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Traditional thru-hiking, as I see it, is really very simple. Traditional
thru-hiking is about putting on a pack in Maine or Georgia and carrying that
pack 2,000+ miles to the other end. Traditional thru hiking is about
walking the whole thing, because walking the whole thing is recognized as a
worthy challenge to a traditional thru hiker. Traditional thru-hiking is
about valuing your nights in the woods and the natural beauty of the Trail.
Its about setting a goal and striving to reach that goal.
Now, comes the "hike your own hike" thing. From where I sit, that is an
ideal that will never be reached. When I hiked in 19AT3, I made many
choices that were driven by what everyone else did and valued. I hitched to
towns. I carried my own pack and didn't consider hotels an option. I hiked
the road walks. I hiked at a pace that was consistent with what was
respectable among my peers. So what? The point is not that I hiked in any
better fashion than another, but that my choices were to a large measure set
by the common wisdom of the Trail at the time. The people who really had
their acts together may have been able to ignore their new community, but I
do believe that is far more difficult than most of us admit. Frankly, I
could have used a web site with someone like Weary and others telling me its
really cool to slow down, that their are some neat blue blazes. That
visiting a bunch more towns isn't just a possibility, its a virtual
requirement (I passed right by Harpers Ferry, a blue blaze at the time).
What I would choose to do with that information is unclear, but it would
have been worth listening to.
In other words, I could have benefited from others passion illuminating an
alternative to what the common Trail wisdom kept telling me was "how things
are done". Well, I think that is what one of the other high-profile AT web
sites does now. It offers a passionate vision of how one can (not must)
hike the Trail. And how that way of approaching the AT may infact be the
most fulfilling. It only one voice, among many. I think that is OK.
If the persons associated with that site are viewed as judgmental, so what.
I catch my trout with a worm and a hook. If some frickin' fly fisherman
looks down his nose at me, I could care less. My fish will taste just as
good. Still, I would not begrudge the fly fisherman his passion, and desire
to share it along to others. Especially if he set up his own web site to do
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