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Topic: Three realities, Hikers on the trail< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 9:12 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It was mid-afternoon.  We were on the last leg of our hike out of the backcountry, and only about a mile from our car.  It had been a great hike, and we were now looking forward to taking off our packs, a nice drive home, hot showers, and a dinner that didn't involved freeze-dried anything.  

The weather was perfect for late September, sunny but not warm.


The first couple was young and sportif, wearing only shorts and t-shirts, and they moved briskly up the trail towards us.  

"Hi there," I greeted them.  "Where are you headed?"  

"We are going to the lakes!" the young man replied, with enthusiasm and a French accent.  

"Ah!"  I gave this some thought.  The nearest lake was at least five miles further along the trail. "You realize that they are about five miles--eight kilometers--from here?"

The young man nodded.  "About forty minutes?" he asked.

I considered this.  "No, closer to two or three hours" I explained.

"OK.  Thanks!" he continued up the trail.  His girlfriend looked at me.  

They were not carrying even a daypack, and I didn't see any bottles.  "Do you have any water?" I asked. There was no real source of water for a few miles.  We had very little in our packs.

"No, it's OK" he called back over his shoulder.  

I looked at the girlfriend.  She looked at me.   "Maybe we stop before the lakes." she said.

I nodded and watched them hurry up the trail.


A hundred yards later we met an older couple, almost as old as us.  Now I was really curious, and I asked them the same question.  "Where are you headed."

"Up the traill," the husband replied as he panted uphill past me.  

His wife looked at me and asked me how far the lakes were.  I told her.  "Well, we'll just see how far we get," she said.  They each had a daypack, and I asked them if they had water.  "Oh yeah, we have lots of water," she replied.

"Good," I thought.  "You might want to share some of it with the nice young couple ahead of you."


A half-mile from the trailhead we met the last couple:  two young men sitting on a couple of rocks and resting.  When then heard me coming down the trail,  the first young man turned around quickly and said,. "Oh, good.  You're not a bear."  

"Nope," I assured him, I was not a bear.  

"How much further is it to the lakes?" he asked.  He and his partner had a full complement of cameras, tripods and other paraphernalia.

"About five or six miles," I said.  

He looked at his watch.  I looked at mine.  "We left our camp there about three hours ago," I explained.  "So that would be about six hours, round trip."  

He nodded.  He looked at his watch again.  

"That means you would get back here about 7 o'clock," I explained.   IT would be close to dark by then.  

"I guess we better get moving," his partner chimed in.  He didn't get up off the rock that he occupied.  

"Well, maybe you hike faster than we do," I offered.  

They both nodded.

"Then again," I thought,"We didn't stop in the first half mile from the trailhead when we did this hike, and we were carrying full packs."


I wonder how far each group hiked...


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 9:24 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Given my experience with hikers in the Canyon, the foreign couple made the round trip and laughed about it over beers or wine that evening.  The older couple walked another 1/2 mile and called it good enough, without ever making contact with the younger couple.  The 2 guys with camera gear said "To hell with it" and ended up at the pizza loft, discussing the day's events with a young foreign couple who just happened to have been on the same trail.  

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 9:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Where's the punch line?

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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 10:01 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We have a running joke about meeting people heading up the trail in the late afternoon carrying a Starbucks cup and wearing flip flops.

I just smile and say "Hi".
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 11:15 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I blame the media for suggesting that it's just a walk in the park.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 11:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It's pretty rare that I meet anyone in the backcountry, but over the decades I've met my fair share. And I couldn't categorize them into three types.

Generally speaking, the people who want to know something ask me. Otherwise, they are on their own. I don't bother asking where they are going unless they ask me how they can get there or how far it is.

I'm certainly willing to help folks who are overwhelmed and asking for help. But some folks don't appreciate suggestions, no matter how much we may think we are well intentioned.

I once met a woman a couple miles into a wilderness area. She had no pack or anything beyond a jacket. She confidently told me she was going to such-and-such a location and asked me how far it was. I told her and bid her farewell.

Five minutes later I saw her a quarter mile back and following me. I was carrying a 30-pound pack and going uphill, but she never saw me again. I had no intention of letting her catch up to me. Her problems were her own. Not mine.

Quite chivalrous of me, don't you think?  :D


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 12:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One can often sense by subtle body language that approaching people on a trail may ask questions.  You and I are similar on the trail in that I'll often ask a relaxed question back when it appears a person or group is less than prepared.  

Obviously in the broad mix of people that one encounters on trails near trailheads, some are ordinary urban visitors with little outdoor or hiking experience.  Some have none or little familiarity with basics of hiking outdoors most of us take for granted.  Some have never done anything more than walk around level areas at city parks.  Some have never walked in those parks more than half a mile with little understanding of how a body may get tired especially when going uphill.  For some this is their first attempt to embrace nature away from their urban world.  Back home at the city parks when they wanted a drink, there were water fountains along their walking route.  When nature called, there were restrooms.  At interesections along the paved path, signs had trail names.  And in the most recent era some merely pull out some tiny electronic gadget that brings up a park map showing where they are.   And if not there were always other people like them walking about they could ask questions to.

