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  1. #1

    Default Datto's Top Ten Tips for 2017 AT Thru-hikers In-Planning

    Datto's Top Ten Tips for 2017 Thru-hikers In-Planning


    10) Bring disposable earplugs and put new earplugs into your maildrops -- lots of people on the AT snore loudly (way louder than you can possibly imagine while sitting in your living room planning your AT thru-hike) -- this is in shelters as well as when they are camped out next to your tent/tarp.

    9) Bring four small screw-in hooks from a hardware store and some twine -- some shelters are oriented for view rather than weather so wind and rain pour into the shelter day and night -- string your tent/tarp across the front of the shelter with the hooks/twine in order to block the wind, snow and rain in Georgia/NC and to keep the terrible cold out when you're in Maine. You may be telling yourself from your living room that you won't be staying in shelters but that's not likely, particularly in the beginning (while you're adapting to trail life) and at the end when you're trying to make miles in bad weather through very difficult terrain.

    8) Gear will not get you to Katadin so stop focusing so much on gear -- if you're a person who likes to be prepared, there's no better preparation for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail than to do overnight hikes in the rain and/or snow (anywhere) while carrying your full backpack (carry food, water, gear -- everything) -- hike eight miles per day before camping for the night on your prep hike -- don't do car camping and think that will be helping you. During the last six months prior to starting your AT thru-hike you should be hiking overnight two weekends every month and should have had at least one week-long trip where you've hiked at least forty miles under your belt. If you have a treadmill, carry your backpack on your treadmill -- when you get to the point where you can sustain 6% upslope at 3.0 miles per hour for 45 minutes straight while carrying your full backpack the entire tie, you're probably physically ready for the start of your AT thru-hike. Mentally -- well that's the biggest challenge of an AT thru-hike and that's why hiking in the rain and snow during your prep hikes is useful and important.

    7) The two toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail are 1) New Hampshire/Maine and 2) Georgia/North Carolina. If you're going to hike on the AT prior to starting your AT thru-hike in order to see if you're ready, pick one of those areas. There's a very good chance yours will be handed to you and you'll return home with a much better understanding of what you'll be undertaking with an AT thru-hike.

    6) During your AT thru-hike, don't take the Aquablaze -- why would you go through all the trouble and expense and life/career-risk to give up your thru-hike just to go on a canoe trip? Why not drive down the highway and throw fistfulls of cash out the window on the way to a canoe trip -- that'll save you the time, money and career risk of an AT thru-hike and you can just return to your existing job on Monday.

    5) Information from AT Profile maps and the information from the AT data book are the most important pieces of information to utilize on an AT thru-hike. Next in importance would be town information. All the rest is a nice-to-have information. Geez, don't spend any money or time getting a GPS or GPS software for your phone. In some places on the Trail, the white blazes are literally fifty feet apart. It is literally laughable to see someone using a GPS on the Appalachian Trail.

    4) If you will only take your phone out of Airplane Mode every other day, the difference in immersion will be the difference between computer speakers and Bose 5.1. Use your phone for music, pics, recording your thoughts if you want, on-board logistic planning. Constant connection to the Internet will so water down your AT experience and connection to the natural world you might as well stay home and save the money and life-risk for something else rather than an AT hike.

    3) If you're wanting to bring your dog on your AT thru-hike (because you have no place to keep your dog while hiking or your relationship is close with your dog), you can make it work on an AT thru-hike if you will do two things; 1) always camp in your tent/tarp every single night without exception and never stay overnight in a shelter and 2) Never take your dog -- even once -- into a shelter during the day. It's this simple -- no one wants your muddy-azz dog. If you think you can impose your dog on others in a shelter, you are sorely mistaken. However, if you will be responsible with your dog, other hikers will grow to like you and your dog. Keep in mind bringing your dog along with you on an AT thru-hike will almost double the challenge of an AT thru-hike for you -- extra logistics, extra food, your pack weight, wear on the dog and common dog injury, extra expense -- all the things that have escaped your brain because you're not thinking things through. Is taking on the challenge of an AT thru-hike not enough for you? There's only a 15% chance you'll complete your thru-hike and that's for people who don't bring a dog along. Completing an AT thru-hike with a dog where you hike past every blaze and walk end-to-end in a continuous journal is tough enough -- bringing a dog along on an AT thru-hike will almost guarantee you'll not be finshing and will be going home early. Why don't you and your dog just take a road trip out west instead?

