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  1. #21
    Registered User Bucketfoot's Avatar
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    Isolation. What isolation ?

  2. #22

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    Isolation from "modern life" and solitude are two very different things. The former doesn't mean much without the latter, at least in my case.

  3. #23
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    I never felt isolated on the trail. There are always people around, you might not see anybody until the afternoon or night but they’re about. I’m not the most introspective guy but, as others have said, you have a lot of time with yourself thinking.

    One of the reasons I was on the trail was to do something different from what I had been doing for 40 odd ( some odder than others ) years. I wasn’t sitting in my office surrounded by employees, no phone calls/email/meetings/problems to address, etc.

    The woods are healing. The trail did change me to some extent, I’m still not the “greenest” guy ( there are engineering solutions to some of the world’s problems ) but I’m more thoughtful of our impacts. I’m volunteering at some places that I might not have before the trail.

    I found the time on the trail to be the most unresponsible ( not irresponsible ) time that I’d had in years. No troops, employees, etc just me and my pack ( and Stick ). I had enough contact with ( and support from ) my family that I wasn’t lonely for them.


    Traillium, good to see you again.
    76 HawkMtn w/Rangers
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  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerZ View Post
    I found the time on the trail to be the most unresponsible ( not irresponsible ) time that I’d had in years. No troops, employees, etc just me and my pack ( and Stick ). I had enough contact with ( and support from ) my family that I wasn’t lonely for them.
    I really like this idea of being ‘unresponsible’ on the trail, RangerZ. Responsible for myself and my decisions and actions; responsible to whomever I’m hiking with; and responsible to my wife and family. Happy and relaxed and open.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  5. #25
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    you'll never know isolation or solitude if you got a smart phone thingy at your finger tips

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    you'll never know isolation or solitude if you got a smart phone thingy at your finger tips

    It's nice to see someone read and considered the OP's clarifying statements.

  7. #27
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    I'm not a thru hiker, but a section hiker. My longest hike at one stretch was 90 miles. I don't have much to add to this topic that Dogwood and others have already offered, except: being isolated from society (people) and civilization (people plus modern conveniences) has a healing affect. I go into the woods less to find something than to get away from something else. With all our creature comforts, and 24-7 ability to "connect," we're becoming more stressed, impatient, short-tempered, narrow-minded, superficial, and just plain predictable and boring. It's a disorder (Nature Deficit Disorder) that most people aren't even aware has afflicted them...until they get a"panic attack" by thinking about the woods. I can't count how many times, when I tell people I'm hiking in the mountains, alone, they ask "Aren't you afraid of BEARS?" Or "You mean you're hiking ALONE?" "Aren't you AFRAID?"

    No, I'm more afraid of turning into an eggplant then getting permanently sucked into an iPhone No-Man's Land.

  8. #28
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I just read the "Food Explorer", and one of the people the book talks about is a man name Meyer (the namesake of the Meyer lemon). He spent several years wandering across Asia in the early 1900's - a lone European with limited abilities to communicate. He loved it for a while, but eventually the depression from lack of contact with humans that he could communicate with and relate to drove him to suicide.

    Not an issue on today's hiking trails!

  9. #29
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    Isolation is a feeling... not the actual experience.

    For example, I felt isolated and alone with my 1st husband. Once I divorced him, I moved beyond that feeling - even though I wasn't with anyone. Actually, I remember feeling more alone with him than when I was single.

    On the A.T., isolation is relative in the same manner... being away from people can bring peace - a sense of mindfulness. (I thought the new mindfulness movement was "hoki" until I realized that is what I have been doing on the A.T. for all these years - relaxing... getting more in tune with myself.

    Even though hiking alone on the A.T. is not isolation, spending evenings alone might be. Personally, I enjoy the camaraderie of meeting up with people in the evening and sharing experiences. I often think it is like Chris McCandless's last journal entry (from Into the Wild): Happiness is only real when shared.

  10. #30
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    In my case, I found the isolation of the trail to be exhilarating and freeing. "Civilization" has a way of pulling me in directions I would rather not take. I feel like any plans I make are constantly altered, redirected or even halted by external influences. I feel bombarded and overwhelmed at times.
    The trail has a way of causing all of that to fall away. It is freeing. I can maintain focus without outside interference. It brings heightened social interaction. I feel like there are no "strangers" on the trail. We are all stripped of class and other social distinctions imposed back in civilization. There are fewer judgements. I tend to be an introvert, but find I more readily engage with people on the trail than in my regular life. I savor that lengthy opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. Isolation is perhaps one of the main reasons I enjoy hiking.

  11. #31
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    Another way the Op's question might be perceived is a detoxification from the familiar.

  12. #32

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    To the OP - Isolation can infer distress and/or being removed or without relation to other people or things in the environment and may not be an appropriate term to use for what you experienced. Given the proximity of roads, towns, and residential neighborhoods along the AT there are very few places where one cannot hear a lawn mower, motorcycles, trucks, chainsaws, or barking dogs. Isolation by definition would be difficult for any significant period of time. Solitude however, would be accessible from the second step.

    I typically find there is a turning point somewhere after trailhead departure where I start to feel more connected to the environment I am in and less connected with the "civilized" world. I don't think I have ever felt isolated on any trail, though I have felt solitude which is a welcome visitor that tends to arrive at points where reflection results, providing perspective and more than a few epiphanies, along with a capacity to filter out the sounds of civilization (or others on the trail) that would otherwise be distracting. Solitude is one of the foundational reasons I enjoy the activity and I suspect many of us feel similarly though may express it differently.

