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  1. #1
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    Default Thru hiking and online schooling?

    Iím planning ahead for a 2021 March Start NOBO and realized tonight that id be finishing my last semester of schooling that spring. (returned to college after being out of school for years.) I donít want to delay my hike or my classes so Iím curious if anyone else has tried doing an online class while on the trail. Iíd only have to check in a few days a week and it would only be 2-3 classes.

    Am I crazy for even thinking about trying this?

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by tophatsnfrills View Post
    I’m planning ahead for a 2021 March Start NOBO and realized tonight that id be finishing my last semester of schooling that spring. (returned to college after being out of school for years.) I don’t want to delay my hike or my classes so I’m curious if anyone else has tried doing an online class while on the trail. I’d only have to check in a few days a week and it would only be 2-3 classes.

    Am I crazy for even thinking about trying this?
    I don't think you are crazy at all and good for you for wanting to finish up college! Have you thought about going SOBO, starting in June? In that way, you will be done with class and can concentrate on your thru-hike. The reason I suggest this plan is that the AT is challenging enough, then you are adding classes where you have to check in a few days a week for 2 to 3 classes? That means, you need to find a place with good WIFI...and would you not have "home work" or study materials too? I don't know about you, but I think it important for concentration and "brain" function, to focus on one thing at a time. You will be busy on the AT figuring out how many miles you might go, where you plan to resupply and where you plan to shelter/tent/hostel/motel etc. This is just my opinion, but most thru-hikers, work around finishing the AT and going back to school. For instance, check out GarretHikes on the AT. He is giving himself 90 days on the AT before he has to go back to school. The guy is doing 20+ miles a day and there is no stopping him now. He is succeeding because he has a "clear" objective. He is focused and will get it done. I don't want to discourage you from school, because that is very important, but if you have never thru-hiked the AT or even section hiked it like me, you might be in for a BIG surprise. Just something to think about.

  3. #3

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    Online school is not for everyone, even under the best circumstances. I see this as a setup for failure. Problems are time, access, and maintaining motivation. As above, SOBO might work out better, especially if you are in shape.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by tophatsnfrills View Post
    Iím planning ahead for a 2021 March Start NOBO and realized tonight that id be finishing my last semester of schooling that spring. (returned to college after being out of school for years.) I donít want to delay my hike or my classes so Iím curious if anyone else has tried doing an online class while on the trail. Iíd only have to check in a few days a week and it would only be 2-3 classes.

    Am I crazy for even thinking about trying this?
    Yup.
    But its your life.

  5. #5
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    I hiked with a tax account . He kept up with his work on the AT.

    Thom

  6. #6

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    The pro side of this is easy to look at from a distance versus the con side, however the con side will be where the problems are, which can be masked by the desire to complete two major things concurrently and hide in the mist of daydream, hope, and excitement. Some practical considerations:

    Checking in with course providers "a few days a week" for 2-3 classes over 15 weeks or so sounds a lot easier looking at it from a distance than it will be during a thru hike. Getting connection signal will prove difficult and will probably slowly push contact hours and class work downstream until the time demand stacks up to a level that becomes untenable. Keeping computer and related electronic equipment protected, charged, and operating in what will probably be a wet environment a significant percentage of the time will be an issue. The costs of data transfer may prove significant as well depending on the cellular plan. Those are just the immediate logistical elements of course completion.

    Adding to the emotional stress a thru hike generates will be the fairly constant "check in" and course work worry, especially in areas of poor or nonexistent cell service. Not knowing if the planned contact and class work can happen each night or if additional miles of walking to reach towns or cell signal will be needed will be an ever present concern, requiring planning and constant adjustments. Emotional stress of a thru hike is difficult enough when there are no deadlines of this type, never mind 15 weeks of check-ins and required class work for the several classes you've paid for.

