Saturday, April 30, 2005


I decided that since I am planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I should read Ray Jardine's "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook." I'd heard so many good things about Jardine. Granted, most of these came from 'Jardinites', hikers who would remove a couple of organs if they could to reduce their hiking weight. Our conversations usually went something like this:

Me: "Hey, beautiful weather today eh?:
Jardinite: "Must carry less, must hike more miles, must carry less, must hike more miles, .... oh, what?"
Me: "Nice day for hiking today."
J: "Oh, yeah, (looking up from the trail for a second) I guess it is. (looking at me) You aren't actually planning on carrying that monstrous pack for more than an hour are you *smirk*scoff*?"
Me: "Yup, all the way from Maine to Georgia."
J: "You'll never make it. You need to hike like me. I haven't carried a tent, stove, flashlight...(goes on for 5 minutes)... since I read Ray Jardine's amazing, mindblowing, consciousness-altering book. I hike 23 hours a day. That way I don't need to worry about freezing to death while I sleep."
Me:"Yeah, maybe I should look at that sometime."
J:"Gotta go, gotta do 50 more miles before I take my next break."

You can imagine my surprise when Jardine actually advocates carrying enough gear to actually be safe should something as inevitable as bad weather pops up. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Jardine even tries to distance himself from his overzealous disciples a few times. The problem is, the seeds are definitely sown for such an attitude. Take for instance this passage, taken from a section entitled 'A Personal Choice':

Most backpackers wear stout boots. Talk to any of these traditionalists, young or old, and you will probably find they have rather strong opinions pertaining to these clunky devices. It's one thing to have strong opinions, but another to base them on sound reasoning. If they wear boots for fear of twisting an ankle, or to protect the bottoms of their feet from sharp rocks, then that might be sound reasoning. Maybe they lack the time and inclination to go out and toughen their feet and strengthen their ankles in lighter weight shoes. And maybe they are not concerned with hiking higher daily mileages, and of doing so with greater safety and enjoyment. If they wear boots because they are reluctant - or afraid - to try new ideas, then that may not be very logical, but still there is nothing wrong with it. If looking the part of the boot-clad hiker bolsters their image, then that is their prerogative. If their belief in heavy stout boots stems from the propaganda of the boot industry, then so be it. The bottom line is that each of us is free to enjoy ourselves on the trails and to select whatver clothing and equipment best facilitates this.

Hmmm, doesn't really sound like he believes what he says about everyone being free to choose their own way to enjoy the trail. Sounds to me like he thinks that anyone who hasn't converted from boots is stubborn, lazy, unsafe, unhappy, cowardly, illogical, vain, and/or a sucker for advertising propaganda. It's this tone that takes away from the good information that is included in the book. Alot of what he says makes sense. For instance, I will definitely be hiking with a lighter backpack next time. A crude measurement weighs my present pack at 6-7 pounds (gasp, or more). That's a good 3 or 4 pounds baseweight that I can eliminate. I'll also probably be giving an alcohol stove a try. And for the PCT definitely, and maybe just in general, I've been thinking about trail runners instead of boots. That said, if you ever catch me smirking at someone who's carrying something they want to have with them, you have my permission to hide a rock in my pack.

Before I finish this post, I would like to point out one more disturbing passage from the book.

A common question that comes my way: had I been hiking solo, how much heavier would my pack have been. I consider this somewhat academic. For one thing, sharing gear with a like-minded partner is an effective way to reduce packweight, which is why I incorporated it into my system.

I'm sure Jenny appreciated that sentence.


At 2:34 p.m., Blogger Josh said...

I wonder what would happen if two Jardinites ever got a divorce? They'd probably fight each other tooth and nail to get less.


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