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[at-l] R 'n R's Apology For Traditionalism
- Subject: [at-l] R 'n R's Apology For Traditionalism
- From: email@example.com (Jim and/or Ginny Owen)
- Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 04:22:58 -0000
I kinda thought this would come up sooner or later. In fact, Sly only beat
me to asking the question by a day or so. And regardless of how the
responses evolve, I'm glad you're at least trying to explain it. It's
something that hasn't had a lot of discussion on this list for a couple of
reasons. We will get to them.
On a personal level, I'd like to congratulate you on the evolution of the
"tone" of your posts. I had to learn about that when I first got here - I'd
spent some time on rec.backcountry and it took me a while to adjust my
attitude. I'm not sure this has been said before but I'll do what I should
have done a while ago and welcome you to the campfire. Pull up a log - I
think Red has the smashmellows - and we still have a few things to talk
One thing before I comment on your post - in spite of what some of the atml
transplants seem to think - many of those on this list (myself included)
agree with WF and the atml position regarding a lot of trail subjects. But
not all of them.
On the subject of guns, for example, I've been known to say that they're not
necessary on the trail. I'll repeat that to anyone who'll listen. But WF
has taken an extreme position - and I find it simply laughable nonsense.
So --- let's take a look at "traditionalism". And I'll keep my comments to
a minimum so I'll snip a lot here. If it's snipped, it doesn't mean I agree
entirely with it - we just may get to it another time.
>I suppose a WF critic could accuse that traditionalism, as WF sees it,
>is merely a position created in order to attack AT*L,
I've never looked at it like that. I believe it's a lot more related to his
need to control his world - and the people in it. Attacking at-l is, IMO,
>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.
Agreed with the first part. But the turn-off for us is specifically his
insistence on controlling others - and his inability to tolerate any
viewpoint or opinion that opposes his. That's why he left ALDHA. And why he
> 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.
That's an idealistic view that has little basis in reality. Go read
Ed Kuni's account of his two thruhikes and then tell me how his quest for
beer and his relationships with the people along the trail fit with your
image. Go talk to Earl Shaffer.
The Washington Post had an article about the evolution of marathon running.
It used to be something for the elite, competitive runners. Now anyone who
can run, walk or wheel for 26 miles can and does try it. For the serious
competitors, this is a desecration. For the others, it is a way to focus
their training, get them involved in a worthwhile goal, and have some fun.
As one of those profiled said, (serious paraphrase here) "the serious
runners are never satisfied with their times. The rest of us are just happy
to be there so we're grinning like crazy. Maybe that's why the serious
runners don't like us." In a similar vein, those who choose to make the AT
into a semi-religious experience may not understand those who simply are
happy to be spending some time in the woods, without feeling the need to
mythologize the experience. There are a lot of reasons why people hike the
trail - from a desire to 'rough' it to a desire to 'smooth' it, and even to
just go play for a few months. Each has its own value.
>This has transformed now a days with encroachment and improvement of
>facilities on or near the Trail. People are different too.
The first is true to a large degree. But the people haven't changed that
much, if at all - that's a convenient excuse, but not true. We have just
spent the past 2 years thruhiking - and the people we met along the trails
were simply fantastic. That was also true on the AT when we hiked it several
years ago. In point of fact, the drive to convert the AT to "wilderness" is
depriving today's thruhikers of the opportunity to meet the people along the
way. That's just one part of the long term damage that WF is perpetrating.
And he's being aided and abetted by the ATC.
There will always be a small percentage of people who are jerks. When the
number of hikers was smaller, the number of idiots was smaller too. With
the increase in hikers, while the percentage is probably not any greater, it
just seems like it is. But everywhere, people are people -- and in the
hiking community, it seems like you meet a lot of really good ones.
Some of the people on the Trail have changed - simply because it's becoming
easier. As it becomes easier and more information becomes available, more
unprepared hikers will gravitate toward it. And Trailplace is one of the
contributors to that situation.
>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
>what the Trail is. It is a difficult task of reverse osmosis to try and
>these changes from happening.
It's been said before - but WF is and has always been a part of the problem.
His publicity efforts in 1987 (personal appearances in the towns along the
way, newspaper interviews, etc.) to increase awareness of the AT in
celebration of it's 50th anniversary brought about an immediate jump in the
numbers of thruhikers. I think the numbers almost doubled between 1987 and
1989. What he has done with TP has added to the increase. Now you want to
say "enough" but it's too late. Saying, "we've had our hike but you can't
have yours" seems awfully selfish to me, especially when he continues to
publicize the trail and thruhiking. You can't have it both ways.
>I look at traditionalism as a contemporary healthy, vigorous renewal of the
>original project and its heady goals.
Again - exactly who is defining those "original goals"? And what filter are
they using? Whose vision - Avery's or MacKayes? Do you really want to go to
country camps and work and play with your fellow city dwellers? Sounds
awfully tame to me - might as well go to a "dude ranch". I thought you
wanted to hike from Georgia to Maine in one year? That certainly wasn't
part of the original plan.
>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.
