View Full Version : mountain friendliness

07-07-2007, 08:40 PM
After a full week doing trail work and off-day hiking trips, just wondering what others have observed about trail friendliness. Opinions of the casual and fully devoted welcome. We had a variety of various reactions, both good and bad.

Mike D
07-08-2007, 11:38 AM
My observation is this: the farther you get from the beaten path, the nicer the people are. It's not that non-hikers are rude, it's a function of how much sweat you've spent on the trail. Ten miles from the trail head, people are mostly smiles. There's an unspoken tradition for passing hikers to greet one another, whereas you won't find much conversation in the parking lots.

07-08-2007, 11:55 AM
I've had some good conversations with people in parking lots, especially with those hikers just returning. IMHO, they seem more than eager to retell their stories of trail conditions. :)

I'd opine the reason why outward bounders aren't so talkative is their eagerness to hit the trail ASAP in order to enjoy the beauty of the oudoors and forget about their cares & woes.

On the whole, I find most people on the trail to be friendly and talkative. More so than say meeting an unknown person on the street. However, I agree with Mike D's statement, that the further from a trail-head, the friendlier the person.

07-08-2007, 02:00 PM
Those are both good observations, and fall in line with what we found. We spent a good chunk of time using Lincoln Woods for transit to our work trail and met a fair amount of scowls to our hellos and how ya doins. But close to parking lots it is what you expect. Some are there not of their own accord. There were those who gave no response at all. While doing trailwork the people we met were very nice and would stop and talk. What surprised all of us (and we all grew up in either NH or VT,some of us are still living there)was that the time-honored tradition of yielding to the downhill hiker seems to have passed away, that of course being just limited to the past weeks experience. Must say, we were also surprised with the lack of prep we saw. Three couples passed us while working on Osseo Trail one day with the intent of peaking Flume. Two of those couples had only 1 Poland Spring water bottle in hand for each one of them. The other had a fannypack with no food, but 3 bottles. Osseo to Flume(with Wilderness access)is 11 mile round trip, and would seem to be a trail one would undertake only after looking into it, as opposed to say a trail like Tucks, with easier access.

07-08-2007, 02:15 PM
I think you're both right. Typically, the farther off trail that you run into people the more similar your mindsets and the more willing to talk and for longer periods of time.

Yesterday I did a difficult 9.5-mile section of the Buckeye Trail running through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and saw only 2 other hikers. They both had fully loaded packs on like me, which were by no means necessary. Knowing that each party was prepping for an upcoming trip, we stopped and talked for a good 10 minutes. They are prepping for a rim to rim Grand Canyon backpacking trip by the way. Probably one of the nicest encounters I have had in the National Park.

07-08-2007, 04:54 PM
Its good to hear your experience from outside the NH area!

KD Talbot
07-08-2007, 05:15 PM
I ditto what's been said about people being friendlier the further away from a trailhead they are. I've been in the parking lot with people who would barely speak and then tell their life story when I met back up with them at the summit. I think it is also that most people have had a long, stressful trip to get to the trailhead, and are anxious to get hiking, then as the miles click away, the mountains just peel back the layers of stress. The further you go, the more stress relief.

The amount of people I see out there unprepared for the days challenges never ceases to amaze me. For the most part, they get away with it, but it is foolish to put yourself at so much risk. I did the Falling Waters/Bridle Path loop over Lincoln and Lafayette a few years ago and leapfrogged with a couple of 20 somethings. Although it was April, they were dressed in cotton shorts, t-shirts and sneakers. They had no daypack and carried a bottle of water each between them. One kid had a cotton pull over. They basically ran across the ridge because they were so cold and were near exhaustion on the way down. I hope they learned some lessons that day.

This is my observation about trailcrews:

The volunteer people who take care of certain trails or sections of trails are very friendly. Always willing to talk or give advice. The AMC trail crews who are working for money are usually too busy to talk and seem to consider anyone with questions as unprepared hikers who shouldn't be out there. (I'm sure I'll take some flak for that comment.) The truth is they are very busy, covering a lot of miles every day or lifting stones that weigh the same as my car, so, they should be left alone, and save the goofer questions for other hikers. If it weren't for them we wouldn't be enjoying the ease of following well marked and graded trails with steps in the steep places and punchons in the wet places. Many thanks to all the trail workers out there! Also, welcome to Fisher Cat and company. It will be good to have the perspective of some trail stewards on this forum. Any others out there?

I recently read a thread on VFTT about a guy who got bit by a dog on South Tripyramid. Not only did the owner not apologize or offer any sort of help, the owners kids laughed at him. How's that for trail etiquette?


