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Thread: Hiking is less fun in the internet age

  1. #1
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Hiking is less fun in the internet age

    I'm bored. So I'm starting a conversation, curious to hear what others think. I've noticed that I'm less psyched to get into the Whites than I have been in years past. I think there are many reason. They include: 1) Parking challenges at EVERY trailhead (even those little pullouts often are at their 3-4 car capacity early); 2) Major trails are crowded. All of them; 3) Back country shelters and tentsites are invariably full early; 4) There's a perception of a 'right' way to do everything in the woods; 5) LNT is hyper-important. I get it, LNT has always been important, but 20 years ago you could camp out less than the recommended distance from trails/ponds/etc, and no one would notice or care because you're probably the only person who is going to do so that year, or maybe the next several years, and the impact will be zero [go ahead and break out the flamethrowers]; 6) EVERYTHING has been done. There is no adventure that someone hasn't already done and written up somewhere.

    All of these issues are on the spectrum from 'obviously true' to 'debatable' to 'oh-my-god get a grip you whiner.' But collectively they impact my excitement about the Whites. Let's discuss.
    Sure. Why not.

  2. #2
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    There are lots of places to go in NH that aren't the Whites. Southern NH has TONS of places to hike. Maybe do the NH500 which are largely quiet bushwhacks. Or check out your community's local conservation areas. Or hike to someplace that isn't a summit like like a lake or pond.

    I know the Whites get all the glory, and that's where the people are, it's worth seeking out where they are not.
    Proprietor, NH 52 With A View Facebook group
    Author, New Hampshire's 52 With A View - A Hiker's Guide
    Author, AMC Southern NH Trail Guide, 5th Edition - Coming in 2020!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Good points all.

    My antidote to the first three was best addressed when I finished the "list" and felt the liberation to wander aimlessly where others generally have no interest, or perhaps time, to go. I still keep lists but they are incidental to the destination, not the destination itself. This includes more remote ares of New England as well as New Brunswick and the Gaspe in Canada. It includes longer trips to places outside New England. A word of caution, though, some of these also get crowded but it is for a reason ... there is something different or spectacular to see and you probably won't get bored with that.

    Hiking during the week and certain seasons helps but the crowds realize this too. I have a similar challenge in paddling as I like quiet with nature itself at ease with my presence and no stinkpots careening about. So, I go where they can't.

    As for 4) and 5), I suspect you don't need, deserve nor tolerate lectures from the know-it-all holier-than-thou crowd ... beside, it makes the outdoor outlaw a bit more fun.

    6) would be boring if it were true but consider: " 'The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.' The source of this citation is 'La Prisonnière', the fifth volume of 'Remembrance of Things Past' (also known as) 'In Search of Lost Time' - perhaps the most celebrated work by Marcel Proust."

  4. #4
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    Yes, I have dramatically scaled back the internet based research and planning of my backpacking trips over the years. Maps and WM guide are sufficient and preferred at this point. Some of it is confidence based on previous trips. A lot of it is a desire to preserve a sense of "wildness" for myself.

    I no longer expect to "meet nobody" on an off-trail hike to a pond or waterfall or summit in the Whites. I have met others on the way into and out of some of the more remote ponds. Those people are doing the same thing as me, trying to find a little bit of solitude.

    I do hold out hope that the beaver ponds, remote cliffs, and helipads are still safe. As for "doing something no one else has done", I guess I am just not wired that way. I do like to do things I have never done which is a different thing altogether.

  5. #5
    Senior Member TomK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    5) LNT is hyper-important. I get it, LNT has always been important, but 20 years ago you could camp out less than the recommended distance from trails/ponds/etc, and no one would notice or care because you're probably the only person who is going to do so that year, or maybe the next several years, and the impact will be zero [go ahead and break out the flamethrowers]
    No flame here. The statute of limitations has probably passed, so I will say that in the '80s and late '70s, there *may* have been a time or two that I camped a *few* feet closer to the trail than I probably should have.


    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    6) EVERYTHING has been done. There is no adventure that someone hasn't already done and written up somewhere.
    Maybe everything *has* been done by someone. But have *you* done everything that you think would give you satisfaction and pleasure at having done it? If not, get to it!

    TomK
    Last edited by TomK; 04-09-2020 at 12:42 PM. Reason: typo
    Never loved your plains, your gentle valleys/Your drowsy country lanes and pleached alleys.
    I want my hills, the trail that scorns the hollow/Up, up the ragged shale where few will follow.