    2) If possible, plan to take thirty calendar days after completing your AT thru-hike before returning to work. Sitting at home right now, you're not going to believe the difficulty you will face when transitioning from an AT thru-hike back into everyday Society. Use that post-hike thirty days to gather up your table manners (I'm laughing as I write this) as well as the time necessary to realize not many back in Society want to hear about the Appalachian Trail as much as you are going to want to talk about your thru-hike when you return from the Appalachian Trail.

    1) An AT thru-hike where you walk past every blaze, enjoy town stops, take about six-months to complete will cost you $5,000 door to door, not including gear replenishment along the Trail. If you plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with less, you're wildly fooling yourself.


    Datto

  2. #2

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    Meant to say in Item 1 above, "Not including initial gear purchases but including gear replenishment along the Trail" rather than what's written above.


    Datto

  3. #3

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    Item 9 above -- keep the terrble wind out in Maine rather than what's written -- there's not much you can do to keep the terrible cold out in Maine.


    Datto

  4. #4
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    #2, #2, #2.

    have a plan and some spare cash for when you are done, cause its brutal.

  5. #5
    CDT - 2013, PCT - 2009, AT - 1300 miles done burger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datto View Post
    Datto's Top Ten Tips for 2017 Thru-hikers In-Planning

    9) Bring four small screw-in hooks from a hardware store and some twine -- some shelters are oriented for view rather than weather so wind and rain pour into the shelter day and night -- string your tent/tarp across the front of the shelter with the hooks/twine in order to block the wind, snow and rain in Georgia/NC and to keep the terrible cold out when you're in Maine. You may be telling yourself from your living room that you won't be staying in shelters but that's not likely, particularly in the beginning (while you're adapting to trail life) and at the end when you're trying to make miles in bad weather through very difficult terrain.
    The screws are not a responsible suggestion. If hikers start regularly screwing stuff into shelter walls, they will eventually lose their integrity. Much, much better to just bring some extra cord and find existing places to tie your tarp to. Most shelters are already riddled with nails and have plenty of beams or other places you can tie a tarp to. Or, even better, just bring a good enough shelter to handle any weather that comes along.

    I liked #3. The majority of people with dogs on the trail think think that every hiker loves their dog as much as they do. At a shelter once, I got up in the night to go to the bathroom. As I was walking back to the shelter, an off-leash dog (belonging to a thru-hiker) was about to lie down in my open sleeping bag. I yanked him out by his tail--the inside of my sleepign bag is the only clean part of my gear, and no way was I going to let a dog muddy it. When I explained what happened, the dog's owner didn't apologize--he didn't even any sign that he cared what his dog was doing.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by dudeijuststarted View Post
    #2, #2, #2.

    have a plan and some spare cash for when you are done, cause its brutal.
    This is oh so true.

    I can tell you what happened to me.

    When I finished my AT thru-hike, at the very end, I almost turned around at Katahdin and yo-yoed south back the Georgia because the experience of my AT thru-hike had been so profound and I really didn't want the experience to stop. Common sense (or uncommon sense depending upon the way you look at life) took over and I ended up deciding to return to Society rather than yo-yoing back to Springer. To his day, years later, I'm not sure I made the right decision. But, you go with what happens and adapt to that -- adaptation is the ultimate lesson from a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

    On the plane ride back out, back to Society, I had made up my mind that long-distance hiking was going to become, by force if necessary, a major part of my life. It was just a matter of re-configuring my life to make that happen. You can't go through an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and not think to yourself that this is the way things should be.

