Hike and Swipe: What is Cyber Blazing?
I've exited the hardest section of the "first state" of the Appalachian Trail. As I continue through New Jersey, I felt the need to explain a new and growing trend of young thru-hikers on the AT: Cyber Blazing. Read on.
But first, a few photos of the Delaware Water Gap. Thanks to the Church of the Mountain for hosting me at your hostel as well as the stellar hiker feed and motivational conversation from Pastor Sherry.
So, What Is Cyber Blazing?
Cyber, or Flame, Blazing is the use of mobile dating apps to jump from suitable stays in nearby trail towns. The user, a thru-hiker, hops on any number of dating or Couchsurfing mobile app in an attempt to get hosted for a warm bed, shower, meal and maybe a romantic night of stinky hiker tomfoolery. The subjects are local and trail town matches off any of a number of dating apps filtered to a certain age, gender, and distance.
Trail romance dead? Never. These apps allow users to set up locations as a week away from their current spot. This provides enough time for the user to match (Tinder) or receive a response (Bumble, Couchsurfing, Match). Once you've developed into friends and figure out logistics, you'll be swept away to more than affordable lodging for the day with a chance of free meal and possibly sex.
But Is it Always About Sex?
First, here's a random set of photos about the Sunfish Pond, a glacial lake in New Jersey. Enjoy.
Answer: This depends largely on the person. Men, absolutely. Women, who knows? Either way, the importance of specifying what's being negotiated are usually listed in the bio of each user's profile. "The fastest way to see me naked is to do my laundry" versus "An evening stay with hot meal and shower would be nice" really sets the pattern for the conversation. The answer isn't as clear as it just being a useful tool for lodging with the obvious inherent dangers; like being in the wilderness for six months.
Tramilies are dissipating. Many have started to drop as if some masterful flyswatter has reached out and started taking my fellow thru-hikers. I know I'm in a sweet spot called the "back of the bubble". I know a tough minimum mileage is necessary to reach Mount Katahdin before winter and the closing of Baxter State Park. Those who couldn't keep up or have zero'd in towns for months are now scrambling and leap-frogging over each other to avoid the onset of the seasons and our deadline. Yellow blazers poured into Delaware Water Gap. Without giving names, people I hadn't seen in months were now "caught up" and taking off toward New Jersey. It messes with my analytical mindset to see so many social media posts of NOBO hikers flip flopping while others yellow blaze (drive or be driven) across huge miles of the trail. Money has been spent on so much to continue this hike, how does one salvage what's left of their diminishing bank account? How else do you cut costs? Stay with random people!
Is this dangerous? Probably. Will thru-hikers continue this trend? Probably. Will risky behaviors like this draw bad seeds from the nicer hostels on trail?
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.
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