07-08-2007, 10:54 PM
Hi KDT, thanks for the input, and as always am enjoying your trip photos!
On our day off we did the Zealand-Bonds hike and encountered an AMC Crew packing heavy and movin out from stone work on the Twins they had finished. They are busy and very tired, yet also retained the ability to say hi and carry conversation though walking away at the same time. They are valuable people who work hard. Good point about people at the trailhead, they can be abrupt, but who knows what they went through to get there, and if like any of us, usually hit the trail with such gusto may not even observe passerby.
Curious about the VFTT spot on someone being bitten, thats a shame. Most people do leash. When we came out late from work we chatted with the 2 older ladies on staff at the Lincoln Woods Station (sitting on the porch they reminded us of swallows on a wire)and they were explicitly watching for people exiting the bridge who did not have dogs leashed. They were real nice. We found 3 pairs of abandoned kids flip-flops on Wilderness Trail whose owners apparently stepped in dog-doo. We brought them out and they gave us a bag to throw them away in. I can't believe we didn't get their names.
For those who hike a lot, and for whatever reason we do so, the way we react to others we meet will hopefully leave a lasting good impression. Even if not a people person, the fact is we encounter others out there for the same reason we are there-the outdoors, the mountains, the challenge, or whatever,and it can form an instant bond.

Steve M
07-09-2007, 07:19 AM
I agree with all of you. I find that many people at trail heads are of the casual, tourist variety. Families with their young teenage kids, looking to hike a trail for a look over a ledge or see a waterfall. Some even thinking of a summit and almost always ill prepared. Donning shorts, t-shirts, and sandals even. They most likely stepped out of the car and thought, "hey, lets go to the top of that Mtn". Some don't even have water with them.
The Smokies seem to have this variety of hiker even greater than the Whites. Many of the hiking trails are within 5-10 minutes from Gatlinburg, TN. I saw a woman 2 miles in on a trail leading to a waterfall who was very over weight, had casual dinner clothes and sandals. She was not in the greatest of health and had misstepped crossing a stream and had badly broken her ankle. It took six on a rescue team to get her out of the woods. If people would plan for a hike and not just go on an impulse it would greatly cut down on problems and they would enjoy their day a whole lot more.
Anyway, I said all this to confirm that the farther away from the trail head you hike, the more in common you have with someone you meet out there.

Patrad Fischroy
07-09-2007, 09:34 AM
I have to admit to not being very talkative on the trail, not unfriendly mind you, but I don't tend to carry on a conversation. This goes back to my tendancy to seek out lessor travelled trails when possible. The trail is my refuge from the world of people, luckily here in Colorado and the rest of the West it is possible to get away from the traffic and the crowds a bit easier than in the Northeast. I have spent a few days on trail work crews and I certainly do appreciate the hard work that they do. As to the summer work crews, I stand in awe of their work when I see them packing in the supplies and materials to build the crossings, waterbars and whatnot. My sincerest thanks go out to them.

07-09-2007, 11:58 AM
It doesn't get much easier or more touristy than the Quechee Gorge Trail in Vermont. But last year as my wife and I were hiking out of the gorge I still got a kick out of the woman walking down the trail in high heels, smoking a cigarette and drinking a Diet Pepsi.

When it comes to preparedness, I'll admit that when I first started backpacking and hiking in my late high school and college years that I was very ill-prepared. Cheap to no equipment and knowledge only from reading Backpacker and Outside magazines. It took a couple very close calls to wise up and even now, sometimes, I still feel like I could be better prepared and am always learning new things.

07-09-2007, 12:31 PM
I've noticed that, (for some),even when people are unprepared and have to turn back, as one of the three couples we met did, they had a good sense of humor about it. It would have been unmannerly when they stopped to talk on their way back to chide them for being unprepared. The good thing is you can tell it won't hinder them from coming back better prepared for next time. They were good natured with a sense of humor, which we all need.
I remember a quote from one of the AMC book when I was younger, and it stated, "Mt. Washington (and by extension the Whites)tolerates most fools, but occasionally takes one without any mercy." That has always stuck with me.

KD Talbot
07-09-2007, 09:40 PM
We're kinda gettin' off topic talking about goofers we've met on the trail, but since the thread is leanin' in that direction... This is my worst goofer story. We had climbed Cannon and were on the way down High Cannon Trail. We ran into a man and woman in the standard blue jeans and t shirts. They had taken the tram to the summit. Their intention was to hike down to Lonesome Lake to go swimming. The first thing out of the hefty womans mouth was, of course, "Is it much further? I have bad knees and they're killing me." She was in sandals, he in sneakers. They were having some serious problems climbing over the rocks along the trail. For provisions they had a towel. "We've never hiked in the mountains before", was her next line. I wanted to say "Yeah, that's obvious." but refrained. They were about a mile down the trail from the summit. I was trying to convince them to turn around when there was a distant thunder peel, it started sprinkling and the guy was cursing that he left the roof down in his convertible. Having climbed down, they were not to sure they wanted to climb back up. I tried to tell them which trails to follow to get down, then back to their car at the base of the tram, but they just stared slack jawed at me. I don't know what they did from there. I don't know whatever happened to them. I never found their bleached bones on subsequent trips so I assume they must have made it out somehow. I hope nobody had to carry them.


07-09-2007, 10:28 PM
Yea, I don't want the thread to get too far off topic either. I guess in the end we meet people of all different sorts on the trail, from the novice to the expert, from the confused to the knowledgeable, from the slow-and-steady to the fire-off-their-heels, and trail workers too, yet the way we view and treat one another out there-even if we are total strangers -starts in the head. It will say a lot about the person we are, and ultimately the mountains that we all feel are a part of us.