    So, I change my path and my approach to life to accommodate a life that embraced long-distance hiking as a priority.

    Easily became one of the best decisions, for me, that I've ever made in my life. Heh, it was so important to me after my AT thru-hike that I re-worked my career choice to allow it to happen. I have immensely enjoyed my career since my AT thru-hike -- with the guiding idea that whatever happens, whatever goes good or bad, I can always just go take a hike and things will come back into perspective.

    Now that I have been able to leave corporate life and live on a beautiful mountain top in North Carolina, one of my biggest urges is to have people -- particularly prospective AT thru-hikers -- understand that life does not have to be how others have planned it out to be for you. There is an entirely different viewpoint that you can entertain after completing an AT thru-hike. It doesn't have to be a rat-race of a life all the way to death.

    Instead, you can accept the fact that the sole purpose of life on ths earth is to be happy. That's it. Nothing else. Your purpose is to be happy. There's no necessity to toil and work to the bone if that will not bring you happiness. Once a person realizes their reason for living is to be happy, it opens up a wealth of positive thought -- both strategic and tactical methods to be and achieve happiness.

    The elements of happiness are simple:

    1) Have Fun
    2) Live Fully
    3) Peace

    Getting all those to happen concurrently, well that is the challenge of life. Most times people can get, with effort, two out of the three to happen concurrently. Getting all three to happen at once is bliss.


    Datto

  7. #7

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    One of the greatest parts of the experience of an AT thru-hike was the encountering and experience of meeting people who were way different than me.

    It's difficult to put this into a measurable, quantitative element of an AT thru-hike but I value this as an important facit of my AT thru-hike. An enjoyment.

    Take, for example, this guy and this girl who I had met during the beginning days of my AT thru-hike.

    She was 27 years old, quite attractive. In shape, was adaptng to the AT very well (probably better than me at that time -- at least by Atkins or so -- even though I had started the AT well prepared).

    He was a ski bum who was a fervant Boston Redsocks fan with a constant smile on his face no matter the weather or terrain or condition. It was a qualty I had wished that I had acquired but I had not. This guy should have been in sales or motivational speaking. You couldn't have a bad day around this guy. He was one of several people I had met in the beginning of my AT thru-hike who was like that -- people who just were fun to be around. Everything was good to them.

    See, there was this party. In February -- after she had decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. She had been a little concerned about safety issues on the AT (not entirely different than most women who undertake a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail).

    He hadn't known her before that particular party.

    She had announced at that party and before, quietly I had imagined, that she was looking for someone to start the Appalachian Trail with her that Spring.

    Him, being February and all and the upcoming ending of ski season, became interested at that party. Hadn't really known much about the AT.

    By the end of the party the two had decided, sure, they'd start the AT together and go from there.

    I remember seeing the two of them at a place along the Appalachian Trail called "God's Thumb". I was sitting uphill from the two of them and had thought to myself after a few hundred miles of hiking on and off near the two of them, "Those two are made for each other."

    Five months later I would be sitting in a bar in Rangley, Maine with a group of AT thru-hikers who had, remarkably, made it to the same spot in Maine where I had arrived that evening. Locals (non-hikers) had been buying shots and beer for all of us AT thru-hikers there in the bar and a tray of shots had arrived where another thru-hiker and I -- she was 22 years old -- were sitting while watching the broken-knee other thru-hikers dancing in front of the band.

    She had said to me, "Datto, what are you going to do when this is all over?"

    I had thought about her question for a while -- thru-hikers don't have the speed to response as you would have back in Society -- and when I had turned to her to respond she had tears streaming down her face. She said to me, "Datto, I can't go back to the way it was. Not after all of this." I said, "Yeah, I know." We pounded down the shots a local had bought.


    Datto

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datto View Post
    Datto's Top Ten Tips for 2017 Thru-hikers In-Planning


    10) Bring disposable earplugs and put new earplugs into your maildrops -- lots of people on the AT snore loudly (way louder than you can possibly imagine while sitting in your living room planning your AT thru-hike) -- this is in shelters as well as when they are camped out next to your tent/tarp.

