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  1. #1
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    Default Is thru hiking selfish?

    There has been a bit of discussion on many social media platforms whether a thru hike today is selfish. Selfish is defined as "lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure". So by this definition I admit that I was selfish when I did my AT thru hike. After all, I left behind my wife, alone, to deal with selling our old house, maintaining our new house (paying bills, mowing the lawn), and providing logistical support to me on my hike. Not much in it for her. The hike was all about me. That is probably why every time I plan a hike or trail maintenance trip I feel a pang of guilt.

    Today the covid 19 virus adds a new complexity to the angst of a thru or long distance hike. Not only are many leaving behind loved ones, family, and jobs to pursue a seemingly selfish endeavor, their actions have the potential to have a ripple effect on the broader community. I know how tough it is to postpone a hike that one has planned for months or years. I don't know how tough it would be to leave the trail because of some external issue. Most of us have a choice. I have family members who are not that lucky. One is a barber who has twins on the way. He had no choice or warning last Monday when the governor ordered all barbershops closed. I have another who is a cook with two children under two years of age. Restaurants closed so he has no job. Not his choice.

    I can see where some hikers on the trail today and many who are planning a hike do not have the awareness of the seriousness of this pandemic. After all, for months our government and some media outlets have down played the extent of the virus. Making jokes and even calling it a hoax. Life is changing daily. A couple of weeks ago the coronavirus meant no toilet paper and hand sanitizer on stores shelves. Schools closed. Then spring training, opening day, March Madness all cancelled. Next the restaurants and bars closed. Now it is starting to get serious. In California they are requesting everyone stay at home. At the end of the day, postponing a walk in the woods is trivial compared to the sacrifices many have been asked to make.
    More walking, less talking.

  2. #2
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    of course it is. hikin' is not a necessity

  3. #3
    Is it raining yet?
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    "concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure"

    Well, that definition also fits the fundamental tenant of capitalism, the most effective economic system that has brought more opportunity and wealth to more people than any other.

    Not quite sure what you're asking as you seemed to answer your own question in the affirmative.


    Be Prepared

  4. #4

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    Yesterday, after work, I completely packed my truck for a weekend trip up north. Camping on a river. I went upstairs, turned on the news and saw Gov Wolfe of PA closed all "non life sustaining" businesses as of 8pm. That was the straw, I'm afraid I'll return to martial law if I left and was out of contact for the weekend. My wife, who never cares what I do, also asked if I was still going. I think it would be selfish to go this weekend. YRMV

  5. #5
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    I'm still planning on hitting the trail for short hikes/exercise/fresh air. Even the places in lockdown mode allow people out for exercise. If you're not interacting with people during your hike (going solo, not using a shuttle, not staying in a hostel, stopping at a restaurant), you're fine imo. You create more danger for yourself and others going to the grocery store.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  6. #6

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    Depends on the situation. If you have quit a job, I would not say it is particularly selfish considering that you are unlikely to get the virus on trail and are going to have it pretty hard in the present situation.

    If you have other options, it is probably fairly selfish but until there is virus on the trail you probably are not hurting anyone any more than anyone else.

    If you are already on trail, I think you should try to make it as far as you can if you are up for it.

  7. #7
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    If you are a selfish person you will be a selfish hiker.
    When you plan to be away from home, for some time, a responsible, not selfish, person looks at the inpack his or her leaving has on others. Be it at home or work. If the hardship is to great, and it can't be lessened than the endeavor should not be taken.
    If the hardship of one being gone for an extended period, can be lessened to a degree that it can be tolerated by those effected, than I would think that your leaving is not a selfish thing.
    Before I thru-hiked I sat down with my wife what I was undertaking and how it would effect my family. I had no job to consider. We worked everything out to a point that she felt that she could handle my absence. I left with a feeling that I was not putting a burden on anyone by going on a hike for up to 6 months.
    Grampie-N->2001

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    of course it is. hikin' is not a necessity
    Exactly.

    All pursuits that require 100% commitment are by nature "selfish" - art to science and sports. But within that "selfishness" it does not mean one need be "selfish."

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunburn View Post
    Depends on the situation. If you have quit a job, I would not say it is particularly selfish considering that you are unlikely to get the virus on trail and are going to have it pretty hard in the present situation.

    If you have other options, it is probably fairly selfish but until there is virus on the trail you probably are not hurting anyone any more than anyone else.

