“Trail Family”

When my wife and I set out on our adventure to hike the Appalachian Trail, some things had to be left behind. Most of it was easy to leave, but we had a much harder time leaving friends and family. To make matters worse we knew they had their fair share of concerns. A few friends asked “Aren’t you scared of the bears?”

“If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone” was our reply. “And if we don’t sleep with our food we’ll be fine.”

Many of our loved ones were worried about us encountering dangerous people with bad intentions. We understood their concerns and did all we could to ease their minds. Any kind of an attack is tragic and this is no attempt to soften the weight of a tragedy with a statistic, but statistics seem to ease people’s minds.

Statistically speaking, it is safer to walk the AT than it is to visit your favorite city. Tara and I knew that anything could happen anywhere, but at the same time a quick Google search will show that animal and human attacks on the Appalachian Trail are very few and far between. Another point we focused on heavily was the large hiking community on the AT. The thru hiker community is famous for looking out for each other.

Right now I do not want to focus on all the things to worry about while hiking the AT. Instead, I would like to focus on one of our greatest encouragers, and that is The Tram. The Tram is hiker lingo, a simple made up conjunction of “Trail Family”.

Tara and I have experienced first hand how powerful a good trail family can be. From early on The Tram has gotten through aches, pains, and sickness. We’ve experienced some of the most beautiful overlooks, the biggest climbs, and spontaneous swimming holes. We kept each other going through sleeting rain and night hikes in complete downpours. We endured frozen gear in 19 degree weather and sweaty soaked clothes in 90 degrees at 90% humidity. We’ve all chipped in on stinky hotel rooms, big buffet dinners and shuttle drives in and out of town. It is no secret that we spend a lot of time together, and we would have it no other way.

Sometimes I take a look at our tramily and I’m amazed that we all enjoy each other so much, for we are all so different. We are vegans and hunting meat lovers, liberals and conservatives, religious and agnostic, rural and urban, northerners and southerners, jocks and nerds. It is as if our social barriers that separated us in “the normal world” was just another thing we left behind. Now we’re simply a bunch of people taking a long hike through the woods together.

I know what some might be thinking. Don’t people hike the Appalachian Trail to get away from people? And to that I would say yes, probably, maybe. It is so hard to say. So many people hike the AT for different reasons. Even Tara and I came out here with different expectations and excitements about the trail. Neither of us expected to find the trail family that we did, but we loved the relationships we were building. Some hikers choose to stay away from tramilies and go about their business and there isn’t a single issue with that.

All in all, it is hard to imagine what this adventure would have been like without The Tram. Beyond the enjoyment that our trail family brings us, I believe they have also brought a peace of mind to our friends and family back home. We all take care of each other and that is something that comforts those who we had to leave behind. The Tram is a treasure, and although they were unexpected, I would not choose to experience the Appalachian Trail any other way.

As always Good journey,

Jonathan (Trail name: Sheriff) and 

Tara (Trail name: Candy Mama)

aka The Dower Duo

If you would like to follow our journey, you can follow us on Instagram or YouTube.