Our differences & similarities: raising the bar while on the trail.
In addition to the reason I’m thru-hiking, I am also looking forward to getting away from the intrusive, unavoidable noise pollution of our multi-media coverage of politics and the dissent that has become pervasive. I was/am thinking that being in the woods – and here I am imagining the noise of the wind in the trees mixed with my labored breathing and my footfalls on the trail – away from the daily noise of TVs, phones, radios and the general people sounds will be a six month bubble of retreat.
I realize that there will be people – with smart phones, thus, telephone calls, music playing, You Tube and other media coverage of current events – so it will not be a complete and total escape from society and some of the pressures that come with it. However, I have, sort of, the expectation that everyone else is out there in the woods to decompress also so it was a little disturbing reading this post and the accompanying comments. I added my own middle-of-the-road comment but the feeling I had after reading blistering commentary didn’t leave me for about a day – just enough time to get back into work and face more pressing issues.
I have not ,until the above mentioned post, read anything posted on “hiking” websites that I would call “political” unless preserving out parks and natural wildlife is considered political (and it can be) and I certainly don’t want to be political either
I do want to share some thoughts that I have regarding my future hike and other hikers.
- I think I can safely say that ‘everyone’ that goes hiking and especially thru-hiking is doing so for at least this one reason: getting out into nature, away from ‘the world’ for a while – a day, a week, or several months.
- Unless someone is hiking – especially thru-hiking – on a dare or a bet or an experiment (as in, it’s the first time) we also share the common love of hiking; the physicality of it – and nature.
- Goals: we also share goals in common. Besides #1 and #2 (no puns) other goals might be getting a hike in on a day off from work, reaching a summit, peak-bagging goal, exercise, group activity, raising awareness or money for charity, bird-watching or some other form of noting nature and her inhabitants, a more enjoyable way to lose weight, challenging yourself after an injury or some other debilitating assault, taking advantage of the part of the country you live in or are visiting, meeting people, business (for some backpacking/traveling and writing/blogging is their income), and one book author stated that backpacking in the Whites of N.H. was his first date with his now wife (she proposed it as a test of compatibility)!
- All varieties of humans hike and backpack: a mix-bag of colors, genders, ages, BMI, city/country people, education levels, introverts/extroverts, political persuasions, wealthy/poor, rainbow of music lovers, all forms of emotional/physical disabilities and abilities, etc., etc. There’s no end to the differences of hikers because no one person is the same (even identical twins are different people).
- With all the differences and reasons/goals that hikers hit the trail we all want to be out there to enjoy our experience. We know we are going to cross paths with some people who we don’t have anything in common -just as we do in the ‘real world’ (I frequently refer to off-trail life as the real world which I feel is really an oxymoron)- and then we try to diplomatically (if not surreptitiously) limit our exposure. This might be harder to do when backpacking and finding ourselves in the same bubbles.
- Recognizing that there are some expectations and ‘rules’ (LNT) of ‘trail life’ that we all share, it’s our individual responsibility to remind or educate each other when we hear/witness something that is outside these boundaries. It’s not beyond reason to expect that the bar for etiquette be higher than that of the ‘real world’, the woods, trails, parks exist – in part – so we can escape the unhealthy environment of our working lives into something refreshing. We can’t allow anyone to disrupt this last refuge we enjoy.
- Most people avoid topics of politics and religion in conversations – in particular when with people we don’t know and more importantly when in situations that require close-quarters even for a short time such as in shelters. Obviously our current political and social climate can be compared to a pressure-cooker with ‘both sides’ (there’s not only two sides, that’s an imposed perspective from those who believe in the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ only) guilty regarding vitriol and for this reason it’s much more imperative that we keep these topics in a box to be opened when we get back home.
So that’s my summation of my experiences and expectations out in the woods. I am reasonable in my expectations of good times and bad times regarding my physical comfort and I am also psychologically prepared to be disappointed in the behavior and attitudes of a few of my fellow humans on the trail just as I expect that I may be judged less than sterling myself.
I hope to rise to the challenge to maintain a positive attitude or at least work on one as well as try to remember that we are all human beings who are out there on the trail trying to have a great and memorable experience.
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