Can’t We All Just Get Along
So far the biggest surprise I’ve encountered out here isn’t bears or weather, it’s the division within this community of crazy hikers.
It started several weeks ago when a kid and his ultralight ZPacks gear sped past me on an uphill. He stopped briefly only to comment on the chacos I had hanging from my pack saying, “you shouldn’t carry those shoes, they’re too heavy.” He then sped past me and kept going before I could even shake the confused look from my face and react. “Thank you random person I don’t know on the advice I didn’t ask for,” I thought. If I want to carry a full size camp chair strapped to my pack, I will! (Which I have seen done before, and props to that guy).
The judgement, oh the judgement!
It’s only continued from there. Is lighter better? Or is it about comfort? Is it ok to take a blue blaze around a summit? Is slack-packing cheating? Is it more about the miles or the experience? Luckily, you don’t have to hike long before people will start answering those questions for you – and it’s usually in some speech against your will.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’d love to debate all things hiking if you’re willing to meet me and sit down to chat about it. I find hiking culture fascinating and truly enjoy talking about it for hours. On the other hand, it’s the drive-by Chaco comments, whispers under people’s breath, and the general “what you’re doing is wrong, and therefore everything I’m doing is right” attitude that’s really caught me off guard out here. That’s not the kind of community I was expecting to walk into.
So, is it about the miles or more about the experience of the journey?
Why can’t it be both?
The ATC defines a thru-hike as “a hike of the entire A.T. in 12 months or less.” That’s it! Any other rules you impose on yourself are part of your hike.
Do you want to wake up at 5am and hike 30 miles a day? Go for it!
Huge fan of slack packing and meeting as many people as possible? More power to you!
Are you the last one out of camp and love a 15 mile day? Do it!
(This one is me by the way)
We don’t have to sit around a fire holding hands and singing songs, although that would be a ton of fun, but we’re all out here doing the same thing: hiking the AT.
I think the lighter gear gets and the more options there are for every single aspect of hiking, the more combinations exist to customize this journey. That’s what makes it so cool! What works for you may not work for someone else, but we don’t need to be constantly telling other hikers they’re wrong.
I’m no angel, I was guilty of this at the beginning of my journey. I was so surprised by what another hiker was carrying or how they were doing something that I couldn’t help but comment. Unless someone is really endangering themselves or asking for help, let them hike their hike.
So high fives all around – whether you’re ultralight, a 70lb packer, a slacker, a 5-month(er), a 10 mile-a-day(er), or believe the last one to Katahdin wins.
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