Unrealistic expectations vs. practical experience as it relates to backcountry travel.

12:02 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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When I first started developing an interest in hiking and backpacking I had absolutely no idea how much I didn't know, and in fact soon learned I had several misconceptions that were still driving my decision making.

As early as the age of 9 or 10 years old I used to venture into the woods early on Saturday mornings...well, right after Scooby Doo went off.

These were short romps in the woods that usually ended with the realization that it was past lunchtime, but these Saturdays were the beginnings of a growing fascination with the outdoors.

As soon as I was 14 or 15 and able to earn some money or save up my allowance I enjoyed going to Kmart or the Army Surplus store to buy camping gear (thanks for the ride Mom).

I bought a book on survival and made sure to read the important parts. I also bought an insanely large knife (Mom & Dad didn't know and I kept it hid in the woods...cheap stainless don't rust as it turns out)

Skip forward to the age of 20 and I was working and living in the Mountains close to wilderness areas and established hiking trails. I also now had a couple friends who enjoyed hiking, though none of us had skills to match our enthusiasm or ability to bite off more than we could chew .

Twenty six years later I look back on those times with fondness and laughter. I leaned so much the hard way it is embarrassing.

Fortunately I met a guy who invited me to go hiking one Saturday with his hiking club. This was a huge turning point for me, at the age of 24 I was now in the midst of experienced hikers who had mystical gear, magical powers of navigation, and something called "Freeze Dried Meals".

I now greatly appreciate the way in which the members of the hiking club found a way to educate me and explain how to do things properly (and why cotton thermals from Kmart don't work) without being offensive to someone as hard headed as I was at that time.

At that age I didn't respond very well to people who were blunt, now that I am older I tend to appreciate it.

Well, all that brings me to my point, or my question rather.

In several instances over the past couple years where I have had newbies hiking with me (or I with them) who were... shall we say stubborn, I have apparently offended them in my effort to be helpful or to keep them from getting hurt.

Example 1:

Friendly young man with military experience who wore some cheap boots that were obviously causing discomfort and I was scared would lead to blisters.

Partially paraphrased -

Me: Hey, why don't we take a break up here and see what we can do to make your feet a little more comfortable...I have some moleskin and other things that might help.

Him: Nah man, that's okay. I'm not too worried about it, besides "pain is weakness leaving the body".

Me: Well, that's up to you, but I wouldn't walk for miles with a stone in my boot if I could just dump it out. (said with a smile)

After that exchange both our newly found camaraderie and his feet went straight down the tubes.

Back at the parking area he avoided talking to me and that was that.

Example 2:

Several years ago I was backpacking in Springtime with two other guys I had recently met.

We had been warned by the Ranger of bear activity in the area. In total disregard to the warnings (I felt) one guy was standing in a small field picking blackberries putting them in his pockets.

Me: I don't think it's a good idea for us to hang out here, the bears may consider this their own food plot...they might get agitated.

Him: The wilderness belongs to all of us man.

Me: Okay, but I'm getting back on the trail and heading on, you're on your own here.

Him: I think we should all stick together, that's not cool.


I was hoping that the members of Trailspace could offer their input on how they handle these matters. I realize you can only do just so much, and maybe I have a lot to learn about being with groups, but I tend to draw the line at joining in on dumb things.

As already stated I used to have some misconceptions about how things worked in the wilderness myself so I'm not trying to pick on anyone here, I'm just looking to learn.

12:30 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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I'm even more blunt. I think thats why I hike alone. The first story I would have said their your feet. With the bear I wouldnt have even stopped. I would have said no and just kept hiking.

2:38 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Your problems are not with the wilderness, but with the complexity of those darn primates that venture into it.

Example #1 is not your fault; I know him, he is a recovering masochist with a lingering foot fetish... 'nuff said.

Example #2 is a delightful conundrum. He has presented you with the classic chess move - a fork. Theoretically, you will lose whichever move you next make. If you stay in the blackberry patch, you are acting against your principles and are in his control; if you leave, you are acting against the societal principles he voiced.

Therefore, always carry one of the wounded rabbit decoys available through hunting outlets. Simply turn on the recording, throw it into the most impenetrable part of the blackberry patch, and walk away. He will decide to join you momentarily. ( I wish they made those decoys biodegradable)

You can't even pay for the advice you get on this forum. :)



2:51 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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I run into those situations all the time, especially with adults who are taking the "strongly suggested" training courses for Boy Scout leaders. We see the same type at orienteering meets - Newbie at his first ever orienteering competition - "I just got out of (pick your favorite branch of the armed services), so I am going to run the Blue course." (Blue is the most advanced and longest course at most meets). Inevitably, the guy (it's always a male in his 20s) either dnf's or shows up 2 hours after course closing time. Another case in the BSA Climbing Instructor courses - "I am taking the course to get the card. I only have my Seventh Summit to go, so I have lots of experience" (this one usually has gone on only guided expeditions and has had no experience with teaching youth anything, much less rock climbing, oh, and the 7 Summits are 4 snow slogs plus 3 on good trails, albeit mostly at high altitudes). I have gotten the riot act read to me by a couple of them for not giving them the card, just because they fumbled the rappel rescue scenario and came close to killing the "victim".

