The Broken Fat Kid (Lindsay), Turtle and Fern Gully cross the James River Bridge

Finding a Group of Like Minded Individuals

To the outside world there is no difference between one stinky thru hiker and the next. You have to be some shade of a little bit crazy to want to hike 2,000+ miles in six months, and most strangers and laymen lump us all together as one group with a collective set of motivation, morals, backgrounds and methods. Lindsay and I believed that this would be the case with our Appalachian Trail experience  and I even stated that one of my prime motivators for this trip was to be in nature with a group of like minded individuals. I thought that, besides the expected outliars, the people hiking the trail would be doing it for relatively the same reasons as us and we would spend the entire summer meeting interesting people and wanting to learn their stories while building a relationship with fellow strangers based on common interests. We thought that having a hiking partner for the day would be as easy as waking up and asking the stranger camped next to you where he intended to hike to today. Well… not so much.

The Broken Fat Kid (Lindsay), Turtle and Fern Gully cross the James River Bridge
The Broken Fat Kid (Lindsay), Hunter, Turtle and Fern Gully cross the James River Bridge

First off, we came out here to hike to Maine and enjoy the journey while it happened. That same theme only applies to about half of those that depart Springer Mountain headed north. A lot of hikers are out here to enjoy the journey and get to Maine eventually, one way or another, and the hiking is secondary to the party and socialization. It seemed that the party crowd banded together from the start, leaving the boring old hiker crowd somewhat befuddled while walking north everyday. Lindsay and I kept trudging northward, wondering when we would start building relationships rather than just meeting strangers at a camping area and never seeing hem again. Some of the people we met were too serious about their hike to want social interaction, some were too serious about getting high on the trail to want social interaction with us. Some people were loud and abrasive while others were quiet and reserved with little substance. Some were just weird. None of that was what we expected when starting, but we just kept heading north regardless.

Lindsay and George hiking in the rain, good friends make the bad days better.
Lindsay and George “Mummyfoot” hiking in the rain, good friends make the bad days better.

The other big hurdle to work around, besides personality, was fitness level and hiking style. Simply put, you might’ve met an interesting person who you really enjoy spending time with but if you walk 20 miles per day and they walk 12 or you like hiking in the morning and they prefer to don the headlamp and night hike, it just won’t work out. That’s where we struggled the most, we would meet great people in town or at a shelter but after two days we might never see them again because we just didn’t hike on similar schedules. Alas, just like the online dating commercials say, there is someone out there for everyone and the A.T. is no different. Over time we have built a network of friends that started out as strangers and as a result of the talk-about-anything nuance of The Trail these strangers have become known as our hiking family. We started with one hiking buddy and through the course of time and 1,200 miles our network has turned into a web with not only acquaintances but also a tight circle of close friends.

The Ginger Fat Kid (Clay) and Bullfrog do some late night catfishing.

The Ginger Fat Kid (Clay) and Bullfrog do some late night catfishing.

I’m sure our experience is not unique, in fact I know it is not. We decided to share it because it is one of those seldom talked about and often learned by doing facets of long distance hiking that make The Trail so special and one of the reasons we are out here, still headed north.

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One thought on “Finding a Group of Like Minded Individuals”

  1. Bullfrog would really like to get back with you guys. He will 1480 tonight and wants to know how far he is from you guys. If Turtle can get a hold of him that would be great. :-)

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