Thru-Hiking Whiz – Become a Whiz
Thru-hiking is hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end. The term is most commonly associated with the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in the United States, but also refers to other end-to-end hikes. Other examples include the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Lycian Way in Turkey, the Israel National Trail, and the Great Divide Trail (GDT) in Canada. Thru-hiking is also called “end-to-end hiking” or “end-to-ending” on some trails, like Vermont‘s Long Trail or New York‘s Long Path. Section hiking, on the other hand, refers to hiking a trail one section at a time, without continuity and not necessarily in sequence with the other sections.
Thru-hiking’s origins date back many years, when long-distance foot travel as a means of transportation began to merge with hiking for its own enjoyment and as a means of seeing the world.
One famous thru-hike involves the story of Lillian Alling, a young 27-year-old Russian immigrant living in New York City, who became homesick and decided to return to her family in Russia. Lacking funds, but armed with a strong will, she chose to walk the 12,000 miles to Russia, traversing Canada and into Alaska. She was last seen preparing to cross by boat at the Bering Strait to Siberia.
A thru-hiker named George W. Outerbridge completed the first section hike of the newly completed Appalachian Trail in 1939; trail promoter Myron Avery had previously section-hiked while trail blazing.
Earl Shaffer became the first to have publicly thru-hiked the AT in 1948. A 1994 report claiming that a group of Boy Scouts had done so twelve years earlier has never been adequately documented and is considered highly suspect in most hiking circles (see Appalachian Trail).
A number of thru-hikers have achieved a measure of celebrity in backpacking culture. Perhaps the most famous was Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, who first thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at age 67, with what even at that time was considered extremely inadequate gear, including sneakers rather than boots and a blanket rather than a sleeping bag; she later completed a second thru-hike and a full section hike and is recognized today as a pioneer of ultralight backpacking.