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

At 05:00 PM 6/13/01 -0400, RoksnRoots@aol.com wrote:

>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.

Point 1: To my knowledge the ATC has *NEVER* formally recognized or 
certified one season thru-hikes.  Thru-hikers are recorded as a matter of 
history not of certification. The ATC gives 2000 miler status to anyone who 
hikes the entire trail regardless of how long it took.  The idea of a 
'tradition' of thru-hiking that had to have certifiable standards is WFs 
invention.  I now regret pointing out in one of my exchanges with WF that 
the ATC certificate was not a thru-hiking certificate and suggesting to him 
that if he so strongly felt that thru-hiking needed a separate recognition 
then he should start his own organization to do that.  At that time he 
replied that was what the ALDHA was for and he didn't want to duplicate 
their role.  My, how things change, and not just on the AT.

Point 2: The ATC's decision to stop verifying 'completion' of the trail was 
a purely logistic one according to their own statement in the dispute over 
whether to list the boy scouts who allegedly thru-hiked before Earl 
did.  The numbers of people completing the trail have grown to the point 
that they didn't have the staff to review it all so they stopped.  When 
Earl reported his hike is was deemed an 'incredible' achievement.  By 1973 
it was no longer incredible.  The cessation of requiring evidence had 
nothing to do with accepting a broader definition of a standard which never 
existed in the first place.  I'll repeat what Jim said, "reread the Rodale 
books" and add, read all the other accounts you can lay your hands on.  If 
you read accounts of AT 2000 milers form over the years with anything 
approaching an open mind you'll discover that there was no "tradition of 
thru-hiking".  Every hiker was different and their hikes reflected those 

The increased use of the AT and the resultant change are not unique to the 
AT.  Look at what is happening in the more popular National Parks.  The 
High Peaks region of the Adirondacks is having similar problems.  It is the 
result of more bodies going out into the woods to have an experience like 
the one they read about in Outside, BackPacker, on Trailside or Anyplace 
Wild or on TrailPlace.  The more we continue to publicize the places the 
more people will want to go there.  The emphasis on thru-hiking as opposed 
to all other ways of hiking the trail is to me a misplaced focus.  It 
smacks of elitism.  The trail was created for the public at large, not just 

So what do we do to preserve trails and wild lands in general?  I give 
money to groups that get results (ADK, ATC), I write letters (not form 
letters, my own letters in my own words), I maintain a shelter in the 
Adirondacks (I'm many hours away from the AT) and I promote LNT practices 
among those I meet in the woods.  I don't generate mass mailings of emails 
because like Paddler I know from conversations with politicians they don't 
carry any weight.  If that is not caring, then I'm guilty of not caring enough.