    Solitude is a wondrous thing that once the more positive aspects of it are experienced is sought out at every opportunity.

  13. #33
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superfly-SY View Post
    How did the isolation affect you? and do you have any anecdotes of someone you may have taken hiking that experienced fear or anxiety about being in the woods?
    I feel most relaxed when camping in an isolated spot — that is to say a spot where it is highly unlikely that anyone else will know I am there.

    I sincerely believe that most hikers — whether newbies or even people with experience up to that of a thru hiker — think differently about that.

    In my limitted experience taking others out overnight, I have found most of them to feel FAR more comfortable camping at an established site — especially one with a bunch of other campers about like you and I are familiar with along the AT in the Whites — than even the most appropriate and beautiful location that is well off trail and very private.

    In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that many (most) backcountry campers’ anxiety is so high camping in isolation (even when there is zero chance of getting lost, like when you hike up a stream) that they simply would not do it by themselves, or without a confident and experienced companion to lift the burden

    I’ll bet I feel you took a poll of thru hikers many would admit this — at least for a portion of thier hikes and for some, all of it.

    Just my opinion.

  14. #34
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    If you are attempting a thru-hike and you have a problem with spending time with the solitude of the woods, you might want to do something else. From the start you will soon realize that you will be spending a lot of time alone. You have to be able to deal with this "alone experience."
    Your cell phone won't do it. You may find others to talk to, but you will spend much time alone.
    It's a good time to turn to your inner self. Retrace your life. Live it over, in your mind. Just this can take up hour after hour of your time. Think about the wonders of nature. If God is alive in your life, think of him and what he does. Most of all think of all you have to be grateful for.
    Leave all the daily burdens of "off trail" living at home and you will have a more enjoyable experience.
    Grampie-N->2001

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampie View Post
    If you are attempting a thru-hike and you have a problem with spending time with the solitude of the woods, you might want to do something else.
    It's the same principle hiking within the bubble desiring solitude. It can be accomplished if we are willing to do things differently than the herd.

    Sound reflective post Grampie.

  16. #36
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Keeping your own company but knowing there will always be someone coming up the Trail behind you later in the day (or within the hour), or sleeping by yourself at a tent platform in the the full knowledge that other campers are a stone’s throw away, can be called solitude.

    But its not really.

    That kind of solitude can be found on the D Train.

  17. #37

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    I have re-read the OP's post several times and I think there is a difference between what he is calling isolation and being alone. Isolation from the distractions and comforts of every day life (electronic communications, running water, transportation, bathrooms, refrigerators, central heat and air conditioning, etc.) allows you concentrate your thoughts on the here and now allowing you to be more "in the moment". Life narrows down to you, your immediate surroundings and the conditions you encounter. I believe that is what he means by isolation. For me that generates a sense of solitude even if I encounter other hikers along the way.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

  18. #38
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexasBob View Post
    I have re-read the OP's post several times and I think there is a difference between what he is calling isolation and being alone. Isolation from the distractions and comforts of every day life (electronic communications, running water, transportation, bathrooms, refrigerators, central heat and air conditioning, etc.) allows you concentrate your thoughts on the here and now allowing you to be more "in the moment". Life narrows down to you, your immediate surroundings and the conditions you encounter. I believe that is what he means by isolation. For me that generates a sense of solitude even if I encounter other hikers along the way.
    You could be spot on — and Grampie’s post resonated as well — but the OP also asked about fear and anxiety out on the woods.

    No doubt there is are as many causes for that as there are people.

  19. #39
    KirkMcquest KirkMcquest's Avatar
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    I hiked the AT back in 07, and many other long distance hikes before and after. I think people are drawn to these types of activities precisely BECAUSE they feel that something is amiss in their modern lifestyle. After the AT and other hikes I moved to Alaska and lived in a cabin about 50 miles from the nearest town. Feeling that it was "too" isolated, I eventually made my way partly back to society and bought a farm in upstate NY. I've been here for 9 years and plan on staying. So, in answer to the question..the AT and other thru-hikes were PART of a process. The attempt to strip life down to the raw basics to see first-hand what is needed and what isnt. The isolation and the time "away" just confirmed all my previous suspicions....that I am capable of being entirely happy by myself with just the basics of life.
    Throwing pearls to swine.

  20. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerZ View Post
    I never felt isolated on the trail. There are always people around, you might not see anybody until the afternoon or night but they’re about. I’m not the most introspective guy but, as others have said, you have a lot of time with yourself thinking.

    One of the reasons I was on the trail was to do something different from what I had been doing for 40 odd ( some odder than others ) years. I wasn’t sitting in my office surrounded by employees, no phone calls/email/meetings/problems to address, etc.

    The woods are healing. The trail did change me to some extent, I’m still not the “greenest” guy ( there are engineering solutions to some of the world’s problems ) but I’m more thoughtful of our impacts. I’m volunteering at some places that I might not have before the trail.

    I found the time on the trail to be the most unresponsible ( not irresponsible ) time that I’d had in years. No troops, employees, etc just me and my pack ( and Stick ). I had enough contact with ( and support from ) my family that I wasn’t lonely for them.


    Traillium, good to see you again.
    You were at Hawk Mtn in 1973? I was there 1986-1988. Spent 84-86 with 3/75 at Benning.

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