large.

However, the level of vitriol directed at these hikers was unconscionable. Although the frustration was understandable, in my opinion, the pile-on was only partially explained by the risk these hikers posed. Some of this anger was due to their dismissal of the trail organizations’ requests (which can be independent of actual risks posed). Some of this was resentment from those who did get off trail and felt that others were selfish for not making the same sacrifice. Some of this was the typical cocktail of Internet conflict—groupthink, mob mentality, and rage that rarely exists during in-person interactions. And, a portion of this warfare was undeniably a result of the anger, frustration, and stress everyone is enduring as a result of this pandemic. Of-fucking-course people are angry.  We are all too ready to snap at someone- especially behind a keyboard- given even the mildest of opportunities.

I hope this goes without saying, but this was not a healthy reaction. It’s one thing to disagree, but to harass someone to the point where they withdraw from their community, or even fear for their own safety, is indefensible.

I don’t want that history to repeat itself in 2021, and I fear that closing the platform to thru-hikers endorses the message that they are terrible people recklessly endangering other people’s lives, when I don’t believe that to be true.

Furthermore, simply shutting out those who are hiking doesn’t actually remove someone from the trail.  Having an open line of communication to the community will help us monitor their impact and potentially relay important information should the state of the pandemic take a turn for the worse.

3) The Hypocrisy

Lastly, I think it’s worth addressing the hypocrisy of opening the platform to one trail and not another for reasons other than legality or safety.

Although the ATC and PCTA asked people to forego their hikes last year, many other trail organizations did not- or at best- sent very mixed messages. As a result, people flocked to other popular long trails around the country. Last year was the busiest season on record for the Colorado Trail. I personally know of at least a dozen people who hiked the CT, John Muir Trail, Long Trail, or Tahoe Rim Trail last year. Ironically, all of these trails overlap the same triple crown trails that were considered taboo to hike. How it’s okay to hike the western half of the Tahoe Rim Trail, but someone’s a monstrous piece of shit if they’re section hiking the PCT when it’s the same exact tread is perplexing.

The point is not that these individuals who took to other trails were deserving of more public criticism, but instead to acknowledge that perhaps the vitriol directed at those doing the same thing, oftentimes in the same place, was a tad too extreme.

In Closing

This post isn’t meant to be an endorsement of long-distance backpacking. As previously stated, if I were planning to embark on a thru-hike in the coming weeks and had the flexibility to simply put it off a couple months or a year, I likely would.  I enjoy the social element of thru-hiking too much, would miss iconic experiences like staying at Scout and Frodo’s, and couldn’t imagine hiking through Catawba without pummeling my innards full of comfort food at The Homeplace.

But again, that’s just me.  If you need this adventure right now and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to best ensure a safe journey, I’m not going to hold it against you, and it’s my hope that others in the community take a similar sentiment.

We, the backpacking community, are historically a tight knit group.  Last year, was an exception, and I’m hoping that we can resume the rule this year.

If you are going to take on a long distance backpacking trip this year, it’s my very sincere hope that members of The Trek’s team (and everyone who’s taking on a long distance trek in 2021) will take every step necessary to ensure a safe journey for themselves, their fellow hikers, and the trail communities.

Some suggestions include:

  • Get a quality mask (N95 or KN95) and wear it anytime you’re indoors or near someone outside.
  • Avoid hitchhiking. Plan your resupplies so that you can access town on foot.
  • Limit indoor time in town to only the essentials- resupplies and/or mail drops. If you’re going to stay in town, get a room to yourself, with your partner, or those in your bubble.
  • Avoid grouping with anyone outside your bubble on trail. Avoid crowded campsites, shelters (very important!!), and popular break areas. Maintain a six foot distance from others.
  • Be prepared- financially and emotionally- to quarantine for two weeks should you develop COVID symptoms or have a known exposure.
  • Avoid public transportation in getting to a trail’s terminus as much as possible.
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Comments 36

  • Avatar
    Katie Houston : Feb 10th

    Zach, I really appreciate the time and consideration you have put into this article and totally agree with your points. Love the message, and thanks for the clarification. Happy hiking!