Then there was the guy who showed up at the Winter Camping course outdoor session planning to use his all-mesh "3-season" tent, got upset when the wind-blown snow filled up the tent (this after the tent blew away due to his not staking it down when setting it up, but retrieved 1/4 mile away by two staff members who took pity on him), then decided to sleep in the back of his pickup with camper shell, complaining bitterly in the morning at how cold the back of the pickup had gotten (he did not want to buy a new tent, since he said "I have an excellent tent already). The course notes and the briefings during the indoor sessions are always very explicit about how Donner Pass often has blizzards, and by the way, that's where the Donner Party got trapped and had to resort to cannibalism. (Can you say "neophyte Darwin candidate"?)

It isn't quite "you can lead a horse to water", but offering advice to someone doing the obviously wrong thing is frequently met with resentment.

2:59 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Mikemorrow, Yes I tend to be that way too, you can't make everyone happy can you.

Overmywaders, Yes the Fork, you make a good point. Considering my frustration at the time a wounded rabbit would have been handy.


I once went on a guided tour of a cave system.

There was a group of about 25 people, including three obnoxious guys at the back of the line who had been drinking.

I was amazed at the guides ability to bring their behavior back into line just by speaking casually with them from the front of the line and even got them to participate in some of the question & answer opportunities.

I think that is a really cool ability, which I don't have.

Sometimes I don't really care if someone is offended by what I say if it needs to be said, but many times the ability to bring someone around to your way of thinking without offense or damaging group cohesion is most helpful and a great skill set I wish to work on.

4:07 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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I grew up on a small selfsufficent farm in upstate NY near Lake Ontario. We grew just about everything we ate including chickens, geese and turkey. We were surrounded by apple,peach and cherry orchards too. We lived two miles from town and two from the lake.

I grew up learning to play in the woods with my few neighborhood friends catching frogs snakes, small fish, crayfish and other aquatic things.

In all the seasons we fished, played in the ponds and creeks and made a living selling real bait to the fishermen at the lake.

We built forts and leanto's in the woods and played simple wargames with sticks, stones,slingshots and even apples as ammo.

When I moved away and went out on my own I took alot of what I had learned in the woods to my hikes and camps in the larger forests of the west.

I even now think back to childish things I used to do in the woods that taught me many of the simple things I now do as a adventure hiker.

4:31 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Bill S, I figured you had a good deal of experience dealing with this since you lead & teach. I would like to teach at some point, maybe LNT or an outdoor course and that's one reason this subject is of concern to me.

GaryPalmer, we would have probably made good friends, it doesn't get much better than catching frogs and such. Even today haha.

5:51 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Trouthunter says: I would like to teach at some point.

Theres a real nice place to learn and then maybe teach in Lander Wyoming, opposite side (east) of the Wind River Range from Jackson Hole called the National Outdoors Leadership School (NOLS)   www.nols.edu

9:08 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Your problem is that you expect people to be logical and open to new and different ideas. It takes many decades of experience (some of it hard experience) to learn that there is always a LOT more to learn, and maybe even more to re-learn. Many of those of us in the "multidecade" club have learned this (though not all). My personal observation is that the vast majority of those with less than 3 or 4 decades under their belts have yet to learn this.

To repeat some things I have posted before -

Old Pennsylvania Dutch saying - Ve get too soon oldt und too late schmart.

Mark Twain (attribution) - When I was 16, I was ashamed of my father and how ignorant he was. When I was 26, I was astounded at how much the old man had learned in 10 years.

A professor of mine in undergraduate school - The true expert is the one who knows his/her limitations.

A saying from someone who I have forgotten, speaking of working with teenagers - Adolescents in full hormonal flow are invulnerable, immortal, and omniscient. Just ask them. (I have observed this of many in their third decade of life as well).

Another saying whose source I have forgotten - The day you do not learn something new is the day you should go to the mortuary and turn yourself in.

I am a scientist by training and career. One of the main reasons I chose science is that every new thing you learn and every question you find the answer for opens up a half dozen or more new questions and points to a half dozen or more new puzzles to solve. If someone points out a problem with what I am doing, I have learned to first consider their advice carefully instead of rejecting it out of hand, and then reject the numbskull's comments.