    If you are already on trail, I think you should try to make it as far as you can if you are up for it.
    I disagree with your assessment.

    You know where you are most unlikely to get it? In your house in self-isolation. This is vs the trail where you will occasionally interact with others simply by chance. Next, a hiker on the trail is going to need to resupply easily 2-4 times more often than a person in self-isolation, if not more. The hiker is not carrying a refrigerator or freezer and their pantry is a lot smaller. They will be passing by unfamiliar towns with unknown services.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
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  10. #10
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    Default

    There is a balance one should have with life, a thru hike can be part of that, or it can be part of a imbalance.

    With covid-19 it does shift, most should get off trail, yes you too, no backtalk, get the f off now, thank you.

    But yes there is a balance.

  11. #11
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    I disagree with your assessment.

    You know where you are most unlikely to get it? In your house in self-isolation. This is vs the trail where you will occasionally interact with others simply by chance. Next, a hiker on the trail is going to need to resupply easily 2-4 times more often than a person in self-isolation, if not more. The hiker is not carrying a refrigerator or freezer and their pantry is a lot smaller. They will be passing by unfamiliar towns with unknown services.
    I'd have to disagree regarding the resupply frequency and interaction. Very few people are truly isolating. People still need food and household goods, and with shortages in stores people are having to make multiple trips all while exposing themselves to others in the same position to get what's available on the shelves - if and when it's even available. It would be close to impossible to buy two weeks worth of food and household supplies in one stop here in the DFW area - the shelves for many items are bare. Also, when people do go to stores, they share that space with more people than they would likely come in contact with when resupplying weekly while on a hike. Then there are the millions of us who can't isolate anyway - our work doesn't stop and can't be done from home - health care, utilities, food and pharmacy, government agencies, etc. We are going to work and interacting with co-workers and the public everyday, because the downside of us not doing so would be a bigger public disaster than what is occurring. I honestly don't see someone off hiking as posing a greater contagion risk to either themselves nor to others compared to what the real world situation already is. Personally, I'd be at a much lower risk to myself and family if I were off hiking right now.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I'm still planning on hitting the trail for short hikes/exercise/fresh air. Even the places in lockdown mode allow people out for exercise. If you're not interacting with people during your hike (going solo, not using a shuttle, not staying in a hostel, stopping at a restaurant), you're fine imo. You create more danger for yourself and others going to the grocery store.
    I think the general consensus is smaller, local hikes are ok. At this point I would think twice about even stopping at an out of town gas station to pay at the pump.

  13. #13
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    Default

    always was, not just this year

    but so is professional sports and a whole list of other human activities

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    I'd have to disagree regarding the resupply frequency and interaction. Very few people are truly isolating. People still need food and household goods, and with shortages in stores people are having to make multiple trips all while exposing themselves to others in the same position to get what's available on the shelves - if and when it's even available. It would be close to impossible to buy two weeks worth of food and household supplies in one stop here in the DFW area - the shelves for many items are bare. Also, when people do go to stores, they share that space with more people than they would likely come in contact with when resupplying weekly while on a hike. Then there are the millions of us who can't isolate anyway - our work doesn't stop and can't be done from home - health care, utilities, food and pharmacy, government agencies, etc. We are going to work and interacting with co-workers and the public everyday, because the downside of us not doing so would be a bigger public disaster than what is occurring. I honestly don't see someone off hiking as posing a greater contagion risk to either themselves nor to others compared to what the real world situation already is. Personally, I'd be at a much lower risk to myself and family if I were off hiking right now.
    Great points you hit on. Being essential personnel I still have to go in. Let us not forget the police and fire and rescue units that in some areas are dropping like flies. Y'all be safe.

  15. #15
    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    The solution: Hike and camp on a lesser known trail that you normally see very few people on. A trail that doesn't feature shelters with virus and mice infestations. Do a relatively short loop or round trip so you don't have to resupply in towns.

  16. #16

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    I reject the premise of the original question.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  17. #17
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    I’m of the belief that we can hike, albeit differently, and still be no more risk to ourselves or others.
    This requires us to think about how to enjoy what we like while consequently thinking about the bigger picture of today’s world. After all , the way I see it we all are responsible for keeping one another healthy during this pandemic.
    Our backpacking adventures may require us to do shorter backcountry trips, shouldering more supplies and limiting, if not entirely eliminating resupplying altogether,
    —Tipi Walter style , if you will type hiking.
    As a healthcare provider I recommend we stay vigilant about keeping our focus on doing what we need to do to curtail exposure.

