Some would say hiking the Appalachian Trail is as simple as “follow the white blazes,” but the actual number of AT hikers who do so without any other means of navigating the 2,168-mile route are quite few and far between. Most AT hikers bring along a guide of some sorts, and in 2014 the overwhelming favorite was The A.T. Guide by David “AWOL” Miller.
Distancehiking.com surveyed 263 people who hiked the AT in 2014 and asked the question “Which maps/guides did you use on your hike?” Respondents were allowed to make up to three choices. All but 3 respondents were thru-hikers. The results are displayed below (click to enlarge):
AWOL’s guide was used by 224 out of 263 (85%) respondents, virtually cornering the market on guidebooks for the AT in 2014. Reached by email today, AWOL described all the work that goes into making the A.T. Guide:
My interest lies in quality, not in sales. I enjoy making The AT Guide excellent. I constantly re-examine everything presented in the book to see if there’s an opportunity to improve. Some changes are seemingly minor, like changing the font in the book. I pored through dozens of fonts and ultimately spent hundreds of dollars to have one that takes up the least space while being very readable. Just like in prepping for a hike, you have to trim ounces to get rid of pounds.
I imagined that the work to put out the book would get easier for the next year’s edition, but it hasn’t. Every year I’ve spent more time on it. With more content, there’s more to maintain. Making an existing book 10% better is just as hard as writing a new one.
Thanks for all your hard work, AWOL!
As for “just follow the white blazes?” Turns out 4 (1.52%) intrepid souls did just that.
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