7 comments on “Hiking Curmudgeons Aren’t Helping

  1. Well stated. Additionally serious hikers need to set a proper example for the troublesome ones. I also agree with the observation of rides, free food, etc as treating hikers,(all of us) like we are special, this seems to lead to a sense of entitlement by some.

    • Thanks. I started writing this post with a very different focus, but I realized while I was typing that we need to focus on causes, not effects. Hopefully we can solve the overall problems that way.

  2. Obviously we are finding the same on the west coast and my behavior seems to mirror yours of being educator with a soft enforcer side, and staying off the trails during herd season. Just like with public welfare, where entitlement has become the reality, expected “gifts” such as trail magic, water caches, and feeding frenzies seems to have pushed hikers toward the entitlement end of the spectrum. I’ve read many a journals where thru-hikers start feeling like rock stars with all the attention they are given . . . and soon they start acting like rock stars. . . which we all know have less than stellar reputations. Let’s all do our part to stop the trend!

    • I didn’t want to draw the parallel with public welfare, but I knew someone would see it! And in both cases I think the curmudgeons have dominated the discussion a little too much– Forget the end result of people expecting what comes to them, and focus on the root causes as far down the tree as possible.

      There was one other area I was going to bring up in this post that mirrors all too closely current political and social arguments, but I’ll hold off on mentioning that until someone else brings it up. See if you can guess 🙂

  3. Well how do I start? That I found a significant portion of your post offensive? Well that’s true. It would be easy to take the same path but let’s not.

    First of all you could not be more wrong on your opinion about what value the curmudgons?! might have in this discussion. Second let’s drop the insulting language and approach this in a mature fashion (which for some reason you did with your other two catagories but failed to do so on the 3rd – unstated bias there?). It is actually easy to insult any of the groups – but there is no need for it. Third there are not 3 categories. There are only two.

    Let’s generalize a bit here and state that the group you are focusing on is most likely mostly folks like myself who are much older than the ‘troublemakers’ who created this issue. Now the older folks who are even interested in this problem are also almost 100% very long time hikers of the AT and a great many of them have devoted large amounts of their time and money to help make the AT what it is. They love the trail and think of it in very personal terms. This is the group most responsible for maintaining the trail and shelters and it always has been. These people have deep equity here. What they feel and think has not only value but they have earned the right to be part of the dialogue. So let us not insult them nor dismiss them.

    These problems we are discussing are not new and I suspect that there has been some aspect of them for decades and it is perhaps reaching a critical phase just now due to the very large increase in thru hikers and their disproportionate impact on the towns and the trail. When I thru hiked in 06′ I witnessed significant amounts of the kinds of behavior problems triggering this crises. And I have heard stories that such has been the case long before then. I suspect it is quite likely that when our older cohort was in their 20’s and we were out HYOHing we easily managed to piss off all of the older folks also and that they said the same kind of things about us. And I am sure we earned the disapproval.

    The above is a long way around to the point that it is not really thru hikers any more than it might be section hikers creating this problem. It is the age old problem of lack of maturity. I partied and smoked pot when I was out climbing and hiking every chance I got when I was 15-25 just like many of these ‘troublemakers’ are doing now. And I could have cared less about what anyone thought as it was ‘my’ world and I was going to do what I felt like doing. Sound familiar? Not everyone does this but enough do to allow a broad swath to be painted.

    I would not consider acting that way today. And in 40 years neither will almost all of our ‘troublemakers’.

    When older people get frustrated and annoyed when a group of mostly good people act childish and irresponsible it makes perfect sense. This is not a new phenomenon as humans have repeated this process for umpteen thousands of years. Some are less articulate than others of course in what they are trying to say, but what is going on here is part of the normal socialization process where the old try and instill proper behavior in the young. It is an important and necessary part of maintaining civilized behavior and the old know a lot more about it than anyone else because of the fact that they have been around much longer and seen and made more mistakes. If the young learned from the old as fast as the old would like we would live in a better world (I myself have learned a lot from things older people chewed my butt over even if it took me some years before I understood what they were saying and wish I had been a quicker study). But if you throw out as worthless even the attempt to educate and inform about right and wrong you are going to end up in a worse place.

  4. Great post. I think the reason for the “change” in hikers behaviors is all down to the reasons that they choose to hike. I have always hiked because it is a place to get away from the trappings of society and get back to something much more basic. I feel like the majority of hikers (more so new thru-hikers) are just out to get a cool story. The proliferation of hiking blogs, YouTube, REI and other hiking businesses have inadvertently introduced the lifestyle to a whole new generation of “tourists” who value completely diffent things. They essentially just want to document and even more so brag about their own little adventure. They see the trail as a place to create their own traveling circus instead of a place to absorb the solitude. I personally just choose not to frequent the trail during peak times, but I do see some of these negative behaviors year-round. I don’t want to be labeled a “curmudgeon” but that’s how I feel. I think it’s probable that all of us are “curmudgeons” on the inside, but I think the point of Ryan’s article is “how do you plan to affect a change?” I for one plan on being an educational enforcer with a grumpy attitude.

Comments are closed.