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Any Backpackers Ever Do a Long Thru Hike?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Any backpackers here? Have you done a thru hike of any long trails? I have always wanted to do a thru hike of the AT but finding 6 months of free time is pretty difficult, especially with a job and kid. It would have been so much easier in my early twenties, but I was distracted. A hike like that is quite a goal to achieve on many levels.

post #2 of 18

Two weeks is the longest I've been out.  I've also done some one week trips, but nothing like you're talking about.  I suspect the longest one was 100 miles all together.  Those trips are probably the best vacations I've ever had.   They beat anything else for gaining inner peace, in my estimation.

 

I don't know the AT at all, except what I've read.  It's almost all in the woods, which would bother me after awhile.  I would much rather try the PCT which may be tougher, but has much more scenic beauty.

post #3 of 18

have never heard of the AT trail. But locally (B.C.) the Westcoast trail on Vancouver Island is popular and relatively easy, on the other side of the country Gross Morn Newfoundland is harder. Countless trails in the Rockies (Yoho, Banff Jasper) which I personally think are prettier. All ranges in times and difficulty. But if you have enough time and are not subject to altitude sickness I recommend the Himalayas or Andes. Cost is very reasonable for guides and access to some meals etc set up in remote huts so you do not need to pack everything for a multiweek trip. Hiking into Everest base camp or Machu Pichu is something you will likely only do once.      

post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by noncrazycanuck View Post

have never heard of the AT trail. 

 

AT = Appalachian Trail

post #5 of 18

Had a couple REI guys come give a camping gear lecture to the cub scouts last year.  They said they hiked the Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Maine, and yes, it took them 6 months to do.  They were crazy by the way...

post #6 of 18

I did a trek around Annapurna in Nepal about 30 years ago. since then roads and modern civilization have come into that region and I guess the trip is now a casual guided walk for most. Back the there were no roads in the mountains. The trip encompassed many towns and villages and even a small city, all inaccessible to vehicles. Everything from rice paddies and Elizabethan villages to Tibetan style terraced courtyard houses, mountain gorges and an 18,000 ft pass. Women threshing barley in a mountain meadow throwing the barley in the air, singing to bring up the wind, yaks, nomad tents, monks on the roof of a gompa blowing their long horns, surrounded by snow covered himalayan peaks. Fresh bananas and oranges in a subtropical setting with the Himalayas as a backdrop, even a cloudforest of running water, flowers and rhododendron trees. The actual walk was 3 or 4 weeks. I have no idea how many miles. The entire trip was 2 months or so with time spent in the cities of Pokhara and Kathmandu and a few days in London on the way back. I do wish sometimes that I had gone with a companion but there were people to meet along the way and the lack of a time schedule definitely made it more of an escape than a vacation. I lost 20 or 30 pounds living on a diet of lentils and rice and tea and the occasional vegetable and walking every day.. There's no question in my mind that travelling this way without a tour group or an itinerary in a mostly indigenous culture forces you to come to grips with the strangeness of other cultures and the result is more than just a sort of visual experience that I normally associate with a vacation trip.

post #7 of 18

so At is eastern, that would be pretty in fall. 

If your looking for length also check the Trans Canada Trail or in the west the Pacific Crest. Runs from Monument 78 (Manning Park B.C) to Mexico with a good chunk in the alpine. A number do it each year usually starting in the south and going north with the sun. Himalayas villages haven't changed much from the previous poster's trip although there is much easier access now to the Chinese side so there are more people are trekking. Most popular route is around 500k 3-4 weeks China to Nepal but has many uphill sections over 5000 meters.  If I remember correctly Everest base camp is around 18,000 feet.      

post #8 of 18

noncrazy

 

There's now a road along most of the route. I would guess that the changes are profound. Kathmandu itself has changed enormously from what i gather.

post #9 of 18

Like everywhere depends on when and where you visit.. China's now more open, so a lot of areas still only accessible by trail are possible to visit. I agree if you revisit a remote area and it now has a road it won't be the same. One of my biggest travel disappoints in life was going back to an island a few  years later. The first time we came by a cargo ship, four of us climbed down the rope net and got rowed to shore by a local fisherman. We were the only tourists on the island. Second time a ferry pulled up to same island, the gang plank dropped onto a new dock surrounded by new small hotels and discos, about 200 got off. The fellow who rowed me in the first time owned 2 of them.         

post #10 of 18

noncrazy

 

