Long haul hiking
As some of you know, I’m preparing to do a long haul hike, specifically, the Continental Divide Trail.
So, this podcast is about the world of long haul hikers and a man who completed one, and part of another long hauler. So this intro is longer than usual, more of a blog-like intro, because to introduce this gentleman I need to provide some deeper context.
What’s this all about?
What’s a “long haul hike?” It depends on who you ask. But historically, it’s one of a small handful of very long hiking trail that don’t give up their lengths very easily. Here in the USA there are primarily 3 of them, 1) the AT or the Appalachian Trail (2,181 miles), 2) the PCT or Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles) and 3) the lesser known CDT, the Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles long).
The Triple Crown
Collectively these 3 trials are known as the Triple Crown. For those who complete one of these as a single, non stop hike, earn – and I do mean earn – the distinction of having completed what is known as a “Triple Crown” through hike. It’s quite a distinction and not at all easy to do. It’s more the mind game than the physical aspect of the hike that gets most folks. But if you’re lucky enough to complete all 3, you’ve completed what’s called the Triple Crown; you’re now a ‘Triple Crowner’. I’m shooting for all 3 starting with the CDT.
How long does it take to complete one of these long haul hikes? Considering the different lengths of these 3 examples above, your average pace and time, and assuming you’re not into setting records, expect a minimum of 4, and upwards of 6 months. Yes, 4 to 6 months of hiking virtually non stop until you’re done – or done in. And there’s generally a single window of opportunity each year to complete such a hike, so for most of us (there are exceptions) we have one shot a year to do one. That’s long haul hiking.
As an aside, this is also referred to as “Thru hiking.” Long haul and through hiking are often used synonymously, although not always exactly the same thing. But, generally speaking, it’s acceptable to call a “long haul” hike, a “Thru hike” as well.
Isn’t there something more reasonable?
Sound ludicrous? Well, if hiking and camping is within your wheelhouse, you can “section” hike these long haulers too.
Section hiking is picking a section of one of these long haulers and completing only that section in a much lesser time frame, whatever distance and time frame suites the hiker. It could be as little as a weekend to a month, or more. But tackling a long hauler in this manner means it will take years to complete a single trail. That ain’t fer me! If I’m hitting a long haul hike, I’m going all in, doing it in one shot, 4 to 6 months – and likely for me, 5 to 6 months to get it done.
As another aside, you can also section hike just for the joy of taking on a piece of one of these 3 famous hikes, without considering completing a long haul in several iterations.
It don’t come easy
Not the song, but bagging one of these beauties. Getting one of these done is not easy. You don’t just go hike them. You need a support team of at least one totally dedicated partner to see you through this, deliver food and other trail necessities to you during the hike. In some ways, it’s like going to war. You need a support team, a supply chain, good weather and some good luck to go along with a well trained body to get it done. And, experience helps.