Monday, March 19, 2012

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is Selfish

Most times when I go camping I have gone with others. Either as a group or with one or two others. I definitely enjoy the smaller the group. I plan accordingly, the larger the group the less miles the more waiting around pointlessly (from my POV, to them not pointless!). I am really looking forward to hiking solo. I want to wake when I want to wake, start hiking early and go until I want to stop. I think I will get more miles and push myself further and at a more appropriate speed.
Despite this I am so looking forward for friends to come and visit and hike with me. Jimmy is meeting me and hiking with me for 8 days through the Smokies. Dan is meeting me during the second week of May to hike for a couple weeks through Greyson Highlands in Southern Virginia. At that point I will be within range for Cara to come visit and hike on some weekends (most I hope!!). Even further along, Anthony will hopefully join me along the Blue Ridge or in Shenandoah for a few days. Then I expect Jim to come out for a weekend or two in Northern VA, MD, and Southern PA.
I will often have people come see me - with plenty of alone time in between. This way I can throttle my hike. Hike early and long while I'm alone and have a much more relaxed pace when I get visited.

One really slow guy would try and get in front of everyone after every break and then not move over to let you pass

Back to the group mentality - I hear a lot of people becoming part of a group when on the Trail and beginning to hike with people. I have no intention of this. I like interacting with groups, and I hope to see the same people night after night at the shelter area, and even passing or being passed by the same characters. But I won't come to depend on others. I feel like this limits me and compromises my ability to make my own decisions and Hike My Own Hike. When part of a group, I put the group first, meaning the slowest and most in pain. That is my nature. If I'm committed to the group, then everyone is important within that group. This is good for many situations, but that is not the point of this trip. I am hiking the Appalachian Trail for myself. I've already come to the conclusion the the AT is a very selfish endeavor. It is the ultimate 'doing for oneself' and ignoring the exact wishes of loved ones. I have a T-shirt that says it all: 'It's All About ME' (ME is inside the state of Maine and the postal abbreviation of the state). I have been selfish before, but in a defeating way. I have, for several years now, turned that around and been positive, but I also had this underlying want to do something completely for myself in a good way. And I love Cara so much for being able to support me in this. I can't wait to support her in whatever selfishness 'for her only' thing comes upon her during her life! All that being said, I don't want to be apart of a group that limits me, or makes me do for someone other than myself. (I will help a hiker in need if I come upon one. I will give food, moral support, or even carry their pack... to the nearest road!)

When my friends come out and visit I will be catering to them, because I want to share this adventure with them. I want to share my love of nature and the outdoors. And I will NEED the support and promise of seeing people I care about out there. I will be looking for other people to build relationships with while out there as well. I will be open to making life-long friends. I want to care, and already do, about people that are out there already, even if they don't know it. I'm rooting for these people I may never meet to win thru!

Small groups with good people are VERY fun!

Group dynamics are an odd thing as well. I often sit back and observe, and participate, but I normally try to be on the outskirts of a group with interaction with one or two people. Even while leading I do this. When groups divide and sides are taken I try to stay aloof, I do not want the drama. Some people crave drama as they crave the air they breathe! These people will create drama where there should be none. This class of people aren't bad people, they don't even know or realize that they do this intentionally and seemingly maliciously. I have seen it time and time again. Especially in the backpacking Meetup group. I figure even socially awkward people want to be part of groups, but for whatever reason, push people away. They go to these Meetups, and clash with other people that might be hard to be around, just like them. The Appalachian Trail is a very much solitary adventure. I perceive that those hikers able to hike and sleep alone do better and have a better chance of winning. I have read and seen some people on the Facebook AT page already get off because they can't be alone. One, D~, went with several people and the group split up the first day of the Trail - obviously the dynamic was discordant. D~ immediately attached herself to another guy that turned out to be nice and pack her pack and forget to put her cookset in it. Of course this was his fault so she said some mean things about him and ditched him. And immediately attached herself, post-haste, to yet another person. She gets lost going pee in the middle of the night and, according to her, would've wandered to her doom had it not been for her new friend. Soon after she quits the Trail. Promising to herself, and to anyone who will listen, that she will be back next year with a friend that will stick with her. I would like to see a study done on those that hike, an 'entrance poll' and a 'exit poll' of some kind, that asks some questions to get to the center of a hiker psychological profile. I feel the self-reliant are much much more likely to climb the other end, and the needy drop quicker than a ripe apple on a windy autumn day! This of course excludes injury, family, or monetary issues that can face any hiker on the Trail.

One guys' blog has him gushing. "I love it" "I hiked further than I thought" "This is awesome" That is the mentality to have, and the reason to be out there. Because the Appalachian Trail is such a selfish endeavor you shouldn't bother to be out there if you aren't loving most of it! Be selfish, don't be out there for anyone but yourself. On a hard day, use the disappointment others will feel in you to stay out there; ultimately that shouldn't be the deciding factor of staying out there, just a reason to follow the "Rules of Quitting"

Rules of Quitting:
1. Never quit on a gray day
2. Never quit on a rainy day
3. Never quit on a very hot day
4. Never quit until you have that same decisive feeling for seven days in a row
5. Never quit in town!
6. Take a couple zeroes, eat lots of calories
7. Hike a few 5-mile days and see if that makes a difference
8. Your over-active brain is not always your friend on the trail
9. Never quit because people are passing you
10. Never judge any one else's decision to quit or hike on
- Borrowed from a former Thru Hiker

I will miss this
Time grows short until I quit talking about it and start doing it!!
And this