Day 28 – IAT Mile 470.3 to 489.7

Philosophies of a Thru-Hike, Part 1

Today’s hike was a frustrating road walk that ended in a shorter day than we had hoped.  We ended up putting in a call to this area’s local coordinator, Debbie, who drove us ahead 10 miles to the shelter we had hoped to hike to.  But I don’t want to talk about today, I want to talk about why Debbie is picking us up in the morning and driving us backwards 10 miles to where she picked us up.  I want to talk about the different philosophies of a thru-hike.

This hike has taught Brianna & I something we never knew about each other before, we both define and approach a thru-hike very differently.  

Brianna’s approach is what some might call a ‘purist’ approach, I’d call it Kantian.  Every mile must be hiked, to skip a mile would be a bad action and bad actions are never ok.  At a very base level, Brianna believes that by definition, a thru-hike is only a thru-hike if you hike every mile that can be hiked.  Hard to argue that point, right?

My approach is what some might call the ‘whatever works’ approach, I’d call it utilitarian.  If skipping 10 road miles is going to lead to more fun, or good, then I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.  Don’t tempt me with a good time.  If I begin a hike on the west side of Wisconsin and finish on the east side, the details of how many road miles I did or did not do are inconsequential.  I thru-hiked it.  Maybe I didn’t follow gospel to the word of it, but let’s not get into a conversation about gospels and the two thousand years worth of translations.

If you think these differing approaches cause us conflict, you would be wrong.  I would be ok with skipping road miles, but that doesn’t mean I’m against hiking them, it just means I don’t care, that I do not place value in the action.  If hiking every mile is important to Brianna, then the way for me to have the most good, or the most fun, is in hiking every mile.  If it comes down to the wire and we need to skip forward to make the IAT Eastern Terminus, we would probably only do so with the intent to come back and finish next year.  A fair and reasonable compromise.

This topic is actually a hotly debated one in the hiker community.  I might even be labeled a heretic for my stance, or lack of a stance.  Wait until I write Philosophies of a Thru-Hike, Part 2, where I’ll be discussing laws and how they don’t apply to all people all the time, namely me.

All that aside, our shelter for the night is awesome. We have a roof and electricity, the latter is pretty unheard of. Here is to hoping tomorrow is a better one!

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