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grouseking
12-22-2005, 06:42 PM
This is a ramble and question fest. I've been pondering this for the past several weeks. Is hiking pop culture? If so when did it happen? In New Hampshire, I think hiking is stressed in all the tourism guides. It almost seems like the "in" thing to do.

I guess that leads me to another question. Is that good for hiking in general? I'm glad that something like this is popular because it can open up new avenues for people who just might as well sit on the couch most of the day. At the same time, I look around and notice that some trails are becoming overcrowded. They don't call the Tuckerman Ravine trail a highway for nothing.

For me, hiking is about several things. I love the outdoors, and the mountains help to lure me to the trails. I am always blown away by the scenery, whether its a babbling brook or a sweeping view from Bondcliff. It also gives me a slight sense of being in the wilderness because I normally come in contact with some sort of big animal during the hike. I love all those feelings. And to top it off, its good exercise! But I think there is something that I love about hiking that I cannot explain. It goes beyond a love for the outdoors or a feeling of wilderness, I just can't explain it.

Back to the question-I was wondering what other people think about hiking being pop culture. In my opinion it has become kind of a mainstream or a cool thing to do. At the same time, I wonder if that it bad for the sport because its not taken seriously. I may be going out on a limb here, or worrying about nothing, but I think "pop culture" hiking could potentially be damaging to the whole idea and all the reasons that people go out. Trails become overcrowded, the limited sense of wilderness could become nothing at all, and a large amount of people have never had a positive influence on wild animals.

I'm not saying that us more serious hikers are helping our environment by trampin up and down the trails and bushwhacking thru the thick woods (thats a whole other debate) but I do think people who have hiked for years have more of an appreciation for what is going on other than newbies trying out hiking because it may be the flavor of the week.

So what are people's opinions? I am very curious, and maybe I'm worrying about too much, but I don't think so.

grouseking

Tuggy
12-22-2005, 06:59 PM
I think most people still think we have rocks in our heads. If I tell someone I went hiking over the weekend the subject quickly moves on. If I tell them I watched an interesting bird while sitting out in the woods ,I'm moved from the crazy category to the nerd category.

timmus
12-22-2005, 07:07 PM
I feel the same way as you grouseking. When I was a kid, I was considerated as a weirdo because my family vacations were camping and hiking in Gaspésie. Now it is impossible to have a camping spot without reservation.



...than newbies trying out hiking because it may be the flavor of the week.





Next week will be a better week, we just have to be patient.

grouseking
12-22-2005, 07:10 PM
[QUOTE=timmus]I feel the same way. When I was a kid, I was considerated as a weirdo because my family vacations were camping and hiking in Gaspésie. Now it is impossible to have a camping spot without reservation.






[QUOTE]

You feel the same way...I'm only 23 and I feel that way. I can only imagine how people who have hiked for 40 years feel about it!!

grouseking

McRat
12-22-2005, 07:32 PM
Good question.

I'm relatively new to having hiking as a predominant hobby, so taking this post with a grain of salt may be in order.

While I suspect there has been an incremental increase in the amount of hikers over the years - I think there has been an exponential increase is in the marketing of hiking as various locales compete for tourism.

Thoughts?

Mark Schaefer
12-22-2005, 07:35 PM
There was a time when mountain hiking was something generally done by the wealthy. Unless you lived in the mountains you might not be able to afford nor have the time to travel to the mountains. In the late 1950s and 1960s disposable income and vacation time began to increase, private automobiles and other transportation became affordable, and the interstate highways were built.

The other aspect of hiking is will it ever be considered a mainstream physical activity - perhaps not. Thankfully hiking is not a spectator sport, and for most it is not competitive. So perhaps it will never have the same mainstream appeal that people follow in the news or sports broadcasts. In addition civilized comforts and sightseeing will probably always appeal to more people than camping and hiking.

Although hiking is now available to just about anyone, most may never choose to join in. Unfortunate for those who don't participate, but perhaps good to ensure that the wilderness is not overwhelmed.

Chip
12-22-2005, 07:55 PM
Although hiking is now available to just about anyone, most may never choose to join in. Unfortunate for those who don't participate, but perhaps good to ensure that the wilderness is not overwhelmed.

