After 12 years of dedicating all of my time to either hiking or maintaining the Appalachian Trail, there is exactly one thing that I know for sure.....Hikers are NOT perfect people! As a matter of fact, the most dedicated AT hikers I know, whom I choose to call friends, are all either alcoholics, pot heads or perpetually unemployed. I myself, have never met a can of PBR that I didn't like, and I can assure everyone that on Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veteran's Day, and the Marine Corps Birthday, yours truly is going to be drunk all day.
Given these defects of character, there is no possible way that this band of broke and alcoholic potheads could possibly play an important role in one of the world's largest volunteer run endeavors such as the Appalachian Trail....but the truth is we do! The so-called leaders of the Appalachian Trail apparently have a hard time wrapping their minds around this phenomenon as well; I know this because I hear hiking club leaders, AT service providers, and those who I choose to call "AT Posers" gossip and judge hikers who like to drink, smoke and live life their own way. For the most part, I usually get a pass because I'm retired from the Marine Corps, and because I've owned homes, cars and I once found a woman who could stand me long enough to marry me; albeit not for very long. Even so, I still get judged because I've chosen to live what I feel is a true Appalachian Trail lifestyle.
Just the same, when the Appalachian Trail needs help, it's this group of imperfect substance abusers who are called upon to save the day. I challenge anyone reading this to name a major relocation on the Appalachian Trail in the past 20 years that wasn't built in large part by the same homeless, drunk and unemployed hikers who get judged on a daily basis. Thus I have chosen to side with this imperfect group of hikers; mainly because I am certainly imperfect myself, but also because we share the same love of the Appalachian Trail and desire to live life our own way, regardless if anyone approves or not. So, if you want perfection, the Appalachian Trail may not be the long distance hiking trail for you.