As of mid-March, 2015, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) provided statistics for the thru-hiking class of 2014. The ATC classifies a successful thru-hike into one of four categories. First, the Northbound Thru-hike from Georgia to Maine (NOBO for short). The second classification is for those who begin in Maine and finish in Georgia (SOBO). The third designation reflects an alternative thru-hike, typically referred to as a Flip Flop (for example, NOBO part of the way, then travel to Maine, climb Katahdin, and then finish going SOBO). The fourth slot is reserved for those hikers who have completed the trail by sections over several years.
The number of NOBO thru-hikers leaving Springer Mountain, Georgia, this year was estimated at 2,500. It is an estimate because there is no official sign-in location to begin the trail. Amicalola Falls State Park is an 829-acre Georgia state park and serves as one gateway into the Appalachian Trail. It provides an 8.5 miles approach trail ending at Springer Mountain. Some hikers don’t complete this strenuous approach trail and fold up their tent before they reach the actual starting line. Amicalola Falls has a nice lodge and an “unofficial” register for the trail. The true southern terminus of the AT is found on Springer Mountain which contains another “unofficial” sign-in register at the rock which houses the terminus plaque. I did not travel the approach trail, rather I got a ride to a parking lot one mile from Springer. My name is under the rock but not in the lodge at Amicalola.
The first good accounting of thru-hikers is obtained at Harpers Ferry, WV, the headquarters for the ATC. Just about every thru-hiker stops at the headquarters because they take your picture and include your mug shot in a notebook as an historical record of that year’s participants. In 2014, 1,267 NOBO hikers reported to the ATC. I was number 924.
The final stop for the 2014 census is at Mount Katahdin itself. The ranger station at Baxter State Park registers hikers before they make their climb to the brown sign. Typically, half of the hikers that report to Harpers Ferry are unable to complete the journey. In 2014, there were 653 brave souls that scrawled their names in the record book. I was number 618 at Katahdin.
SOBO numbers (the chosen course of the very few) are much smaller. There were 242 hikers that started at Katahdin; 168 SOBO pilgrims made it to Harpers Ferry and only 76 SOBO thru-hikers arrived at Springer Mountain.
The number of thru-hikers that declared a flip-flop at Harpers Ferry was 122 and only 70 individuals reported a successful completion of the journey. In addition, there were 129 hikers that reported the successful completion of their thru-hikes by sections.
If I have figured correctly, about 2,742 thru-hikers began their trek this year; 1,435 made it to Harpers Ferry (53.33% of those who began); and 799 reached their terminus of completion (29% of those who began the trek). An additional 129 hikers victoriously completed the last section of their multiple year journey.
My heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2014! May each of us wear the honor wisely, represent the trail with dignity, and recognize the Creator of it all.
AT Map found at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/about-the-trail