I agree. The Pop Culture aspect of it is the marketing of the image; the clothes, Jeep commercials, pocket knives and day packs. It's not Pop to those who actually do it more than just the "once we hiked Tuckermans" group. It ain't all that Glam out in the woods. :)

sleeping bear
12-22-2005, 07:56 PM
And there was a time when mountain hiking was only done by a handful of people, and it wasn't considered fun. American attitudes toward "wilderness" have undergone a HUGE transformation in the last 150 years.

My favorite quote is from the 1860s, but I have no idea who said it "wilderness is a damp dreary place where all manner of beasts dash about uncooked"

Advances in clothing and equipment make it easy for tons of people to get out and enjoy themselves comfortably and safely. While crowding, increased social and environmental impacts are some of the major drawbacks to increased popularity, the benefits are far more numerous.

There has been extensive research into how recreation (especially outdoor rec) benefits people's lives. It adds to the quality of life in countless ways- and it has been said that a lot of mental health problems in this country are do to a disconnection with the natural environment. Getting out has been proven to make people psychologically as well as physically healthier. In turn, this results in less money spent on doctors and medication. Getting out releives stress, it's exercise, it's fresh air, it's FUN! In a society that works more hours than anyone else, and gets less vacation time in return, not enough people are getting out. This is also where the practice of Leave No Trace comes in, to help minimize the impact of all those folks. If you don't know what LNT is, go to www.lnt.com.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to increasing numbers of hiking, is just that they are enjoying the outdoors. When they enjoy it, they become aware of it, then they respect it, and finally they protect it.

I really don't like seeing or hearing anyone while I'm out in the woods, but that's what you get. I'd rather hear and see, even a lot, or people, and be able to get out, than to not be able to get out into the woods. The woods are real, they're physical and we cannot control them, you are responsible for your actions out there. Ipods, laptops, cars, reality tv, that's just filler, it's not real.

I don't care why you're out, just try and be prepared for the weather, and then do what you can to save our beautiful earth.

Chip
12-22-2005, 08:26 PM
...but I have no idea who said it "wilderness is a damp dreary place where all manner of beasts dash about uncooked"

That's GREAT ! I may have to make that my signature line here. I Googled it, from www.wilderness.net:

"When did the idea of Wilderness come about? - Top
People have held various perspectives of Wilderness throughout history. During European settlement of America, Wilderness was something to be feared. One settler in the early 1600s stated, "Wilderness is a dark and dismal place where all manner of wild beasts dash about uncooked." Three centuries later, an American author stated, "[wilderness] is the ultimate source of health-terrestrial and human."

Toe Cozy
12-22-2005, 08:41 PM
Sometimes it's great to be out and see no one. On the other hand sometimes it's just as good to see people, say hi, give a knowing nod, a smile of sublime contentment, hike on your way and feel good to know there are other people out here who get it too. Maybe not all of them, but many of them. We're all part of the pop culture, since we're here on the web. The real hikers are my 84 year old hearing aid clients who also happen to still hike, have seen it all, never used the internet, don't know about hiking websites and can truly appreciate the changes in hiking over the past, um, 70 years..... the rest of us are just different permutations of the hiking pop-culture from the '60s to present. Heck, 70 years ago, even those people were part of some kind of fad, movement, group that thought there was value in getting outdoors. Public lands are for everyone to discover on his or her own terms. For some people it will be a TNF, Patagonia, Backcountry.com fad that passes and for others it will be like gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. If you want to feel less like part of the pop culture, you'll just have to do your homework and search out beautiful places that aren't advertised. They do exist. I'm not telling you where they are! ;) And I swear there aren't any of those kind of places in Vermont, so you can just skip this state and search elsewhere....... ;) I think there are some in New Hampshire. But I'm not telling you where those are either!!!!

grouseking
12-22-2005, 08:47 PM
I think there are some in New Hampshire. But I'm not telling you where those are either!!!!

I'm from NH, and I have my ideas!!! :D ;)

These comments are awesome. I love hearing different view points. Keep it coming!

grouseking

boombloom
12-22-2005, 09:02 PM
Well, I'm sitting here drinking a beer and wondering if I can get time away from my one year old this weekend to get above treeline, and I spy this thread. By way of introduction, I moved to the Adirondacks 11 years ago to spend more time on the trails, and before that i picked up an advanced degree in popular culture.

