Letter: Appalachian Trail hikers face grueling endeavor

From: William Porter


In regard to “Trip of a Lifetime,” I would like to point out that thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is an extremely difficult mental and physical challenge that should be held with greater respect than depicted in this article. As someone who has hiked hundreds of miles on the Appalachian Trail during several multiday trips, I am aware of how difficult stretches of the trail can be and have interacted with multiple, nearly finished thru-hikers and have seen the physical and mental toll it can take on them.

Between 2008 and 2013, per the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, only 27 percent of potential thru-hikers completed the entire trail within a 12-month span. Note that this data only includes registered thru-hikers and does not include hiking the entire trail in both directions. “Yo-yo” hiking the trail is even more rare, and most successful one-way thru-hikers do not even consider this approach. Even experienced hikers who have trained for and have the best and lightest equipment succumb to the rigors of hiking 15 to 20 miles day after day and step foot off the trail within a week or two.

In addition, one of the true joys of long-distance hiking is finding yourself in nature while distancing yourself from the pressures and connections of our modern society. The Appalachian Trail is maintained by volunteers and free of commercialism and largely remains true to the creators’ original vision of being a retreat from profit and a way to experience nature while being removed from life as you knew it off the trail.

I wish the Lynches nothing but the best and hope for their safety and success in their hike and their scholarship foundation but wanted to shed light on some of the mental and physical challenges they will face when they step onto the trail. Omissions in the article on the preparation that needs to occur and the reality of the hardships on the trail give the impression that an Appalachian Trail thru-hike is a walk in the park rather than a grueling, exhausting and emotionally challenging effort that many will never complete once, let alone twice.