    Stay strong, stay healthy and hike responsibly .
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    I disagree with your assessment.

    You know where you are most unlikely to get it? In your house in self-isolation. This is vs the trail where you will occasionally interact with others simply by chance. Next, a hiker on the trail is going to need to resupply easily 2-4 times more often than a person in self-isolation, if not more. The hiker is not carrying a refrigerator or freezer and their pantry is a lot smaller. They will be passing by unfamiliar towns with unknown services.
    Is your risk of being infected more significant on the AT at this time than getting by in a larger city? Maybe to some small degree. Is it a risk to society? I don't think so and could even be lesser.


    Yes, you are going to need to resupply but I think I would be more comfortable buying groceries on the AT than at a major supermarket in a larger city even if it happens more often.

    In the end, you are simply transferring risk from one location to another.

    I think the larger message here is that hiking at this time encourages other activities that would cause harm so hikers should stay put to stay in line with national efforts.

    The bigger issue is that your hike is going to be next to impossible unless you are taking all your stuff and getting yourself there and back.
    Last edited by Alligator; 03-21-2020 at 15:25. Reason: Politics removed

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    I'd have to disagree regarding the resupply frequency and interaction. Very few people are truly isolating. People still need food and household goods, and with shortages in stores people are having to make multiple trips all while exposing themselves to others in the same position to get what's available on the shelves - if and when it's even available. It would be close to impossible to buy two weeks worth of food and household supplies in one stop here in the DFW area - the shelves for many items are bare. Also, when people do go to stores, they share that space with more people than they would likely come in contact with when resupplying weekly while on a hike. Then there are the millions of us who can't isolate anyway - our work doesn't stop and can't be done from home - health care, utilities, food and pharmacy, government agencies, etc. We are going to work and interacting with co-workers and the public everyday, because the downside of us not doing so would be a bigger public disaster than what is occurring. I honestly don't see someone off hiking as posing a greater contagion risk to either themselves nor to others compared to what the real world situation already is. Personally, I'd be at a much lower risk to myself and family if I were off hiking right now.
    Your mixing apples and oranges and throwing in some bananas.

    Let's consider the appropriate individual in question, you're mixing up all kinds of people. We're talking about a potential thruhiker. That means they were already planning 4-6 months of unemployment and have a bank account set up. Right? If a person is too scatter brained to be unable to stock their pantry with a week's worth of food at the grocery store normally, they won't be any better on the trail. All the food's not gone, the stores are restocking, food production is essential. Starvation was not the issue during the Great Depression nor the Spanish flu. Anybody with some hiking experience will have some skill with the acquisition and preparation of shelf stable fare. Plus they will actually have access to a fridge and freezer. If you think the food situation is going to exacerbate further, expect that rural areas will also face problems because priority would go to high population centers (more clout). Regardless, last time I looked, the trail passes through MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, and MA. It's not exactly as remote as people think. I have family and friends in many of those states. Please don't burden their soon to be overloaded systems.
    I personally did not have a lot of trouble stocking up. I was paying attention carefully. I know that sounds blunt and that some people could not afford to or had other circumstances preventing them. I am sorry if that is the case and I believe we should help keep our neighbors fed and housed. But we are not talking about the general population, we are discussing a person able to thru hike now or just got on the trail. If you actually have the means at the moment to go hiking, you are ready to be homeless living out of your pack. Your rent/mortgage is covered. Go someplace cheap if the rent is too high since you're planning on being unemployed anyway. Get out of the metro areas.

    For those of you working amongst the public Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Stay safe as you can. I will not be leaving my house for trivial things.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Great points you hit on. Being essential personnel I still have to go in. Let us not forget the police and fire and rescue units that in some areas are dropping like flies. Y'all be safe.
    +2 - Thank you for putting yourself in harms way in this critical time. Beyond fire, police, and medical personnel there are millions who drive supplies to stores, stock the shelves, cashier goods, pump fuel, and a broad assortment of essential work to keep the gears of civilization meshed and turning. These are truly the unsung heroes of this time in history, some who will pay a heavy price for their participation so the rest of us can get needed drugs, food, and care when necessary.

    Good job!

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