I have learned that there are just about as many definitions for hiking as there are for popular culture. So, in answering this thread, folks ought to be defining the terms.

I don't think hiking, these days, is an elite past time, like maybe polo. Heck, remember that golf used to be fairly high falootin' but no longer. Hiking is accessable to those who seek it. It can be fairly inexpensive or very costly indeed. in these ways, it meets most definitions. It is not really created for mass dissemination however, so it runs into trouble there in the eyes of some scholars. of course, it is depicted in cigarette and car ads, and usually appears in at least one slasher film each holiday season, but that's the idea of hiking and not really hiking itself. Reading a thread on the question of whether hiking is pop culture or not--is that pop cutlure?

There's my quick two cents.

Toe Cozy
12-22-2005, 09:10 PM
Reading a thread on the question of whether hiking is pop culture or not--is that pop cutlure?

Oooo, ooo this is getting good, but I think we'll have to move the thread to philosophy.com soon.

CrazyDave
12-22-2005, 09:11 PM
Simply put! The more people that get out there and enjoy the outdoors. The more easier it will be to protect the wilderness. You noticed the drilling for oil in the Alaskan Wilderness was shot down again.
:)

jbreen
12-22-2005, 09:54 PM
While I suspect there has been an incremental increase in the amount of hikers over the years - I think there has been an exponential increase is in the marketing of hiking as various locales compete for tourism.


Simply put! The more people that get out there and enjoy the outdoors. The more easier it will be to protect the wilderness. You noticed the drilling for oil in the Alaskan Wilderness was shot down again.

Maybe we'll soon have a hiking boot lobbying group as powerful as the snowmobiles/ATV lobbyists. :D

Note: I have nothing against snowmobiles or ATVs. Just want all sides to be heard.

rhihn
12-22-2005, 09:59 PM
Not much to add to some excellent comments here. We sometimes talk about "we" and "they" in reference to "experienced" hikers and "newbies" or non-hikers. I'm not always clear as to exactly where these dividing lines are. We were all newbies once and got turned on to hiking by one way or another. Is hiking popularity really increasing across the board, or just in some places? If it is widespread, what is fueling it? Media? Advertising? Internet boards? At what point in one's hiking experience can it be said that one is a "serious" hiker and what does that really mean? If it is right for "us," why not for someone new? Are all "newbies" victims of "pop culture?"

Of course, if we want to close the door to "newbies" we could just send them a copy of this (http://www.nelsonrocks.org/disclaimer.html)!
:)

forestgnome
12-23-2005, 06:02 AM
I described hiking as pop-culture in a thread about over-use of trails. You will notice images of hikers everywhere you look and listen in advertisements. These days, hiker images are used for advertising every product imaginable, not just backpacks and tents. Lots of resourses go into advertisements, so it means that research has shown the idea of hiking through the forest to be extremely popular with the general public.

A little research will show the explosion of sales of hiking related gear. That can only happen when demand has likewise exploded.

Now, just like the idea of environmental conservation, the idea of hiking through the forest is very romantic and popular. Many folks have a calendar from an environmental group on their wall, but do little or nothing in their daily lives for the environment. Likewise, many people have a collection of hiking gear that gets little use.

I believe the our recreation has peaked in popularity and will plateau, then decrease. :) :) :) Todays' youth is lazy and pampered. Bad for them, but great for the forest. (red sqares are amusing ;) )

Happy Trails!!!

NewHampshire
12-23-2005, 07:01 AM
Forest and Crag has a great amount of information about the trend of hiking over the entire Northeast. It seems that a pattern forms where outdoor activities rise and fall to a certain degree as years go by. I guess we are in one of those current peaks (pardon the pun :D .) I guess the pre-WWII years was another period.

I think for New Hampshire you see it advertised a lot as a tourist activity mainly because its such a big industry for NH. And it affects more than just hiking related businesses. If a campground is packed full for the weekend, the resturaunt down the street is bound to do some good biz.

I guess this popularity could be two-fold, though. More people on the trails means more trail wear. But it seems like the many years of dealing with it has made some fine trail crews able to stem any big problems. And I for one dont mind having other people on a peak (well, as long as its not elbow to elbow). It just means there are more prople to snap my picture for me :D .

