A Talk with Through HIker Roadkill

6:39 p.m. on February 18, 2019 (EST)
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I ran into a guy at the grocery store today with a large PCT tatoo on his calf.  In spite of the snow he was wearing shorts.  Roadkill has done the PCT and the AT with plans for the CDT in 2020.  He is a big strong guy and talked a lot about doing long days.  The new mantra in Oregon is "30 miles a day."  There is now a club that can travel the length of the State in a week doing at least 30 miles a day.

We talked about the difference between the Rockies and the Sierra/Cascades and the App.  The normal start date is around March 15.  He was hoping for going north to south in a dry year.  I tried to convince him to forget about that kind of stuff. 

Ome of the biggest challenges of the CDT has been staying on the route.  Roadkill has some program that describes everything.  I liked his idea of a portable solar charger on the pack and always carrying a map. 

A great person with plenty of experience, but someone I could never hike with.  Way too fast. 

9:55 a.m. on February 19, 2019 (EST)
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The best thing about our discussion, was his description of what happens to his senses after many weeks on the trail.  He can hear a twig snap 50 yards away and have a good idea what made it.  Becoming a trained observer is a positive consequence of all of that time on the trail.  Roadkill did the first two trails solo and met up with peope along the way.  For CDT he plans to bring some friends for the first couple of weeks. 

4:38 p.m. on February 20, 2019 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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"The new mantra in Oregon is "30 miles a day."

I was half way interested in this thread until I read this---what a bring down!  It seems like the Backpackers we put on Pedestals and Our Heroes become these endurance athletes who have no relevance to me in any way.

In fact, I'd be much more interested in guys who hiked the CDT or the PCT and took 4 years to do it without leaving except for resupplies.  All I can figure is people who must hike 30 miles a day either have testosterone poisoning or want to get out of the woods as soon as possible.  Just my opinion.

9:50 a.m. on February 21, 2019 (EST)
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Sounds like a badass athlete.

I like using speed to reduce risk at times but I agree with TW, it sounds like he's in a hurry to leave the mountains.

11:24 a.m. on February 21, 2019 (EST)
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In order to finish the PCT, I would have needed to start by about 1980.

I honestly believe that many people that are interested in mileage first are being chased by some demons. 

Roadkill is a big strong guy.  He currently weighs about 250.  He said at the end of the PCT he weighed about 180.  I might be interested in starting an old guys hiking group to see how slow we can go.  We will keep track of our progress with wildlife observations and species lists instead of miles. 

4:42 p.m. on February 25, 2019 (EST)
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Interesting ppine, thanks

I understand both camps as it were. Long distance hiking is a very specialized endeavor and it's always been romantic and fascinating to me to think about trying a long trail. I hope to get a chance before I'm too old and/or injured. I can appreciate the athletic aspect of it and I like doing hard trips and pushing my limits. That has a satisfaction all it's own.

But like Tipi, I'm ultimately more interested in just being out. I feel at home in the mountains and satisfied to be there. Leaving that environment for my other is usually done grudgingly. 

I meet dozens of AT thru hikers every year and must admit there are behavior patterns within a subset of that group that I don't like. I think they are right to have the tunnel vision that they do, but it can be irritating. I've tried to show some things and places to thru hikers over the years and most won't deviate for 10 minutes to see something cool. I get it. Every step counts and each day is part of a calculated goal and objective. 

Thru-hiker dogma can be irritating: another aspect of that tunnel vision is the seeming inability to view any backpacking trip through a lens other than that of thru-hiking. At some point, it's just uninteresting. 

What I'm also not happy with is the idolization of thru-hiking as if being able to take a six month adventure vacation was something to be exalted. There even companies that do this as part of their advertising strategy. I love my Gossamer Gear Mariposa and if you read it's description on their website they list it as an "entry-level thru-hiking pack". This sort of implies that if you own this pack, you are a beginner, green, and using the tool of a novice. To me that is not a good marketing strategy but quite in line with the dogma. 

6:15 p.m. on February 25, 2019 (EST)
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To each his own.  The only times I ever pushed physical performance for its own sake was in competitive sports, and the only times I hustled my hiking pace was when safety compelled moving along.  I like my beer and savor every sip - others entertain themselves, mastering the efficiency of beer bongs.  Totally different experiences.  

Some tell me thru hiking with daily Big Miles is a Zen experience.  I get the idea of settling into a pace and going long hours, but not Big Miles.  Running a marathon under 4 hours or cycling a century under 4½ hours loses that Zen feeling after the first 2 hours and just becomes a numbing, brutal effort.  Hiking 12 miles at low altitude over nominal terrain is my Zen limit - extend the mileage, elevation, or grade and I become a beast of burden, incapable of processing Zen thoughts.