Thanks, that's a good story.  In the case of Nepal, even the capital Kathmandu wasn't accessible except on foot or horseback until sometime in the 1950's. They had constructed a cargo carrying aerial tramway as a means for getting goods up over the hills and down into the valley, still evident when I visited. When I was there (1982) the place was long since accessible by road and a few other places as well but there was little traffic and no appreciable air pollution. there weren't many cars and little fuel use in the valley. Since then they've constructed a ring road around the city, the place has become flooded with automobiles and air pollution is chronic.. Since I was there the population of Nepal has almost doubled, they've fought a civil war, and roads have snaked into the mountains and across the border to Tibet. Some of this is probably seen as beneficial by the local people. Traditional society which is so appealing to us also includes poverty, illiteracy, short life expectancy etc.so it isn't exactly seen as preferable by them. I would guess that there are large areas in the foothills that are still traversed by a web of foot trails that the tourists never see though. Most people today seem to contract with trekking outfits that provide guides and porters and cooks and hustle you along pre-determined routes according to an intinerary so that they can have a sanitized experience and say that they've been there,done that. The objective is to obtain a predictable experience in a limited time frame. I still treasure the luxury of having had the opportunity to travel as I did without a pre determined program or time frame. Some of the people I met there were out for 6 months or more backpacking all around South and East Asia. A few had been out there for years. 

post #11 of 18

places change and not always for the better but you can always still be on your own if you wish.  Most well organized and known routes have the most traffic but both in Tibet and South America the guiding most take advantage of usually consists of someone pointing out where to start the trail or telling you how to get there. Enroute your still usually on your own, but there are a lot of small hamlets where the locals now make their living by putting up hikers overnight and suppling food. With out that its pretty hard to stay very long on some trails - not a lot of foraging to be had in the alpine. 

Locally our Westcoast Trail which is fairly isolated also crosses a few spots where locals do a good summer business by suppling cross river transport and even some wilderness cooking.  But there are a lot of other trails here where you won't see anyone.    

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post

Two weeks is the longest I've been out.  I've also done some one week trips, but nothing like you're talking about.  I suspect the longest one was 100 miles all together.  Those trips are probably the best vacations I've ever had.   They beat anything else for gaining inner peace, in my estimation.

 

I don't know the AT at all, except what I've read.  It's almost all in the woods, which would bother me after awhile.  I would much rather try the PCT which may be tougher, but has much more scenic beauty.

The PCT definitely wins on the scenic front, though I've never done the whole thing. 

 

In terms of gear design and also ways an activity get done, Ray Jardine has been pretty influential first in climbing hardware and now in thru-hiking practices and lite backpacking in general.  http://www.rayjardine.com/index.shtml

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 

Great stories!

 

I'm going to have to do the AT in section hikes I guess if I want to get that done. I would miss the reflection and soul searching I would get on a 6 month thru hike though.

 

I recently got back into backpacking after about 20+ years away. When I pulled my Jansport external frame pack out of the attic I had to laugh. Time to gear up. I started looking at gear but I was having back issues and it all seemed so heavy. I did my research over a few months, joined the forum at backpackinglight.com and ended up going ultralight. I was able do it pretty inexpensively between sales and used. My big 3 now weighs around 4 lbs. and my total base weight is under 8 lbs.

post #14 of 18

Some of the principles apply well in other contexts. Kifaru's tarps have ended up being very popular with a niche of backpack hunters, for instance, and really come originally from a lite backpacking / thru-hike style of usage even though not from thru-hiking per se.

 

In some situations I've found a tarp useful for brief squalls where the keep-going option doesn't seem appealing but a tent is too much, even though I don't go out with the intention to really spend a night, at all. 

post #15 of 18

I used to carry a tarp while hiking as a kid but, around here the weather and bugs are such that you're likely to be soaked and frozen or thoroughly bug bit. A good lightweight tent with fly and insect screening will cost you a couple pounds, not a bad penalty for good shelter.

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

I used to carry a tarp while hiking as a kid but, around here the weather and bugs are such that you're likely to be soaked and frozen or thoroughly bug bit. A good lightweight tent with fly and insect screening will cost you a couple pounds, not a bad penalty for good shelter.

Bugs are definitely an issue.  Deet, garlic and mosquitoe netting can help a lot if you go the tarp route.

 

Black flies in particular are neat little critters.  They do require clean running water, but judging from some of the places they show up, not a lot of it at all. 

post #17 of 18

http://thru-hiker.com/articles/thru-fishing.php  I thought this was a fun read on thru-fishing, again sort of an extension of thru-hiking.

 

Going light really is a mind-opening thing.  Lots of cool variations on the theme.

post #18 of 18

How about a shorter thru-hike? Like the Sierra High Route. Can't beat it for scenery if you ask me. It rivals Alaska's scenery. It's not much over 200 miles. I'd recommend something like this before going all out for half a year.

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