Brian

MikePS
12-23-2005, 07:32 AM
Interesting thread. My own, unscientific observation, after twenty-six years of hiking is that there is a slight increase, and a greater increase in people doing more remote trails. Think of backcountry in New England such as BSP, much busier than twenty five years ago, and remote areas in the West such as The Tetons, Ranier etc. reservations are much more difficult. I think the increase is especially evident in the post thirty five crowd, as we want to maintain our activity level. I think perhaps the number of new people has remained constant, but many of us are staying out on the trails in later years. I would caution using "equipment" sales, as many people seem to wear a lot of great stuff to move around town. Of course, if you look at European hiking it has been steady and active for over two hundred years. I am not a skier, but a wonder if their trends apply to our sport? Good Luck and have fun, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :D

grouseking
12-23-2005, 08:33 AM
Reading a thread on the question of whether hiking is pop culture or not--is that pop cutlure?

There's my quick two cents.

I don't know if it is pop culture, according to what I understood pop culture to be. It is a form of culture, since everything under the sun is culture, but I don't understand how the question on the thread could be pop culture.

My view on it...well pop culture that is. I'll use music as an example.....for the last several years, the predominant music in pop culture was boyband or teeny bopper music. It was out of control. Now things are transitioning into something different. Back in the early 90s, one of the most anti pop culture musical genres-alternative, ironically became mainstream. I think of that as pop culture. A large amount of people like the music until something else becomes popular, and the cycle goes on.

Back to hiking...I have definitely not lived long enough to understand the complexities of the culture of hiking, but I do agree with pretty much all of the posts on here, especially the ones that highlight a business taking advantage of the appeal of being outdoors. In one way, it is positive because it can get people out doors. In other ways, they may not be informed about the outdoors so it becomes abused.

I definitely have more comments, but they are jumbled. More opinions, please. I love hearing about this fascinating subject. Eventually though, if we're not careful, the thread may become pop culture! :)

grouseking

WhiteMTHike
12-23-2005, 08:34 AM
Hiking has become more popular in recent years but I live in a state (R.I.) were it is not even close to being "pop culture". I've had many trails to myself on weekends in the fall. The hiking I do in the WMNF is done primarily in the fall and during the week. With that being said I can't say I've experienced overcrowded trails.

What bothers me are the number of "woods walkers" who call themselves hikers. These people are usually very unprepared when they go out into the woods. I was hiking on the Kanc last October and I saw this mini-van pull up. Out pops this guy wearing levi's dockers and boat shoes, his wife was dressed the same way. No backpacks, no trail maps, no water bottles, no nothing. So off they go into the woods thinking it was going to be just a casual stroll. I wasn't surprised to see them limping out of the woods a few hours later being led by an actual HIKER who found them lost in the woods.

I think if people are going to take on hiking as a hobby that they must first learn what hiking actually is (not a casual stroll in the woods), get the right gear, obtain the proper information and above all respect the woods. I always welcome new hikers (I was new at one time) but I expect them to take it seriously.

giggy
12-23-2005, 09:21 AM
cool thread - and a darn good question - I don't know - when I think of pop culture - its mostly the TV stuff X-box, , paris hilton, rap music, britney spears, etc,..

I totally agree with the marketing tinge though, amazing race people all decked out in north face gear, every suv commerical is in the mountains, patagonia on newbury street, and every next person wearing north face gear.

but not that many (in the big picture) hike/climb/kayack, etc..

so I don't know - most people in new england have only ever heard of mt washinington and monadnock - try telling some one you climbed adams or jefferson - or better yet try somehting more obsure - - nobody knows about them except locals.

I would have to say the "image" of hiking and backpacking might be pop culture - but the actually hiking is not. most people think its more fun hanging out at the mall and shopping. to each their own I guess.

llittle off topic here but.....I would bet - that if most people on this board was on survivor, amazing race, etc - they would clean house. I haven't yet seen anything on those shows that I wouldn't do - you know your not going to die - its so staged for the TV - but show like that kind of make it pop culture to an extent. - at least I think so.

primal quest on OLN - now that was tough stuff and someone did die- thats reality TV!!!

