Hike Your Own Hike is a term beloved by thru hikers. It gives validation to many of our weird little quirks other hikers may not understand. If you want to take 2 zero days a week, do it. If you want to take a blue blaze around a section of trail, do it. If you want to carry a Katana, do it. It’s a term that helps settle any and all disagreements over these petty differences. No matter the context, it seems as if dropping the term “Hike Your Own Hike” is the cue for both sides to drop it and just enjoy the scenery. In a community where every person has their own opinions of comfort, ruggedness and everything in between, this little catch all has gone far to remind us that we don’t always have to be right.
Origins of the term are hotly debated among hikers but many agree it came around sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Today, as the AT community grows in size with the rising popularity of long distance backpacking, this term has began to see a metamorphosis as well. It is increasingly being referenced not only to justify individual styles of hiking, but also individual styles of treating the Appalachian Trail. When “Hike Your Own Hike” becomes a cop out for proper “Leave No Trace” ethics, we as a community have a problem.
Leave To Trace is also a widely known term on the AT. It was brought about in the 1960’s by the US Forest Service as the use of and need for management of our public lands grew. Leave No Trace has grown from just a saying with great intentions behind it to a full fledge non-profit that works tirelessly to uphold it’s Seven Principles. In a time when we are fighting to both protect our precious land and introduce people to the wonderful affect of Mother Nature for mental and physical health, it is massively important that we do not allow these two hiker adages to work against one another.
Hike Your Own Hike never means it’s okay to burn your trash if you don’t feel like packing it out.
Hike Your Own Hike never means you are exempt from digging a 6 inch cat hole if you don’t feel like it.
Hike Your Own Hike never means you get a pass on being polite and courteous to other hikers.
The rights given to you by the term Hike Your Own Hike end where they become detrimental to the land you are on and it’s natural inhabitants. When making decisions for yourself on trail, first and foremost, go by the Principles of Leave No Trace. Only secondly, go by Hike Your Own Hike. If you want there to continue to be a Hike worth Hiking, you will gladly do so.