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[at-l] being alone


I've done it both ways, with and without a partner.  I like the partner I
have (well I hope so, I married him!)  The trail is funny in terms of
relationships.  You meet a lot of people who are instantly friends/comrades.
 If they are thruhikers, they are brothers.  On the other hand, many of the
relationships are pretty superficial because you don't know whether you will
ever see them again.  Talk is mostly if not entirely about the trail.  It
can take weeks to know a person's real name and background beyond the most
superficial things.  If you are very fast or very slow, and being passed or
passing a lot of people, you have instant friendliness but little depth. 
Lots of buddies, but few real friends.  This can be fun, but lonely.

This changes if you hike with the same people over a longer period of time. 
If you hike together especially, you have hours and hours to talk about
everything under the sun.  This can lead to lifelong friendship, if you are
lucky.  Most people are somewhat erratic in their hiking style, so they hike
a few days with someone, then don't see them for weeks or months, then hike
with them again.  Also, many thruhikers are essentially introverts, who
prize their independence.  They aren't looking for partners, and want to
"hike their own hike".  Some manage to connect with a few people and create
trail families of various kinds that hike the whole trail together. That can
be a lot of fun with a good group. I think it may be easier in some ways to
have the partnership/family type relationship because of the support you get
when you get down.  (My motto was, there is no day so bad that a hug can't
help.)  On the other hand, hiking with partners means constantly having to
compromise.  The hike is no longer entirely yours.  Others may determine how
far and how fast you go.  And solitude can become a very precious thing. 
Still, there was a period in `88 where I hiked alone - that is with no other
thruhikers - for several days because I was ill and could only do really
short miles.  I met lots of weekenders, but they didn't know me, and would
never know me with any depth.  When a thruhiker finally showed up, I felt so
happy, because there was someone who knew my name.  I didn't have to start
from scratch.  Other times I longed for someone who knew something about me
besides how many miles a day I was hiking.  In `92 I started alone but hiked
with others regularly from Pearisburg north.  I was much happier.  In the
years between I had learned that I needed people a lot more than I had
previously thought, and wasn't content with just being just a ship passing
in the night.

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