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Thru-hiker Envy

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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby KevinDo » Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:28 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:There are many methods of "thru-hiking". Perhaps we need a definition of what this post means by "thru-hiking".

If thru-hiking is simply doing a long route continuously, you could hike fast and take lots of town days (what seems to be typical of PCT hikers) or hike slow and infrequently resupply or even have resupply brought in by outfitters. If you do half of the PCT slowly one year, and finish the next, is that still a "thru-hike"? That is usually referred to as "section hiking". Is the JMT a thru-hike? Maybe it is too short. It seems short compared to the PCT or CDT or AT.

So I do not agree necessarily that if you thru-hike you have no "intamacy" with the wilderness. I did Roper's High Route. Not sure that is considered a thru-hike. I took 33 days, with only one day off. Only hiked 5-8 hours a day, did two side-trips, lots of poking around at the end of most days, and fished. I really did not do it any differently than any other backpack trip- just did it continously. Also did the same thing for 30 days in the Wind Rivers - no official route, just my own. On that trip I carried 14 days food for two sections with one day off between. I had three "resupplies" on the High Route. Were these "thru-hikes"? Who officially designates a "thru-hike"? Does a thru-hike have to be a big "named" route?


I envy those who can get those many days off! haha

Actually surprised to see the number of those who don't favor "thru-hiking" (pct, at, cdt, such and such). I personally didn't really enjoy the JMT but that could be due to the way I planned it as I only had a short window and was hell-bent on getting to each planned campsite. Now that I do a mix of trail and off-trail, gotta say I enjoy the off-trail better.



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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby oldranger » Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:48 pm

Daisy,

My definition of thru hiking is that the end is the goal. Though my longest venture has been but 3 weeks I always mourn the end. I remember about 2 weeks into a 19 day trip markskor and I bemoaning the fact that we had just a week left. Exploring new territory and returning to special places,savoring sunrises, sunsets, nice fish,and occasional encounters with wildlife and backcountry characters is what it is about for me. The journey and the pauses ...
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:47 pm

oldranger wrote:Daisy,
My definition of thru hiking is that the end is the goal.


Yes, and I think this characterizes most of the folks that are in fact thru hikers. It is like completing a ultramarathon, marathon, triathlon, or any other sort of endurance endeavor.

In contrast, it is clear that most of us who post on Topix like our High Sierra trips for the trip itself, rather than the end of the trip. For us it is about the journey rather than the end. That is not to say that everyone who thru hikes is set on the end as the sole goal, but it is clear that many are.

Again, everyone who hikes in the High Sierra has a slightly different motivation. This forum doesn't attract thru hiker types because that is not a primary topic of our posts and questions.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:14 am

Lots of salient points in here but also a lot of over generalization. I'm looking forward to crafting a response once I've finished my big section hike in two months. But in short, thru hiking is kind of like doing a big road trip. True, you don't get as intimate of knowledge about any given area, but to assume someone like me is just passing through and not absorbing a ton of info on each place is incorrect. I will then have decades to follow up on certain areas in more detail as opposed to just retreading places like the Sierra over and over again. 13 years ago my wife and I did a 7 week cross country road trip heavily focused on parks and wilderness areas and this trip is remarkably similar. And hiking 20+ miles a day isn't really a big deal once you adjust. I'd agree that being away from family from a long period is the toughest thing, but that can be avoided as well. I'm about to spend 5 days with my wife and son at mount lassen for example, with more visits in the works for up North.
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:28 am

I also wanted to reply about the comment on pct hikers not really getting a proper wilderness experience as they pop into town too much. Again, it's all about how you approach the trail. I hiked over 400 miles from cottonwood pass to donner pass and only left the trail twice for that entire stretch. Combine that with the fact that North of Tuolomne the mountains were devoid of people and I can tell you it was far more of a wilderness experience than any of the week long Sierra trips I've done before.
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:03 am

Well, it's hard to give anything but generalizations or personal experience, since there's no real way to be really specific about 2000000000 different people who attempt a thru of one of the long trails... so many attempt and fail. Personally, I only know about thru hikers through second or third hand experience, and it's obvious how many of them are actually here participating -- not too many.