    9) Bring four small screw-in hooks from a hardware store and some twine -- some shelters are oriented for view rather than weather so wind and rain pour into the shelter day and night -- string your tent/tarp across the front of the shelter with the hooks/twine in order to block the wind, snow and rain in Georgia/NC and to keep the terrible cold out when you're in Maine. You may be telling yourself from your living room that you won't be staying in shelters but that's not likely, particularly in the beginning (while you're adapting to trail life) and at the end when you're trying to make miles in bad weather through very difficult terrain.

    8) Gear will not get you to Katadin so stop focusing so much on gear -- if you're a person who likes to be prepared, there's no better preparation for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail than to do overnight hikes in the rain and/or snow (anywhere) while carrying your full backpack (carry food, water, gear -- everything) -- hike eight miles per day before camping for the night on your prep hike -- don't do car camping and think that will be helping you. During the last six months prior to starting your AT thru-hike you should be hiking overnight two weekends every month and should have had at least one week-long trip where you've hiked at least forty miles under your belt. If you have a treadmill, carry your backpack on your treadmill -- when you get to the point where you can sustain 6% upslope at 3.0 miles per hour for 45 minutes straight while carrying your full backpack the entire tie, you're probably physically ready for the start of your AT thru-hike. Mentally -- well that's the biggest challenge of an AT thru-hike and that's why hiking in the rain and snow during your prep hikes is useful and important.

    7) The two toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail are 1) New Hampshire/Maine and 2) Georgia/North Carolina. If you're going to hike on the AT prior to starting your AT thru-hike in order to see if you're ready, pick one of those areas. There's a very good chance yours will be handed to you and you'll return home with a much better understanding of what you'll be undertaking with an AT thru-hike.

    6) During your AT thru-hike, don't take the Aquablaze -- why would you go through all the trouble and expense and life/career-risk to give up your thru-hike just to go on a canoe trip? Why not drive down the highway and throw fistfulls of cash out the window on the way to a canoe trip -- that'll save you the time, money and career risk of an AT thru-hike and you can just return to your existing job on Monday.

    5) Information from AT Profile maps and the information from the AT data book are the most important pieces of information to utilize on an AT thru-hike. Next in importance would be town information. All the rest is a nice-to-have information. Geez, don't spend any money or time getting a GPS or GPS software for your phone. In some places on the Trail, the white blazes are literally fifty feet apart. It is literally laughable to see someone using a GPS on the Appalachian Trail.

    4) If you will only take your phone out of Airplane Mode every other day, the difference in immersion will be the difference between computer speakers and Bose 5.1. Use your phone for music, pics, recording your thoughts if you want, on-board logistic planning. Constant connection to the Internet will so water down your AT experience and connection to the natural world you might as well stay home and save the money and life-risk for something else rather than an AT hike.

    3) If you're wanting to bring your dog on your AT thru-hike (because you have no place to keep your dog while hiking or your relationship is close with your dog), you can make it work on an AT thru-hike if you will do two things; 1) always camp in your tent/tarp every single night without exception and never stay overnight in a shelter and 2) Never take your dog -- even once -- into a shelter during the day. It's this simple -- no one wants your muddy-azz dog. If you think you can impose your dog on others in a shelter, you are sorely mistaken. However, if you will be responsible with your dog, other hikers will grow to like you and your dog. Keep in mind bringing your dog along with you on an AT thru-hike will almost double the challenge of an AT thru-hike for you -- extra logistics, extra food, your pack weight, wear on the dog and common dog injury, extra expense -- all the things that have escaped your brain because you're not thinking things through. Is taking on the challenge of an AT thru-hike not enough for you? There's only a 15% chance you'll complete your thru-hike and that's for people who don't bring a dog along. Completing an AT thru-hike with a dog where you hike past every blaze and walk end-to-end in a continuous journal is tough enough -- bringing a dog along on an AT thru-hike will almost guarantee you'll not be finshing and will be going home early. Why don't you and your dog just take a road trip out west instead?

