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November 2008

American Classic: Hiking the Appalachian Trail

In this ultimate guide to the country's favorite footpath, you'll find our picks for the best hiking and camping, and a complete plan for thru-hikers. Plus, meet a man who has made it his job to help AT hikers.

On the trail, as in life, good manners go far. Here’s how to behave:
1. Don’t lecture Give advice only to those who request it of you.
2. Be considerate If you snore, travel with a dog, play music loudly, talk on the phone, go to bed really early, wake up really early, smoke, sleep naked, or dislike being around others, consider tenting rather than sleeping at shelters–you’ll be the king of your own castle and you won’t see nasty things written about you in shelter logs.
3. Share Never spread out in a shelter to prevent others from using it, and never consume the entire contents of a Trail Angel’s cooler by yourself. And remember: There’s always room for one more in a shelter during a storm.
4. Protect the water Drink upstream, do everything else downstream. Don’t foul the water for your fellow hikers by walking, bathing, or dishwashing at the source of a spring or a stream crossing.
5. Pack it out You’re not being altruistic by leaving extra food at a shelter for "someone else." It just invites scavenging animals. Many trail town businesses have "hiker boxes" for this type of sharing.
6. Be grateful Hitches, hostels, angels, and trail maintenance are just some of the supports built into the AT that rely on the generosity of others. You already smell bad–don’t make it worse.
8. Respect privacy It’s very hard to lose someone while walking 3 mph on a one-foot-wide trail. Don’t assume that anyone wants to merge itineraries for the next six months, and if you pick up an unwanted tag-along, don’t spend your hike ducking behind logs–just be honest.
9. Don’t complain Of course it sucks that your boot soles fell off halfway through Pennsylvania. Look at the bright side: You’re not at work!  –Peter "Wicked Lobstah" Rives, 2004 AT thru-hiker

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