    High on my hills of dream, dear hills that know me/And then how fair will seem the lands below me
    How pure at vesper time, the far bells chiming/God, give me strength to climb, and hills for climbing. "Hills" - Arthur Guiterman

  6. #6
    Senior Member B the Hiker's Avatar
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    There's a beautiful Buddhist movie called, "The Cup." It's about young novitiates in a monastery who want to watch the World Cup. Near the end of the movie, the teacher asks, "Is it possible to cover the paths we walk on in soft leather?" A student ponders, and replies, "no." "That's right," says the teacher. This is why we wear soft leather on our feet; to tread lightly upon the Earth."

    I go outdoors to be awestruck at the natural beauty the world offers, and out of sheer respect I try to tread lightly on it. At this point, I look at it as part of the craft. I see people building fires, tossing their fruit peels into the woods, and widening the trail at the muddy parts instead of walking up the center, and it strikes me that they're still part of the J.V. team. But then again, I suspect those are the same people who take selfies: they're there to celebrate themselves and feel bigger, not to feel smaller and part of something larger. Just a thought.

    I hiked the Cohos Trail a few summers back. Lot's of gorgeous hiking, and almost never saw another soul. As others have noted, once one gets out of the Whites, the crowds disperse dramatically.

    Brian

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    I've been tempted to create 'the list of peaks that are not on any other list'.

    If you want to help me, we could create a new 'challenge'. I don't like that word, but it seems to be popular.

    How about a quest?
    Tom Rankin
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    1) Parking is a challenge not only in the Whites but in the ADK's also, even for Bear or Monadnock. That may be one of the reasons why I like to solo, I can get up at some silly time and get to a trailhead before others arrive or go late in the day for a sunset when many have left. Getting teens up early...... 2) Major trails are crowded. In many cases, that's how they got to be major trails. My son may or may not have his final year of Scout Camp. If they cancel it, I'm thinking we travel to see my brother in SC or we do a couple of days backpacking, thinking of someplace near where I've been a lot but not on the usual trails. I'd say where but most of us know these places & why would I advertise it. 3) Back country shelters and tent sites are invariably full early; Do we need more? If the outdoors was being ignored Vs. loved to death, we'd have more TP right but fewer trees. 4) There's a perception of a 'right' way to do everything in the woods; Even now, I don't have time to read what some perceived expert believes is the right way to do things. 5) LNT has always been important, ten years ago you did not have to worry about anyone seeing or it being brought up in the internet. (Well, there was this one time here over 20 years ago but I'm not telling on the board, you can PM me if you want to know) 6) EVERYTHING has been done. Who lives for what everyone else has done or seen. Who cares what someone else did or went. Hence the mantra, hike your own hike.

    I've been blessed/cursed to love planning trips, several I've never been able to come close to do doing. At one point over 20 years ago I bought a Pigsah National Forest map for NC. I looked at it and forgot about until my brother, the bike racer mentioned he wanted to do some hiking and backpacking. Maybe in a few years I'll get to use that NM Gazetteer I bought in 2002. I also planned a two week trip in CA & OR in 2004 that never happened.

    Some of the things that I would say I could put on the "I did this list" shouldn't have been done in the first place. 22 hours to Katahdin and back from Manchester, CT was one, doing Leconte during the time T.S. Dennis was going through the area was another dumb thing. Seeing sunrise over Half Dome from Sentinel Dome or Sunset at the Grand Canyon were amazing even if they involved only a short hike to one and no real hiking at the other. Seeing the sun reflect off the Atlantic from Bond one day & seeing the snowy caps of the Presidentials on very clear winter days from Monadnock. I don't hike in VT often but the ability to see NH and the ADK peaks at the same time, well, turning around, never gets old having spent a bunch of time in both places. It's nice even seeing the Catskills from Bear, Race or Everett.

    Solo ascending Zugspitze was neat, solo descending it and while descending learning the German word for glacier and the difference between the trails in the Reintal and Hollental valleys. Reintal, very nice, Hollental, nerve racking

    Funny story, with my son in scouts, sharing the outdoors with others, especially kids who normally wouldn't go without scouts. One of the boys on a camp out at Monadnock was moaning and groaning all the way up on why are we doing this, after all, we are just going back to camp. However, once he reached the top and saw the view, he said, "oh, that's why we do this". Thankfully it wasn't raining or fogged in. (We probably wouldn't have gone out of the trees had it been raining) Seeing others do stuff they normally wouldn't do is very rewarding. Also trying to rewrite my own opinion on scout groups as prior to having children, some of the dumbest things I saw were people who got split up from scout groups.

    The other thing I've done twice now is a 61 mile canoe rides down the Allagash, it's been the best scout trip I've been on & one of the best, probably the best experience with my son as you spend so much time in the boat. If we go next year, hopefully we will, I'll get to see him with another teenager in his boat, he's earned the challenge of being the senior person in a canoe. (He'll be paired with a stronger paddler while I'll get a near novice again.)

