I have mentioned to a number of people that the AT is the Disney World of hiking trail. This statement can be seen as both positive and negative. Before you go off and think I am crazy let me explain first.
Every year is the “biggest year” in terms of the number of people who are hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) whether it be thru-hikers, section hikers, weekend hikers, youth groups, scout groups, or spring breakers. The numbers are staggering at how much of an increase they have each year. To see some of the past totals and the most up to date numbers of the AT they can be found at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Website.
I found that in the spring of 2013 many of the small towns along the trail started having hiker fests or parties to bring the hikers, gear companies, and others to their town to help celebrate the AT its history and their communities. In recent years Damascus was the only town to have such evens and celebrations. This can be both good and bad for the communities and the hiker community. Everyone has their own opinions as to the pros and cons. I am neutral and think it can be both good and bad but that is best saved for another time.
As the number of people on the AT grow the more the AT will be something for you or to be honest it wont. If you compare the AT to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) the AT has more hikers than the PCT and the CDT combined. There are lots of reasons why people speculate this happens but the AT is the oldest and most well known. It is also the most promoted and “advertised” of the trails. Lots of people go to Six Flags or your local theme parks but after big events when asked where the winners are going they don’t respond with “Six Flags”. So Disney has made a huge name for themselves and provides a heck of an experience. Just like the AT.
So how is the AT like Disney World? Well it is like this.
1. The AT is not for everyone and neither is Disney World.
2. Lots of People.
3. Towns along the AT will turn into even larger tourist Traps.
5. Increasing prices of hotels hostels and the like.
6. Huge amounts of fun.
7. Lots of great people.
8. Magic at every corner.
9. Makes you feel like a kid again.
10. Joyful memories.
11. Lots of Kodak Moments.
12. You will meet lots of new people
13. You will all be in similar situations.
14. Lots of roller coasters. (To hike and mental / emotional)
15. Many ways to spend your money. (food, gadgets, toys, and gear)
16. Excitement when you least expect it.
17. Terror or Fear.
18. Delays due to weather.
19. Hanging out with friends enjoying beverages.
20. Everyone is more than willing to lend a hand.