Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Appalachian Trail's cheap, transient lifestyle attracts hundreds of jobless Americans

In a struggling job market, more Americans are turning to the Appalachian Trail for its transient lifestyle. In a typical year 1,000 hikers leave Georgia to hike the 2,000-mile trail to Maine, Joel Millman of The Wall Street Journal reports. This year 1,400 hikers left in the first wave, with hundreds more lagging behind. "I wouldn't do this if I was employed," hiker Dan Kearns told Millman. "I couldn't find any work, so I just decided to take a walk."

Millman writes, "An economist might have another name for Snipe [Kearns' trail name] and his fellow travelers: trailing indicators. [Ha, ha.] Depending on one's level of optimism, an Appalachian Trail through-hiker is either a symbol of a jobless recovery or of a still-deepening recession."

Hikers budget $1 a mile for food, but often earn lodging on a work-for-stay bartering system. "If you do this on the trail, you're a hiker," The Druid, a 48-year-old south-bounder (SoBo) from Tennessee, tells Millman. "If you do this off the trail, you're a bum." So-called "Trail Angels" provide lodging and free meals to hikers short of cash. "NoBos and SoBos are reminiscent of the hobos of the Great Depression," Milliman writes, "though there aren't so many of them this time." (Read more) For a Journal video, click below.

Hiking the trail, through or not, earned a boost in popular lore when South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford claimed he was hiking it in June while he was actually culminating an affair in Argentina. includes the phrase "hiking the Appalachian" as a slang term for having an affair and includes possible uses for the term, such as: "Why is Bob's wife angry with him? He got caught hiking the Appalachian, if you know what I mean." (Read more)

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