Rugger
12-23-2005, 09:31 AM
Yes it is pop culture and places like EMS and REI have a lot to do with it by making the gear/clothing more accessable and desirable. Not that that is a bad thing, just an observation - I love both places. As far as too many hikers, there are always areas/trails/times that aren't crowded - you just need to pick the level of crowdedness you can deal with (I mind it less than my wife, who says let's try somewhere else if there is more than one car at the trailhead!) Bottom line - more hikers (or even hiking clothes wearing non-hikers) the more support for wilderness issues and the cheaper the gear.

Double Bow
12-23-2005, 10:25 AM
I agree with Giggy!!! :) :D :) :D


Hiking, the activity, is NOT pop culture. A very small percentage of the general public takes part in it. For it to be pop culture, it would need to be done by a large percentage of the people. The vast majority of people I know do not hike and have little interest in hearing about it.

Hiking, the image, IS pop culture. This is why you have your Amazing Races and Jeep commercials and you see people who don't hike wearing hiking clothes for fashion. People like the idea of hiking and adventure but, wouldn't actually do it themselves. Fortunately for the trails, we live in a society that is becoming more and more sedentary. As long as those couch potatos keep sending in checks to conservation groups, I'm fine with them! :D

Tim Horn
12-23-2005, 10:35 AM
The bright side of hiking being pop culture is that it will blow up and then fade away. Not unlike the Fly Fishing Fad of the 90's. I have noticed that I see more people in the areas covered by guide books. It almost seems like there are fewer people on the local trails and in my case streams. Could it be that in this day of easy information that the areas with the best beta attract the traffic and concentrates use in those areas? I have found in the last 5 years or so that the local "campsites" are rarely used. It seems that there are fewer people willing to walk in a mile or two and camp. At the sametime it seems as if the car camping set has exploded. More people are enamoured with the idea of hiking and backpacking and are willing to spend a weekend car camping and exploring areas close to the road. As soon as you get in a few miles and get some elevation the overnight visitors seem to thin right out.
Is it possible that the fitness fad is fueling a resurgence in casual hiking? People are in better shape and can physically enjoy being out in the woods?
Also today's gear makes it much easier to be dry and comfortable even in the worst weather. Random thoughts : )

KayakDan
12-23-2005, 10:42 AM
A few random thoughts..
Someone once told me sea kayaking would never be as popular as other sports-too much work involved. Well, to some extent,it's true. There are lots of "rec" boats on cartops every weekend,but sea kayakers out on multi-day trips of 20-30 miles on the coast of Maine-not many. Yes it's work,and a good chunk of money to be safely outfitted for that type of trip,so your likely to be seriously involved in the sport. If we meet someone on the water-we usually know them,because it is indeed a small world in sea kayaking.
I suspect hiking,and to some exent backpacking follows the same path. There are lots of "rec" hikers out there on any given weekend,but I would guess the crowd thins out after some distances on a trail. I don't hike in the summer( I'm kayaking!) so I can't say for sure,but I can tell you we never find it crowded when we camp in the winter. Often we are breaking trail,and never see anyone the whole weekend.
It all comes down to different levels of a sport. There will always be a crowd at the entry level of any sport,as people try out new interests,but it thins out as the intensity level increases.
Also,it may appear that hiking,kayaking or any sport seems more popular and busy because these are the people you hang out with. If many of our friends are hikers,we spend weekends with our friends hiking,we read books and magazines about hiking-well,in my world hiking seems to be pretty popular and widespread,and getting busier all the time-or is it my perception? ;)

I don't think our trails will be overrun anytime soon-after all,like he said-it's too much work.

cushetunk
12-23-2005, 11:18 AM
From what I hear, the outdoor "pop culture" in the east is not nearly as intense as the outdoor pop culture in the west. I guess our terrain just ain't cool enough to support enough pop.

Anyone have first-hand comparisons?

SherpaKroto
12-23-2005, 12:00 PM
With BBS'd like this, we become the victims of our own success.

On the other hand, sure, the average member of this board hikes a ton - when compared to the average populace. But when compared to some of the overachievers on this board, we are average (or much less so). So, are we, as hikers, members of the pop culture known as hiking that is sweeping the land? OR are we blinded by the immediacy of our small circle of acquaintance/influence to make it appear that everyone is out there hiking?

