July 5, 2016
This is our last night on the trail for this section walk. Tomorrow, we’ll walk an easy 6 miles to Delaware Water Gap, rent a car, and drive back to Virginia.
Today’s walk gave us a chance to exercise one of our “trail mastery” skills: moving on from an undesirable social situation. Let me explain.
We arrived early at our day’s goal, just nine miles from our starting point, at a shelter with easy access to water. A couple of hikers were already there. They pointed us to the water. We noticed a picnic table on the trail to the water source, in a shady clearing behind the shelter. Nice! We could set out our stuff there! I suggested that we share the fire the other hikers were tending at the shelter and took our pot over there. No problem.
During the next ten minutes, we received a barrage of social behaviors that encouraged us to move on for the night! That’s my choice when I encounter folks whose behavior seems unfriendly, aggressive, self-righteous, or simply unpleasant.
These folks exercised their “freedom” to do what they wanted on the trail, including burning their plastic hotdog wrapper, chopping saplings for an all-day fire with a machete, playing loud music at the shelter, setting up their tent inside the shelter, and bragging about their free stay at the church hostel in the next town since church people “wouldn’t take a hiker’s last food money.”
Although I made brief attempts at “authority of the resource” conversation about each topic, my statemebts were met with vociferous argument and judgement:
“Everyone else burns their trash! I’m not going to pack mine out either!”
“I have blisters from hacking wood all day! We took a zero day to dry out our wet gear, and want to keep the bugs away!”
“Do you suppose anyone will mind if we set up our tent inside the shelter?”
Enough. Sometimes creating community at a shelter can wait for another day, another group. I feel sad, and wonder if I’ve let the bullies win, but proud of myself for offering the chance for discussion.
Perhaps I provided some food for thought without confrontation. Mostly, I felt sure that I can choose to move on from an undesirable situation, no explanation needed. That’s a useful trail skill, I believe.