That depends entirely on what you define as "traditionalism". And, I
suspect, on whose version of the "Trail's original definition" you're using.
>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.
The first part may happen, but I don't have to like it. The second part is
what I've been doing for the last 8 years. Why do you think we go to work -
and hike - on non-AT trails? Why do you think we rarely set foot on the AT
at all? I've seen the damage that's been done to the AT over the last 10
years - it doesn't need my boots to add to the damage.
>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.
Now you'd better get specific - exactly who is advising that? And who told
you it was true? And where do they get their facts? And what ARE the facts
that back it up? I know the ATC has been promoting non- traditional
itineraries - has Wingfoot?
>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.
If you had any understanding of what the "Hike your own hike" philosophy
was, you'd know how ridiculous that statement is. The very idea of "hike
your own hike" packs is a violation of the concept.
>Hostels were never trashed and towns were not put off
>by through*hikers back then, so what has caused it?
And that statement is pure-dee BS. Haven't you ever read Cindy Ross's
account of her AT hike? Care to ask Sloetoe whether the thruhikers got
drunk and disorderly when he hiked? Or maybe some of the others on this
list who thruhiked before WF ever heard of the AT? More than one trail town
was 'closed' to hikers before we hiked the trail, for a lot of different
reasons. I'm not so old I'll start blaming 'the younger generation' for
screwing things up -- are you?
>So, traditionalism can sound like an attack on the Trail community, but I
>see it more as a defense of original Trail tenets.
I'll ask you to specifically spell out your concept of "original Trail
tenets". Then we might have something concrete to discuss.
One of the things that's become abundantly obvious is the ignorance of those
who are introduced to the Trail on Trailplace. There's an appalling lack of
knowledge about the history of the Trail and the people associated with the
Trail. How many atml people know anything worthwhile about ALDHA? How many
of them know that the founder of ALDHA has completed the Trail 12 times -
and is still going? How many of them know the names Michael Jones or Andy
Cooney or Dan Smith or Leonard Adkins or .... any of the other dozen or more
people who have done more honest thruhikes than WF? How many of them even
know aout the resources available to learn about Trail history?
There are statements in your own post that reveal an ignorance about the
Trail and its history that's entirely correctable, but is surprising in
someone who has hiked the Trail, is involved with it from the maintenance
end, and apparently cares for it as much as you do. But I'll guarantee that
you're not alone - it seems to be endemic in many of those who frequent atml
and Trailplace to the exclusion of other sources.
>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".
Again - who told you that WF's views and philosophy are either "orthodox" or
"traditional"? And again, there are things that both lists can agree on.
>I won't comment, because it could be this same "demon" that is resposible
>him being bold enough to try and force some good for the Trail.
One of the things WF hasn't learned yet is that if you try to "force"
anything (particularly change) on humans, they'll rip your heart out and eat
>Anyhow, traditionalism can't be that bad a thing.
Depends entirely on your definiton of "traditionalism". What you didn't get
around to mentioning was the atml views on purism, guns, cell phones and
number of other subjects. It is not traditional to the AT to say that there
is only one way to hike the trail -- far from it. Reread the Rodale Books -
you'll find 40 ways to hike the trail, and each of those "traditional"
hikers had their own views of why they were out there and how they would
>My whole point here was that when a new member looks at AT*L he sees
>Trailplace traditionalism and conservation drives being assaulted and
There are certainly some parts of "Trailplace traditionalism" that are held
in common between the two lists. We all want to preserve the trail. We may
differ on the methods to do that, but I think we all are interested in what
is being done, or being proposed, to do that.
Further, a lot of us are thruhikers (past, present or future) and think that
thruhiking is a good thing to do, if it's something you really want. But we
also don't think it is the only way to hike the trail. A lot of us think
section hiking is a good thing to do too. And dayhiking.
Beyond that, our views on just about everything vary from one end of the
spectrum to the other -- and I'm speaking just of those on AT-l. On this
list you will find all manner of hiking styles, gear choices, technology
tolerances, environmental opinions, political philosophies, religious
backgrounds, etc. etc. Our views on just about every aspect of life and the
trail are diverse. That's one reason things get hot here from time to time.
But when the flames die down, we agree to disagree.
The kind of "traditionalism" you seem to champion says there is no room for
disagreement. "My way or the highway." That is not the kind of tradition I
would ever choose to follow. A tradition that teaches intolerance, that
says there is no room for discussion of other ways of looking at the world,
is not tradition, it's a dictatorship. It certainly isn't the norm on the
AT - past or present.
>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.
For the most part I think we agree about this - I think, though, that we may
never agree about a lot of details - or about the methods - or in many cases
about exactly what is actually "good" for the Trail.
I'll say this again - I think it's a good thing to discuss this. Maybe you
can present some sides of "traditionalism" that we can all agree on.
Keep in mind that while I may disagree with you - you still have the right -
and maybe the responsibility - to present your views. And to argue with me
- and to prove me wrong if you can. And if you do so, I will publicly admit
to such. Been there and done that - more than once. :-)
I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.
-- Emo Phillips
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