Easiest answer to that: casually talk to a non-hiker, or occasional hiker. You will find that we are mostly just a loose bunch of folks who understand the wonder of being out there. I have a whole circle of friends who never hike. I ski and flyfish with them. They look at me, and just shake their heads.

Now golf - that's pop culture!

king tut
12-23-2005, 03:44 PM
I think hiking is as non pop culture as you can get. I do believe that the great outdoors has become pop culture thru the soda/SUV/Jeep ads that show people getting to remote locations and being very caffeinated while hanging out w/ beautiful woman, and everyone tends to be howling w/ joy. As far as hiking in maine, it is very rare that i see more than 5 people on a trail in a given day. I would guess trail overcrowding is more of a NH "problem".

trailbiscuit
12-23-2005, 04:29 PM
Hiking, the activity, is NOT pop culture. A very small percentage of the general public takes part in it. For it to be pop culture, it would need to be done by a large percentage of the people. The vast majority of people I know do not hike and have little interest in hearing about it.

Hiking, the image, IS pop culture. This is why you have your Amazing Races and Jeep commercials and you see people who don't hike wearing hiking clothes for fashion. People like the idea of hiking and adventure but, wouldn't actually do it themselves. Fortunately for the trails, we live in a society that is becoming more and more sedentary.

Ding Ding. You win! Absolutely. Totally. 100% Right on. People like they're hardcore, extreme action adventure types, but, in reality they don't go outside. See, Outside Magazine. The image is popular, and therefore, part of pop culture.

The actual people that hike...not so much. I'm not cool and I'm not beautiful and nobody cares if I'm having someone's baby, therefore, I am not pop culture.

Rick
12-23-2005, 09:37 PM
I see the thread started off as hiking then moved into "mountain hiking" and then back to hiking.
I didn't see this mentioned, but in many states where outdoor activity isn't as marketable (midwest & south) there is nowhere near the amount of trail nor traffic, save scouts and youth groups.

I recall reading somewhere that there used to be a lot of older tramping clubs that were fostered by folks living in cities. Most folks that lived in the country spent a lot of time already walking up and down old country dirt roads that meandered through forests and fields to get to places and had no need to drive somewhere only to walk further.

So, I agree with others that mention the marketing and the image as being Pop while the activity isn't. Much the same as those of us that wore bright colored spandex (guilty...) and had purple or bright blue backpacks in the 80's, or had the jeans and heavy norwegian welt boots with orange or red External Frame backpacks and the old A-frame tents in the 70's. I look at thse as microcosms if pop culture.

Grouseking, You can't mention boy bands without mentioning 80's New Edition ("Cool it now" "Candy Girl") then New Kids on the Block :)

sleeping bear
12-23-2005, 11:56 PM
I didn't see this mentioned, but in many states where outdoor activity isn't as marketable (midwest & south) there is nowhere near the amount of trail nor traffic, save scouts and youth groups.

Less marketable, or less people to market it to? I'd be curious to know percentages, they might be pretty close.

I mean, the whites (and Adirondacks) get so much use because of thier close proximaties to large cities. The white's anyway, are a realtively small area, that sees a high concentration of use, as opposed to larger tracts of land with the same number of people.

And what do you define as "outdoor activity"? Hunting and fishing is sooo huge in the midwest, although not pop culture.

And, I totally agree with whoever made the comment about Outside Magazine, what a joke. Young models holding firewood, pulling up to a rustic cabin in a Mercedes with a kayak on top, knee high heeled leather boots, and Ralph Lauren wool sweaters. Nothing wrong with any of that necessarily, if you saw the photo (spread!) you'd understand.

sleeping bear
12-24-2005, 12:01 AM
aaaand...

I went to see Conrad Anker speak last fall, he ranted for like 15 minutes about how much he hated Mercury Mountaineers, the Avalanche, Yukon, and all of those other adventurous car names. It was great- go Conrad!

I wonder how influenced people are to purchase a vehicle because of its name?

