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.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
What Do You Think?