The ATC on Negative Media Coverage

Today, a few articles were published about rowdy Appalachian Trail hikers. An excerpt from this PennLive article read:

At Maine’s Baxter State Park, home to the trail’s final summit on Mount Katahdin, officials say thru-hikers are flouting park rules by openly using drugs and drinking alcohol, camping where they aren’t supposed to, and trying to pass their pets off as service dogs. Hundreds of miles away, misbehaving hikers contributed to a small Pennsylvania community’s recent decision to shutter the sleeping quarters it had offered for decades in the basement of its municipal building.

Naturally, a story of strangers helping each other on the trail, trail magic, and spiritual journeys would not have made as good of a news story. (Though, I have seen a good share of those too!)

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy issued a response on their Facebook page:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has led the effort to protect the ‪‎Appalachian Trail‬ since 1925, and today is no different. Recent media coverage of the A.T. has highlighted the misguided behavior of what we believe is a small percentage of hikers, mischaracterizing the millions of visitors who understand the importance of responsible use of the Trail. It is our hope that the attention given to the small fraction of hikers who do not exemplify values of respect does not eclipse the cooperative management system that enables a 2,190-mile path to stretch from Maine to Georgia.

With the expected increase in Trail usage, especially with the release of the upcoming film A Walk in the Woods, we will be expanding our efforts to educate the public and instill the best practices for hiking the A.T. We will continue to work with representatives from Baxter State Park to address the complex issue of increasing hiker traffic and bad behavior. As guardians of the A.T., we are encouraged by the large majority of A.T. hikers who have a legacy of exhibiting respect to both the Trail and the surrounding communities.

I’ve heard of the trail attracting more hikers every year, and the need to raise awareness of leave-no-trace or low-impact camping etiquette is growing, but it seems absurd that a hiker would consciously take an extended journey for the purpose of partying and abusing their privileges.

I refuse to believe anything more than — like anywhere else in the world — a few bad apples will ruin the bunch. And similar to the communities we all live in, it is up to the hiking community to educate those who are less aware of what etiquette is expected of them in their environments.