January 15th, 2018
Long Distance Hiking Earworms


By: Debra Dylan

When we went hiking with llamas, our guide told us about his miserable and unsuccessful attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. Adding to his low self-esteem was a group of hikers who kept singing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as “We’re Not Gonna Make It.”

There is a brief scene in the film “Wild” where one hiker torments another hiker with snippets of the “Bridge On the River Kwai” theme song, and part of the chorus from Four Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.

What’s the big deal? Developing an earworm. This is a continuous loop of a song, or part of a song, that gets stuck in one’s head. Long distance hikers are prone to contracting earworms. It can be maddening or motivating.

earworm 3

Avid hiker friends and Appalachian Trail Section Hikers share their stories.

Sometimes You Choose the Worm & Sometimes the Worm Chooses You

David Vitti: About an hour into each trip, my hiking buddy will, without fail, start to incessantly sing “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”


Please, just stop.

Dennis Butler: It’s an eclectic mix. One year it was “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from [Rankin/Bass’] “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Another time it was “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel. And I almost lost my mind when “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King  just wouldn’t shake loose from my head. Whatever the song, for me there is one that consistently gets stuck for each section hike, and I normally can’t find the root cause of how it got there!

Marie Liptak:  For me, on the last section hike it was “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone.


Diana Christopulos: While completing the very tough Mahoosuc Range in Maine, my partner and I kept singing the Ike & Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.” “We never, ever do anything nice and easy. We always do it nice… and rough.” “Left a good job in the city…”

There's a Maniloonie in every crowd.

There’s a Maniloonie in every crowd.

Blame it on the Wanderlust: my favorite song to belt out on trail (for amusement as much as keeping hungry animals away) was “Copacabana.” I can bust out the story of that bastard Rico and how he ruined Tony and Lola’s lives at the drop of a hat.

And so do I. Is this because I was in marching band in high school?!

And so do I. Is this because I was in marching band in high school?!

Scott Noethen: I carry an mp3 player with me on long distance hikes because my earworms are numbers. The only way I can keep from counting is to listen to music.

Diane Beckwith: Last August we did a four day shakedown hike in Southern Va. Late in the second day we started getting nervous about bears and she said, “We should sing and make more noise.” The first song that popped into my head was “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It’s actually a pretty good tempo for walking, and when you speed up going down hill, it’s like Chitty is going faster and faster, but after two days it was driving me crazy!

This is what I would do to you for singing that song.

This is what I would do to you if I heard you singing that song.

Ilse Dunbar: When the snow is deep and we are postholing through it, I tend to get Guns & Roses’ “Paradise City” stuck in my head. I have re-written it to say, “Take me down to the posthole city where the snow is deep and the moose are pretty…” Scott LOVES to hear me sing that over and over from behind him as he gets to break the trail.

Dee Landau: When I’ve been hiking all day and STILL not where I want to be, I’ll often sing “This is the Song that Never Ends” and change it to “This is the Trail that Never Ends.”


Ann Lefebvre: This is my dreaded earworm: Dominic the Donkey. It stays with me for days. [Click that link at your own risk. I advise against it.]


Chip OldGoat Cenci: I grew up in New York City when The Sound of Music was popular so much so I had to learn the words to “Climb Every Mountain” for my Junior High Graduation. So, that song and another one called “The Happy Wanderer.”

I've never heard this song, but I think it would make me want to throw a chair.

I’ve never heard this song, but I think it would make me want to throw a chair.

Keith Stoutenburg: Always seem to get Quiet Riot in my head….Come on Feel the Noise! [It’s about time a metal head showed up here.]

Keith Parknow: I remember a long miserable hike when I was in the Marines. I couldn’t stop singing  “I’m a Thousand Miles from Nowhere.” [I approve of this version by Dwight Yoakam.] Seems even more fitting on a beautiful trail hike I enjoy now.


They Don’t Attract the Worm

Jonathan Nicolosi: On both Caminos, since I’m fluent in Spanish, and half the time I walked alone, I made it an OCD type priority to say hello to every animal whose path I crossed. Cows, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, [and] to all the mariposas [butterflies].

Leslie King: My chant is always one of faith. It always just comes to me during the more challenging moments. It helps me to focus on things bigger than myself. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Ryan Graham: I have yet to do more than 2 days, but all my hikes are as much about mental endurance as physical endurance. I fight to keep my mind from entering cruse control because it will be lazy if it is allowed. I focus on breathing, leaves, sounds, smells, etc. to make my mind work. [You just wait, buddy. Hike more than two consecutive days and Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry” will hit you from out of nowhere.]

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Appalachian Trail Tales

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