Happy Hiking in 2016 – AT Records Made in 2015

Record Number of Hikers in 2015

ATC HQHappy New Year! As we hang up our new calendars it is always significant to review the previous twelve months. 2015 was a popular and productive year on the Appalachian Trail. In addition to speed records being set for both an assisted thru-hike (Scott Jurek: 46 days, 8 hours, 8 minutes) and an unassisted thru-hike (Heather Anderson: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes), The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has communicated a record-breaking number of hikers who passed through its Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, considered the psychological midpoint of the 2,185-mile long footpath. The ATC is a special place that not only greets thru-hikers but also takes their pictures, records their hiker information, and archives their journey photo to be housed at the conservancy.

When a thru-hiker arrives at the headquarters, they register as a NOBO hiker (going NOrthBOund from Georgia to Maine), or a SOBO hiker (hiking SOuthBOund from Mt. Katahdin, Maine toward Springer Mountain, Georgia), or an Alternate Route hiker (for example: Georgia to West Virginia then travel to Maine and hike SOBO back to West Virginia)  According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers passed through Harpers Ferry: an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers increased by 14 percent totaling 192 hikers. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way increased dramatically, with 291 choosing that method, that’s an increase of 139 percent! If my math is correct, that’s a total of 1,768 hikers reporting in at the ATC as potential thru-hikers.

A-Walk-in-the-Woods-bookThe ATC attributes some of this growth to the recent film releases of “A Walk in the Woods,” (based on Bill Bryson’s best-seller on the Appalachian Trail) and “Wild,” (portraying Cheryl Stray’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail). These two major motion pictures depict attempted thru-hikes on long-distance trails.

The ATC was also pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2015, a record-breaking 6,827 volunteers reported approximately 272,477 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. I find this truly amazing. During my thru-hike I encountered several trail work teams, maintaining and improving the trail. From repainting the white blazes to creating rock steps on treacherous terrain to clearing the trail of recent blow-downs, the crews were hard at work.  The record number of both volunteers and hours reveals a loyal army commitment to the AT. Volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 137 full-time workers working 40 hour weeks for 50 weeks during the year. These heroes of the trail contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor.

Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T. – it is estimated that it takes 5 million steps to thru-hike the trail, so volunteers have donated an hour for every step along a thru-hike of the AT. It is no wonder why this volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.


Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Heather Anderson, Mount Katahdin, NOBO, Scott Jurek, SOBO, Springer Mountain, West Virginia, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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