9:32 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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I could see Trout teaching at NOLS. He'd be great at it.

You seem to be second-guessing yourself, but I think you handled it very diplomatically. In my case with berry guy, I'm sure my response would have been, "Hey, leave the &^%$ing berries alone you &^$%ing moron." Followed by some other curse words.

The thing is, there is just so far we can go in how we educate people. In some instances, they are just going to have to learn on their own. And, at one point, maybe they will start listening to what you have to say.

Case in point? Me.

I'm a prime example. Much like you, I grew up going to the woods when I was a little kid and playing all day long. When I got into my teenage years, I lived next to the Smokies and camped there. But being a teenager surrounded by other teenagers, we didn't know crap. I spent most of my teens packing in crappy army surplus gear in an army rucksack. I made myself more miserable than I should have. Now I know.

Then I went into the Army, got out and I was that first guy. The guy who was just like, hey, I don't care. I was in the Army. I'll just hump it in. Got some decent stuff, combined with some cheap stuff, but never did much anyway because I was too busy partying in college.

But my turnaround came a few years ago. It was after my first child was born and I reflected back on what really, really made me happy. And this is it. Walking in the woods. And looking at myself in the mirror in my mid-30's, I knew it was time I needed to be smarter. Not tougher.

Heck, I come here and mooch information off you all. My gear isn't exactly where I want it (Will it ever be?) and I'm still working on my skills. But I know one thing. I'm twice the backpacker I was two years ago and it's thanks to you and other guys on this forum.

9:59 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Bill, first of all, KCET (used to be a PBS station, but dropped the affiliation last year) has been running some documentaries (2 I know of) about JPL that JPL produced. Really fascinating stuff on the early days of rocketry and how JPL got involved in the space program. Ever see them?

More on topic, told this one before, so bear with me. When I used to teach scuba and take tourists out on a first-time scuba experience, sometimes I would encounter a couple (usually a couple) where one person was fine, but the other one needed some additional coaching, which their partner (equally a newbie) was eager to give.

My response was usually this: "Okay, I know you are trying to help, but, everyone here who is an instructor, raise your hand." "Okay, that would be just me, so let me help your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/whoever and we'll have all a great time."  If it was the guy who was uncomfortable, that was a bit more of a challenge, since who wants to seem a wussy in front of your loved one, but it usually worked. It helps that when people are terrified of drowning, they usually pay attention and once they realize the chances of that happening are minimal, the rest is easy.

The bottom line is there isn't much you can do if people are aren't predisposed to listen to you. I had people sit on the boat instead of get into the water (certified divers, not newbies) because I could not convince them that a little wind chop wasn't going to kill them.

11:15 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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Tom D said:

.... because I could not convince them that a little wind chop wasn't going to kill them.

 But that wind is going to carry the boat away, and I am going to be left stranded in the middle of the ocean when I come back to the surface. I KNOW that because I saw that on "I Survived" on the TV!!! You aren't going to get me out of this boat, even if it capsizes!

11:18 p.m. on November 13, 2011 (EST)
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I've taught computer skills in a classroom before. The first few times I taught a course I was always worried about how I would do before I started.  After I started I loved it.  The main thing to remember is that you need to know whatever you are teaching thoroughly and be able to give it to the students a little bit at a time so they can absorb it.

I've found most students show up to learn and will listen.  It's the know-it-all adult teenagers "who are there just to get the card" that are the pains.  The ones that actually do know enough "to get the card"  usually keep their mouths shut and listen in case there is something they don't know. Some will even recognize a student who is having problems and ask you intelligent questions to help them out.

Outside of a classroom some people just won't listen, especially if they don't recognize you as an authority. I've found this when I try to help somebody who doesn't know me and I try to help them with their computer.  Sometimes they trust me sometimes they don't.  I don't blame know me and there are a lot of wanna be computer experts out there.

What gets irritating is when somebody calls me to come fix their computer and they hover giving me suggestions on how to fix it. I usually don't go back because they are looking for somebody to blame if something else goes wrong.

4:05 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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Many very interesting and, IME, factual comments based on experience. I, particularly like and agree with Bill's points about ...re-learning... one's outdoor skills, as I have done this all of my life.

When, I was young and going to college, I could not afford to spend weekends hiking, etc.. I would notice that, when I commenced my summer employment, much of the time solo and by choice, in remote wilderness locales, I had become far less sensitive to my surroundings and it would take a week or so, to get "used" to being in the bush.

I have also had a LOT to do with younger "military" types. My experience has been that these are very often the most "know-it-all" people where real wilderness skills are concerned and since I retired from my former occupation concerned with resource management, I avoid dealing with them.

