People ask me what’s the difference between backpacking and hiking. I tell them it’s the same thing, but some hikers may take a short hike without carrying a pack. An afternoon hike around a lake for example.
Thru-hiking is an attempt to hike an entire trail during the course of one calendar year. All thru-hikers are essentially backpackers, but backpackers may or may not be thru-hikers. Backpackers may hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, such as Yosemite, and go home. If these hikers plan to complete the PCT in sections over a course of years, they are known as section-hikers.
Sometimes, strange things happen to successful thru-hikers. It’s not uncommon after having spent six months thru-hiking a major trail, to not be eager to go on short local hikes anytime soon. What’s more, some trekkers only want to do a different major thru-hike. And a few others are happiest when they do the same thru-hike all over again. There are Appalachian Trail hikers who have thru-hiked it seven or eight times, and counting.
What to make of this. For me, now that I’ve joined a hiking club, I enjoy regularly scheduled shorter hikes. I don’t know if I have another major thru-hike in me, but I think about it all the time. Normally, I’d be training for one now. I think many thru-hikers liked the experience so much that they try to re-capture that sense of adventure by doing another thru-hike as soon as they can. They don’t think short; they think long.
I understand this. Although I can’t wait to hike in the mountains of New Hampshire next year, I’ll be thinking then of where I was on the AT, PCT, and other trails in years past. We are all made differently, and it takes all kinds to create a world. Happy trails.
(PCT lake picture from public domain)