[pct-l] End of hiking season musings...
jolson at olc.edu
Sun Oct 12 21:11:06 CDT 2008
I've been a member of this listserv since it began. That's what, 13, 14
years? That gives one kind of credibility - a pretty shallow kind.
I've not hiked the trail from end-to-end in one year. I've watched as
the Monte Dodge and his cronies have humbly offered their early
experiences up as iconic history for today's thru-hikers. I hope that
the new members of the list who are planning on hiking the trail revel
in the history of hikers on the trail. I don't mean you have to worship
Monte Dodge, or Eric Ryback or Colin Fletcher for that matter.
However, I think that a successful thruhike almost requires an
historical perspective. There has to be a larger perspective unaffected
by day-to-day events. If a person starts out with the guidebook and
good intentions, and that's pretty much it, the likelihood of actually
completing the trail is less than if s/he studies what others have done,
what led to success, what led to leaving the trail to attempt it in
another year, and leaving because it was just too much. I have no
evidence of this claim. I suppose evidence could be gathered... Any
doc students out there looking for a dissertation topic??? Write me and
we'll brainstorm a research design...
I started the trail once with the intent to hike end to end. I left the
trail because I couldn't stand being alone day after day after day.
This was a humbling realization. Based on that knowledge, I'll be
advertising for a hiking partner for a SOBO hike of the CDT starting in
June 2010. Is there an E-harmony set of questions that will determine
if someone else is compatible enough with me to spend five months
My most remembered favorite hike was with my fiancee in 1992. She'd
never backpacked before. She learned how to hike my way, and we were
GOOD!!! Our greatest trial was leaving camp. We'd drink coffee and
talk about meaning and purpose and God or it's absence, and find
ourselves all wired out at 10AM, and camp was still to be broke. After
two weeks we decided we wouldn't talk about anything important before
It takes me, at 56 years old, to get up to 18-20 miles a day, about six
weeks. I've sectioned hiked enough to know the first six weeks of a
hike are the hardest physically. I hike, eat, , lie down, and sleep.
That's it. No stimulating conversation when the milky way is
vibrating. Just the pain and rest involved in getting in shape.
I realize now I would much rather focus on the increasing definition of
my woman partner's calves as she hikes in front of me, week after week,
than stare into infinity as I put one foot in front of the other.
Hiking alone offers the latter, and while it is neutral, it's not
something I want to do day after day. I don't have the temperment or
emotional development maybe to be alone for five months. I always
thought this was the ultimate challenge - to hike day after day, alone,
through the wilderness and all its beauty. I have spent numerous
section hikes of a month and longer challenging myself in this way.
Each and every time I was humbled to realize that hiking for me is a
social act, not a quick avenue to spiritual enlightenment or ultimate
I am very much "trail centered" versus "camp centered" in my hiking.
Camp is where I sleep. I don't eat there. I poop there in the
morning. That's it. The idea of a fire is abhorrent. Even with Jane
camp was a place we slowed down at in order to go to bed and sleep. No
exploring. No cosmic conversations, or at least, conversations that
lasted very long (in the evenings). Sleep always called...
I started hiking when I was eight. My folks took us up into the Marbles
for a couple years running, our gear packed in on mules, and we'd spend
a couple weeks in the wilderness. The family pics from these early
1960s trips are priceless. If you're a young parent, take your kids
into the wilderness. Early...
My folks and the three kids spent three days under a tarp in 1962 in the
Wallowa Wilderness, just under EAgle Peak, in a rainstorm. WE were
miserable for three days. A sheepherder took pity on us and came down
from the rim and put our packs on his mules and we hiked out without
packs. This is what makes hiking in the backcountry so attractive -
moment to moment living...
I have vibrant memories of being 13 years old on my first backpacking
trip with my dad and his friends. My dad called it my barmitzvah. What
that meant is I got to see a bunch of over-educated, emotionally stunted
men interact, and on the final night, drink two gallons of red mountain
burgandy and puke their guts out. That's what I remember. That and
jumping off a rock into a lake after my dad surfaced and said, "it's
fine." It was freezing... One of the guys had had a heart attack and
dropped his pack a half mile up the ridge above the lake we were camping
at. One of the other guys hiked back to pick up his pack. He said that
as he was hiking back, he heard a huge scream he could only figure was a
wolvervine or bobcat or wolf. It was me, surfacing after jumping into
the ice cold lake. I never trusted my dad again...
What all this has to do with thru-hiking? I don't know...
Actually, I think that someone is going to make the hiker-trash
lifestyle the core of a movie or documentary.
And it isn't going to be about 20 somethings huddling together in the
face of the big questions. It isn't about glorifying being dirty.
Being hiker-trash is an exalted state, unknown to most, if not quite
There are old guy hiker-trash. There are women hiker-trash. There are
seeker hiker-trash. The most common is 20 something hiker-trash, men
mostly. Someone is going to come up with an idea that will involve a
plot involving hiker trash, meaning, and the modern world...
Jeff, just Jeff, said to the cadence of "Bond, James Bond."
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