I know now, after more than a half-century in this type of activity, that I "knew" far more at 18-22 than I do now and I suspect that Bill would agree with this.

7:18 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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There is one thing I'd like to say about this ex-military guy you were with and this is coming from an ex ex-military "know-it-all." :-)

This guy apparently served in some type of support unit. Being an ex-infantry bum you would never hear me saying crap about "pain leaving the body" when it comes to the feet. In infantry units, we dang well we're taught that your feet are the most valuable part of your body. We walked everywhere. You can't walk, you are a detriment to yourself and everyone else around you.

That's another part of the ex-military equation. Not trying to piss off any other vet's on here, but each military experience is different. I served in a ranger battalion where we humped consistently and did land nav, blah, blah, blah. That is decidedly different than a guy who may have been in artillery or the Navy or Air Force etc.

But... Once again, even my experience is different than out backpacking now. The army teaches you to hump in government-issued equipment quickly to do a certain job. They aren't teaching you wilderness skills. They are teaching you how to heck to get somewhere and to put it bluntly, kill someone. And the sum is better than the parts, so to speak. I was with the same team of four guys for almost two years. We knew each other's strength's and weaknesses. As a team, you can kind of feed on that.

But when you head out into the real world, you are suddenly on your own. Maybe you didn't know land nav as much as you thought.

And now it shows.

7:28 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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I find that I too am often far too blunt with those I encounter, I just never had the time or patience to listen to them spew forth BS, and much prefer to just put it all out on the table in the open.

We all know what stereotyping is, just be careful not to do it to the 'military' types. Yes most people that get out of or are in the military can have a very confident attitude. But, most of them(at least that I have met) have more outdoor skills than most, and are quite good at them.

However, I will admit that the majority of todays military personnel did not learn too many outdoor skills in the military, and they are just more confident as a result of their service.

My point is just dont discount someone because they say they learned it in the military etc. I learned alot of my skills in the military, and I am quite good at them. Orienteering for one. Only certain fields/MOS/rates in the military are exposed to detailed training on these things, aka most of the people you meet that were in the military probably wern't in one of them. Additionally military orienteering is quite different than traditional orienteering or general map/compass use. The basic knowledge and principles are the same but that is about where the similarities end.

Military orienteering involves not following lines of drift(LOD), 99.9% of people will follow a natural lod when navigating, whereas  someone with military orienteering training is trained to move undetected and so they will take some crazy out of the way unthinkable path, lol. Which explains why the guy came in 2 hours after the course closed! Its kinda a running joke that it takes about 15 minutes for a civilian to walk a mile, and it takes a sof operator 15 hours.

9:13 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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How about a loved one that thinks you are over reacting?

Rita and I had gone out in bear country 3-4 times. I would "teach" her some of the basics of LNT. And explain some of the rules of safety. Around the 5th time out I was packing up the tent, and I found a half a candy bar. Well I exploded! She said nothing happened so I was over reacting. The hike back to the car was in silence.

We got home and I started explaining again the importance of not having food in the tent. She said "Let it go" I told her I would let it go if she promised never to do it again. Or never go with me on the trail again.

Well, shes never gone backpacking again. And even when we car camp I'm having to police her. So I guess in away it worked out for the best.

10:15 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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When I was young, I knew it all, as I matured I realized I didn't know half of what my father knew.

How many young males thought that the older generation didn't know squat? we had the world by the tail. It's also part of our society. Other cultures honor age because they have realized, with age comes wisdom. In our culture, age means disposable. Maybe that's my 54 years talking. But I sure wish I had listened more and talked less.

I prefer the term.. "former military" ex.. IMHO, appears negative.

11:00 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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One minor point here, it is that during my service with the Canadian Coast Guard, not a "military" unit as in the USA and also with the Alberta Forest Service, I worked with senior SAR techs, from the Canadian Forces. These guys, were career military and their skills and abilities are beyond question.

I am not denigrating military personnel, per se, here, I specifically mean the kind of "egspurts" one meets who constantly refer to their "service" as an indication of their supposedly enormous outdoor skillset....and, I have met some who were older than I am and still did this, while whining about the weather, unable to cook on a campfire or routefind through the "rainforest".


11:32 a.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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TheRambler> +1 You are exactly right on point.

Dewey> Don't think you're denigrating at all. Heck, I agree with you. It takes a bit to get out of the military mindset when you first get out. It gets ingrained in you for a reason. I guess in some ways parts are still with me and probably will be until I die.