    Reply
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    Olivia : Feb 10th

    I appreciate all the thought that went into this article. Thank you! It honestly makes me feel a bit better about my decision to thru hike and gave me some additional tips to think through. Hike on class of 2021! And for goodness sake, brim a mask 🙂

    Reply
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    Kayla : Feb 10th

    All points stated are well thought out with consideration to all angles. Thank you for this article! I am thru hiking this year (mask in hand!) with the understanding that it will be different than normal and sacrifices will be made. But doing so will make for a safer and more considerate community for all.

    Reply
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    Lance A Goehring : Feb 10th

    I agree with the other commenters. Thanks for giving your input on thru-hiking this year. I was a 2020 NOGO, following the advice of the PCTA and others like you. It was the right decision at the time, I believe. We did not have a lot of info and out of an abundance of caution, it was the prudent decision.

    With more information, increasing vaccinations, and improving conditions, it seems like a thru-hike can be done this year as long as we are willing to make changes to our behaviors. I am planning on hike the PCT this year, and will be more than happy to observe all the same precautions that we do in our normal lives. The trail, ultimately, is why I’ve always wanted to do this. Not the towns, not trail angels, not the social aspect. There will still be opportunities for those, through the prism of the different world we have now, but they are not the reason. I’m looking forward to the PCT, blogging on the Trek, making new friends, and being safe.

    Reply
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    Yard Sale : Feb 11th

    Hi Zach, thanks for clarifying. I think this needed to be said, and you said it well. I was a successful class of 2020 thru-hiker, and I think it’s worth noting that I wouldn’t trade this unique experience for the world. Many hikers that stayed felt hatred as a response to the hatred they received. They hated the ATC, they hated the hikers that told them they were killing others by continuing, etc.

    But just as Neville said in your interview with her, those of us who stayed often had very good personal reasons to do so. I know I did.

    I don’t believe in black and white answers. I think that hikers who left the trail did the right thing. I think those of us who stayed did the right thing for ourselves, too. It was an incredible year to hike. I owe the nature of my hike to those who sacrificed theirs.

    I owe them some serious trail magic down the line.

    So here’s to an amazing 2021 season. I hope the class of ’21 has an incredible time out there (and access to buffets this year, cause I sure didn’t). Be safe, y’all.

    Reply
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      Books : Feb 12th

      Hey Yard Sale! I remember meeting you on the trail, albeit briefly. I’m another successful AT NOBO this year, part of the NonBlondes.

      Our experience hiking the AT in 2020:
      Two hiker friends and I got off trail when the Smokies shut down and quarantined for 5.5 weeks. When Tennessee and North Carolina started to open up again, we got back on trail (skipping the Smokies). We didn’t stay in a hostel in Hot Springs, but rather tented in someone’s front yard and stayed out of their house (except to shower and do laundry, which was just inside the back door). We didn’t see another person on trail for at least 3 weeks and it was mostly international or homeless hikers that couldn’t go home if they wanted to. We laid down Tyvec when we sat at picnic tables and under our sleeping pads if we slept in shelters. When we finally started seeing more hikers, most people were tenting, in order to socially distance. When no one saw signs of COVID after a few days, our bubble grew to about 8 people and we stayed together when we slept in towns. Most hikers in our area communicated via a Facebook Messenger group, since we saw so few people on trail. We always wore masks in town, used hand sanitizer, washed out hands as much as possible. We felt like we were being as safe as we could be and it seemed like staying on trail, for different reasons, was the only option for us. (Thank you Nevil for asking WHY hikers were still hiking and having a heart to understand individual circumstances). The online hatred we received from the digital trail communities was actually awful. I remember someone saying that they wanted to “lynch” everyone who stayed on trail. I was very thankful for the “Still on the AT page in 2020” Facebook group, which helped us find trail angels when we really needed it. I also want to shout out to all of the trail angels who still offered to help us out during our hike, even remotely. I’d like to name names, but at least one person had asked for us to not share that he took us in, for fear of backlash from the trail community. And, what Yard Sale said, to thank everyone who did decide to get off trail and allowed our hike to be as specially distanced as it could be. A lot of people felt unsupported and misunderstood from the ATC this year and the public statements it was making. I’m glad individual stories are started to make their way out into the world and people are starting to understand what the AT was really like in 2020 and how to steward 2021 with caution and compassion. Thank you for this article, Zach, I appreciate your thoughtfulness!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Dottie Rust : Feb 11th

    great article, Zach, thoughtfully written. i especially appreciate the careful wording you give to the amazing organizations that help maintain & protect these long-distance trails.