At more well designed kiosks at trailheads one may see good information to help such people break into our outdoor world.  But of course given the impatience many people have today reading anything more than a sentence long, one can expect many of them only briefly glanced at such kiosk information, too eager to head out.   Smiling they think, "Heck I've made it this far along in life like this, what's the concern?  Why a need to plan or prepare?  I though most people just grab a hat, get in their car after breakfast, drive somewhere, and do it?"

Foolish?  Well this is simply a reflection of the status quo of our modern American society today.   Is the average person less independently capable, self reliant, wise when encountering novel situations than earlier generations?   Probably.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 12:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You mean dayhikers actually talked to you? To my experience, other backpackers are almost always friendly and willing to stop for a breather to ask about the trail ahead, where did you start, how long are you out, where are you from, etc. Then, as you approach a trailhead that attracts dayhikers you see the people really change, but the biggest difference I notice is that dayhikers tend to be much less friendly. They might exchange a head-nod of acknowledgment, but often they ignore me even when I say hi well before we're passing each other. Maybe they are intimidated for whatever reason ("oooh, there's a real hiker"), or maybe they just are still too wrapped in their urban mentality.

Or maybe it's just I'm the only one who can't smell my own stink.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 12:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Oct. 04 2013, 11:36 am)
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You mean dayhikers actually talked to you? To my experience, other backpackers are almost always friendly and willing to stop for a breather to ask about the trail ahead, where did you start, how long are you out, where are you from, etc. Then, as you approach a trailhead that attracts dayhikers you see the people really change, but the biggest difference I notice is that dayhikers tend to be much less friendly. They might exchange a head-nod of acknowledgment, but often they ignore me even when I say hi well before we're passing each other. Maybe they are intimidated for whatever reason ("oooh, there's a real hiker"), or maybe they just are still too wrapped in their urban mentality.

Or maybe it's just I'm the only one who can't smell my own stink.

I've been noticing this more and more, also.

On the last day of one of my trips in Colorado this summer (it was a Saturday), we passed scores of clean, well-dressed, good smelling day hikers heading up the trail. (There was a nice little waterfall about 3 miles in.)

We had been out 5 days and I'm sure it showed, but I was taken aback at how downright unfriendly some of the looks we got were. We were universally courteous, greeting people, making way for families on the trail (even though it really makes more sense for dayhikers to make way for people carrying big packs, ice axes etc). Some of them gave me the impression that they thought we were spoiling their experience.

In the past, it seems like dayhikers have, if anything, been fascinated with our existence, however grotesque. They'd often ask things like how much our packs weigh, where/how long we've been, how one poops in the backcountry (really), etc.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've met such a wide variety of "day-hikers," that the word is practically meaningless to me, and I rarely use it. They range from highly-experienced backpackers to those who seem clueless. They range from friendly as all get out to aloof or snobby.

In my experience, there is no black-and-white among them. They are every shade of gray and in any hue. I realize that near big cities or highly-popular trails, some backpackers see day-hikers as something unique and typical. But those are not the areas I backpack. So the stereotype is meaningless to me.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It sounds like a typical day on many trails.  That's why I like to go where nobody else is.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One of the best qualities of a hike on a trail into the wilderness is that it will automatically sort out all of those various types of hiker, and will be a genuine learning experience, no matter the level of experience or naivety.

One of the main reasons that physical experience of the wilderness is so valuable to the human race.

Paved and signed urban trails, not so much.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I would add that I'm generally very friendly and courteous to people I meet on the trail--why wouldn't I be? After all, I'm doing the thing I love more than just about anything else at the time, so I'm generally in a good mood. I try to remind myself that not everyone uses the trails the same ways and with the same goals that I do. As long as they're not wrecking the wilderness or wrecking my experience, then HYOH.

Only very rarely have I meddled, ask a lot of questions, etc, if I thought that someone might seriously be in over their head and possibly putting themselves in danger. Now, if someone asks my opinion about whether they have enough time, skill, etc to reach their goal, then sure, I'll give my opinion. But I generally figure that if they wanted my input, they'd ask for it.
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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Oct. 04 2013, 10:51 am)
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We had been out 5 days and I'm sure it showed, but I was taken aback at how downright unfriendly some of the looks we got were. We were universally courteous, greeting people, making way for families on the trail (even though it really makes more sense for dayhikers to make way for people carrying big packs, ice axes etc). Some of them gave me the impression that they thought we were spoiling their experience.

This was the Gore Ranger trip, right?  Just up from Vail....

Nuff said.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Muir would toss some biscuits and tea into a coat pocket, metal cup in another and head out, I'm not going to judge people by their covers, no doubt many have far more experience in how they like to journey than I, and to me it is the journey that matters not "how far". MMV

I expect on my zero days, in Tevas with a small summit pack, I look totally unprepared out back some 30-40 miles and many days from anywhere to the casual passerby. Shrug.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 1:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Lamebeaver @ Oct. 04 2013, 12:51 pm)
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(cweston @ Oct. 04 2013, 10:51 am)
QUOTE
We had been out 5 days and I'm sure it showed, but I was taken aback at how downright unfriendly some of the looks we got were. We were universally courteous, greeting people, making way for families on the trail (even though it really makes more sense for dayhikers to make way for people carrying big packs, ice axes etc). Some of them gave me the impression that they thought we were spoiling their experience.

