Week 5: The Preamble (Miles 511-570.2)
Let’s Set the Scene
You’re taking a break at the top of a glorious view, thinking about how fabulous life is. All of the sudden someone comes panting up the trail, harshing your mellow with a disruptive and desperate: “HAVE YOU SEEN NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM?”
“Having a butterbeer in Hogsmeade?” Acid is a hell of a drug, you think.
“What? No. Neville Longbottom? Used to be Artemis till he got a new trail name at Hikertown? I’ve been hiking with him for seventeen days and even though I’ve lived twenty-six years without him and started this trail myself I need know where he is at all times or I will DIE!” Or something like that.
“Oh, them. They passed like five minutes ago.” The questioner takes off in a flash. Your peace returns for thirty seconds. Until:
“Where’s Shoehorn?? I’m trying to catch them! I haven’t seen them for, like twenty minutes and I have their duct tape!”
Yes, We’re Talking Tramilies!
Ahh, the tramily. The true reason people take to the woods: To find a place they feel they belong. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m all for friendship. But the rapidity with which giant trail families form, and the subsequent frenetic energy that overwhelms the trail as a group tries to stay together in spite of mismatched hiking speeds is a bit much. I’ve been floating around three bubbles for quite some time and this GPS factor – not SPOT devices but rather each member of each tramily’s frenetic need to know where all members of the group are at every given second – can become exhausting, particularly to those of us who are expected to know the whereabouts of 30 or so people that we’re not hiking with at a given time.
I Get It; I’m Not Fun
I realize I’m speaking to a very small percentage of people, that Community and Connection are why people are out here. Don’t even get me started on trail names! If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me what my trail name is, and then has an actual nervous breakdown when I tell them I don’t have one, I could have taken a zero at VVR. But most folks would trade their Melly for a moniker in order to feel like part of something. Which I get! It’s like how I went to a high school with blah dudes and graduated a virgin so I had sex with a random guy my first night of college, just to do the damn thing. Most trail names have that rip-the-bandaid-lose-the-V-card energy: Take what you can get in case this is the only chance. I’ve met about twelve people called Early Riser, though, so I guess originality is not important.
Without realizing or meaning to, I’ve become part of what could be called a casual alliance of similarly-paced hikers. We don’t all set our alarms for 4 in the morning and schedule our daily breaks over a raucous breakfast; we don’t huddle together in a large group bogarting the shady spots (seriously people – spread out!). We hike and use our brains independently of one another. But we’ve camped together frequently and – dare I admit – even had a good time carousing in town on more than one occasion.
But this is one of the fabulous parts of the trail: There are enough hikers that you’re bound to find a handful of people as curmudgeonly as you are. Because – here’s the secret – you don’t have to have a trail name to hike. You don’t have to drape a baggy men’s shirt from Goodwill on your shrinking frame. You don’t have to drink warm PBRs for breakfast or skip showers for weeks to cosplay being down and out.
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