[cdt-l] Solitude Log

Ginny & Jim Owen spiritbear2k at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 16 21:59:16 CDT 2007


Brett - I'm not as organized as you are, but I do pay attention to 
encounters along the way and make note in my journals of how many people we 
meet along the way.  I do find that those trips that have the fewest human 
encounters (or the most wildlife encounters) are usually the ones that I 
enjoy the most.  Hiking in PA was always good that way.  We often went out 
for three or four days on the Donut Hole Trail or the Chuck Keiper and met, 
at most, one person.  Many trips we met nobody - even on holiday weekends.  
And we often saw wildlife - bears, deer, and elk.  Good trips.  One thing 
I've noticed about myself is that if I see wildlife, I don't care about the 
rest.  I've had some terrific wildlife days on roadwalks and  I've been in 
remote backcountry and not seen more than a squirrel or two and felt 
somewhat disappointed.  On the AT I saw a lot of wildlife - so even on the 
edge of suburbia, I felt like I was deep in the natural world, even if it 
wasn't wilderness.


One of the big attractions of the CDT for me was the fact that you can 
sometimes go days without seeing people.  We did find that that changed 
between our first and second hikes.  In 1999, on a southbound hike, we went 
one six day stretch without seeing anyone (in the Bob Marshall in June) and 
had several two or three day stretches without people encounters.  In 2006 
the most we went was three days (in southern NM) without an encounter, and 
rarely did we go more than 24 hours without some kind of meeting - usually 
jeeps along the roads, sometimes motorbikes or horses on the trails, very 
rarely other hikers.  Still, it was much better than the PCT where we would 
sometimes meet 20 - 50 people a day once we got north of Yosemite.  I don't 
think we ever went more than 24 hours on the PCT once we were out of the 
desert without seeing people, horses or bikes.  On our brief stint on the 
GET we saw people every day - but we were in the very popular Superstition 
Wilderness.   One thing we learned a long time ago, if you want solitude, 
the wilderness areas are rarely a good place for that.  Everyone loves the 
wilderness.

Colin Fletcher wrote a story about going to Alaska to a remote lake in the 
wilderness.  Imagine his surprise to discover that it was a very popular 
lake and plane traffic was frequent with people getting dropped off and 
picked up every few hours.  I kept that in mind when we were dropped off in 
a remote part of Wrangell St. Elias a few years ago.  We were told that the 
last drop off had been ten days before, and we felt really happy to have the 
whole area to ourselves.  We waved the plane off, turned around, and there 
was a group on horseback, right behind us.  We didn't see anyone else for 
another five days - but the sense of total wilderness was tainted.

Seeing people is a fact of life for most of the places we hike.  It doesn't 
wreck the experience, but it changes it.  Something is lost by not having 
the illusion of wilderness.  I know it's an illusion, but it's one I 
cherish.

One wrecker of the illusion of solitude that I've noticed a lot lately is 
plane traffic.  Anyone know a good place to hike that doesn't have jumbo 
jets or military planes flying over every hour or two?

Ginny

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