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.
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.
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.