Short-distance Long-distance hiking

On our first night of the Long Trail, an AT (section-hiker! not even thru!) informed us that our dehydrated refried beans “wouldn’t rehydrate.” Then in a trail log a little later in the trail, he noted (snarkily, based on our previous disdainful interaction) “it’s interesting to see how short distance long distance hikers do it.” First of all, our beans rehydrated deliciously. Second of all, WHAT is that supposed to mean? I’ll be over here with my whisperlite trimming my eyebrows.

It was two years ago, and I am still salty about that guy’s scorn of us “short” distance hikers. “Short” distance is still pretty long-distance to most Americans driving their Suburban from parking lot to parking lot, from outlet to outlet. It’s not worth pulling rank. We are all going outside–hike your own hike, right? But how much does your pack weigh?

We scored a permit to hike the John Muir Trail this summer. It’s shorter than the LT (211 miles plus the 9-10 mile hike off of Mt Whitney to the LT’s 272.5 miles) but possibly more intense. I think. There will be more planning required, anyway, because the LT is in my backyard. The JMT is across the country.

So what’s the point of walking around in the wilderness? I get the impression that some think it’s a waste of time and perhaps money, when a person could be at home, being bored or searching for awesome jobs, or getting out there and networking. Not to mention the failure to make money while in the wilderness. Money is the most important thing by this calculation! But why wait ’til I have both the money and the time, say, retirement-ish, but my ass is thoroughly busted? I’d like to be busted because I earn it by doing sweet things.

I can’t even totally articulate why this is so damn important. I have some guesses, both personally and politically. We are so wrapped up in the short term, but in the two years since that month-long hike, the LT was still the most interesting individual thing I did. I still remember the giant moth that was flying at our headlamps one night, and the red efts everywhere risking being stepped on. There’s just something so awesome about those little things turning into the big things.

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