Lots of people hike on the Appalachian Trail – in fact it’s estimated that 2-3 million visitors hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year. Most folks enjoy day hikes and short backpacking trips, but each year a small fraction of those hikers (crazy individuals like me) attempt to hike the whole thing. What’s the completion rate, you might ask? More than 13,500 completions have been recorded. This includes thru-hikes, multiple-year section-hikes, and several hundred hikes by people who have already completed the A.T. one or more times – yes there are many individuals that have hiked the trail multiple times!
I found some interesting facts about thru-hike attempts. In 2006, 1,150 people left Springer Mountain, Georgia with a goal of stepping foot on Mount Katahdin, Maine. Only 1,076 of those hikers made it to Neels Gap, GA (30 miles into the adventure). The number that made it to Harpers Ferry, WV, the traditional half-way mark, was 659. Hikers that persevered to Maine and the northern terminus: 354 (a 31% completion rate).
In 2007, 1,125 brave hearts stepped out with dreams of seeing the state of Maine – 320 adventurers met that goal (28%). The year of 2008 saw more attempts, 1,250… but only 363 (29%) reach the summit of Katahdin. During the 2009 season, 399 out of 1,425 completed the thru-hike (28%). The year of 2010 attracted 1, 460 individuals to the crazy task of hiking 2, 186 miles through 14 states – 747 made it to Harper’s Ferry and 30% (434) raised their hands in triumph on the mountain of victory. However, 2011 brought the lowest percent of completion in this six year span – 27% (1,700 attempts… 464 successful journeys). Last year (2012) a record high 2,500 attempts were made… 1,017 of those hikers made it to Harpers Ferry (41%)… but only 536 reached Katahdin (21%).
Bottom line – over the past 7 years the average success rate of a continuous thru-hike is 23%. I find these numbers to be fascinating and challenging. Not only do I have the opportunity to be one of about 15,000 people world-wide who have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, but the odds are greatly against me to finish. This makes me all the more determined to make it…. and all the more dependent on God to help me succeed. I hope to experience the lyrics of “Long Way Home”… “And when we can’t take another step, the Father will pick us up and carry us in His arms.” Please pray for me as I make this journey.
Countdown: 175 days!!