Today, though, while I love to hike and backpack, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. In fact, I have almost no desire to hike any stretch of that trail at all. There are a number of reasons for this, but first and foremost is that the goddamned thing is just way the fuck overcrowded.
Yeah, there are sections of it that you can backpack and not bump into a lot of folk. And there are times when you can backpack it and not meet up with lines of humans marching in either direction. But by and large, the thing is just way the hell too populated for me to even consider backpacking there any more. I go backpacking to find solitude and try to witness a little bit of nature in its purest state. Spending time with dozens, sometimes literally hundreds of other human beings jammed into a small space is the opposite of what I try to achieve when I go backpacking.
|An empty shelter! Wait a couple of hours and humans will be spilling out of it.|
The system of sleeping shelters on the Appalachian Trail are the worst. This is where most of the people who travel the Trail go to sleep at the end of a tough day of hiking. In my experience there is rarely enough space inside these shelters for all who wish to use them. They get so crowded that the grounds around each shelter end up being packed cheek by jowl with tents of the late-comers who thought they were going to spend the night under a roof.
And then there are the privies. The AT has become so popular that now there are toilets built at most of the shelters. And, of course, these toilets are very primitive and are so overused that the stench can be smelled sometimes from more than one hundred feet away. Forget about using them. Plug your noses and take your chances. I don't want to think of the cat-holes that have to be dug all along the Trail corridor for the multitudes of humans having to do like the bears and shit in the woods. It goes without saying that you very damned well better boil your drinking water.
|DON'T GO IN THERE! We could smell this one from about 100 feet away. But I had to get a photo of it.|
And worse than just the presence of the crowds is that they're all, it seems these days, a bunch of morons and idiots. The unwashed herds tramping up and down the Appalachian Trail are like the worst of geeky comic book and science-fiction movie fans. In days gone by, when you met someone on the Trail and asked their name you'd get a straight answer. Not so, now. It has become--in the years since I began backpacking--a sick tradition to have a "trail name". These are silly, stupid, ridiculous names that the backpackers choose and which become their "names" while they're backpacking. Don't expect to hear someone's actual name on the AT if you should bother to ask. You'll get some stupid response like "Slow Walk" or "Flower Girl" or "Dirt Man" or some silly fucking shit like that. "Idiot Bonehead Fuckwads" the lot of them.
|Typical stone shelter, complete with fecal stench.|
Me, I tend to steer well clear of the Appalachian Trail these days. I don't want to step in a pile of human fecal matter if I can avoid it, and so my backpacking and hiking is done elsewhere. I travel to National Forests, Wilderness Areas, and even National Parks where it's less crowded than the pitiful freaking Appalachian Trail.
Yes, it's all very sad.