The Appalachian Trail Conservancy announced a voluntary registration system for thru hikers on their blog a couple weeks ago. The article pointed out that the recent influx of media, like the film adaptation Wild starring Reese Witherspoon, has brought trail culture and backpacking into the mainstream, inspiring more and more people to hike for the first time. With that in mind, this registration system is a good idea both for the ecology of the trail and the safety of hikers, especially those making the AT their first.
When I was hiking with my brother on his thru hike I thought trail logs were such an incredible means of communicating, whether it’s some info on the shelter, a quick story, or just a record saying that I was here and what shelter I’m going to stay at next. If the ATC is planning on using an online registry, why not also develop a hashtag hikers can use? A well maintained # could function as a virtual log. Hikers could tweet when they hit the towns, share photos, and post videos that they’ve taken. While right now the feed uses #AppalachianTrail something more specific like #ATdigilog or #ATlog2015, would allow it to be used the same way the physical logs on the trail are except now other people, like the friends and families of the hikers, can log on and view them too.
On top of that, the library of congress saves every tweet written, like the ATC saves logs, so hikers can still file through the trail’s past. With so many people blogging and tweeting about their experiences already it could be a great way to engage with the hiking community. While I’m sure individual or hiker made #s, like #at2015, exist, the ATC’s twitter page could run and facilitate something more official.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to hike and if it’s to find solitude or disconnect from an overly digital society then using a hashtag or even entering into this registry might not be appealing. But some hikers who don’t want to the use the registry for personal reasons might be inclined to use the more causal hashtag, which could still be a kind of census for the ATC’s purposes. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal decision. When starting any trail, whether it’s as daunting as the AT or a short day hike through a park, the important thing is to hike your own hike, even if you want to tweet about it.