On the Appalachian Trail it’s not how fast you hike, or how far, or even that you make it from one end to the other that is important. What matters is that you TRY.
Scott Jurek set a record time of 46 days and 8 hours for a thru-hike of the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail. This is an amazing physical accomplishment. Having hiked the trail, I find it even more astounding. I know the trail; much of the terrain is treacherous to walk on, let alone run.
Yet Jurek did it. But in doing so, he missed the point and perhaps did a disservice to the trail.
The Appalachian trail is a place of splendor and unspoiled nature open to all. It offers a solitude surrounded by pristine vistas that are rare in this country.
Jurek’s feat, while physically impressive, is meaningless. His speed masked the power of the trail. It was never meant to be a raceway.
The physical challenge is only a part of the daily hike. The willingness to continue despite the challenges of weather and terrain plays a part as well. Yet doing these things as you enjoy the journey is what the Appalachian Trail is all about.
A record always presents a challenge. Someone will want to break it. Jurek was so motivated, so there will be someone else.
The philosophy of the trail is, “Hike your own hike.” I do not think we should control what someone does to challenge the trail. That would be as destructive to the spirit of the trail as turning it into a raceway.
Yet, the idea of hiking it faster seems counterintuitive. I fear personal egotism will overwhelm and damage the trail.
One of the greatest joys on the trail was to happen upon a view. Not just those described in the books, but an unanticipated scene. It could be a bear and her cub, a gnarled and twisted old tree, or a panorama of mountains.
To sit and see these things is to experience the trail.
To run by them, checking your watch, is to miss the whole point.
Joe “Miracle” Broadmeadow NOBO Thru-hike 2014