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[at-l] Thruhiking - Definitions and ground rules (mine)

Some time ago I started a series of posts on at-l about "How to prepare
for a thruhike".  And then I got sidetracked by "LIFE".  Now it's time
to get back to that series because there are people, including Ginny and
me, who are getting ready for thruhikes next year.  I'll start the
series from the beginning again because there are some people who didn't
catch it the first time around - and because I've changed a few things. 
I'm also gonna start this thing with a whole gaggle of ground rules and
definitions because last time there was considerable confusion about
what it's all about.  And I'm gonna nail that down so we can move on to
new and wonderful levels of confusion and miscommunication. :-)

The purpose of this series is partly to help others prepare for their
thruhikes. But it's also partly to organize our thoughts about
preparation for our own 1999 thruhike, so there'll be a large component
that's personal and immediate.  And since my ties are to the AT and the
CDT, it'll be written with those specific trails as the main focus. 
There may be something of value for PCT thruhikers, but that's not my
main purpose right now.  

This is written for, by and about "thruhikers" and "thruhiking".   If
you're a section hiker or a day hiker or a horse packer or a llama
trekker or - whatever - and you can learn something from this mess -
that's cool.  But that's not the main purpose either.  

If you see anything we've missed or if you have something to add - let
us know.  Different viewpoints are always welcome.  But keep in mind
that this is being written at least in part for those who haven't yet
thruhiked - and sometimes don't even know what questions to ask.  I know
about that - I was one of them at one time.  

Now --- a few ground rules before we go any further - 

First - this won't be your "Complete Planning Guide".  I'll hit some
points that you might not find in the ATC or Wingfoot Planning Guides or
in Craig Giffen's PCT Planning software (there is no CDT planning guide
yet, but it's coming), but those are good for planning the mechanical
parts of a thruhike, so I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on something
that I'll assume they do very well (I really wouldn't know since I've
never used them - I do my own planning ).  

Second - if you've read the Thruhiker Papers
(http://www.gorp.com/nonprof/aldhaw or
http://www.circumtech.com/outdoors/thruhikingpapers), some of this may
be repetitious.  But it'll also be set in a slightly different context. 

Third - I'll present some things that I might not do personally but I'll
try to  not get unnecessarily judgmental about them. :-)

Fourth - the caveats from the Thruhiking Papers apply to everything I
write.  I guess I'd better trot them out here for those who haven't seen
them before: 

	1. This is not a "Thruhikers Manual". It's a collection of my 
 	    thoughts and feelings about the realities of thruhiking. 
	2. This is my personal experience, observation and opinion. 
 	    There's nothing scientific or even necessarily logical about 
 	    it. But then, people aren't logical, are they? 
       3.  I'm one of the "fringe" people whose life changed drastically
            on the Trail. What happened to me is NOT the norm. 
       4.  As a thruhiker I am, by definition, crazy and therefore 
            cannot be held responsible for anything I say. 
       5.  I may wander off in strange directions. 
       6.  You may not like everything I have to say. 
       7.  Advice is worth what you pay for it - and this is free. 

Fifth - planning is an iterative process.  That means sometimes you have
to go back and recycle through your original ideas, decisions and plans
to make sure what you're doing NOW is consistent with what you thought
you wanted to do in the first place.  Or maybe your basic thruhike plan
is changing as you get more knowledgeable - or maybe your timing has
changed and you need to re-think and replan some of your basic

Sixth - I'll try to make this generic - meaning I'll try to make it
useful regardless of what long trail you intend to walk.  In any case,
you'll get what I've got.  

Seventh - this isn't just theory - this is the general process that
we're using for planning our thruhike for 1999.  We've been through
multiple planning iterations in the last year - and we're not finished
yet.  The details may vary for your thruhike - but the general process
is pretty much the same for most of us.  

And eighth - this is the supermarket approach.  If you find something
you like, then you're welcome to it.  But not everything here will apply
to everyone who reads it. If something doesn't "feel right" for you,
then don't use it.  A thruhike is tough enough without trying to do it
someone else's way.  

So -- let's start with some basic definitions. Like --- "What's a
thruhike?" and "What's a thruhiker?"  
You can find a lot of definitions out there, but my personal definition
of a thruhike is "the act of walking the length of a long trail from end
to end within one year" (or one "hiking season").  For present purposes,
a "long trail" is any of the three major hiking trails in the United
States - the AT (Appalachian Trail), the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) or
the CDT (Continental Divide Trail).  Increasingly, the word is being
applied to shorter trails such as the Pacific Northwest Trail, John Muir
Trail, Colorado Trail, etc. 

IMO a thruhiker is someone who walks from Maine to Georgia (or Canada to
Mexico) or vice versa on one of the three major hiking trails in the US
(i.e. - performs a "thruhike).  Pack or not, blue-blazes or not,
supported or not, running, walking, crawling, in one direction or both,
North-to-south or vice versa, whatever - no restrictions EXCEPT ----
yellow-blazing (i.e. - hitchhiking or riding around large sections of
the Trail) particularly with no intent to go back and hike those
sections.  "Yellow-blazing" means that person isn't walking and cannot,
therefore, logically claim to be a "thruhiker".  

Whatever definition you use for "long trail" or "thruhike" or
"thruhiker", it's a very simple concept - at least until the sea-lawyers
and "hair-splitters" start tearing it apart.  Don't let them confuse
you.  Decide what YOU want, plan for it - and then go hike your own

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