    2) If possible, plan to take thirty calendar days after completing your AT thru-hike before returning to work. Sitting at home right now, you're not going to believe the difficulty you will face when transitioning from an AT thru-hike back into everyday Society. Use that post-hike thirty days to gather up your table manners (I'm laughing as I write this) as well as the time necessary to realize not many back in Society want to hear about the Appalachian Trail as much as you are going to want to talk about your thru-hike when you return from the Appalachian Trail.

    1) An AT thru-hike where you walk past every blaze, enjoy town stops, take about six-months to complete will cost you $5,000 door to door, not including gear replenishment along the Trail. If you plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with less, you're wildly fooling yourself.


    Datto
    Wonderfully written, and so important for the newbs as well as for experienced hikers. Thank you so much, Datto.

    I am posting getting another dog until I complete my thru-hike. I don't want to force a dog to walk 2,100+ miles.

    For me, your most important point is #2. I have always felt sort of lost in that liminal space after returning from a meaningful trip. Even after a few days biking around the Cape (Cod) and the islands, adjustment for me is hard. Nota bene: stories about the mythic hero, and the hard transition back to civilization (such as Gilgamesh). Go easy on yourself.
    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing​ and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. --Rumi

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datto View Post
    One of the greatest parts of the experience of an AT thru-hike was the encountering and experience of meeting people who were way different than me.

    It's difficult to put this into a measurable, quantitative element of an AT thru-hike but I value this as an important facit of my AT thru-hike. An enjoyment.

    Take, for example, this guy and this girl who I had met during the beginning days of my AT thru-hike.

    She was 27 years old, quite attractive. In shape, was adaptng to the AT very well (probably better than me at that time -- at least by Atkins or so -- even though I had started the AT well prepared).

    He was a ski bum who was a fervant Boston Redsocks fan with a constant smile on his face no matter the weather or terrain or condition. It was a qualty I had wished that I had acquired but I had not. This guy should have been in sales or motivational speaking. You couldn't have a bad day around this guy. He was one of several people I had met in the beginning of my AT thru-hike who was like that -- people who just were fun to be around. Everything was good to them.

    See, there was this party. In February -- after she had decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. She had been a little concerned about safety issues on the AT (not entirely different than most women who undertake a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail).

    He hadn't known her before that particular party.

    She had announced at that party and before, quietly I had imagined, that she was looking for someone to start the Appalachian Trail with her that Spring.

    Him, being February and all and the upcoming ending of ski season, became interested at that party. Hadn't really known much about the AT.

    By the end of the party the two had decided, sure, they'd start the AT together and go from there.

    I remember seeing the two of them at a place along the Appalachian Trail called "God's Thumb". I was sitting uphill from the two of them and had thought to myself after a few hundred miles of hiking on and off near the two of them, "Those two are made for each other."

    Five months later I would be sitting in a bar in Rangley, Maine with a group of AT thru-hikers who had, remarkably, made it to the same spot in Maine where I had arrived that evening. Locals (non-hikers) had been buying shots and beer for all of us AT thru-hikers there in the bar and a tray of shots had arrived where another thru-hiker and I -- she was 22 years old -- were sitting while watching the broken-knee other thru-hikers dancing in front of the band.

    She had said to me, "Datto, what are you going to do when this is all over?"

    I had thought about her question for a while -- thru-hikers don't have the speed to response as you would have back in Society -- and when I had turned to her to respond she had tears streaming down her face. She said to me, "Datto, I can't go back to the way it was. Not after all of this." I said, "Yeah, I know." We pounded down the shots a local had bought.


    Datto
    Did they marry?
    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing​ and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. --Rumi

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datto View Post
    Meant to say in Item 1 above, "Not including initial gear purchases but including gear replenishment along the Trail" rather than what's written above.


