Old Guy Music: Hiking Tunes from my PCT Jukebox
I don’t listen to music while I hike, for a few practical reasons. I don’t want to use the battery on my phone, I don’t want to deal with sweaty headphones, and I want to hear rattlesnakes before I step on them. After 46 trips around the sun, I have a pretty big mental jukebox to draw from, so if I’m not listening to music in my head and/or singing along, I’m often re-watching a movie. While I try and be present while hiking, the mind does wander when the visibility drops, or the terrain is monotonous, or your pain level goes above 5.
I pulled together what I think is a pretty good go-to list for music (in no particular order):
- “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie – “Nobody living can ever make me turn back, this land was made for you and me.”
- “Bolero” by Ravel
- “Given to Fly” by Pearl Jam – “But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed, by faceless men, well, fuckers, he still stands”
- “Aja” by Steely Dan – “Chinese music under banyan trees, here at the dude ranch above the sea”
- “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin – “Someone told me there’s a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair”
- “Take a Picture” by Filter – “Hey Dad, what do you think about your son now?“
- “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey – “Everybody wants a thrill, payin’ anything to roll the dice, just one more time”
- “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan – “She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns, come in, she said, I’ll give ya shelter from the storm”
- “Analog Kid” by Rush – “And the voices in his ears are the music of the spheres”
- “Digital Man” by Rush – “He’s got a date with fate in a black sedan, and plays fast-forward just as long as he can”
- “Estimated Prophet” by Grateful Dead – “Standing on the beach, the Sea will part before me”
- “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger – “I’m older now but still runnin’ against the wind”
- “Infinite Tamboura/Back to the Earth” by Rusted Root – “Back to the Earth I screamed and no one listened; back to the Earth I lived and they all followed”
- “Chickenman” by Indigo Girls – “On the road to Austin, I met a man on the highway”
- “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan – “I’ll stand on the Ocean until I start sinking”
- “Beautiful World” by Devo – “It’s a beautiful world for you … but not for me”
- “Heroes” by David Bowie – “We can be heroes, just for one day”
- “Mr. Bojangles” by David Bromberg – “He said he danced for those at minstrel shows in county fairs”
- “Naked Kids” by Grouplove – “Back corner table, order lobsters and Black Label; raise your glasses, here’s to living out our dreams”
If you’d like to sing along, check out my Youtube channel playlist.
I don’t have movies memorized, except perhaps Lord of the Rings, Monty Python, or Highlander, but as I walk I reflect on the themes, and the scenery, and the way I felt when I watched them. Certain dialog, of course, is quote-worthy. Most of them involve physical journeys or quests. When thru-hiking gets tiring, I find it helpful to reflect on how hard travelling was without nylon and goretex and aluminum and wicking shirts. My movie list, again in no particular order:
- Dead Poet’s Society – “Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die”
- The Book of Eli – “It’s beat up, but it will do the job”
- Jeremiah Johnson – “North, Canada maybe. I hear there’s land there a man has never seen”
- As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me – “And so, I win”
- The Way Back – “Just keep walking”
- The Road – “You have to keep carrying the fire”
- Never Cry Wolf – “As I traveled north, it was on about the 3rd day that the reality of what I was about to try to do began to seep into my bones… and gather in a knot in the pit of my stomach”
- Last of the Mohicans – “I do not call myself subject to much at all”
- The Beast – “We’re low on petrol. The battery’s low. We’re losing oil. If the engine heats up it’s gonna seize. The terrain, obviously against us. We have no rations. The Mujas behind us don’t seem to run on rations, petrol, or anything we know of”
There’s plenty of cell signal, and with a booster battery or a solar panel and a good streaming service, you could probably listen to new stuff every day. I choose to reflect on some old favorites, seeking new meaning and new context for their old lyrics and themes.
What do you listen to while you hike?
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