Do best-selling books and successful movies inspire people to action? How about when the stage is backpacking?
The Wild Effect is the phenomenon that the movie Wild would increase the number of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in years following the release of the film. It is the belief that the story of Wild would inspire others to hike the PCT. The Bryson Bump is a similar idea for the Appalachian Trail (AT). Bill Bryson wrote A Walk in the Woods in 1998. This generated interest in the Appalachian Trail should have translated into a greater number of visitors to the AT. The Way, a film about walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, was produced in 2010. Did wild, the walk, and the way inspire people to visit these trails? Can we see it in the numbers available?
This is more than just a curiosity. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy considered how to protect the AT after the movie, A Walk in the Woods, was shown in theaters in 2015. The conversancy’s solution was to devise a mechanism for AT thru-hikers to register and communicate their hiking plans. No hiker would be turned away, but it would give the conservancy an idea as to where the hikers would be when. A hiker could see the plans of others and make adjustments if, say, a high number of registered thru-hikers were planning to start in the 2nd week of March.
Perhaps some of Trailiac’s readers have been inspired by these books or movies. My first backpacking trip along the AT was during 1999, one year after Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods came out. I hadn’t read the book, but I traveled with one who had. The book inspired a friend, a western backpacker, to give the AT a try.
What inspired you to try backpacking? A book or movie? A friend?