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Re: [CDT-L] Trails, attitudes, and hiking our own hike

Charlie: THANK YOU SO MUCH for your post.

(And also,  many thanks to the large number of people who e-mailed me 
personally when I first signed on to the list, either to saw welcome aboard, 
or somethng nice about Where the Waters Divide, or to comment on my posts.)

Charlie: I'm glad you (and others) understand that the issues I brought up 
have nothing to do with "hike your own hike." And that you "got" what I was 
trying to say -- in fact, said it much more articulately than I did. 

You, in turn brought up something interesting, which is the issue of 
well-meaning volunteers "helping" hikers and how that affects a thru-hike. 
After numerous thru-hikes and numerous encounters with more trail angels than 
I can count, I have to say that my butt has been saved more than once by 
complete stranger with a big heart. The generosity that I've experienced on 
long trails has truly influenced my life on a day-to-day basis in that it 
makes me want to "give back,"  wherever I happen to find myself. I'm no 
angel, myself, but because of my experiences on long trails, I think I've 
become a more generous person. I hope. 

But at the same time, I think you're right about how helpful volunteers can 
change the nature of a hike. I've heard hikers talk about how they got 
"sucked in" to the vortex of someone who was making things easier by carrying 
water or giving rides or whatever. All of a sudden, their hike isn't what 
they wanted it to be because they're now ending up in a town every other day 
or whatever. 

Now, I know, there's going to be a chorus of "hike your own hike," and "if 
you don't want help, don't use it."  But I don't think it's that simple. It's 
kind of like meeting people in the wilderness with a cell phone -- 
Personally, I don't want even the possibility of contact with the outside 
world when I'm on a hike. So if someone in a lean-to is blabbing about the 
stock market, that affects my hike, because I really didn't want to know that 
the DOW dropped 500 points and my retirement money has tanked with it. The 
fact that I could borrow the phone and call for pizza to be delivered at the 
next road crossing affects my hike -- whether I actually call for pizza or 
not. The presence of the cell phone takes away the feeling of solitude and 
removal from society that I hoped to find on the trail. 

In the same way, the presence of all that volunteer help takes away some of 
the real challenge of the long trails. There's still the possibility for 
challenge -- Sure, you can turn down the help. But to me that's the 
difference between say, bicycling across country by yourself, and doing it 
with a sag van that's there to help in case you ever need it. The thing is, 
those hikers who DIDN'T ask for the sag van still have to deal with it 
whether they want it or not. 

I guess I'd compare this to traveling with next to no money. When I was in my 
early 20s, I went to Europe for several months on a pennies-a-day budget. 
Because of that, I had the most amazing experiences. I had to make do, and I 
never had the option of bailing out to a comfortable hotel because I just 
didn't have the money. So I had adventures, instead. Today, when I travel, I 
am a reasonably solid solvent middle class citizen, and I don't have to sleep 
in a penzione above a whorehouse (or in a convent!) because I only have 
$5.00.  But as a result, I have different experiences when I travel -- NOT 
WORSE. NOT BETTER, just different. And I'm grateful I had the chance to 
travel the hard way when I did.  

That's the same thing with hiking. It's hard to keep choosing challenge when 
people are standing in line to make things easier. All of a sudden, instead 
of being totally self-sufficient, you're making phone calls to the water 
carrier, or telling the van driver exactly when you'll be at a certain road 
crossing -- which changes the nature of your hike. 

I suspect the "hike your own hike" people would say: you don't have to use 
the van or the water carrier. Right. But the fact that that easy choice is 
always there right in front of you changes your hike, just as my current 
travels are changed by the fact that I have enough money to bail out into a 
hotel when things get rough. 

I know that on the AT, the hostels, B&B people, shuttles, party-givers, 
slackpackers, etc. are an established tradition. If you hike the AT, that's 
part of the package, and I don't object to it -- it would be like spitting 
into the wind.   

And all I'm saying is that it's nice to still have one place (the CDT) where 
there still is no easy way out. 

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