I have become very interested in some of the statistics regarding thru-hikers over the decades. As I begin to build my own data base on these historic journeys, I am fascinated with the names and trail names of the adventurers. I enjoy seeing where they are from and which of the fifty states sends the most representatives each year. I am also attracted to those who have hiked the trail multiple times and the back stories of some of the early pioneers. Over the next few months I hope to share some of the gold nuggets I’ve found as I have sifted the data provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
To get started, let me share some of the numbers from the early days. In the 1930s there was only one recorded thru-hike. The first and only thru-hiker in the 30s was Myron Avery. Avery, one of the major forces in the establishment of the AT, measured the entire trail with a measuring wheel taking over sixteen years, culminating in1936.
Three people completed a thru-hike in the 1940s, including the first thru-hike in one year (Earl V. Shaffer) in 1948.
Fourteen pilgrims made the journey in the 1950s including Mildred Norman, later called Peace Pilgrim, the focus of my last post (1952). And 1957 surfaced into history the first person to hike the trail twice (Emma “Grandma” Gatewood in 1955 and 1957).
Thirty-seven successful thru-hikes took place in the 1960s with Grandma Gatewood posting the first three-peat in trail history in 1964, the year before Earl Shaffer completed his second thru-hike (1965). Norman B. Menger wrote his name in the history books by completing two hikes in a three year period (1965 and 1967), becoming only the third hiker to walk the entire trail twice.
The decade of the 1970s ushered in an explosion of thru-hikers. From three successful hikes in the 1940s, to fourteen in the 1950s, to thirty-seven in the 1960s, now in the 1970s, there were 767 successful journeys.
So where did they come from?
Unfortunately, home states were not always part of the records for some of these early hikers but based on the data available, all but six of the fifty states had representatives completing the trail (only Arkansas, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming were absent). Most of the hikers came from the fourteen states housing the trail (Florida being the only exception). Here are the top ten:
Pennsylvania – 70 hikers
Massachusetts – 63 hikers
Connecticut – 55 hikers
Virginia – 45 hikers
New Hampshire – 42 hikers
New York – 41 hikers
Georgia – 37 hikers
Florida – 32 hikers
New Jersey – 31 hikers
North Carolina – 31 hikers
I do have to give an honorable mention to the #11 state – OHIO with 27 hikers!!
The first two individuals from outside the United States completed their thru-hikes in the same year, 1973 – one from Canada and the other from England. The Canadian, Ida Sainsbury, became the first woman outside the USA to complete the trail. She hiked the trail in three years with an American (Mary Years) from New York – more about them in an upcoming post.
John Laming was the Brit. Coming from Hertford, England, he completed his thru-hike in one season at the age of only 19. John’s back story will be explored in a post next week. By the end of the decade, six individuals from Canada and two from England would be successful thru-hikers on the AT, less that 1 percent of the total number of 2,000 milers.