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Title: Wild stories on the Internet : hiker accounts of living among wildlife on the Appalachian Trail
Author: Marx, Katherine Susan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 6303
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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The Appalachian Trail is the world’s longest hiking-only trail, covering roughly 2,200 miles of forest, mountains, ridges and plains. Each year a few thousand people set out to hike the entire length of the trail, estimated to take between five and seven months to complete. Numerous species of autonomous animals – wildlife – dwell on and around the trail, and it is the encounters that happen between these human and nonhuman animals that are the focus of this thesis. The research presented here is based wholly around narratives posted online as blogs by 166 Appalachian Trail hikers during the years 2015 and 2016. These narratives provide an insight into how hikers related to the self-directed animals that they temporarily shared a home with. Several recurring themes emerged to form the basis of the thesis chapters: many hikers viewed their trek as akin to a pilgrimage, which informed their perception of the animals that they encountered; American Black Bears (Ursus americanus), viewed as emblematic of the trail wilderness, made dwelling on the trail satisfyingly risky; hikers experienced strong feelings about some animals as being cute, and about others as being disgusting; along a densely wooded trail, experience of animals was often primarily auditory; the longer that they spent on the trail, the more hikers themselves experienced a sense of becoming wild. Through an analysis of these themes, it became clear that hikers thought about trail animals as meaning, or representing, something, in the context of their own narrative journey. Yet at the same time, the autonomous animals on the trail were experienced in complex, multifaceted, and sometimes even contradictory ways that succeeded in making them interesting to hikers in ways that they may never have anticipated.
Supervisor: Hurn, Samantha Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available