Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Study


In 2000, I spent six months thru-hiking the 2.000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. That was a life-changing experience for me, and from the time I finished, I knew things just were not going to be the same from that point on. I made a promise to myself that every five years, I was going to do "something cool." In 2005, that "something cool" was paddling down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers with my partner, and now wife, Jessica.

Following my thru-hike, I went to graduate school at Ohio University. After two years of living in a home-built yurt, going to classes, and leading trips, I wrote my thesis under the direction of Dr. Matt Zuefle on "Motivations of Long-Distance Hikers on the Appalachian Trail". In 2004, I entered the PhD program at North Carolina State University to study under Dr. Roger Moore. I am currently "on hiatus" with the program, but intend to go back once "life things" settle down more.

I am conducting this study of thru-hikers as part of my continuing interest and research on the Appalachian Trail. It is adapted from Roland Mueser's 1989 study, my own thesis, and other related literature. As you well know, much has changed over the last 18 years, and it is my hope that this study will be helpful in contributing to the body of knowledge related to the Appalachian Trail and its users.

Over 560 thru-hikers completed the thru-hiker survey conducted online from May - September, 2007. This represents over one million miles of thru-hiking experience. I am now in the process of analyzing the data, and I presented the early preliminary results at the
Appalachian Long Distance Hiker Association's 2007 Gathering.

If you would like to receive results of the study, or have any questions or comments, please feel free to
contact me. For the latest news and updates on the study, be sure to check out our blog.

Thank you,

-John Pugh ("Johnny Swank", ME-GA 2000)