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[at-l] R 'n R's Apology For Traditionalism

In a message dated 6/11/01 10:24:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Slyatpct writes:

<< Although I've heard it many times, I'm still at a loss as to what 
"traditional" thru-hiking actually means?  
 Since it's such an individualistic endeavor, no two hikes are the same, hike 
your own hike, etc., what's the message?
 Thanks, Sly >>

     Good question.  Let me start off that, honestly, if Wingfoot hadn't made 
such a big issue out of these things on his site I probably would not lose 
sleep over most of these issues in my Trail involvement. That says something 
right there in itself. 

     I suppose a WF critic could accuse that traditionalism, as WF sees it, 
is merely a position created in order to attack AT*L, however, not all of it 
is all that bad and many AT*Ler's admit they agree with much of it and are 
mostly thrown by his aggressive methods.

     You can't restore the past exactly as it was. The Trail and its 
surroundings have changed since 1937. I guess what I would describe 
traditionalism as is an attempt to fight the inertia occurring when the Trail 
is subject to new numbers and types being attracted to it. The demographic 
has changed from the solo seeker to the general public interested in the 
outdoors. The Trail itself has gained a certain mystique and in turn has 
attracted more attention. Websites then even attract more public attention 
and the interest snowballs. This is not meant to determine who is fit or 
eligible for the Trail or discriminate, rather, it is meant to exert a 
protective description of what should be done to uphold the Trail's original 
intention. AT attention attracters hold a responsibility to compensate for 
their affect on the Trail. 

     When through-hiking began there was an innocent respect for completing 
the entire Trail as a worthy achievement. The goal was to strap on a simple 
Kelty and somehow walk up the entire Trail while roughing it in the woods. 
This has transformed now a days with encroachment and improvement of 
facilities on or near the Trail. People are different too. I guess 
traditionalism would best be described as keeping such a level of new 
interest in the Trail controlled to the point that it doesn't interfere with 
what the Trail is. It is a difficult task of reverse osmosis to try and keep 
these changes from happening. You have to understand that the Trail's 
constitution describes the AT as a place to be kept wild and primitive as a 
counter to societies tendency to place civilized technology everywhere it can 
at the cost of pure wilderness. That gets lost sometimes when persons forget 
and try to introduce conflicting activities into the corridor. I look at 
traditionalism as a contemporary healthy, vigorous renewal of the original 
project and its heady goals. 

    So it is an injury to the AT to view "traditionalism" in a negative light 
when this version is true to the Trail's original definition. Controlling 
behavior is viewed as intolerable, however, you will see it is done in many 
NPS wilderness areas to good results. I feel persons who automatically reject 
quotas or some form of positive control as bad fail to consider that many 
persons want to bike, ATV, horseback or other the AT all the time and are 
already stopped by in place rules. I would be all for numbers control at 
Springer during the crowded season. I feel weekenders could help by going 
there during a lighter season. Right now persons are being advised to ignore 
the cranks and go crowd if you like. That can't be good for the Trail or 
anything else for that matter.      

       The rest of traditionalism goes into recent trends that have lead to 
problems with incompatible Trail & town behavior. These suggestions become 
touchy when they hint at the original archetype of solo wilderness seeker 
being replaced with "hike your own hike" packs that have created a negative 
effect for the Trail. Hostels were never trashed and towns were not put off 
by through*hikers back then, so what has caused it? So, traditionalism can 
sound like an attack on the Trail community, but I see it more as a defense 
of original Trail tenets. In any case, I see them as good suggestions. I 
guess some would argue that it was Wingfoot's own fault that he chased people 
from being able to understand and absorb this through his "orthodoxy". I 
won't comment, because it could be this same "demon" that is resposible for 
him being bold enough to try and force some good for the Trail. Anyhow, 
traditionalism can't be that bad a thing. My whole point here was that when a 
new member looks at AT*L he sees Trailplace traditionalism and conservation 
drives being assaulted and maligned. I only wanted to suggest that an 
objective sense of Trail commitment be responsibly maintained on any website 
preferring to call itself Trail related. If you can't deal with Wingfoot OK, 
but please don't leave a scorched earth landscape for Trail advocacy as a 
result. Somebody has to do it.