    .com

    Reply
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    John Wilson : Feb 11th

    Team Mofo agrees wholeheartedly! Thanks for your insight.

    Reply
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    Max Kiel : Feb 11th

    Great read, glad you spoke out on the topic for some much needed clarification. As a 2021 AT hiker beginning in March, I am ready to do my part in keeping myself, the community and other hikers safe. I hope all other hikers will do the same.

    Reply
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    James : Feb 11th

    Nice article. And now that the CDC has said “no quarantine required” for those who are fully vaccinated, a thruhike can be even more positive this year.

    Reply
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    John : Feb 11th

    Best wishes to all those that are thru-hiking and best wishes to all those that have deferred their thru-hikes.

    Reply
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    Daddy Longlegs : Feb 11th

    Very well put, Zach.
    While am still trying to decide what to do about this year, your words provide a good framework for a decision tree. May the virus’ hold continue to abate and may everyone HYOH responsibly.
    Happy Trails,
    DLL

    Reply
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    Crocamole : Feb 11th

    A well considered and reasonable position. I guess some of my frustration with those who chose to thru-hike during the pandemic was spill over from the reality that many in our country are not taking isolation measures seriously and as a result, many many more people have died than would have it they were. While I don’t agree with the argument that since most people are not limiting their contact and travel, thru-hikers shouldn’t have to either, I do think that if someone is willing to commit the safety measures you outline, the risk that they would be spread COVID-19 to others would be minimal.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      MJ : Feb 19th

      I agree with this comment about “spillover” from the nationwide resistance to lockdown and stay at home orders. I don’t think online bullying is necessary, but I do think people who insisted on hiking last year should really understand what they have contributed to nationwide through their point of view on the pandemic.

      I was living in China in 2020 and had planned to come home and thru hike in the spring. I didn’t come home until the end of 2020. In China, everything just stopped for 12-13 weeks. After that, I was safely and confidently traveling around, hiking, eating at restaurants etc., by May of last year. The USA could have had that scenario, a safe and expedient reopening for everyone, but instead, resisting reality was going on from day-1. It was a truly sad thing to watch from abroad…and even sadder to come home to a year later.

      Reply
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    Futureatwalker : Feb 11th

    Well said. I think we are in a different position knowledge-wise of the risks posed to ourselves and others compared to last year. There is risk, but it isn’t as great as feared, and we know how to mitigate it.

    One thing you probably won’t be seeing this year is many hikers from overseas. As a member of this group, I’m looking forward to vicariously experiencing the trail from those who are fortunate enough to be out there.

    Reply
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    David : Feb 11th

    Great input. I’d like to add that getting vaccinated is recommended. Not only does vaccination greatly reduced the chance of transmission, severe symptoms, but it also according to the CDC, quarantine guidelines have changed for those who are fully vaccinated. This guideline speaks to your point about financial responsibility and quarantine efforts. I plan on hiking the AT this year. I am vaccinated. I will wear a mask in public, not only for transmission reduction, but as a component of social expectations and health promotion.

    Reply
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    John Gordon : Feb 11th

    There was far more bullying coming from the anti-maskers directed at those with legit concerns about long distance hiking during a pandemic.

    Reply
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    pearwood : Feb 11th

    Thanks, Zach. You pretty well described why I decided to postpone my AT NOBO to 2022, which means I will celebrate #72 on the trail instead of #70 as was my original plan. (Surgery, not pandemic, is what caused the first postponement. All better now.)

    I’m no great partier, but I do want to be able to experience and enjoy the community. That means waiting until 2022. For those who can do without that, go ahead and hike. God bless you.

