I've been hiking alone since Chama, New Mexico but I recently hiked a little bit with some other guys. I'll tell you about them but first, a couple shout outs:
Gary and Bethany Zaborowski and Pam White: You guys have been great. I really miss hiking with Gary.
Dianne Foster, Bill Harmon and Hal Foster: Good folks, all of them.
So, in the past, I've hiked with and learned much from Sabine 'Foureyes' Pelton, Jason 'Hee Haw' Phelps and Bob 'Beaker' Turner. But more recently I decided that I only have one speed and that's Wolverine Speed and I was reluctant to adjust to anyone else's pace. That, coupled with the fact that there are so few other hikers out here, means that I do much of the trail by myself. That has some advantages when it comes to stealth camping and enjoying peaceful evenings but it makes navigation and picture taking more difficult.
On this trail, I sometimes see other hikers in towns but rarely out on the trail. Leaving Dubois, WY, I hiked for a bit with the Viking. Thirty-four year old Juri Christian was born in East Germany but lives in Iceland. Of course, he hasn't been home in 2 1/2 years - he's been hiking in South America, New Zealand and these United States. He's fast. I have to work hard and stay focused to keep up with him but the conversation alone is worth it. In between puffs of his hand-rolled cigarettes he'll tell you about climbing the Dolomites in Italy or traipsing around Laos. If he's not speaking directly to you, he is intensely studying maps of the trail ahead. He was the first to make it through the high route in Colorado this season and he has a plan to do something only a couple other people in the world have done: hike the Triple Crown in one year. I believe he can do it.
Once I lost Viking (he sped on ahead), I was passed by Ben and Dash but not before I spent a couple days hiking with them. Ben is from Maine and first hiked half the AT at age 19. He's quiet (at first) and humble (always). I have to be careful with him - if he says a particular section of trail is 'sketchy', that translates to 'impassable' for me. He still chooses risky, high elevation routes even though there are perfectly hikable trails down here. By me.
Then there's Dash. Also young, also fast. He's a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) grad and he's got his shit together. He hikes at my fastest pace possible while looking down at his Garmin GPS or aligning his map and compass. He's a little aloof but I'm too out of breath to call him out on it.
Here's what all these guys have in common that I can apply to my own hiking style: All three wear shorts, trail shoes and short gaitors. They don't slow for ANY obstacle. They splash across rivers, they bound over blowdowns and they ignore the views. They eat while they hike, they drink while they hike. I think they even sneak in naps all while hiking at 3.5 mph. Then, they cowboy camp at night rather than set up a tent.
Me? I'm still in long pants and over-the-ankle boots. I stop to figure out the easiest and safest way to cross a river. I carefully step over snags because I don't want to fall or tear my backpack. I stop to listen to the waddle of a sandhill crane or apply a thick layer of sunscreen. The ONLY way I'm at the same place on the trail is because I take fewer zeros and more direct routes.
Let me add to my comment above regarding the advantages of hiking with others: camaraderie, speed and insight. THOSE are the advantages to hiking with others.
From whom have you learned a thing or two about hiking? Leave me a comment and give them some props!
|The Viking holds up his shirt. It may be falling apart but it has more miles than I do.|
|I love that this sign is shot up. That's Wyoming.|
|My heart is filled by the beauty that surrounds me.|
|You think I'm losing weight? Look at Ben. It's just part of long distance hiking.|
|Wasabi almonds? Who knew there WAS such a thing? My brother Hee Haw sent me this and more in a care package.|
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