Rick
12-24-2005, 07:10 AM
And what do you define as "outdoor activity"? Hunting and fishing is sooo huge in the midwest, although not pop culture.
You couldn't read what I was thinking??? :D
Sorry, I was referring to hikers here. I agree with you hunting and fishing are huge, but not pop culture.

brianW
12-24-2005, 07:53 AM
Hiking as "Pop Culture", I am not sold on it. I believe that most people that say they enjoy hiking only hit the trails a few times a year. Seeing hiking in ads is just an advertisement ploy. It is the "in" thing to be outside or at least to believe that. Look at truck adds, they have new owners doing everything outside, from hiking, kayaking, fishing, boating, anf towing around atv's.

How many folks do you see with NF or MountainHardwear jackets around? Do they all go out now in the woods or is it just a status symbol?

In my opinion if the number of hikers increase, that will only mean more voices and votes to help perserve these great places. As fo marketing hiking for tourists, I would guess that for the most they spend a day on the trail and 3 days in the outlets.

grouseking
12-24-2005, 09:20 AM
Here is a link to a neat article from of St James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. There is an entire section related to hiking.

Pop Culture Hiking (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g1epc/is_tov/ai_2419100584#continue)

grouseking

Grumpy
12-24-2005, 12:02 PM
The St James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture article linked above contains some interesting observations, but it is factually inaccurate to suggest that hiking -- recreational walking -- was not a popular activity until the 20th century. One need only reflect on the history of such rambling in, say, Great Britain. And as for its roots in North America, take a good long read through Forest and Crag, the wonderfully documented history of hiking in the NE United States, written by Laura and Guy Waterman.

The Watermans also did a fine job of looking at hiking as a cultural phenomenon in the book, Backcountry Ethics, and explored issues related to hiking in their followup book, Wilderness Ethics.

Arguably, of course, prior to the 20th century hiking was an activity for those relatively few who had leisure time available. And so, this left out a huge segment of the populace that today is not only included but also participates with enthusiasm. If popularity is purely a numbers thing, then I suppose the St James Encyclopedia article makes a point. If popularity is thought to mean something more like “widely or enthusiastically practiced by those who have the wherewithal to do it,” we have something else.

All that aside, my quess is that what motivated people to hike recreationally in the past is largely what motivates them to hike these days: The desire for healthy and healthful recreation (better health); curiosity about what is out there, over the hill or up that ravine; desire to leave the ordinary routine of our lives behind; and so on. There is a romance in it. Interestingly enough, in reading the Watermans’ books and some others we find there also is evidence of early “competitiveness” and interest in “extreme” hiking.

The greatest defect I see in articles like the St James Encyclopedia one on this general topic is that they tend to be “West Centric.” That is, such articles hold to a view that interest in nature and the vigorous outdoor life (including hiking) somehow originated and has its philosophical underpinnings in the Western United States. That just is not so. West Centrism takes a very truncated and distorted view of history and the world we live in when it comes to these things.

But perhaps that is really what Pop Culture often is about or does -- it is and provides a rather truncated and therefore distorted view of the world we live in.

This is not to disparage the marvelous expanses of wild and the great passion for exploring it that seems to be part of the Western US culture. Fabulous landscapes abound there and so do great enthusiasts for those landscapes and their exploration. Nor is it to disparage Pop Culture in general, either. It simply is a suggestion that taking a broader view of the world and history often is worthwhile.

Now, the question: Is hiking Pop Culture?

Darned if I know. I've long held that it’s just putting one foot in front of another repeatedly until you cover the distance from Point A to Point B to Point C, etc., and by and large that’s good enough for me. If I happen to be caught up in a Pop Culture movement, so be it.

(BTW, I think this is a great thread.)

G.

grouseking
12-28-2005, 10:45 PM
Thank you everybody who checked out this thread and sounded off a bit. Although there have been many varied opinions, it seems as if there are a few common themes. Still, I am not convinced on if it is or isnt pop culture, but I guess it depends on one's definitions or perceptions on everything. As I continue to be immersed in this culture and hike, maybe I will have a better understanding of everything. :)

grouseking

WCTDave
12-29-2005, 03:47 PM
I hope it is pop culture, that would indicate that some day it would again be unfashionable. I don't get out to be with crowds of people and socialize but for the peace, quiet and solitude. I don't mind sharing the trails, just not with people looking to improve their social image and who are unwilling to invest in the bare necessities (synthetics, boots, ummm...water bottles). I think all the problems associated with large crowds are only amplified in the northeast with our limited (relatively) wilderness.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to me when coming off a trail is that I had an enjoyable day, whether I was the only out there or I shared it with 100 other people isn't of much significance...though I could come up with a dozen reason why I'd prefer the former. Admittedly, it's a difficult viewpoint to balance because I'm sure others could (and have) made arguments for why getting more people involved with this "outdoor activity" is a good thing for everyone, but I'm not really convinced.

forestgnome
12-30-2005, 05:17 AM
Great article, Grouseking!