    It will be interesting to see how many drop out for the simple reason that they figure out this isn’t what the really wanted and how many will accept the required changes and drive on ahead. It should make for interesting writing here.

    Thankfully, New York State is ahead of the curve for getting things stabilized. The is no shortage of beautiful places to hike in-state.

    Blessings,
    Steve / pearwood

    Reply
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    Warren Doyle : Feb 11th

    Well-written.
    It will be my ‘go-to’ reference for this volatile subject when others ask me.
    For myself, I live by my ‘common sense’ rather than ‘Covid sense’.

    Reply
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    Shannon : Feb 11th

    THIS. If only we could go back in time and know what we know now… I wish I had this kind of retrospect and understanding last year when I ended my thru after 3 days. I also wish that TheTrek and other hiking social platforms had this level of wholistic thinking. At the time, I felt angry going home and after things opened up, I did return. I’m now putting those vlogs together. I saw what you saw – people doing the same thing that I would have done. I wanted desperately to vlog for you guys this year…like fan girl desperate. But, I decided not to because I was afraid of how my thru-hike experience would be affected by the decision of the platform. So, I politely decided to VMOV and Hike My Own Hike this year. I very much appreciate the stance you have chosen, Zach and that we all recognize the fluidity and ever changing situation we find ourselves in with Covid. Happy Trails!

    Reply
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    Michael Current : Feb 11th

    Good article, Zach. I wrote two articles for The Trek last year highlighting some of the same points you list in this article, particularly those related to the relative risks of hiking compared to just sitting at home. You deleted both articles last year. In addition, your podcast comments last year regarding hiking during the pandemic contributed to the online bullying. Even with vaccines being distributed, COVID-19 conditions at the beginning of this hiking season will actually be worse than last year. But, as you state in your article this year like I stated in my articles last year, people can hike smart. Thanks for maturing. Those on the trail this year will appreciate factual, nonjudgemental media coverage. -Energizer, “Old Man and the PCT “, class of 2020.

    Reply
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    Rolf Asphaug : Feb 12th

    Thank you for this article. I’m planning on hiking the CT this summer, but leaving late enough that I hope I’ll already have been vaccinated – both to protect myself and others. In any event, your article reminded me that a “buff ain’t enuff” when it comes to a mask in town, and that I need to bring along a proper N95 mask. And if/when I take zero days I’ll either tent them or find a single hotel room – and of course follow all the other social distancing rules I normally follow.

    Reply
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    GroundHog : Feb 12th

    While out maintaining my AT section in New Jersey I met several thru hikers & had a chance to talk “six foot back & personal”

    I did not meet a single 2020 thru hiker who seemed reckless, arrogant or anything of the sort. What I did see were courageous humble people trying very hard to stay safe, stay on trail, and stay “under the radar”.

    My take away is that the very small class of AT 2020 brought back to life something very special… they stepped out into the unknown not knowing what would happen or how it would turn out.

    I’d like to think Grandma Gatewood is smiling.

    GroungHog
    North Jersey
    Section 31

    Reply
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    Neville Harris : Feb 12th

    As a hostel owner (Woods Hole Hostel) – I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit nervous about being OPEN this year.

    Thank you Zack for putting our concerns and realities into words!!

    I closed last year for a few weeks in order to wrap my head around how best to operate. As I knew a few hikers were still on trail, I decided to re-open but with a lot of “changes.” These changes made me feel safe and available to the community. I am hoping that we don’t see a ton of hikers, but rather a quiet stream. This would be a great year to start somewhere besides Springer. To look for the isolation and quiet of the forest.

    Happy Hiking and Best of Luck.

    Reply
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    Andrea : Feb 12th

    Thank you for summing up my thoughts in a pretty little blog post 🙂

    Reply
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    Greg : Feb 12th

    What a joke…. this bullshit site, AND the trail associations.

    Reply
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    Anne : Feb 12th

    Well-balanced and soberly reasoned article. Thank you. I completed my 4-year section hike of the AT last year. I’m sure the lowest common denominator existed somewhere but not among the thru hikers I met in Maine. I wish everyone hiking this year happy trails.

