HikingThru-Hiking Traditions

Thru-Hiking Traditions

Half-Gallon Challenge: You’re at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, halfway to Katahdin. How do you celebrate? By trying to eat a half-gallon of ice cream. You choose the flavor, but the truly hardcore go with “Rocky Road.”

Garage Sale: The approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park to Springer Mountain is a wake up call for many northbound thru-hikers, who suddenly realize they’ve packed too heavily for their journey, have left everything from sleeping pads to portable TVs along the side of the trail.

Speed Hike: It’s roughly 41 miles from Watauga Lake, N.C., to Damascus, Va. Some thru-hikers, so smitten with Damascus’ reputation for being the ultimate trail town, insist on hiking those 41 miles as fast as they can-some have made it in under 12 hours.

Four State Challenge: Another speed hiking challenge, northbound hikers will camp on the northern edge of Virginia, then head out early the next morning attempting to set foot in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania all in the same day during a 41-mile hike.

National Hike Naked Day: Bold thru-hikers have been known to shed their clothes and bare all to celebrate the Summer Solstice on June 21.

Mooning the Cog: Probably the most controversial thru-hike tradition, some 2,000-milers like to drop their drawers as the Cog Railway (a tourist train popular with the older set) passes them on Mount Washington.

Better Than Ramen
Think thru-hikers eat ramen every night? Think again. The ultimate thru-hike food staple isn’t packs of ramen, it’s…Instant Grits. They’re lighter than pasta, take up less room than ramen, and you can dress them up with anything from bacon bits to pasta sauce.

The Port-a-Privy
A plastic lawn chair with a hole cut in the middle found occasionally at various shelters. The benefit being that you can take it to any spot you like to do your business.


Strangest thing anyone’s ever carried on their thru-hike: a Tuba.

Scott Rimm-Hewitt, a.k.a. “Super Scott the Tuba Man,” hiked southbound carrying his 30-pound tuba, which he named Charisma, in 2000. In an interview at the time, Super Scott said he carried his tuba all 2,175 miles to blend his love of nature and music. He also credited the tuba for saving his life. Super Scott fell off a cliff in Pennsylvania, and the tuba broke his fall. He also ran the Boston Marathon with his tuba during that same year. Later, he biked across the country with his tuba.

Places to Go, Things to See: