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[at-l] Traditionalism (was R&R, WF, etc)
My 0.02 cents on this topic.
My feelings about thru-hiking the AT have changed over the past four years, as I've gone through a lot of significant changes in my life, leading to personal growth.
At one time, I sought an escape, a place to refresh and relax and figure out what to do next with my life. As the reports filtered back from the trail, and I visited hostels and Trail Days only to discover a very college-frat type atmosphere, it occurred to me that the AT isn't as capable of serving that purpose as it once was. One of the prime reasons, I think, is TOO MUCH information. Using WF's guide, or the ALDHA guide, it's far too easy to set up a portable party, and I get the impression that many thru-hikers these days are doing just that. The abusive behavior I hear of in trail towns sadden me. Some of the behavior I saw at Trail Days both times I went made me ashamed to be a part of the whole community.
I'd hate to see thru-hikers, in general, lumped into the "ungrateful party animal" category on the AT, leading to more closures of services. I'd hate to see this spread to the other long trails.
Granted, the AT isn't a wilderness. It's an illusion of wilderness. In this day and age, I'll take an illusion if that's what I can get. I still want to escape to the woods, to seek spiritual refreshment in nature. I suppose there are moments, maybe hours, of that on the AT, but can the whole experience be like that? I have my doubts.
I'm not looking for the social experience that I once thought would buoy me. I still want to do a thru, but I see it in a very different light now. It'll be less of a detachment from society, and more of an immersion in a different culture-- just like my trip to Asia. It won't be just a "walk in the woods," but will be along the lines of my travel writing, involving a lot of experiences and a lot of data collection. It'll be good fodder for writing. But it won't be a wilderness experience. Guess I have to retreat to the TRUE wilderness for that one....Alaska? Montana? ;-)
Down here on the Florida Trail, I can walk for days and never see another hiker. It may not be big sky wilderness, but it certainly gives one time for contemplation. :-)