    One thing I haven't done yet as an adventure and I don't plan too, Some people have told stories of having to crawl to a summit because of the wind being so strong, thanks but no thanks. One I won't do again although it was fun at the time is making Dave M. traverse the Bonds in the rain. (It wasn't raining at the beginning mile )
    Last edited by Mike P.; 04-09-2020 at 02:15 PM.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  9. #9
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    I must admit that non winter hikes to the 4Ks of late are mostly if someone else wants or needs them. There are plenty of folks working on the lists that do not feel comfortable soloing and I don't mind going. That's said what has recharged my interests of late is going on redline hikes with folks seriously doing the redline. The WMG redline does get to spots that I have never been to or haven't been there for many years. The folks I usually hike with are well along on their lists so the remaining ones tend to be in the more obscure spots of the WMNF. Some of them are downright WTF hikes where the standard question if what was someone thinking in past years that would have caused someone to build a trail and maintain it. In many instances I expect the only traffic these trails get is other redliners. The other interesting aspect is the creative loops that get formed to maximize the "red mileage" in a day and the leave no stragglers behind credo. At my request we do not "follow the beep" traditionally with preloaded tracks from past hikers. The technology may be on but if mostly map compass and dead reckoning.

    The other recent motivation is the availability of the Lidar data for bushwhacking. There are no assurances that passage through the woods is good or even possible but it is fun to retrace some logging era remains that werenot readily visible until the Lidar data became readily available.

    One of things I learned years ago that in the vast majority of the whites below treeline, once you step off and get out of sight of the trail and set up a tent, once the dayhikers have passed by the woods are still plenty wild and quiet. When I observe the usage I see far more dayhikers and trailrunners than I see folks with overnight gear except AT and on the faster path to popular campsite like 13 falls. This has not always been that way, roam around the woods in the Pemi and it not unusual to trip over an old fire ring and a couple of old beer cans at old hardened sites that may not have been used since the backcountry boom of the early eighties.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. Parking and traffic challenges are becoming more and more universal everywhere, not just at popular destinations, and as someone who drives 3-4 hours one way for a hike that is a huge deterrent and source of stress. And of course crowds. Anywhere that anything is even remotely worth looking at is suffocated with people. Yes I can find solitude and tranquility in some nondescript patch of woods in the middle of nowhere but I want a "wow" experience when I get out there. And nowadays "wow" means crowded. And to tell people to just "avoid weekends" or only do "sunrise and sunset" hikes just isn't realistic and/or practical with many people's jobs and the distance to the destinations. And with the modern economy having so many non 9-5 jobs now this "solution" is becoming less relevant. New England has some really amazing places but relative to areas like out West, Alaska, Europe, etc that terrain is just far too small relative to the number of people seeking to find it and these places are far too accessible.

    I think the other big hit to my "psych factor" is the massive amounts of information out there now: photos, videos, bloggers, real time trail reports, detailed weather, fastest known time people, amazing athletic achievements, "firsts", etc. It can really suck the "mystique" out of a trip when you can so easily find information on every last detail of a trip and find out that 100 other people already crushed it in 1/10 of the time it will take you. It seems like nowadays everyone is in insane shape and has all the answers to all the questions and has done it all, and they're happy to tell you all about it. I kind of fell into that trap a few years ago getting too much information for a trip making sure I was adequately prepared and the resulting overload of data was a buzz kill. It was as though I was trying to "suck proof" the trip by knowing the location was cool, the weather would be perfect, etc and if it looked to iffy I would just not go. I've gotten away from that, dropped most of my Facebook groups and usually just look at the maps for ideas and try to fill in the blanks with my imagination.

    And I have to say that the whole fitness craze hitting the mountains I find to be super annoying. I get it, to each his own and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it but it just clashes so much with my core belief of what a wilderness experience should be that I find it really irritating. And it is everywhere now. Fastest known times, fastest to complete a list, fast, fast, fast. Stop and relax already. Again, my personal issue, I get it but none the less a source of discouragement for me.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  11. #11
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Lots of good thoughts here. And they're helping clarify my own thinking. Therapy. I'm on board with most everything that has been written above. Regarding the 'everything has been done already' sentiment. It's kind of silly for me to think about that. In general I don't get caught up competing with others in my outdoor pursuits. I don't post my adventures on FB or anywhere else. In fact, what I've found over the years is that no one really cares. I mean, for the stuff that has been kinda hard or particularly visually striking, I've gotten oohs and awes, or sometimes 'You're crazy!' [for sleeping out in the snow, for example. I'm not hardcore, believe me. The reactions are not commensurate with the risk or challenge] But really, no one cares. I think it has more to do with a nagging feeling I get reading stuff on FB. I don't fully understand it, but Daytrip, you've nailed the sentiment. That second paragraph is #$@%ing gold.