It looks like there is general consensus here reguarding the popularity of hiking. The activity has grown exponentially in the past twenty years, but hikers are still a small percentage of the population. The image of hiking, however, is everywhere you look.

It depends on how you define pop-culture. I change my vote to not pop-culture, while the image most definately is. Britany Spears is pop-culture, but only one person is Britany. Then you have millions of teens dressing like her, much like millions dress like hikers.

This is a good thing, because demand for hiking clothes is far greater than it would be if only hikers wanted it. The demand has resulted in great new fabrics and gear and gizmos. Ain't life grand! ;)

Jaytrek57
12-30-2005, 07:29 AM
I don't think hiking is pop culture.

I would say there has been a "boom" in hiking since the advent of great hiking sites like this. You can further speculate that one's perceptions have been expanded and thus the "appearance" of a pop culture might present itself.

Peace.

Stan
12-30-2005, 09:53 AM
As far as hiking in maine, it is very rare that i see more than 5 people on a trail in a given day. I would guess trail overcrowding is more of a NH "problem".

Shhhhhhh-h-h-h-h ;)

As much as I enjoy the solitude and self reliance of outdoor activities, being it hiking, paddling or sailing, I also appreciate the companionship of others in these activities. I've come to think of the outdoors as a cathedral or a chapel where peace of mind and spiritual grace can be found, individually or collectively.

So, to me the activity of hiking is the opposite of pop culture which I view as the commercial exploitation of the image for materialistic and selfish purposes.

blacknblue
01-09-2006, 06:42 PM
From what I hear, the outdoor "pop culture" in the east is not nearly as intense as the outdoor pop culture in the west. I guess our terrain just ain't cool enough to support enough pop.

Anyone have first-hand comparisons?

I'll take a stab at this. I grew up in New England and have hiked around quite a bit there. I have lived for almost 4 years in Boulder, Colorado, now, and am typing this from Jackson Hole.

I think you are on to something with your implication above. Similar to whoever said that the IMAGE of hiking has become popular, but not the actual activity. The big difference b/t out West and back East is that most people move to a place like Boulder, CO, or Jackson Hole or Crested Butte precisely b/c of the active lifestyle. So, to say that outdoor recreation is more popular is pretty obvious. Back East, I grew up with people who lived on the same land for generations, and they just live and work and die there, so the comparatively new activities and somewhat unknown to them. (Horrible generalization, I know.) Most of my neighbors growing up (and my family, to a great extent) knew about skiing and mountaineering, but never involved themselves in it. People in Boulder, Jackson, etc come there specifically for that purpose. In fact, there is a LARGE contingent of East Coasters living in Jackson and Boulder.

Still, even in these communitites, there is definitely the IMAGE of outdoor recreation that contrasts with the PRACTICE of outdoor recreation. Think Jackson Hole and you think the Tram and Corbets Couloir. That's not how most people spend their day, though, at Jackson. I've been here 9 days and stood in line for the Tram zero times. There's just so much else to do--most of which I couldn't even tell you the name. In Boulder, outdoor recreation is VERY trendy, but a lot of people do it just for that reason. There really aren't that many folks who would hike/climb/ski something that wasn't known, b/c there's little boast about. Not too many get excited when I talk about about a fabulous, though somewhat non-descript, trail around Boulder.

Obviously, we all have personal reasons for our chosen outdoor activities. Standing on a rain-soaked, foggy, cold, windy, viewless summit will probably never be popular, b/c it's just not marketable. Some of us have realized its value, but in each case we each have something particular to our emotional / spiritual / psychological makeup that makes it rewarding and/or desirable.