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Re: [CDT-L] Trails, attitudes, and hiking our own hike
- Subject: Re: [CDT-L] Trails, attitudes, and hiking our own hike
- Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 12:15:35 EST
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
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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