    Keeping mental health balanced while retaining course education, walking 10 hours per day in difficult, unfamiliar terrain will be a grinding factor, especially if weather events are constant and slow progress. Social contact during a trek of this nature can be an essential component to remain positive and focused for some people, even if it is casual in nature. These shared moments will probably become sneaky time thieves, reducing the amount of time in camp you will have to remain current in these courses.

    Physically there can be issues as well. Think of walking 10 hours today carrying a pack load of gear and electronics, then looking for a suitable camp site, setting up camp with all that entails, preparing a meal, cleaning up, tending to gear, and trying to fit in a few hours to study (if there is signal) to stay current in classes. Now think of that on a daily basis for a week, multiply that by 15 or so weeks. Imagine how tiring that is and how much more attractive the few hours of time needed for class work will be if you could use it for rest. Add to that several days of physically draining steady rain, wind, and cold when everything takes a lot longer and fingers will not work well on keyboards in those conditions.

    These issues singularly or combined can very easily derail both the hike itself and completion of 2 - 3 semester courses as planned if underestimated.

    You may want to consider taking those 2-3 courses on-line now since you are in an academic mode. If you can finish up prior to the hike, you stand a far better chance of completing both. If you can't finish, you will at least have a better understanding of the time commitment necessary for on-line classes to complete a degree. Or, wait until the hike is done to complete the courses then. If you cannot take on that course load due to other commitments now, you probably won't be able to on a thru hike.

    Only you know what you are capable of relative to study and schedule discipline, but were it me, I would shed the class commitments, gear load, and angst generated by the logistics to complete classes and focus on the thru if that's what the overarching goal is. If the overarching goal is to get the degree then finish the course load for it and do a SOBO hike or look at 2022.
    Last edited by Traveler; 05-23-2019 at 08:58.

  7. #7
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    I took/was taking an Entomology I on line class on a Long Tr thru hike. That hike lasted more than two wks. When I went into town I submitted assignments. I brought a copied chapter or two on trail to study. Dropped chapter copies in two resupply boxes. That was in 2007. The previous yr I had thrued the AT. Previous yrs I took maybe 2-4 on line courses per semester at home through various other schools to complete a BS in Horticulture. In my undergraduate Hort degree I had two independent study classes. So, I already familiar with the discipline of on line and independent classes and had done a 5 month LD AT hike when I did it.


    Traveler offered one certainly valid perspective. It's not mine. I'm always in academic mode whether on a LD hike or not. A thru hike is not for me approached as a vacation but a learning and sharing and comfort zone expanding experience. Thru hiking is NOT only about hiking.

  8. #8

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    Good job Dogwood!


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    Let me go

  9. #9
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Both Traveler and Dogwood have unique and valid experiences and opinions.

    While I cannot in anyway claim direct experience on these matters, I would like to share my own thoughts ó if I could be so bold.

    When I hiked the Trail oh so many years ago, I quickly learned that my youthful energy and enthusiasm was virtually spent by the time I reached camp. Not for lack of desire, I hardly had it in me to write but a few lines in the pathetically small notebook that I carried as a journal.

    For me, doing anything more was beyond my capabilities. Almost literally impossible.

    That said, I had little trouble completing my undergrad credits in three years (I had the luxury of only having to work summers).

    As such, it is my humble opinion that no matter how thinly stretched you are between now and when you start your hike, taking those online classes before you hit the Trail would have to be far easier than when you are on it.

    Then again, I think John Mackey ran a billion dollar business while doing his AT thru hike, which (even with help) has got to be harder than a few online classes.



    Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Kobzol View Post
    Good job Dogwood!
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    It may have been better if the hike was in Japan oh so fortunate one. I'm still salivating over your trip report. That was a darn nice cultural and Nature experience. Photos were stellar. What I possibly enjoyed the most, similar as Tipi Walter's reports, are the absence of gear, gear wt, and MPD talk. You both connect with your environment leaving it better than how you found it. Boiling the egg in the bath water was interesting. Of course, I enjoyed the tread, flora, and temple pics. Your faces displayed your connection just like Tipi's facial expressions.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    Then again, I think John Mackey ran a billion dollar business while doing his AT thru hike, which (even with help) has got to be harder than a few online classes.
    Good luck!
    I hiked with John Mackey and an associate a bit. I knew he was hiking to decompress so gave him a wide birth to hike without being nagged. I kept who he was to myself out of his hiking desires. Spent several nights in the same CS's having conversations. He was approachable. I asked him how he ran WF from the trail. He told me he greatly reduced his daily work load on trail leaving most decisions to others in charge as part of his pre hike prep. I remember him in some lengthy ph calls several times on trail and once with him in town. At least once he serendipitously headed into town for biz related matters. One of the best comments I remember from him was telling me I had the best trail diet he witnessed and gave me some tips on how to make trail food healthier. He had an immediate friend. I gave him tips on how to hike lighter while enjoying a high quality trail diet. I so enjoyed talking about food and food politics with him. He offered some keen behind the scenes insights of the U.S. food industry. When he recounted how he was a founding member of WF he left about eight of us in awe.
    Blabbing a bit but also hiked with an owner of a MLB team the yr before the team one the World Series. He worked from the trail hiking with a MLB scout. He did the same thing as Mr Mackey. He curtailed his work load as part of his pre hike prep. People of this caliber tend to be well organized and high functioning able to multi task at a high level with little wasted time. He spent more time in contact with his family than team reps.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    I hiked with John Mackey and an associate a bit. I knew he was hiking to decompress so gave him a wide birth to hike without being nagged. I kept who he was to myself out of his hiking desires. Spent several nights in the same CS's having conversations. He was approachable. I asked him how he ran WF from the trail. He told me he greatly reduced his daily work load on trail leaving most decisions to others in charge as part of his pre hike prep. I remember him in some lengthy ph calls several times on trail and once with him in town. At least once he serendipitously headed into town for biz related matters. One of the best comments I remember from him was telling me I had the best trail diet he witnessed and gave me some tips on how to make trail food healthier. He had an immediate friend. I gave him tips on how to hike lighter while enjoying a high quality trail diet. I so enjoyed talking about food and food politics with him. He offered some keen behind the scenes insights of the U.S. food industry. When he recounted how he was a founding member of WF he left about eight of us in awe.
    Blabbing a bit but also hiked with an owner of a MLB team the yr before the team one the World Series. He worked from the trail hiking with a MLB scout. He did the same thing as Mr Mackey. He curtailed his work load as part of his pre hike prep. People of this caliber tend to be well organized and high functioning able to multi task at a high level with little wasted time. He spent more time in contact with his family than team reps.
    Dogwood...MAYBE you gave John Mackey the idea of UL enough for him to later buy a stake in Gossamer Gear! That's cool! Maybe he can convince Bezos to strategically place WFs at key locations throughout the AT towns.
    Last edited by Thrifty Endurance; 05-24-2019 at 13:31.

  13. #13
    Registered User Nolan "Guido" Jordan's Avatar
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    If you think It'll be too hard, then don't try it. I wouldn't do it because I would rather hike it without having to worry about anything. Especially when it comes to school.

    Just remember that the mountains aren't going anywhere. They'll still be here for when you graduate.

  14. #14

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    As someone who is a college professor and has hiked 1850 miles of the AT my recommendation is don't do it. As a wise person once said no one can serve two masters. When you are hiking the AT you should able to totally focus on it and make the most of it. Finishing college and thru-hiking the AT are both great goals, I just wouldn't try to do both at the same time.
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  15. #15
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    If it is only 2-3 classes could you not figure out a way to add 1 class extra each semester (fall 2019, spring 2020, fall 2020) and graduate in December 2020? Between 3 semesters and 2 summer schools that you have between now and Feb 2021 if you want it to happen you should be able to find a way.

    If the classes are upper level major requirements that can't be moved around or tacked on to an already full semester then they are probably not classes that can be completed on the trail either.