    Datto
    For someone who is very hard on her feet, how much do you think for footwear alone? Even just walking around the city or walking around Middlesex Fells, I go through shoes like crazy.

    Again, a wonderful list, Datto.
    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing​ and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. --Rumi

  11. #11
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    My only quibble -- and not from personal experience, exactly -- is item #5. I'm a paper-map guy myself, but I've watched thru-hikers making great use of these apps. And I have lost the trail a few times.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miel View Post
    Did they marry?
    Yes. Tw of the great people I met on my AT thru-hike.


    Datto

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miel View Post
    For someone who is very hard on her feet, how much do you think for footwear alone? Even just walking around the city or walking around Middlesex Fells, I go through shoes like crazy.

    Again, a wonderful list, Datto.

    Thanks. I've not been able to get a pair of hiking shoes of any type to last much more than 450 miles when on a long-distance hike (although I have stretched a pair further than that to my detriment). I went through, as I remember, five pairs of hiking shoes (those were Saloman trail runners on my AT thru-hike, New Balance on every hike after that). I pull out the existing footpads inside the shoes that the shoes come delivered with and instead, substitue Spenco inserts in their place (model was HIker from Spenco if those are available now) which has made my feet oh so much more comfortable. Also, when I started my AT thru-hike I wore 10.5 sized street shoes. Previous AT thru-hikers had advised me my feet would grow 1.5 sizes or more (thanks everyone here) so I was prepared when my feet started flattenng out lengthwise and width-wise. Today I wear a 13.5 4W shoe.


    Datto

  14. #14

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    I could care less if somebody aqua blazes and tells me they did a thru hike...whatever!

  15. #15

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    One of the encounters with dog owners on my AT thru-hike:

    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=175696


    Datto

  16. #16

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    ...and not fer nothin' but if I saw someone jerk a dog by the tail, we'd be lockin' horns.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    I could care less if somebody aqua blazes and tells me they did a thru hike...whatever!
    It depends upon whether truth is important to a person or not.

    "People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." -- Richard Nixon

    Nixon would have taken the Aquablaze, driven his car to Katahdin and applied for his 2000 miler designation.

    The key thing Nixon didn't understand and people who take the Aquablaze don't understand -- Nixon didn't have to lie. It cost Nixon dearly and he spend the rest of his remaining days trying to convince people he wasn't a liar and wasn't a crook. Just like people who took the Aquablaze keep telling people they thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail -- on water without any blazes to pass, as it is.

    For people who are 2017 thru-hikers in planning, the Aquablaze and this "Hike Your Own Hike" malarky are Trojan Horses. As soon as you let the first Trojan Horse into your AT thru-hike, it's over. You can try to Nixonize it all you want in your head afterward, but your AT thru-hike is over.


    Datto

  18. #18
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    #2! and leave the screws at home.

    It's also amazing how dog owners are either the most considerate people you meet, regardless of whether or not you're a dog person, or you immediately understand why they are hiking alone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    I could care less if somebody aqua blazes and tells me they did a thru hike...whatever!
    I would give them additional credit for HYOH, also the 2000 mile AT award.

    Yellow blazing, not so much, but HitchYOH if you must.

  20. #20

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    Well okay, if an AT thru-hiker is sitting in a shelter and the rain is driving in and hitting the back wall of the shelter -- and "Billy" in 1964 has carved his name and arrival date in eight inch letters into the sidewall for all to see. along with oh, 262 other hikers some with love potions...I guess an AT thru-hiker must assume they are under Double Secret Probation if said hiker uses screw hooks, twine and their tent/tarp to block the driving rain into the shelter.

    The real situation is when another hiker bounds into the shelter to get out of the driving rain and says, "I hope you don't mind" and before you know it, she changes shirts to get out of wet clothes. Of course right then the AT Boob Police show up in the rain and start issuing a summons to all the AT thru-hikers for seeing too much skin. I hate when that happens.

    Wapner at 4:30. Wapner.


    Datto

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