2:51 p.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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The guy who came in 2 hours late (we had already sent out the search team) was recently out of the Army (said he was a Ranger, by the way). One thing he did not know is how to read a map prepared for competition orienteering. Some differences from USGS and DMA maps - level of detail (rocks, downed trees, lone trees, copses, man-made objects are mapped), vegetation representation (yellow for open areas, white for "runnable woods", multiple levels of green for brush and thickets - around here, the really dark green is usually "3 leaves of green", and green often marks "fight", vegetation so thick you have to "fight" your way through it), maps are plotted to magnetic north, not true or grid north - avoids having to deal with declination. The name of the game is to select the fastest route from control to control in the correct order, no stealth involved. This is rarely a straight line. It is slower to go up over a hill or down and back up from a deep gully than to go around, and definitely faster to go around the "dark green" areas of "fight" than to fight your way through them.

By the way, Army Rangers are not the only elite military. Remember it was the Navy Seals who got a certain terrorist a couple months ago.

Definitely, it is not all, or even a majority, of former military who are super-macho, "no one can tell me" types. Just a few, almost always young, single round of enlistment types.

5:11 p.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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No one here said the Rangers were the only elite unit.

The only thing I said was someone from the Air Force or Navy. AF Parajumpers, Navy Seals, Marine Force Recon, Delta, Rangers, Green Berets are all on a plain of their own.

6:47 p.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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I think there are several issues in these questions. One thing to remember is that in the case of your two instances, Mike, you were there as a fellow hiker, rather than an instructor. If these were during a formal course you were teaching, you would have had more leeway in your suggestions and the other hikers would(we assume) be there to learn from your experience and teaching.

Also, part of the negative reaction to a person's suggestion, may come from word choice. Using more passive rather than active wordings may soften some of the blow.

Another factor to consider, and I enter into this when I teach, or am merely the guide on a party, is if the other person is endangering him or herself or you or the rest of the party by certain actions. If, in the first instance the gentleman was refusing medical assistance, however minor, that was his choice, as long as it didn't interfere with the others and the rest of the hike. If his refusal of medical assistance would potentially endanger the party, then that is another matter.

The second instance is more clear, as it was putting you in a potentially dangerous situation.

Advice is a very difficult subject and if unasked for, one can easily be seen as taking a superior attitude. In the first instance, you could fake a sore spot on your own feet and stop to put some mole skin on and then offer some to your companion. In this way, you would be showing that everyone can use moleskin and put you at your companion's level.

Often, demonstrating rather than telling, is a way to give advice. Last spring, our paddling club had it's big spring party with a usual six trips planned over two days. As an instructor, I sometimes teach courses to Scout Troops, who are usually, despite their merit badges in paddling, horribly unprepared for any but the most basic of trips. A scout leader I had taught, brought another scout leader who was planning a trip with a group of Scouts on a river in Idaho. When I asked the second leader, what was the extent of his paddling experience(I'll call him "Joe"), Joe responded that he was comfortable with Class 2 water, and that was what was on the planned trip. I said Class 2 includes water with standing waves to 3 feet, and he nodded. I said nothing more, but suggested that for the trip that day, Joe and the other scout leader should paddle a particular section of the Snoqualmie that is considered easy Class 2. I led another trip, but others on that easy section related the two scout leaders experiences later. They flipped not once, but twice, even before getting to the Class 2 section. Fortunately, there was a bridge and Joe and the other scout leader bailed at the bridge.

Apparently, Joe's experience that day convinced him that though he was more skilled than his Scouts, even he was not capable of the river they had selected. Although parents objected, his retort to them was to ask when the last time they had paddled a canoe in Class 2 water. After an obvious silence, he canceled the trip as too difficult.

In this instance, I could have expressed to Joe, that as a far more experienced wilderness and whitewater paddler with thousands of miles under my paddle, I didn't think he should lead his group on their planned trip. Instead, I chose to remain silent and put Joe on a safe section of Class 2 water with another similarly experienced paddler, and in a situation where they could be easily rescued by experienced boaters.

7:06 p.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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Gary, I have looked into NOLS and that is a great suggestion, I hope to do something like that in the near future but I will have to be able to save up some cash.

Bill S, Yes I guess you are right, I do kinda expect people will want to learn. Thanks for the sayings and insight. Even back when I was young & hardheaded I still liked to learn things if they were presented by someone who was patient.

Rocklion, Yes I am second guessing myself a little bit I guess. I work very hard to be civil and polite since it is also part of my job. I would like to be more effective at this while still being able to say what needs to be said sometimes. It was a pleasure to hike with you and the others last year, as you know, not everyone is like that.

Tom D, My response was usually this: "Okay, I know you are trying to help, but, everyone here who is an instructor, raise your hand." "Okay, that would be just me, so let me help your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/whoever and we'll have all a great time."

Very good, I will remember that.

