Six months, 2189.8 miles, 5 million steps, tramping through 14 states. No matter what stat you use to define it, there is no denying that an Appalachian Trail thru-hike is an impressive feat. It can be life changing … and habit forming.

Some of these habits don’t fit too well in the real world, making the recent thru-hiker stick out like a person climbing a mountain wearing a suit and tie. Here are some identifying traits:

1. If, when following navigational directions, you always turn left when directed to go west and turn right when directed east (regardless of your actual compass heading) … you may be a recent thru-hiker:

For those uninitiated, because the trail meanders in all directions, for example for the NOBO (north-bounder) you actually occasionally walk south, the AT Guide always assumes if you are walking toward Katahdin you are walking north, regardless of your actual direction.This is a wonderful rule for those directionally challenged, like me. I would love to implement this in real life. Let’s start a petition

2. If you have the desire to plug one nostril while forcefully blowing air through the other (lovingly called a “snot rocket” by my wife), even in mixed company and regardless of venue … you may be a recent thru-hiker.

3. If the mere sight of Top Ramen noodles, peanut butter (any brand), trail mix, Knorr sides, or Idahoan Instant Potatoes makes you gag … you may just be a recent thru-hiker.

Conversely, the same is true if you would eat the pizza crusts left on a table by patrons of a Pizza Hut.

4. If, when someone reaches out with an open palm to shake hands and your reaction is to punch the air in front of the proffered hand (aka, the hiker fist bump) … you may be a recent thru-hiker.

… and finally

5. If, when walking outside (especially in the evening) you constantly scan the trees looking for that elusive branch, the one hanging at a right angle, 20 feet in the air, and not dead … you are probably a recent thru-hiker (and one that routinely hung a bear bagJ).

All these things are/were true of me once I got off the trail. I would love to hear what habits followed you from trail-life back to the real world. Post them in the comments below. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, as well as other affiliate programs. These affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to applicable products.

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