So I don't go there very much. (Only when I'm desperate.)
Similarly, I no longer go on extended hikes on the famed Appalachian Trail. It was never really a place to find true solitude. There have always (in my experience) been too many people hiking on it to find any real silence and peace. However, when I was younger you could travel it at certain times of the year and find yourself alone for a day or so. But as the years have passed I've found that this is no longer the case, with literally hundreds of people using stretches of it on any given day.
The last time I hiked a multi-day trip on the AT I swore would be my last. This is because I found it to be just way too crowded. Groups of people hiking together. People hiking with their freaking dogs. Camping areas and shelters packed to bursting with humans. The stench of human feces blasting for many yards in every direction at overused pit toilets. Bothersome creepy through-hikers with their annoying nicknames bugging the crap out of you.
This was not the Appalachian Trail of my youth.
But occasionally I would still venture there to day-hike. Sometimes I'd even find myself alone on the Trail with complete silence all around me and no pesky humans to bug me. This year I even entertained the idea of an overnight backpack on a section of the AT where I figured I might find some solitude if I went when the weather was cold.
But something is about to happen that I've feared for some time. The long-rumored movie to be produced and starred by Robert Redford is going to hit the screens. Yes, Bryson's excellent A WALK IN THE WOODS is going to be seen in movie theaters and home systems in the near future. After that, everyone who ever had even the slightest inclination to backpack the Appalachian Trail is going to go out and buy equipment and hit the Trail. It's going to be one long wait at the mountain range's checkout line. Yes, your local REI and Dick's Sporting Goods are going to rack up massive sales, but any chance one might have to enjoy the Trail are going to be gone. At least until the coming fad withers away.
|May of 2011 on the AT on Unaka Mountain. Actual solitude. I saw not one other hiker.|
|On the AT, same day. Soft grasses and cool mists. No voices.|
|May 2010. My last multi-day backpack on the AT. Everything I hate about what the trail has become. Dogs. Crowds (there were, eventually, about three dozen people at the shelter). Annoying folk. Fecal stench. No thank you.|
|And here come Redford and Nolte to compound the problem. Alas.|