Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth S. Lopez

Second Advisor

Dr. George Pullman

Third Advisor

Dr. Ashley J. Holmes


Thru-hiking is a modern leisure activity that attracts people during transitional states in their lives or is an activity people engage in to force such a transition. This drive for self-change is what motivates people to attempt thru-hikes, a drive which is in turn fed by Romantic discourses of rugged individualism, communitas, and the transcendental, transformative powers of nature. The social, economic, and physical risks involved with thru-hiking make it especially attractive in a society that values idiosyncrasy. This thesis draws from ethnographic research conducted over the Summer of 2017 on the Pacific Crest Trail, and from secondary research concerning backpacker narratives, identity performance, liminality, wilderness and society, and Romantic discourses. Based on this study’s findings, further research in the fields of Rhetoric and Composition and Communication Studies could be conducted on thru-hiker identity, community, ideology, and how these are presented on social media and blogging platforms.