Port Clinton, PA-Greenville Lake, NY: Not a terribly happy update
Total miles: 1370
Average daily miles: 20
Ok, so I’ve been waffling back and forth about whether or not to write about recent events and my disintegrating outlook on AT thru-hikers. I want to keep the attitude upbeat and positive, but I have been steadily becoming more discouraged, and Hare, Silent Bob, and myself just left the trail a day early for meeting Rocky’s parents. I couldn’t handle being out there anymore, and I have never been so close to just quitting.
Somehow we wound up in a cluster of hikers who gave me a bad feeling. One hiker (fresh out of high school) gives an unappreciated running commentary about my relationship with Hare, informing me about how unfair I am to Hare. There’s a constant slew of corrections and snide comments when I engage in conversation, so I’ve found myself speaking up less. Silent Bob hiked long days to catch Hare and I, winding up at a shelter with a few sort-of familiar hikers who picked on his dinner choice, his lightweight gear, and his quiet demeanor until he packed up and hiked four extra miles.
I’ve lost my cool at a few people, including a hiker who yelled at a server because the cafe didn’t offer eggs to his specific liking. I also tried to bite my tongue, instead of snapping at a hiker who picked on me similarly, including about where I hung my bear bag, why I kept the insulator on my mug, and where Hare and I chose to stake our rain fly. I was mostly successful… Hare gets embarrassed when I flip so I (mostly) try to consider his feelings.
So that’s been tough, plus the sense of isolation has started to burrow deeper. I was surprised to be the only girl around for hundreds of miles, then it started to really get to me. I’ve never been so surrounded by people but felt so lonely, like there’s a club I’m not part of.
Then there’s the people who challenge my faith in humanity. Many people in towns react negatively to hikers, which baffles me for a while until I started seeing hikers leaving hotel rooms wrecked, not tipping servers, and bragging about not donating at honor-system church hostels.
There are hikers who ignore any and all LNT guidelines, building fires at shelters in high-risk fire zones, in front of signs saying No Campfires Please. Hikers burn foil-lined wrappers, leaving the remains in the fire pit. Graffiti all over new shelters and new privies, all of it just makes me so sad.
I’ve heard of “the 3%,” referring to the small percentage of hikers who give other hikers a bad name, but wow. It’s looking like more than 3% to me.
But really the absolute worst episode I’ve witnessed happened last week, when we caught up to a hiker, “Blueberry,” who was talking about trying to kill a rabbit with a rock, and looking for a “big stick to kill chipmunks with.” It gave me a bad feeling, but I told myself he must be joking. It was beyond my comprehension that someone would be serious about that. We ended up at his same shelter, and I watched him pluck a caterpillar off his shirt and drop it in the fire to burn. I got uncomfortable with the conversation, which had turned back to killing the animals that I love to see on the trail, so I went to my tent to read.
The next day, Silent Bob and Hare recounted with some horror the events that continued, which I’m not going to discuss on this website.
I started sobbing and tried to scrub my brain all day, listening to music and concentrating on things like Silent Bob asking Hare to be careful, because he might accidentally hurt an inchworm crawling up the tree near us. People are good, people are good.
We hopped off the trail in the middle of our 24-mile day to grab ice cream at a nearby dairy. Blueberry was there, laughing and showing other hikers something in a garbage bag, and I spun away, trying not to throw up when I realized he had killed a groundhog that had been nibbling grass by the side of the trail. He boasted about killing it with his hiking pole, and though the other guys seemed taken aback, no one said anything opposing it. I ducked my head because I felt like I was about to cry, Blueberry saw me and laughed, saying “I don’t think Tortoise approves.” “No. Not at all,” was all I managed to respond. I stared at the table until he left, then another hiker hesitantly said, “That sort of… sort of seemed intentional,” like he couldn’t quite believe it. I nodded and gulped, but oh my gosh I love animals so much. This is beyond disturbing and horrifyingly sad to me, I’m having a really hard time dealing with it.
We hiked the last few miles towards the shelter until I burst into tears and told Hare and Silent Bob that there was no way I could stay there, not with Blueberry talking about adding the groundhog to his Knorr sides. We headed for a nearby road and got into a town a day early, hoping to lose this group for good.
Hare’s parents are here visiting. They picked us up in Greenville Lake, NY. Their visit couldn’t have come at a better time. I got a fun new pair of pink zebra-print hiking shorts, and I downloaded three David Sedaris books on my Kindle–he makes me laugh like none other. We will get back on the trail the day after tomorrow, but at this point, I really don’t want to.
Please be aware that Appalachian Trials, myself, and the morally sound hikers do not condone this behavior, and I’m not sure what there is to be done. I hope this behavior isn’t widespread? I don’t know what’s going on at other points on the trail, but I hope it’s not like the section I’m on.
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