Thru hiking is much more of a social activity than we’d expected. Everyday you meet other hikers, new or recurring, on the trail, at rest stops and in town. The Pacific Crest Trail is a busy place- and we’re not even part of this year’s big herd!
Even so, it’s surprised me the extent to which the trail environment lends itself so well to gossip.
I’m not condemning anyone. On the contrary, I’ve noticed that the gossip is harmless in nature and has been both entertaining and a bonding experience for hikers.
How Gossip Gets Around the Trail
Gossip on the trail works a lot like a game of telephone.
Temporary hiking groups are constantly breaking up throughout the weeks and days, as different hikers slow down or speed up or change course. Anytime hikers encounter others, one of the first things they do after exchanging trail formalities is to enquire about other hikers on the trail.
Take me for example: my first day on the trail, I was puking from heat exhaustion. Another hiker noticed us as he passed, and told others further up the trail. I had no idea I was been talked about until I mentioned the incident days later to a different group to remarks of, “That was you?”
Yes, I was the girl that threw up at mile 6.5. This also led to the adoption of my trail name, “Chunks.” (Thru-hiking culture isn’t shy about the dirtier, more primal sides of life.)
Unintentionally, stories are embellished, details exaggerated, and well, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, anything other than the countless miles stretching out in front of you is interesting.
This isn’t to say that crazy things don’t happen out on the trail, because they definitely do. One hiker encountered a naked streaker (or naked hiker?) while walking the trail one day, another voluntarily holed up at a trail angel’s house for 8 days, smoking, drinking and shooting skeet. There’s more, too, but it’s more fun to hear them firsthand on your hike 🙂
Unsurprisingly, non-stop hiking for 5 months is a bit of an alternative life style. A lot of people who thru hike are young and at the cusp of adult life. Others are seeking a change in the form of transformative experience. For most of us, there’s a strange drive to abandon the comforts of modern life in pursuit of “miles.”
This is not normal, and it has created a wide array of interesting personalities on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I won’t name names, but within the first couple of days, and our rather late starting date, there were already minor celebrities on the trail. As wild and abnormal as trail life is, it provides us average hiker types with a bit of entertainment to talk about the strange habits, insane mileage and crazy antics of other people wandering out in the wilderness too.
It’s Not Just Girl Stuff
Contrary to popular belief, men do gossip. From what I’ve seen, they love to talk about one another and the characters moving along the trail.
It was a male hiker that spread word of my puke fest, and a male hiker that created a rather unflattering trail name for another female hiker and gabbed about her over our campfire one night. Guys love to talk about everything and everyone they’ve seen as much as anyone. Just because statements are preceded with “Dude!…” doesn’t make them any less gossipy.
An Important Part of the Journey
Who can blame the dudes for talking about all the other dudes?
Pacific Crest Trail stories, trail characters; they provide welcome relief to the daily grind of long distance thru hiking. I’ve met a lot of hikers in just the two weeks we’ve been out here, and I’ve noticed that the gossip helps to break up the constant discussion of logistics and miles that tends to subtly work its way into the subconscious and make everyone anxious.
Mile-obsessed hiking can create some interesting trail characters, but it stems from ambition and a lot of pressure that many people seek out the trail to get away from.
Each time I encounter a new group of hikers, I love hearing about what they’ve seen, the people they’ve met, and if they know about any of my friends up or down the trail. Even though I came out to the Pacific Crest Trail to experience nature and the wilderness, now I can’t imagine going more than a day without seeing other hikers and making friends.
Do you have hilarious/unbelievable/heart-warming Pacific Crest Trail stories? Please share them with us in the comments!