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N>S and intro to list
Hello Tom (and All!) -
A while back Tom asked a great question:
>...Has anyone here done it N>S ? And, did you like it? I've chosen that
>direction for a couple of reasons. 1. I'm primarily an introvert, and large
>crowds turn me off. It's not that I don't like people (just the contrary).
>I just like solitude more...
I did and I did <g>. I got everything out of my southbound hike that I had
hoped for... and I learned a lot about myself to boot.
I have been lurking on this list for a couple of weeks to try get a feel
for what folks really want to talk about. It quickly became obvious that
it would be only a matter of time before I wanted to jump in <g>.
I have really enjoyed the journal postings by the thru-hikers...some of the
entries reminded me of things that I haven't thought about in years
(ahhhh... nothing like a full shelter on a cold rainy night...everybody
hanging everything up in hopes it might dry out a little....sleeping closer
than you ever expected to folks you ain't in love with...everybody smelling
like wet dogs...at least one real wet dog sneaking onto the foot of your
sleeping bag...lots of music from all the dehydrated food we have been
eating...trying to get out to take a midnight whiz without stepping on too
many people or knocking down all the wet hanging stuff...listening to the
mice chew into your pack that you forgot to get all the food crumbs out
of...ahhhhh, having the time of your life!).
The posts on getting time off to do a thru-hike gave me food for thought on
more than a few daily walks. The discussions on what to take on a
thru-hike are good fun. Even the highly personal choice-decisions on
boots, stoves, filters, etc. continue to be of high interest for me. But,
I have to admit that questions from a potential southbounder are the most
important of all!
My son Tony and I flew from Alabama to Maine on 2 Jun'93 (the day after he
finished his finals). We climbed Katahdin on 3 Jun and started hiking
south the next day. We left the trail (near Rutland, VT) for a little over
three weeks in late Jul for me to attend the Boy Scout Jamboree in VA
(introduced "Leave No Trace" minimum impact camping to 11,000+
Scouts/Scouters). Tony traded the trail for a train in CT to go back to
college. I continued on solo for most of the rest of the trip. I took one
week off in lower VA (Rusty's) to attend the Oct ALDHA gathering in WV.
Joined up with Blueberry Charlie near Roan Mountain and we finished at
Springer on 19 Dec.
As I mentioned, I learned a few things. Some of them are: there are LOTS
of good ways to do a distance hike, a thru-hike can be a life-changing
experience, LNT principles DO serve well for a long distance hike, cold
weather is NOT the time to "go cold" (no cooking), and I personally am
absolutely completely without question NOT a gung-ho born-again solo
I learned that a southbound AT end-to-end thru-hike can be a wonderful AND
a very isolated experience. We went for days in Maine without seeing
anybody (when we did it was local fishermen or other southbounders). I
went for weeks at a time (after Labor day) from PA on down without seeing
any other hikers. Ran into another southbounder (Trailhead) who was laid
up sick in one of the shelters in the Smokies...he had been there for days
and we were the first hikers to come by (the bad news was that all he had
to eat was Pop Tarts...the good news was that he had PLENTY of them -
Mountain Mama had made him a deal that he couldn't refuse <g>). He told us
that he was so weak when he made it to the shelter that he would have been
in serious trouble if a horse club hadn't put up plastic and left a LOT of
firewood just the day before. Almost all of the hostels along the trail
had shut down (even Rusty announced that he was going to avoid
southbounders in years to come <f>) and few/none of the shuttle providers
that the northbounders enjoy were around. You are on your own.
My son and I decided to try a northbound PCT thru-hike when he graduated
from college last year. We left Campo (US/MEX border near San Diego) on 19
May'95 and completed our thru-hike on 24 Oct. We wound up doing a
skip-flip- backfill-flop because of the very unusual snow-pack in the
Sierras (230% of normal in places) and a problem with Yosemite being closed
because of a manhunt. We took two weeks off (one week in the Mojave to let
Flagel do its thing with the big G and one week to go to the outdoor
equipment trade show in Reno with our ladies).
We discovered that a PCT thru-hike is MUCH more isolated than even a
southbound AT hike. We met thousands of people on the AT (day hikers,
runners, moss gatherers, birders, section hikers, northbounders,
southbounders, etc.). There were LOTS of folks on the AT - they just came
in bunches....you get a lot on the weekends and in the parks during
vacation time (I hiked thru Bear Mountain State Park near NYC on Labor
Day!)...and very few/none during other times. I am guessing that there
were at least 20-25 southbounders and a couple hundred northbounders who
finished AT thru-hikes in '93.
We probably met less than 200 people in 5 1/2 months on the entire PCT!
Most of them were day hikers, horsemen, or mountain bikers. As far as I
know, only four northbounders and two southbounders completed their PCT
thru-hikes in '95 (two other strong southbounders surely would have
finished, but were killed when a driver apparently went to sleep, ran off
the road, and went out into the Mojave desert to hit them with his car
Overall, my AT thru-hike was a very good thing for me...BUT, I have to
admit that...for me...the isolation during my solo hiking grew to become a
major downer. It took months for me to feel comfortable in a crowd after I
got back home...and I am sure that I am still reacting in minor ways to the
increasing discomfort I felt during those long lonely stretches of trail
and the many nights alone in the shelters. The MUCH more dramatic
isolation of the PCT was a major PLUS which added a tremendous amount to a
fantastic hike for me...all because I had a great hiking partner the entire
I ran into a couple of psych types (they were collaborating on a book about
distance hikers) at the gathering and we were discussing the fact that I
had always thought of myself as an introvert and that my thru-hike (still
had two months to go at that point!) was teaching me otherwise. They
shared their definition of introvert/extrovert with me:
you are an introvert if you loose energy when you are in the company of
other people and gain energy when you are by yourself;
and the flip is,
you are an extrovert if you gain energy when you are in the company of
other people and loose energy when you are by yourself.
My two long distance hikes have convinced me of the truth of those
definitions and that, by them, I am definitely a trail extrovert....in
Being a card-carrying extrovert, I would STILL enjoy another southbound AT
thru-hike...I would just make sure that I found a good partner <g>!