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[at-l] Thruhiking - Hike your own hike

Episode ? -
This one came out of what was as close to a flame war as I've yet
seen on this list.  I was definitely at fault - and I have no desire to
repeat that experience.  I edited the flamebait out.

Walk softly,

There's been a lot of talk about "Hike your own hike".   So - let's
have some discussion as to exactly what "Hike your own hike"
really means. I'm gonna start the ball and then I want to hear what
everyone else thinks it is -

For me, one part of "Hike your own hike" is knowing my own ground
rules. It means writing my own contract and then living it. If you
don't know what "your hike" is, how are you gonna know if you're
hiking it?  Or if you're not?

So what's this contract stuff? It's something I was taught that
worked for me on the Trail. Before I left for Springer I made a
contract with myself. It defined what I wanted out of the hike,
how I'd hike, what I was willing to do and what I wouldn't do. In
other words, the conditions and parameters that I used to define
MY hike. OK, so it's a new concept to some of you - let me give
you a FEW examples of what some of my friends had in their

Some of them are purists (they kiss every white blaze), and some
        are blue blazers.
Some will yellow blaze (hitchhike or roadwalk around sections). One
        group made a game of taking EVERY possible blue blaze - and then
        got caught by taking some impossible ones.
Some won't sleep under a roof,  some won't take a ride.

One refused to take baths and another refused to wash his hiking T-shirt.
        (These are NOT popular options with other thruhikers !!)
Some go as part of expeditions, some in relays.
Some solo, others go with partners.
Some want the fastest hike and others want the slowest (One ran
        the Trail and one took 10 months)
Some want the earliest start or to be first to Katahdin (January
        starters - cold and lonely)
One started in October (he said he likes steak & it keeps well in winter)

One group made a ceremony of after dinner cigars (they camped away
        from the shelters - far away)
One took his cat (the shelter mice didn't like that)
Some took dogs (the cat didn't like that)
Some hike for a cause, or as a memorial to a friend or relative.
Some will stay only as long as they're enjoying the hike
Some will quit only for death or dismemberment.

Some wrote their contract on paper and signed it - others never
        even knew they had one.
Some are out there to find themselves and others to test themselves.
A few are out there to be found - And a few are out there to find the
        ones who are out there to be found
A few occasionally hike naked - or nearly so.

Some want a 6 month hike, others may be time constrained to
        a 3, 4 or 5 month hike.
Some explore all the side trails, others won't walk 100 feet off-Trail
        for a view.
Some carry full packs all the way, others carry packs all the way
        (there is a difference)
Most will slackpack (one group slacked all but 6 days between
        Waynesboro and Katahdin)
Some flip-flop, some yoyo.
Some do it piecemeal.
Some come back year after year - after year......after year ....

Some do 20 mile days, others hike the terrain.
Some swear by hiking sticks and others swear at them.
Some use one stick, some use two.
Some carry teddy bears or Barbie dolls or feathers.
Some carry radios, others carry coffeepots.
Some carry a yellow rubber duckie through the Smokies.
Some hike from dawn to dusk, others from noon to midnite.

Some only stay in shelters and some won't stay in shelters
Some stay at B&B's and call taxis to get them there.
Some give up alcohol or smoking - and others spend their hike looking for beer.
Some party from town to town and some go into town as seldom as possible.

Enuff - that doesn't even scratch the surface of the possibilities, but
I think you've got the idea. There are an infinite number of variations
that YOU can use to define YOUR hike. Which ones fit you? What can you
add to the list? How good is your imagination? It's YOUR contract,
YOU define the conditions, YOU abide by them, YOU live with the results
and YOU are the only one who can change them - anytime, anyway YOU want.

Yeah - I can hear the screams - " I don't wanta be chained to some dumb
agreement - that's not what I'm out here for!!"   Who said you're chained
to anything? You don't like the deal? Change it ! That's your option too.
YOU can change it anytime, anyplace, anyway YOU want. It's all YOURS.
I changed mine in North Carolina, in Virginia and and again in New York.
It's worth repeating - If you don't know what "your hike" is, how are
you gonna know if you're hiking it?

Don't like the idea? Cool ! Don't use it. One of the options is "no contract".
I know several people who went out without a contract and got to
Katahdin anyway - because they decided at some point that that was
what they really wanted.

Another part of "Hike your own hike" is - don't hike someone else's
hike. I know - you wouldn't do that. But it happens every year. How?
Simple - you go into town with a group, and when you're ready to leave,
they want to stay another day. Do you leave or stay? The ONLY
question is - what do YOU want to do with YOUR hike?

Another situation - The group wants to do 20 mile days, and you're
a 12 mile/day hiker. Do you go with them - or let them go? There's
a long list of people who went with the group and got stronger as a
result. There's another long list of people who went with the group
and got shinsplints, blisters, tendonitis and stress fractures. Some
people get away with it, some don't.

It's always YOUR choice - but if you get into "groupthink" mode,
whose hike are you hiking? If you want to go with a group that's not
doing what you planned to do, cool - but think about the consequences
first. If the group determines what you're doing, then it's not your
hike anymore - it's theirs.

Are there exceptions? Of course - if you're hiking with an expedition
or a relay, or with a spouse or partner. I've seen people leave an
injured partner on the Trail.  Personal opinion is that REAL thruhikers
don't leave injured partners in the backcountry.

OK - a couple comments about "Hike your own hike" -

First - NO ONE can really hike someone else's hike. You don't know their
contract, schedule, budget, mail drops, support, time constraints,
emotional state, physical condition, equipment, etc. ad infinitum.
Even on the Trail you couldn't hike their hike because you hike
different distances at different speeds, one of you has more money
than the other, you don't eat the same things, one of you carries a
heavier pack  - and 16 dozen other reasons.

Second - I really DON'T WANT anyone else hiking my hike. I like the
high, quiet places and I don't want crowds there.

Third - You really DON'T WANT to hike my hike. I compressed 2 discs
in Virginia, blew both knees in the Whites and broke a wrist in Maine.
Does anyone REALLY want to hike my hike? Hmmm .... I didn't think so.

What does "Hike your own hike" mean to you?

Walk softly,
Jim Owen
Bald Eagle, 92

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