  16. #16
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    Additionally, on the AT I met Appalachian State and, I think I recall it being Oregon State, students taking two credit and 4 credit classes while on sections and thru hikes. Initially I thought it was a joke. The Oregon State(?) students were three sophomore females. I remember them vividly because one was a flaming redhead, one a blonde, and one a brunette, a trio that was a sight for sore trail eyes after having broken up with a long time GF that was always invigorating. They were getting credit for backpacking the AT! I asked all about how they were organizing it on trail and the course credit requirements. They had to summit a weekly summarized report followed up the next week with professor questions about what was previously submitted and end of hike synopsis of trail experiences in a final paper of some length.


    That's all somewhat different, including what I did, than taking 2-4 on line classes while on an AT thru hike, particularly being a first thru hike. I'd expect it to be a higher work load and greater diversity of carried materials and time commitments. I'm sure it could be completed but I'd suspect it would be by someone quite organized. Good luck if you decide on accomplishing the task.

  17. #17
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    My first choice would be WTX2WY's recommendation to try to fit the classes in sooner and graduate in December. That way you could start your hike whenever you want in 2021.

    If that's not a good option, and you have to take them that spring, why start the trail in March? March is the most crowded month, and the weather will be unpleasant for much the first several weeks. On the other hand, starting the third or fourth week of April or even the first week of May would mean your hike and your class would barely overlap at all, since most college courses are finished by the first week of May. You might have to do a little bit of work from your motel in Hiawassee and Franklin, but your classes would definitely be over by the time you hit the Smokies (where there are not so many convenient spots to hop off trail and find an internet connection).

    I started NOBO April 13th and if I was going to do it again, i would probably start even later. I only dealt with a few sub-freezing nights at the beginning of the trail, and I finished the first weekend of October when Maine was absolutely resplendent in fall colors. Late April is a good time to start anyway, but especially if it means not having to worry about your online classes for 4-6 weeks like if you started in March.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by KnightErrant View Post
    My first choice would be WTX2WY's recommendation to try to fit the classes in sooner and graduate in December. That way you could start your hike whenever you want in 2021.

    If that's not a good option, and you have to take them that spring, why start the trail in March? March is the most crowded month, and the weather will be unpleasant for much the first several weeks. On the other hand, starting the third or fourth week of April or even the first week of May would mean your hike and your class would barely overlap at all, since most college courses are finished by the first week of May. You might have to do a little bit of work from your motel in Hiawassee and Franklin, but your classes would definitely be over by the time you hit the Smokies (where there are not so many convenient spots to hop off trail and find an internet connection).

    I started NOBO April 13th and if I was going to do it again, i would probably start even later. I only dealt with a few sub-freezing nights at the beginning of the trail, and I finished the first weekend of October when Maine was absolutely resplendent in fall colors. Late April is a good time to start anyway, but especially if it means not having to worry about your online classes for 4-6 weeks like if you started in March.
    Along the same line of thought, how about a flip-flop.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  19. #19
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    I think it really depends on how easy school is for you. If you can write an eight page essay in your head then find sources and type it out in a few hours like me I think you will be fine.

    However if you are also like me and it literally takes you hours to solve a single math problem then no.

    Depends on you and what class you are taking.

    For me I could probably handle any class but math.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tophatsnfrills View Post
    I’m planning ahead for a 2021 March Start NOBO and realized tonight that id be finishing my last semester of schooling that spring. (returned to college after being out of school for years.) I don’t want to delay my hike or my classes so I’m curious if anyone else has tried doing an online class while on the trail. I’d only have to check in a few days a week and it would only be 2-3 classes.

    Am I crazy for even thinking about trying this?
    Some courses of study are harder than others. Some individuals would prioritize completing the degree and would not jepordize that if they weren't absolutely sure they could do it while also hiking. Assuming you're not trolling us, your post count suggest you are, just be honest with yourself. How will you feel if you complete the degree but not the hike? How will you feel if you complete the hike but not the degree?

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