Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Brassie Brook Lean-to to Bearded Woods Hostel

5.8 miles

At the White Hart Inn, 11 years later--civilization and beer!

The view from above the White Hart Inn in 2004

Tonight I share the hostel with several thru-hikers:  Giuseppe, on his third thru-hike in so many years, Brother Louie, Luke Trailwalker—still a teenager, and Lonely, an impressive flip-flipper who started southbound from Harpers Ferry to Georgia and has now flipped north.  He camped in the snow below zero, hiking Virginia in March, which is really impressive.  And Hudson, the hostel owner, also an ex-thru-hiker.

I hesitate to speak ill of a hostel and I don’t, because Bearded Woods is really nice, but what I am remembering now of my 2004 thru-hike is the collective drama of assembled hikers, the badmouthing of hikers up and down the trail, of hostel owners in other states, the recitation of gear weight and accumulated mileage.  I love these hikers and the trail but at the same time, again, I want to shake them.  I know I did it too, back in my day, but I believe thru-hikers can miss the trail entirely.  This discussion of two 26-mile days and you’ll make it to Vermont.  How many 20s before the next town, as if the woods in between were irrelevant, a mere hurdle to be leaped over.

What’s the point of hiking at all?  Why not road-walk or marathon or use a treadmill to go 2200 miles?  If one is always going to put in earphones, and move at a four-mile-an-hour pace and barely blink at a vista?  I’d like to believe that the magic of the trail penetrates even the numbest of skulls, but I am skeptical.  It seems that the goal is just another feather in a cap, that mileage becomes a competition, another pissing contest.

I’m remembering what I loved about this trail but also what I hated, how compared to other trails I have hiked it is crowded, a booming metropolis of voices outshouting each other.  I went to the woods to live deliberately, said Thoreau.  Do these people even know who Thoreau is?

I came to the woods to be alone.  And still I am surrounded by people, as lovely, as annoying as people anywhere.  As Friedrich Nietzsche said:  “In loneliness, the lonely one eats himself; in a crowd, the many eat him. Now choose.”

[Hiking the same section in 2004.]

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