Ocalacomputerguy, I have taught some at work but their cooperation was mandatory....if they wished to stay employed. I have also been called out to access repairs needed to homes and sometimes the husband is his own worse enemy trying to be Mr. Fixit in front of his wife. If I have to put up with some guy telling me how to do something I am highly skilled at I am going to charge extra for my trouble.

Dewey, I have gone on an awful lot of trips solo because I worked long hours and just couldn't meet up with others on their schedule, I also was usually pushed for time and liked to operate like a finely oiled machine, well planned out, methodical, etc. It would often irritate me when I went with others who had to stop at 5 stores on the way out to get "last minute things". I considered that time wasted and time not out in the wilderness learning. Other guys had their act together and were a pleasure to go with.

TheRambler, The young guy I was with in the first account had done basic training and was back home before flying back out west to go to school. I can't remember his name, he was in the  Marines and was a nice guy, just young and full of sayings that had already got to me a little. I know two former Marines, my age, that I go backpacking with from time to time and they are highly skilled and really help me push my abilities. My first night time ascent of Pinnacle Mountain was because they gave me a hard time until I agreed to go. Then I had to keep up.

Mikemorrow, tread lightly brother! I have tried to do the same thing a few times and it is haaard to do. I finally bought her a book so she could read and learn for herself. I really wanted her to go along because she is a good cook and I am a good eater. My wife decided she likes car camping not backpacking!

Jeff RNMP Hiker, Point taken- Former Military. I think you are absolutely correct, a large part of the problem is cultural. I personally feel that a lot of current children's TV programming seems to be designed to play into or feed the culture of disrespect and the "I know better than my parents" mindset. I though my parents did dumb things like taking us kids to pick corn on weekends. Heck..they sell it already shucked in the store!

7:15 p.m. on November 14, 2011 (EST)
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Ritas into car camping, and thats good for me. As We set up Base camp and in a couple of days I join her again. It's a win win for the two of us.

1:49 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Getting farther than you thought or is that less far than you thought

4:48 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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You might have found me picking blackberries as well, I love me some blackberries ;)

I had a really hard time not getting short with people who are making things hard on themselves and won't heed help or suggestions. My last trip was one of those exercises in patience! I really enjoy introducing others to the outdoors, but not when they are seemingly incapable of watching and learning from those around them.  I think the situation with the guy and the blackberries is a difficult one, as there were multiple points where your views were divergent. 

You perceived a high degree of risk, and may have attributed a greater imperative to the ranger's caution, while he did not think that the danger was significant and the Ranger's word only an advisory. Your friend however seems to have felt a greater imperative to follow the standard protocol to stay together and not become separated. That is understandable, as it is certainly often repeated and stressed by most outdoor safety instruction. So on one hand, you felt he was being ridiculous by seeing risk in separation but not in picking berries there. From his perspective, he sees you as being hypocritical by being so cautious about the berries but perfectly ready to "endanger" you both by being willing to become separated.

I can't attest to how much risk there was at the little field, as I wasn't there, but at the least loading one's pockets with berries doesn't sound like the smartest idea :) I wonder if it might have been possible to check for bears and use caution, yet spend a few minutes enjoying the berries.? If the guy had already displayed a general attitude and behavior or dismissive recklessness, your frustration makes perfect sense. 

I think word choice and demeanor in those kinds of situations is key- Maybe something along these lines?

"I hate to be a buzz kill, though I was thinking it might be a good idea to watch carefully here, and not linger too long, since this is a prime bear grazing digs. With those bears that the ranger mention around, I think I am going to walk just a little ways up to get a better view of things. You guys think you'll be ready to go in a minute?

5:50 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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This all makes for very interesting reading and is very informitive as most everything said here is coming from people who are instructors and or people who have had many years in the back country. After reading all of this I'm convinced that I'm mostly correct in my decisions to travel alone whether it be in the backcountry, motorcycle trips, backpacking foreign countries or what and when ever I travel. The exception of course is when traveling with Mogh.  Unfortunately he cannot come to Thailand with me as he at some point would most likely be perceived as dinner.

So far I have found that I do not have unrealistic expectations of myself even when not necessarly having the all the practical experiance some would wish me to have as I've always made it back alive and without help.  Since I mostly travel alone I end up not having the hassels of have expectations of others which greatly eases my mind and makes my trip much more fun and pleasent.  It does get lonely at times but that's way better than hooking up with people that might make me crazy and or the fact that I might make other's crazy (who me).  I have no experiance in "instructing other's" so I really can't comment on that.

6:13 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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errr I want to stooop,  eeeerrrrr I need a drink and go potty, errrrrrr my knees hurt,,,,,,,,,,,  Ok yes, we will stop for you agaaaaaain.

