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[at-l] R 'n R's Apology For Traditionalism
In a message dated 6/13/01 12:26:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
*Snipped for brevity*
<< 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
*** Oh thank you Jim! And I too congratulate your improvement on
answering points instead of using objections over "tone" to avoid having to.
We won't mention the unmentionable avalanche of "tone" I received from AT*L
in order to keep my "tone" level acceptable. Thanks for the offer, but I'm
avoiding overly sweet items for now.
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
*** No doubt Wingfoot is a non conformist, but you could miss the fact
that he might feel he is guarding important principles that cannot be
compromised for the sake of group relations. He sees himself as spearheading
a direct agenda. From his track record I find him well qualified, if not
strongly opinionated to a "fault".
> 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.
*** Who is fooling who? I would only point to the era in which the ATC
required a verifiable accounting of the hike to prove that it was taken more
seriously back then. There are many more reasons now a days to adapt a less
than 'traditional' hike. Many of these forms of hike have been identified as
more likely to induce the Trail negatives currently occurring.
>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. < snip> 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.
*** Helping people form a goal of doing the entire Trail is not a sin. I
do feel that much more approving of socializing hikes is encountered on
websites by people intending well by accepting all forms of hike but not
realizing they are lending assistance to lowering Trail standards. Touchy,
but new and true.
As far as ATC aiding in damaging the social aspect I can't disagree more.
The social aspect is the expendable element in the AT's sphere. It is nice
and a positive thing, but it is very definitely a pleasant side effect
compared to the need to maintain wilderness. Make no mistake that the Trail
is a wilderness corridor first before a social meeting place. I find
Wingfoot's view more true to AT ideals in this case. Solo seeker archetype,
not Trail party.
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.
*** Which would validate a push for traditional approach.
>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.
*** Never the less there is a reality that must be dealt with. A stronger
constituency will only help preserve the Trail. Too bad more effort is put
into castigating Wingfoot than rallying support for the AT.
>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.
*** Sorry Jim, but these sound like grasping at excuses to avoid
confronting the obvious. Let's start with through*hiking being an accepted
modern method of Trail use. I think it is time to stop using the lack of
through*hiking at the time of the Trail's formation as an excuse not to
support it. There is no reason to not take up the original Trail cause with
this new form of use involved. Earl isn't publicly recognized because
through*hiking isn't considered extraordinary.
>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.
*** We'll start at the form of serious hike that ATC once took as
important enough to require proof. The next would be one that promotes
behavior true to the Trail's definition by ATC as a primitive place to be
>I would be all for numbers control at Springer. We are now indirectly told
>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?
*** Every time I see AT*L posters write "and WF is even trying to control
the Trail by imposing quotas" I see serious tacit suggestion that not doing
anything is the best way here. There is a problem. Something has to be done.
Even worse is that Wingfoot disagreed on me with this and was against quotas.
So, it was my idea not his. You can't replace a spring season traverse. NPS
controls numbers elsewhere, why not the AT? Or do we just crowd it over until
we wreck the quality of the experience?
>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.
*** My inference was that most often I see HYOH as a way to avoid
confronting the legitimacy of particular types of use. Touchy, but Trail
affecting never the less. The Trail will see many types of use anyway, but
let's not condemn suggestions of best use.
>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?
*** The Dalton Hostel was closed due to a bad pack in 1985 too. How many
hostels were closed in the sixties? There is no reason not to try and
reintroduce such a Trail atmosphere. This is traditionalism. What is wrong
>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.
*** A wilderness corridor to be approached as a kept primitive place. A
place designed to draw wilderness respecting attention. Trail behavior
conforming to exposing oneself and appreciating wild nature without
interfering with its existence.
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.
*** I think I've seen enough of the Trail in my time to know, thank you.
If anything, these trite responses inure me more to WF.
>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.
*** My own senses.
>I won't comment, because it could be this same "demon" that is responsible
>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
*** Fine, but such an encouraged reflex could lead to innocent victims
being mobbed or valid Trail positions being ridiculed and rejected.
>Anyhow, traditionalism can't be that bad a thing.
Depends entirely on your definition of "traditionalism". What you didn't
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
*** Look at it, then, as taking a stand where the honoring of all views
has lead to a down*turn in quality of use.
>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.
*** So, when you are not concentrating on dodging it you do recognize it
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.
*** The important thing I am suggesting is, just as well, there are some
things that have no room for tolerating disagreement. To set a rote standard
of all acceptance will only tolerate further deterioration of these pressed
subjects. In this regard you offer a damaging oversimplification. In this
case you should be asking if you are adequately backing the Trail's needs
instead of rejecting intolerance?
>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. :-)
*** Jim, Jim, Jim, I can only say that I find your answers more
conforming to the deliberate confusing of the issue experienced in a
courtroom cross examination than honest Trail inquiry. If you set out with
the goal to discredit Wingfoot I would say you did very well. However, if you
wanted to involve an honest reckoning of all the Trail encompasses in its
universe and use it to form an understanding of what will best serve it even
if we have to bite the bullet and contribute some sacrifices to the Trail you
missed the mark and an aire of disingenuousness pervades your post. Your
remarks appear to me to resource a scattered logic that give merit to the
concept "there is an alternate side to everything" before responding to what
the Trail requires to be upheld. This is exactly what I am referring to when
I assert that the scale tips to Wingfoot in this matter as having gotten to
the point despite his unpopular methods when others were busy splitting hairs
on exactly who was opening their eggs correctly. I feel there is a greater
weight or onus you are avoiding for purposes of community politics, or list
pandering, rather than Trail advocacy.