    Anyway, in case it's useful to others who are expressing similar sentiments (Tom Rankin, I like your 'Quest' terminology), I have done a few trips in the past several years that aren't really part of a list and have been particularly gratifying. And this being a considerably less popular forum than others, I'm not too worried about 'giving away secrets.' These include: A mid-week trail run to East Pond (ended up spending a couple of hours there swimming and laying in the sun - gorgeous, saw only one other group). Checking off the ravines in the northern Presis. No summit needed, the ravines are spectacular and often not very crowded (got this idea from Daytrip a few years back). The Great Gulf trail, start to finish. The AT south of South Kinsman, and any trails to the south or west of the Kinsmans. Hikes in Dixville Notch, and anything north of Berlin, in general. All of those have had a special feel. Anyone else have trips they'd add to this Quest? This non-list of cool things?

    Redlining has its appeal. I've certainly done most of the trade routes by now, and those trade routes are probably the places I least want to be now. Might as well mark them in red and be done with them! But I do need some motivation to get up there as there are walks in the woods closer to home. Maybe the best medicine is to be done with FB and such and just start pouring over maps again. That process has never let me down.
    Sure. Why not.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    I'm not on FB so that solves that. I've read and asked Daytrip on FB Groups and if I recall my thoughts on what he told me, some good info there but just lots of info and people looking to go and collect summits and pictures for Instagram. Like the list wasn't enough of a silly reason to go. In theory, the list was designed to get people to not just hike Franconia Ridge & the Presidentials.

    One of the things I've seen I that on FB or meet-up you get groups with a varied amounts of experience & no real leader, just a planner. When I did that here in the 90's you knew you had an experienced group. That's not true with FB

    Once in a while I would have a conversation on why don't people just lie about completing the list. It was simple, 90% of your casual friends, like Brian said just think your crazy. If you lied about you'd be quickly found out when you said Washington was your favorite or if they lied about the New England List, Killington was better than Katahdin would be a good clue they were BS'ing

    Some of those most memorable trips were in iffy weather. The weather helped our moderator write this tale, I can't believe it was almost 18 years ago. http://www.hikethewhites.com/pemitraverse/index.html

    We had tried the trip in 2001 but sleet and even higher wind had us turn around on Bondcliff.

    The other thing with fastest times is youngest. Sometimes I wonder if young kids really want to go or if it's just a parents wish to brag about their kid finishing the list by a certain age. I know some do love being out there, some probably don't. My son, 15 at the time did Bondcliff and Bond in 2018. He's done some winter and 4K peaks, he's still not done Washington yet.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  13. #13
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Bushwhack.

    Remember that 99.9% of the wild area is not on trails. Trails are thread-like very fine lines through the wild area, that let you get places more easily. That's all. Even taking into account that trails are naturally routed to some of the most interesting places (like lakes, summits, etc.), I would say probably at least half of the most interesting places are off trail. And you will never, repeat never run out of new places to go. It's big out there.

  14. #14
    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Redlining has its appeal. I've certainly done most of the trade routes by now, and those trade routes are probably the places I least want to be now. Might as well mark them in red and be done with them! But I do need some motivation to get up there as there are walks in the woods closer to home. Maybe the best medicine is to be done with FB and such and just start pouring over maps again. That process has never let me down.
    Pouring over maps is a great way to let the mind travel. Eventually you get a place our route in mind and you'll get excited to go experience it. Redlining rejuvenated my sense of adventure after doing the 48. While I certainly don't obsess over it, it has changed my approach to hike planning. It probably forced my wife (who was working on her 48 when we met) to visit many of her peaks via less conventional routes. Like Cabot via Mill Brook, or Moriah via Shelburne and Moriah Brook, or Isolation via Great Gulf and Rocky Branch (this one needed a car drop)). And then there are the miles of trail that don't hit a 4k, where you get a sense of enjoyment just traveling through the woods on softer trails with fewer people.
    | 64.5% W48: 19/48
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  15. #15
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Brian, it just might be that you are ready for a new n different leisure activity.

    For example, did you ever want to pilot a plane, learn to fly fish, tour on a motorcycle or paddle a sea kayak along a costal water trail?

    I’ve been hiking and climbing in the Whites in all seasons for much of my adult life and quite frankly, the thought of doing another Presidential traverse or Franconia Ridge walk or Vose Spur bushwhack holds no appeal for me. I guess it’s a case of been there n done lots of that situation.

    I am in awe of grid finishers as much for their high boredom quotient as I am their superior physical abilities.

    So take a look around and a personal inventory and see if there’s anything new you’ve been wanting to try. Life is short and can be very rich!

    Happy hunting
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
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