Thinking,,,,,,,,,,,,, Will we get there tiomorrow.

Does this sound like what you are talking about Apeman ?

6:51 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Erich, I guess we posted at the same time and I missed you.

Thank you very much for the input and your examples of how you deal with problems. I know that choice of words and voice inflection make all the difference in the world, I still need to work on that some. There have been times when I felt the need to defend my actions even when it did nothing to change someone else's perception of what happened, I have learned you must deal with peoples perceptions a lot of times, and you should try to be honest with your self about your own abilities. That one can be hard sometimes.

Gonzan, I thoroughly enjoyed hiking with you guys last February and look forward to coming back up. Yes there are always two sides to a story and sometimes you can disagree and still both be right in some respects. I think I got slightly agitated because the Ranger had explicitly asked us to stay on trail and get water at a stream near the campsite. This was at least the second time my hiking buddy went well off trail.

I can't say that I always obey every rule, I feel like some rules are protectionist in nature and maybe don't apply to more experienced hikers, but usually no one in authority will make a verbal exception for fear of getting into trouble. My buddy seemed to feel that this was one of those rules, I disagreed. It was not only a matter of our personal safety I think but also what was in the best interest of the bears needing a wide berth so they could feed undisturbed at that time of year. I think I did feel like he was a little dismissive of rules, and he probably thought I was slightly rude. I tend to be the kind of person who you can be blunt with, just say what you think should be said and lets make a decision together. Some people are offended by that I guess, I think it's a time saver and effective as long as you are open minded and considerate as well.

Apeman, I think that working with a group takes more mental work than going solo, but has equal reward. I love going hiking with people, you learn a lot about them, about yourself as I'm sure you know. But man, it sure is nice to quickly make all the decisions yourself when going solo and just get the show on the road and be done with the getting going part. I used to backpack solo with my dog a lot for that reason, I just didn't know many people who could take off from work for four days at a time who really wanted to go adventuring. I love going with two or three others and I love going solo when they can't

8:11 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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I have the impression you have not already read George Wallace's "Authority of the Resource". I fumbled my way a number of years ago into using more or less the approach he recommends. I find it quite effective, though sometimes when I get really irritated at some idiotic nincompoop, I can get "really firm". By which I mean, in situations like the Climbing Instructor and Winter Camping courses I teach and when I run a climbing activity for a scout troop, if an unsafe situation arises, I give 2 warnings. At "strike 3", I tell the miscreant "You are out of here! No more climbing for you today (for participants). Leave the area (for bystanders, such as parents who are harassing their sons)." In such cases, one of my assistant staff safely escorts the person(s) back to the trailhead and their car.

But I find that 99% of the time, Wallace's approach works very well.

8:56 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Most people I've heard of hiking "together" usually don't hike side by side. They hike at their own pace and meet up for lunch or at the campsite. This allows them to do their on thing but have some of the safety of hiking with a partner.

From what I've read about Yellowstone you don't want to hike alone because of the grizzly bears. Apparently they think you are sick and your herd has left you behind to be eaten.

9:17 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Most people I've heard of hiking "together" usually don't hike side by side. They hike at their own pace and meet up for lunch or at the campsite. This allows them to do their on thing but have some of the safety of hiking with a partner.

From what I've read about Yellowstone you don't want to hike alone because of the grizzly bears. Apparently they think you are sick and your herd has left you behind to be eaten.

The bears know when the weakest of the humans lag behind the heard.  I've heard them whispering late at night in the darkness,  sheepoles, sheepoles...........come forth.........sheepoles................

9:33 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Callahan said:

errr I want to stooop,  eeeerrrrr I need a drink and go potty, errrrrrr my knees hurt,,,,,,,,,,,  Ok yes, we will stop for you agaaaaaain.

Thinking,,,,,,,,,,,,, Will we get there tiomorrow.

Does this sound like what you are talking about Apeman ?

Yes, yes it is amoungst other things. With that beings said I have a condition (this is a family site so we will not get into body parts) that make is such that I must stop and urinate quite often and would just make the rest of you’ll crazy. It does not seem to bother Mogh. This is my problem and you all should not have to deal with my problems. Best I hike alone. I would be hiking alone anyway as you'll would forge your way onwards  while I had to take care of business. I know that I have never made my self angry by stopping when I needed to, I have made other’s angry esp. when people have that utterly stupid summit fever thing. All gets lost when your with a person who has summit fever unless the whole group has it (it‘s sometimes seems to bn a contagious disease, of which I‘m immune). When I'm with a person who has summit fever I drop my stuff and wait for then to summit and come back. It has nothing to do with the fact of if I can make it or not. It is the journey that counts and not the fact that you could summit yet another hill, at least for me. IMHO.

