At heart, I am a solo-hiker. My hike, my schedule.
Rather than asking people to join me on a hike, I’m more likely to dissuade them from wanting to come along. The idea of slowing, or hurrying, my pace for those I’m hiking with is as appealing to me as watching the Kardashians, while being beaten with a stick.
Yet, for the first four days, I am being joined by three friends on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. You might ask why would I hike with three other people when I am at heart a solo-hiker?
The easy answer is: I love hiking with these friends. The more complicated questions is: What is it about them that makes it not only tolerable, but joy to have them as hiking partners?
Here’s what I consider when deciding who to hike with:
Are they “schedule oriented”?
If someone is worried about getting to the shelter by 6:24 pm, I’m more likely to jam a sharp stick in their eye then hike with them. I go to the woods to not worry about schedules.
“Hey, wait up” or worse “You need to speed it up”
One morning “Silver Fox” and I hit the trail in Northern Maryland, after the first quarter mile, he was probably 100 yards ahead of me. He started like he was shot out of a cannon. He’s a morning person, I ain’t. We had a wonderful day of hiking, each at our own pace. If he would have looked back and urged me to speed up, his body would not have been found.
“How’s the Job,” and, “So…what’s your next career move?”
When these questions come up in the woods, I usually answer that my next move is finding different hiking partners. Does that mean we never discuss what we do for a living, of course not. It means the woods isn’t just another networking opportunity to size people up based on their career, or lack thereof.
Can They Take a Joke?
That same day with Silver Fox, my knee was swollen before I started, no pain, just swelling. As we approached the meet-up point with Maverick and NoDoz, Silver Fox phoned ahead to say I was hurting. He took my pack from me about 50 years before we were visable to the others. I limped to the meet-up and sat on bench, asking Maverick to help me out by pulling my leg to relieve the pressure. As he tugged on my leg, I said, “Pull on it, pull my leg….just like we’re pulling yours!”
We had a good laugh, and yes, Maverick, I will be on my toes for the four days you are hiking with me.
The Rise of the Alpha Male (or Female)
“I’m going to take a little break.” “No,” says the alpha, “we need to make up miles.” Or, it can deciding when everyone gets to eat, etc, etc.
We all know the “take charge” douche bag that somehow fells he is the sole authority on all decisions, both in, and out of the woods. My advise, poison his (or her) water the first day. The rest of the hike will be better.
I hate seeing a situation on the trail where one person is losing patience, while the other is feeling pressured. That’s not fun. When you take time off work to unwind in the woods, do you want to come back glad the hike is finally over, or wishing it could have gone on for months.