What folks I've talked to about "Wild" don't get is that you don't have to hike a trail to attempt a "geographical band aid" -- that's what I call it when someone who's seeing me for mental health issues starts to talk about moving out of state, quitting the job, or some other HUGE change that they hope will kick-start their life into happy and good again. For someone to just pick up a pack loaded with junk some salesman suggested and hit the trail is pretty much the kiss of death you'd expect -- they don't have the same great results Strayed writes about (not that I think she had great results -- she does people a great disservice by pretending the trail cured everything for her -- she could have gone to therapy or done a round-the-world trip or rode a train across the country, or some other thing, and gotten the same result, because 99% of the real action was all in her head). They bail off and go home defeated and don't write a book, and they may or may not have gone on to do something else to fix the problem... Correlation is not causation. Not every problem is a nail, but to someone who really likes the idea of their hammer....

The ones with motivations other than self help, the ones with a yen to do "something awesome" that have no backpacking experience and just go -- plenty of them fail, some of them succeed, and I have to wonder how many still hike at all. Not all of them write badly-written books and publish them free on Amazon, or create a mediocre trail journal.

I tend to think of thru hiking as a different thing from backpacking, primarily because so many people I speak to who have done it appear to have wholly different motivations than I do for slinging on a backpack. I get people in my backpacking class, occasionally, who state the intent to do the PCT (more often the JMT) and want a good overview of gear available that isn't biased (store clerks are obviously biased).
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:00 am

I've talked with several PCTers over the years, giving them rides, chatting while I hike parts of the trail (on my way to do some fishing), etc. and from what I understand there is another aspect to the trail experience that I was not aware of. From what I gather, for some it is kind of a rolling party. People hike from one site to another, while others bail out and get a ride to the next site and the party continues all the way up the trail. Some apparently don't bring food in order to have a super light pack and take from the free bins at the regular re-supply stops along the trail. Again, this is what I have heard, I have no personal experience with this, but several people I've talked to have mentioned it and most of them in a disparaging way. My thinking is that if you are there for the party, enjoying the scenery and the whole hiking experience is kind of lost on you. Getting back to the original post's question: that is not something I envy about through hikers.
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:16 am

Thru-hikers are not the only ones who go into the wilderness to "find" themselves, "cure" some mental problems, seek something really missing in their lives, or simply escape. Many of us "traditional" backpackers have similar motivations.

The popularity of thu-hiking is somewhat new and mostly done by the younger demographic, so it will reflect the values of that demographic. Social media and "extreme sports" have played a large role in young people's lives now. Big name trails appeal to the quest for recognition, challenge, and being also a social experience and staying electronically connected (blogs etc) due to coming back out to civilization often. In my day, the "thing" was done by hitch-hiking through Europe or long road trips.

Regardless of my qualms about thier "experience", the ones who finish certainly have proven their athletic ability, grit, determination and ability to carry through to a goal, even when it eventually becomes a "job". If some person were to put completing a thru-hike on theier job resume, I would hire them!

However the experience is good for the hiker, I do get concerned about the environment. It does irk me that since we have a permit system in the Sierra, and I, as a regular backpacker, am restricted, that a "wave" of thru-hikers is allowed, and can put a real crimp on other's wilderness experience, not to mention environmental impacts. Regardless of how careful you are, there are impacts; that is why there is a permit system in the first place. I do see, and would welcome, more regulation and permits required for thru-hikers, specifically through the Sierra.
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:04 am

schmalz wrote:Hiking 20+ miles a day isn't really a big deal once you adjust.