9:52 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Bill, your reference to Wallace is very appropriate. Trout, this is exactly the type of technique I was alluding to in my previous post. It is not necessary to be  imposing in order to have some authority in a situation. As I had said, soften the blow and make your suggestion wording a less active approach.

Another partial consideration is how individuals learn. I tend to be more of an experiential learner and less of an academic learner. Being able to assess who the person is and how they learn and behave, is an important way to keep harmony. This is along the lines of the old saw, "Never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table."

My past climbing and current canoeing expeditions  are sometimes with individuals who I might have little in common with or contact with in other realms. That doesn't mean that we can't relax and enjoy one another's company and the trip. Establishing and remembering the common goal, and that we are there by choice(I hope) keeps things in perspective. Also acknowledging that there are, what I call "sub-goals" is important. One person may want to hike slowly and photograph wild flowers, while another might be in a hurry to reach a distant summit. Ensuring that all members of a group have realistic goals, and that there is nearly always some compromise, is a necessary part of any group trip(and I would argue, a solo trip as well.)

You might say, "Bob, in order to meet Jim's goal of reaching the lake to fish, Bill has sad he would stay back with you and look at the flowers."

Apeman, I certainly have spent much time solo, though much less so today. It does have it's rewards at times. Before I retired from more extreme climbing, I had even dallied with solo roped climbs, which took way too much time and too much work. :-) Climbing a route twice was just not that enjoyable.

On my canoe expeditions, I have only once or twice considered paddling solo. The consequences are greater in case of accident, which means I could not attempt as difficult a route. And then, of course, we also get into the aspect of potential impacts on others and our responsibilities there.

9:57 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Bill S,  No I have not read Authority of the Resource. I did follow your link and have read the first page, thank you. His approach makes a lot of sense and I have seen a similar approach used in LNT courses, among others. I will read the whole thing. The link led me to a 7 page PDF, is that the entire article?

Obviously if people wish to follow rules or observe safety protocol on their own because they understand the reasoning behind it all, half the battle is won I guess.

Many years ago if I had fully understood the characteristics of white gas maybe I wouldn't have learned the hard way not to hold my head over my Whisperlite while priming. For some reason I expected it to ignite slower like charcoal lighter fluid. So yes, having an understanding of how things work (natural or man made) makes all the difference in the world doesn't it.

Ocalacumputerguy, I have been in groups that stuck so close together we could smell each other, and other groups that were okay with being within yelling distance but maybe out of sight.

I think the more the same group hikes together the more they tend to spread out a little, maybe not all groups.

Sometimes there is also the person who constantly worries about the guy or gal taking up the rear who is out of sight and while that is a noble concern, some people, like you mention, enjoy the solitude found by lagging behind a bit. It is an interesting dynamic that kinda just sorts itself out, at least I've always thought so.

10:21 p.m. on November 15, 2011 (EST)
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Erich, I have found that the older I get, the more the guys or gals (usually newbies) who ask if they can tag along are much younger, haha.

It is with them that I wish to avoid seeming like I'm asserting an authority which I don't technically have. I don't mean to come across that way, but some have taken it that way so your suggestions are helpful.

I seem to do well with other experienced hikers and really enjoy tossing around ideas about how to proceed, or which route to take, or even getting a second opinion on things when I am tired or not sure of something. I think sometimes newbies get frustrated at having to learn so much if they had the expectation the trip would be  "fun and carefree".

I have had more than one teacher tell me I am an experiential learner and although I love reading and will read multiple books at a time, if I'm not out doing what I'm reading about I don't always grasp the full concept very well and sometimes loose complete interest in reading any further.

I often take books on hikes to read about fishing, or Entomology, or Ecology because my retention is better if I 'do' and 'read' at the same time.

12:42 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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what is a newbie?new to what?bivouac in the military is nothing like enjoyable backpacking!what aspect of outdoor enjoyment reminds you of being shot at without orange on?

12:56 a.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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"Newbie or noob is a slang term for a novice or necomer, or somebody inexperienced in any profession or activity.  It can have derogatory connotations, but is also often used for descriptive purposes only, without a value judgment."*


*garnered from Wikipeida

5:49 p.m. on November 16, 2011 (EST)
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My dad has always known more than me, and I've always known it, even when I was 18 and indestructable - I'm just not bitter about that fact any more. He is never one to lord it over me either...

Now I've learned from Him, echoeing the sentiments of Trailspace's most esteemed members (see most all posts above) that he always knows more because he always questions what he thinks he knows.

My son sometimes mentions that he can't wait to grow up and get out of school, and I remind him that we never get out of school - the campus just changes along the way...

I have learned that backcountry travel can certainly bring some unique personality traits to the surface...


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