Lastly some tell me it is a personal challenge, to see how fast they can go.  Hmm!  Seeing how fast one can tool through the JMT to me is like seeing how quick I can complete making love.  Speed gets you there fast, but some thing should never be rushed.



11:44 a.m. on February 26, 2019 (EST)
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He can't "be in a hurry to leave the mountains"  if he is out threre for 7 months. 

I like talking to through hikers.  They have all been pretty pleasant. and will take a short time to talk. 

I measure my time backpacking by understanding the geology, wildlife sightings, observing forests and species lists. 

3:06 a.m. on February 27, 2019 (EST)
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Maybe there's a cycle here, from "I'd rather stay home and watch TV" to that first day hike, then overnighters, weekenders, up to a week, going faster to cover more territory, then realizing the faster you go the sooner you can get it over and get back home, and the finally "ah screw it I think I'll just stay home and watch TV".

Me? Yes, please. I'm planning to do a 50 km trail run with daughter #2 at the end of June, then a couple of leisurely week-long hikes in Iceland, one with my wife and a couple old friends, the second just the two of us -- with binoculars and natural history books as part of the load.

11:11 p.m. on July 14, 2019 (EDT)
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I have never idolized any through hikers.  It has no appeal. Even the first ones I thought were crazy.  I talk to them though because they all have a lot of experience and time out there. 

I worked really hard in the field during my career the vast majority of the time.  We were rarely on trails and had to carry a lot of equipment.  We always had issues with time and budget.  Some days were really grueling especially in the winter.  For recreation  (re-creation) I have always had a slow pace.  I  like to look at everything, take naps, enjoy the view and imagine what it was like to be the Ones that Came Before. 

11:44 a.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
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In general, I see a lot of people doing things, not for the experience and pleasure of doing it, but just to be able to say they have done it. That has always happened, but seems more common now with the internet.  There is definitely an internet thing where people do things just to post them.  An example is that Starbucks unicorn drink that people bought just to be able to post a picture of it showing they got it, even though it didn't taste good.  For a food business, it is now almost mandatory to create exclusive, limited time things that look good in a picture, taste being only of secondary importance.   That may be part of the how fast can you do it phenomenon - if you just want to be able to check the box, why dawdle? 

3:01 p.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
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Some people like to go fast.  They are accomplishment driven.  For them that is where the pleasure and experience are.  Other people are driven by experiences.   It is a mistake to speak for other people. 

3:53 p.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
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Here's a fun thought experiment I performed: Assume a person can appreciate and enjoy a hike just as much doing 40-mile days and 10 mile days. Assume most other reasonable things are equal. From that person's perspective, the perinent question might become "What kind of experience do I want to have?"

It seems we all like being "in a zone", which I think is a good descriptor of the experiences we desire. A certain kind of "being". When I decide to go for big miles, it is often simply because I want to see more country. Sometimes it is just because I'll have a better view when I bed down.

2:18 a.m. on July 16, 2019 (EDT)
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Sure there are Big Miles hikers that do it for a personal reasons, but there are those who seem motivated to do it because they think it gives them bragging rights, makes them the Alpha hiker, or something to that effect.  While this shouldn't bother anyone, apparently it does.  I think we all suffer the company of a friend or relative who needs to feel admired or envied.    

I think motives are an issue only if they are driven by vanity, versus some form of gratification coming from within.  I take issue with the bucket listers who are motivated to brag about their exploits.  Take RV vacationers for example.  Some have been all over the place, but feel no need to plaster decals on the back of their vehicle noting all of the destinations.  Their gratification is gotten in the activity, not boasting of it to others.  Then there are the RVers that have those destiny decals on their vehicles. Some do this because their little ones are fascinated with the list, or something to that effect.  No biggie.  But some do it so they can parade around their RV village and boast - about all of the traveling they do, how luxurious their coach is all of the toys they own, bla bla bla... 

Of course there are the folks who don't fit any of the above classifications; these people have bucket lists because that is what they were programmed is indicative of what persons with ambitions do, and they fill that list with objectives they have been programmed to consider as worthy objectives.  They do New Years on Times Square because others do it.  The same for visiting Fisherman's Wharf, Hollywood Blvd, The Biggest Ball of String, and Yellow Stone NP.  Don't get me wrong, Yellowstone is a great vacation, but these are not pursuing objectives with personal significance, so much as traveling because they were programmed that is what you do in your free time.


10:28 a.m. on July 16, 2019 (EDT)
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Why do we care about what motivates others?

The outdoors is the wrong thing to have any ego about.  It humbles everyone. 

Cultivate your own garden.

June 2, 2020
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