For this hiker, "Hike your own Hike" has always meant the manner in which a long distance hiker completes their hike. Whether that be southbound, northbound, or whether or not a hiker passes every single white blaze from Georgia to Maine or visa versa. That definition however has changed over the years, and sadly, not in a good way.
Some hikers will tell you that "Hike your own Hike" means that they can do whatever they damn well please on the Appalachian Trail regardless of who it hurts! I always tell these hikers that it hurts the Appalachian Trail, and any hiker who comes after them; but I'm usually given a dismissive look or I'm outright laughed at because of my viewpoint on this topic.
Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not opposed to having fun on the Appalachian Trail; as a matter of fact, I've drank enough beer on the AT to float a battle ship, and I can Yogi food off of tourists with the best of them. What I'm talking about is the outright disregard for the trail and the people who provide services to it's hikers under the guise of "Hike your own Hike". Not paying your bill at a Hostel, sneaking 10 hikers into a motel room, or staying at a "Donation Suggested" church facility and leaving nothing are not examples of "Hiking your own Hike"....they are examples of theft!
Just the same, I meet hikers regularly who rationalize and excuse these actions by telling me that "I'm Hiking my own Hike". When did "Hike your own Hike" become a license to steal? Is this just phase on the AT, and all will be better soon, or is this a real problem on the AT and it's going to ruin it's reputation? I say that it's a real problem, and apparently ALDHA and the ATC agree. There has been an Endangered Services Program on the AT for quite some time; granted it's an ineffective program, but the problem is bad enough that the ATC gave the issue it's usual half hearted and misinformed attention.
The result of this "Hike your own Hike" gone wild attitude is that long time AT service providers are beginning to close their doors. Many of these people I've become friends with over the years, and it pains me to see them become fed up with the sense of entitlement on the Appalachian Trail.
If you like to take a shower every few days, have a hot meal, or sleep in a bed occasionally, you might want to rethink what "Hike your own Hike" means to you!