This was the Gore Ranger trip, right?  Just up from Vail....

Nuff said.

Yes--it was definitely a different demographic than what I usually encounter on the trails.
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(big_load @ Oct. 04 2013, 10:04 am)
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It sounds like a typical day on many trails.  That's why I like to go where nobody else is.

+1

I rarely encounter trails and when I do, it is most often just crossing over it to get to the next area without them. Sometimes, I will start at a trailhead just so I can "check in" but afterward, I abruptly shoot as far away from the trail as possible. Sometimes, I will end at a lake where trails end and run into a few other backpackers. If they look like they are interested in conversation, I will gladly talk to them but respect their privacy.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 2:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

They all ended up starving and ate each other to death.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 2:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I mean what are you gonna do? Tackle them? Call the police because they might do something stupid?
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 3:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't worry about those hikers, they usually turn around in their own time.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 04 2013, 3:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think I agree on how the trip went for the others.

All I know is good for them getting out in the woods, but not good being unprepared.  Maybe they had plenty of common sense and bailed like was mentioned.

I have started plenty of hikes later in the day than I wanted to with grand expectations of getting here or there, but then ended up bailing and heading home in the dark because I realized it was too late, etc.  Maybe/hopefully they did to.


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(balzaccom @ Oct. 04 2013, 9:12 am)
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I wonder how far each group hiked...

They all hiked as far as they wanted and had a great time...except for wondering about the guy asking all the questions, and acting like he knew it all.

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(markskor @ Oct. 06 2013, 6:27 pm)
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(balzaccom @ Oct. 04 2013, 9:12 am)
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I wonder how far each group hiked...

They all hiked as far as they wanted and had a great time...except for wondering about the guy asking all the questions, and acting like he knew it all.

That brought a chuckle.  That and the reference to Muir, and how he might have "hiked".  Live and let live, mind your own business, and all that...
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 06 2013, 10:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Don't read anything balzaccom related as overly pushy merely friendly, making brief conversation and he and his wife pleasantly moving on.

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(markskor @ Oct. 06 2013, 6:27 pm)
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(balzaccom @ Oct. 04 2013, 9:12 am)
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I wonder how far each group hiked...

They all hiked as far as they wanted and had a great time...except for wondering about the guy asking all the questions, and acting like he knew it all.

Ha!  Yeah, exactly.  Especially since I am sure we leave them with some odd perceptions as well.  My wife starts every day with a lot of clothes because she is cold...and then peels off layers as the day goes on, adding them to the outside of her pack.  By mid-morning she looks like the Joad family on vacation...

And my own clothes must certainly generate some comment.  I've worn the same shirt and pants for at least ten years.  The shirt is spotted with pitch from drying it under a pine tree years ago, and the pants have a nasty rip in the seat stitched together--a result of an attack by a particularly aggressive stump near the JMT.  

I am sure that the same hikers we talk to are talking about us as they walk away...


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(balzaccom @ Oct. 07 2013, 11:53 am)
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I am sure that the same hikers we talk to are talking about us as they walk away...

Maybe not. I've had several people comment on my gear and tell me I look like a "serious hiker".
Or maybe it's just my lack of expression, and the fact they haven't seen me gleefully skipping on the downhills...

A lot of them are probably thinking that you have stuff they didn't think to bring, and wish they had, or are jealous that you've obviously been out for days while they're cramming a dayhike into their schedules.

Guess my experience is different from some, because dayhikers are always friendly to me, and tend to ask me questions a lot for some reason.
I get "did you spend the night out there?" frequently, too.
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(Hungry Jack @ Oct. 04 2013, 9:38 am)
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Where's the punch line?

:laugh: That's what I was waiting for.  I was thinking,  "I hope this joke is good so I can share it on our next trip."

Ben


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(Owen571 @ Oct. 07 2013, 3:25 pm)
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I get "did you spend the night out there?" frequently, too.

My son and I got that one on one of our trips this summer.

It was day 5--we were obviously dirty, smelly, and hadn't shaved in a week. A woman asked "were you out overnight last night?"

I know not everyone pays that much attention to details, but it just cracked me up, since it seemed obvious to me that we had been out several nights.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 07 2013, 6:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I usually at least nod or say hello to people I meet on the trail.  I talk to people who seem interested in talking, or who interest me enough to provoke a question.  If somebody seems unprepared enough to merit concern, I might casually mention (in a friendly way) how long it took me to cover a stretch of trail or what weather I expect over some relevant interval.   I feel like I've imparted some useful information, hopefully without causing much offense. I've probably scared more people than I offended.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 07 2013, 6:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I say the first couple were probably trail running, so 40 minutes for 5 miles is about right.

the second couple only said, they were heading up the trail, which is code for mine your own business.

The third two just didn't want to be told when they should be heading out.

Ben


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