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[at-l] Technology on the Trail
- Subject: [at-l] Technology on the Trail
- From: Jim Owen <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 21:08:46 -0500
I've been very quiet about this - and I've deleted everything that's come
in so far - after I read it. I don't remember - and don't want to -
who said what. But I do have a few things to say.
First is that, to some extent, I agree with Jack. Technology on the
trail is a problem - but so far I haven't seen anyone who's gotten down
to the "real" problem. And that's not how does other people's technology
affect your hike, but rather how does the technology that YOU are
carrying affect YOUR hike.
It's one thing to have someone come into a shelter and make an ass of
themselves with their cell phone or computer or whatever. And there are
several ways to deal with that situation, ranging from leaving the
shelter to camp a mile or so further up the trail to "accidentally"
falling and impaling the offending instrument (the cell
phone/computer/etc - not the user, please) with your handy-dandy Leki,
or simply asking them to be more considerate. How you handle it is up to
you - I won't comment on my methods for handling that kind of ignorance
But most people won't come in and shove their "technology" in your face.
Most people have the common sense to not play their radio until midnite
or talk loudly on their cell phone or ........ pick your own poison
In either case - allowing their "technology" to "ruin your hike"
indicates a real weakness of character --- yours. And I won't comment
further on that. It's been thoroughly covered by others.
What hasn't been covered - by anyone - is that carrying a radio or cell
phone or computer -- or a GPS - will affect YOUR hike regardless of what
it does for or to anyone else's hike. And for those who are thruhiking -
or doing long distance sections - that should be of a lot more concern
than what anyone else carries.
I'm not about to tell anyone to NOT carry those things, but if you think
you 'need' one or more of those things, then personal opinion is that I
don't believe you've really thought about what you're doing.
A couple examples - a radio will mean that you'll see less wildlife. If
you can hear the radio - even with an earplug or headset - then the moose
and bear can hear you coming for 300 yards. And you won't see them.
Most of the time we see wildlife only after we hear them moving through
the brush. A lot of thruhikers complain that they never see any moose -
and don't understand the role that the earplugs play in that.
Listening to a radio 'can' also be hazardous to your health - do you
really think you'll hear that rattlesnake if you're listening to the
GPS? Frankly, if you think you 'need' a GPS on the AT, then you really
'need' to get some competence with map and compass. Even on the CDT, a
GPS isn't a necessity for those who are competent navigators.
Interesting - but not a necessity.
But the basic argument here seems to revolve around the use of a
'computer' - generally for the purpose of keeping a journal or for
'communication' via email. And there are a couple reasons why I won't do
that. The first is obvious - weight. If your computer weighs 8 oz -- it
weighs more. Because you probably need at least a padded case for it -
maybe even extra batteries? Even without the extra batteries you're
talking 10-12 oz total. That's 3/4 #. My pen and a pad of paper weigh
about 3 oz and is renewable at every town stop - although one pad lasted
me for 2 months on the CDT. I don't write that much.
My real reason for not carrying a 'computer' though has nothing to do
with physical weight - it's simply that carrying one would be a
psychological weight that would change the very nature of the hike.
Whether you believe it or not - it will do the same for/to you. And I
find that 'weight' too much to carry.
Some of you have objected to the proposition that 'more miles' gives a
person a better handle on what thruhiking is about. But it does. That
doesn't mean that any one person is the 'final' authority - I think those
on this list can mostly agree about that. But if you've done a thruhike
or two -- or more - then you've learned a few things that those who
haven't done those miles have generally not learned -- yet. Some of you
know that I consider the 'success' of a thruhike to be tied directly to
what the individual learns along the way. Ginny and I are still
learning - and when I stop learning ya'll can come the funeral. So we're
not 'experts' either - God willing, we never will be. But we have
learned a few things about the mental and emotional effects of a thruhike
- or a long distance section hike. And we've had a few surprises along
the way. We've learned that there are things that WILL interfere with
the learning process. And personal opinion is that the time, energy and
'attention' required by electronics equipment in general is one of those
'interferences'. Maybe it's not like that for you -- but I seriously
We didn't carry a GPS, a cell phone, or a computer on the CDT. But we
did spend the time and energy to find email access when we were in towns
- and that, in itself, changed our hike. Not that it was a 'bad' thing -
but it was different. There was a sense of freedom and almost relief
when we got into places where email wasn't accessible for one reason or
another. The difference was obvious and real - and intangible. And we
learned about that difference. How many of you need to learn that
freedom - real freedom - means leaving behind the pieces of your "normal"
life that will interfere with the "real" life that you'll encounter on
the trail? How many of you need to learn that your computer will demand
a level of attention that will interfere with what you 'could' be
learning? No -- I don't know what you 'could' be learning. That's not
my business - it's yours. But how can you learn it when your nose - and
your attention and your energy - are focused on that little computer
rather than on the world around you? If you want to be in the "trail"
world, then why do you think you can really be "IN" that world if you're
dragging along the pieces and the attitudes of the world you're
supposedly leaving behind for 5 or 6 months?
Enough - you'll carry what you want to carry. And some of you will learn
that what you carry DOES make a difference.
One last thought for those who insist on carrying "techno-toys" - I'd
suggest that you remember that courtesy is a key element in getting along
with others - I think that's been abundantly obvious from the previous
Walk softly -
Jim & Ginny
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