    Reply
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    chris armstrong : Feb 13th

    Taking the hiking out of the conversation, this is leadership at its best. Being able to look inward as well as outward and make decisions or provide rational for those decisions is what is needed. To often people make decisions (ATC) and provide no rational (ATC) and this just further frustrates the people that are being served. Great job on the article and keep up the good work.

    Reply
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    Shittymorph : Feb 13th

    Solid post man with great tips. I hope the community will not be divided this year as we were last… I hated to see the dogpile when someone shared pictures from the trail but I of course recognized the concern. Being a thoughtful and safe hiker is pretty easy to do. Catch ya later on down the trail!

    Reply
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    Jisy : Feb 16th

    Great article Zach.

    People being threatened and the absolute nastiness from both sides made me not want to be a part of the hiking community. Stating facts turned into utter nasty name calling and false information spewed, some of it by prominent members of the hiking community.

    I think the thing that was missed in the article is that there was a Stay At Home mandate in place from the state governments for most of the areas the PCT passed through last year. If you thru hiked, you were violating the mandate…which was a law enacted by the state during a pandemic. People said “but no one is enforcing it” which is never a good reason to break a law. Self supported section hikes close to home were okay and the mandates stated such.

    Most people were traveling across country by planes to get to California, and that in and of itself is way different than a trip from your home to the local grocery store. We recently had the UK variant hitch a ride from Britain to Corpus Christi, Texas via someone who couldn’t obey the travel ban to the UK. It’s travel that is spreading it, and a thru hike is travel. I know someone who went to a family Christmas and 15 folks came from different parts of the US and of those there, 11 contracted COVID including an 8mo and an 80yo. My friend ended up in the ER very sick. Travel and gatherings. Everyone, not just hikers, not being able to refrain from travel and gatherings collectively has contributed to almost 500k deaths in the US in less than a years time. Imagine if everyone had stayed local for 6 months of their lives…

    I saw people hiking and followed a few and there was simply not much social distancing or appropriate measures taking place by many of them. We all saw the pictures and heard the stories. There were a few folks I did support…and yes, some of their journeys did pass through the PCT…but they were self supported, wore masks near others, traveled via a private car to trailhead, didn’t do town resupplies, no hotels, no hitching, and instead had family meet them and I was happy to follow their journeys. Big difference.

    I know of one hiker who contracted Covid while on a trail last year so it was happening even if people didn’t discuss it. Who knows who they spread it to.

    The key to the PCT dilemma was the Stay At Home order from the Governor. If you thru hiked, you were in violation of it. That is one of the top reasons I stayed home. The other being my family needed me.

    Having said that, I, again, have a permit to hike and if I am in compliance with state laws, PCTA requests, test negative before I leave, and my family is okay, I may hike. But all of that is up in the air. Like you, I really want the social aspect to be there, would love to stay at Scout and Frodo’s and that won’t be happening this year. My family will be assisting in resupplies etc. if I do go. Lots of “if’s”.

    Can it be done safely. I think it can IF everyone follows the guidelines the PCTA has put out.

    Reply
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    Russ Hobgood : Feb 16th

    I appreciate the depth of your article Zach. This last year has had a lot of moving parts that quite a few times were not working together. I believe this plague will be with us I to the future and as a species we need to deal with it medically as well as individually.
    I missed 2019 due to medical issues, 2020 for the plague. I have registered for a section on the AT so I can remember it. I still get out locally on a weekly basis and I would like the experience of solitude again. I’m waiting for my vaccine and it should be along shortly as I am 71. See ya on the trail

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Simon Perkins (Roadrunner) : Feb 19th

    Zach, a really thoughtful summary of where we are. I started the AT in Feb 2020 but got off as requested towards the end of March and returned to the UK. I was hoping to get back on at Sam’s Gap where I left off this March, but that’s not happening. 2022 it is then. Some of the amazing folks that I hiked with have since got back on the trail and while I am so glad for them I can’t begin to describe how much I miss it.
    Happy trails to anyone going g for it this year. STAY SAFE OUT THERE.

    Reply

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