I'm somewhat dismayed by all the the attention that is paid to thru-hikers of scenic trails and how little is paid to section hikers. I don't begrudge thru-hikers their freedom to hike a trail for 6 months or more. Of course, I'm envious. I just think that section hikers should share in some of the glory too.
Take the Appalachian Trail for example. Over 4 million people hike it annually, but only 2,000 attempt a thru-hike. I have to believe that there are many more section hikers hiking that trail each year. But for some reason, we're a hidden constituency.
Let's face it, a lot of section hikers are older than thru-hikers. We have families and financial obligations, and can only get away on 1-2 night backpacking trips, due to personal or work commitments. The truth is, it takes a lot of sacrifices and compromises to fuel a section hiking habit.
In fact, I'd argue that section hiking is harder than thru-hiking. Yes, even harder.
For example, I just finished section hiking the AT in New Hampshire over the course of 3 years. In order to hike 161 miles of trail, I hiked 306 miles. That's a lot more than a thru-hiker would hike, even with town resupplies. Probably why it took 2+ years to complete!
Those extra miles, hiking into the wilderness to join back up with the AT, and then hiking out at the end of the day or weekend, are only part of what makes section hiking difficult in my mind.
There's also juggling all of the personal and work obligations to make time for yourself. If you're in a relationship, you probably have a pretty good idea of the level of negotiation and compromise that's required to get the necessary time off.
On top of that, there is a lot of extra driving and shuttles, to and from the trail.
So if you are a section hiker or you live with one, I think you need to give them (or yourself) a pat on the back for living your dream and making the sacrifices required to fulfill it.
We are a silent majority but one that should celebrate our solidarity more – imho. Maybe it's also time for the long distance trail associations that we support, to throw a little glory our way.
If you are a section hiker of any long distance trail over 200 miles (worldwide) and haven't entered this month's Gossamer Gear Pick Your Pack Raffle, there is still time to enter. The deadline for raffle submissions is midnight October 16th, so don't delay.