Thursday, January 20, 2011

hiker in a fishbowl

I had a dream last night about being a thruhiker.  In my dream I was sitting at a shelter eating lunch, and tourists came by to look.  I felt like I was a specimen at a zoo.

The thing about the dream is it was pretty true to life.  Multiple times I've just been going about my business, being a backpacker, and people have come and stared like I was part of a diorama.  They don't usually talk to me, though they do talk to each other.

What's up with that, do you think?

I mean, when I'm out there, whatever piece of the earth I'm sitting on is my home.  So when you walk up to me and stare at my backpackerliness, you are effectively walking into my house.  I have nowhere to retreat to, nowhere else to be.  Where I am is where I am.  It feels like an intrusion on my privacy.

And that's weird in itself.  You don't *have* privacy on the trail.  You don't own the place.  You can't lock the door and wall other people out. 

We all kind of rely on the invisible walls.  The ones that keep us all from staring when we're changing clothing or scratching ourselves.  However, the walls do not work on tourists.  A tourist's whole job is to stare.  And they don't give a rat's patootie if you feel like you are an exhibit or not.

Next time I think I'll wave and smile.  And scratch myself.


  1. Next time, stare back, longer than they stare at you. After all, they don't have any walls to hide behind (out on the trail) anymore than you do.

    Is there much difference between what a thru hiker looks like, and what a section hiker looks like, and what an overnight hiker looks like? Maybe they are just curious about what it's like to do more than day hike...

  2. Just a different spin... Don't we (thru, section, day hikers) stop, stare, photograph the bear, deer, snakes, etc. that we encounter on the trail. We stand out, both in appearance and oder, a curiosity to be explored. I take the opportunity to explain what I'm doing.

  3. JC: yeah, there's some difference.
    Overnighter: clean, bulky gear, spends an hour fiddling with stove.
    Section hiker: dirty, lightweight gear, thrilled spitless
    Thruhiker: dirty, holes in clothing, super lightweight gear, weary look, skinny and bearded if male

    Tattoo: I'm an introvert. "Taking the opportunity to explain" appeals to me as much as dental work.

  4. yeahbut, a thru hiker on their first day out doesn't look much different from a section hiker, right?

  5. On your first day out you're not really a thruhiker yet. :)