Brian, good to hear you're doing well. Are you still hiking solo, or have you hooked up with a crew with similar interests, style, miles? Are you getting the sense from anyone that the hike is becoming a chore, more akin to a job? Or are people still stoked & excited to be out hiking every day? From what I understand, you're nearing the zone where trekkers start doing 30 mile days.

Most importantly, do you have a (new) trail name? Or are you going by the moniker "Real Deal"? :rock:
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 04, 2016 3:52 pm

No trail name yet. Still too modest to proclaim myself as the real deal. Maybe by Washington.

It seems that I'm on the front end of the herd and as a result almost everyone around me is on the younger/more fit side of things. I'd say 90 percent of the people I'm running into are 22-26 years old. Most want a big adventure before entering the real world.

When you hike all day every day you can't help but equate the experience to a job. It's a natural connection to make. There are definitely times where you'd rather be doing something else, but that's sort of a basic part of the human experience right? That said, the people I've been running into do not seem to be wishing to return to the rat race anytime soon.

There is definitely an increase in mileage after breaking past the snow. Hell, I just hiked 135 miles in 4.5 days to buy myself an extra family day in Lassen. Outside of that I've been trying to take things easy so the whole experience doesn't blow by me too fast. I hear hikers talk about their big mileage days and my impression is that it's more based on peer pressure and wanting to appear badass rather than a desire to end the hike sooner. Plenty of hiker discourse is based on what adventure might be next.

I'm still hiking solo which I think suits me well. Part of the appeal of the trip was to carve out some time where I didn't have to be weighing other people's needs on a constant basis. The generation gap I mentioned earlier is probably exasperating that too. That's also why I probably won't end up with a trail name out here. Real Deal might end up sticking eventually
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby longri » Mon Jul 04, 2016 4:22 pm

Interesting the one-sided nature of the opinions here.

I love visiting the wilderness and there are multiple ways to experience it. Walking a long trail (or a long cross country route like the Roper High Route), walking a lot of miles in a day, bagging peaks by their easiest routes, technical climbing of popular (or unpopular) routes, winter backpacking on skis, ski descents, long day hikes, short day hikes just to see the spring wildflowers or autumn leaves, hanging out for a day and looking for frogs, fishing, photography, mapping trails, watching the clouds, on and on and on.

I don't do all of those things but I do a bunch of them. The ones I don't do I don't disparage just because I don't have the desire for it.

In the last 5 years I've walked the JMT four times at kind of a fast pace (7-9 days). It felt a little like flying over the trail rather than crawling. That's an exaggeration but it's sort of what I experienced doing what were a lot of miles each day for me. It felt really good. I saw tons of scenery everyday, felt free to bound along the easy trail with a light pack and lighter heart. It didn't require a big vacation break. I didn't see any less than I would have seen walking more slowly. My eyes were open just as long. I've walked the JMT slow too (3 weeks) with a heavy pack and had different experiences that were also satisfying. I don't regret any of those trips.

I don't know. It doesn't matter so much, I think.... except that there are too many of us doing the JMT and PCT right now. Too many people is more of a problem than what they're doing exactly.

Someone asked me one time "Are you through hiking?"
I said yes... for today. But that I'd be hiking again tomorrow
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Re: Thru-hiker Envy

Postby sambieni » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:44 am

Similar view as Eric. I am simply jealous of ability to get that much time away from the grind to gain some solitude, exposure to such beauty, exercise, and enjoy such a great sport. But also admire the drive of many folks and their commitment to complete such a goal. I realize some motivations may be to "find oneself" in less than ideal circumstances or otherwise, but regardless the commitment to completing such a huge goal is admirable irrespective of their motivation or "life avoidance."

Personally, not sure I have the dream to do AT or PCT. 4-6 months seems too long dedicated to the goal. But JMT sounds about right and great. I would love to be able to carve out a solid 3 weeks to enjoy the trail. Right now, best I could hope for are 3 summers covering 1 week each...
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