For Sensitive Folks

I've received two emails from angry hikers who didn't like how I poked fun at Popsicle in my "Funny Math" section. One email said that it's terrible that someone who wrote a book called Hike Your Own Hike should write such a thing. The second email was from the husband of Popsicle, Moose. He called my comments "asinine" and "hypocritical." He also wrote, "If you had doubts about us, what gives you the right to post such negative comments?" He informed me that he made it to Canada on Oct 10 and added, "Guess you're not as smart as you thought you were."

Whew! I can tell he digs me.

Since others might feel the same way when they read that section, I'll share what I wrote back to Moose:


I was impressed and surprised that you guys made it to the end. I went to Skykomish last week and saw your entries in the PCT Register. So I was wrong about you and I’m not so smart.

On the other hand, I was right about you needing to do more than 22 miles a day and take a day off once a week. Your own online journal seems to testify this. So perhaps I’m not completely stupid.

My point was simply how hikers can sometimes do funny math. Given the conditions I saw in late Oct, it’s good that you didn’t follow your plan and that you pushed it harder. That’s what you needed to do to finish safely. But perhaps you disagree.

According to your online journal, even with your quickened pace, you endured a snowstorm and 10 degree temps in the first week of October. At some point you probably began to wonder what conditions you would have faced if you had gone at the pace you told me you would go. Your journal says: "Our tent flys were solid ice, the mesh was all frost and the tent floor was also frosted over. Glad we were almost done and only had to fight the bitter cold a couple of nights. We were really worried about some of our friends, Muse and Mojave, who are behind us..."

Moose, I don’t care how many miles you do – hike your own hike. But just because I believe in the HYOH philosophy doesn’t mean that I can’t be amused by the way some people hike their own hike. For example, I met a section hiker who were carrying nearly 80 pounds. It was funny when he told me that he "needed" his full sized pillow. Can I not laugh about that while at the same time defending his funny practice because it’s in the spirit of HYOH? The cowboys I met who carried 500 pounds were also amusing (I wrote about them too).

There are funny people and situations on the trail. HYOH means that you should do what you like. Notice that I didn’t say that you should hike more than 22 miles a day and avoid zero days. I just said that you’ll need to do more miles and take fewer zeros if you want to finish comfortably. Was I wrong about that? Not according to your journal.

Indeed, when I told Paparazzi about you guys he said, “Oh, they’re up to 22 miles now? They told me 20 miles when I met them. Maybe they’ll estimate 25 miles if I catch them.”

I never said you wouldn’t or couldn’t pick up your pace. I simply wrote that if you didn’t, you would face big challenges. I don’t think that’s a "negative comment," but rather an accurate and objective one.

After all, you write that you were averaging 25 miles a day, not 22. As far as I can tell, you didn't take a zero day every week like you said you would. Doing 15% more miles a day plus avoiding zero days can have a dramatic impact on your finish date. You expected to finish in late October, yet you finished Oct 10 thanks to your faster pace.

So was my comment “negative” or accurate?

If I had told you I could get to Mexico by just doing 10 miles day, would you not also have “doubts” about my ability to make it? I'd be the first to defend your right to write about your doubts, even if I disagreed with your doubts.

I hope you understand my point and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

- Francis

His response? Silence.

There's a lesson here, which I talk about in the 7th chapter of Hike Your Own Hike. It's that the "hike is too important to take seriously."

You have to have a good sense of humor to get through a thru-hike. Happy thru-hikers learn to laugh at almost anything, including themselves. They see humor in many things. When bad events happen, they try to decode it in a positive or funny way. It's not always easy, but it helps you enjoy the hike (and life) more.

Anyone who reads my book or my journals will probably tell that I'm the butt of many of my jokes. I was delusional when I thought I could hike the AT in 100 days. It took 111. I finished the PCT a week earlier than I projected. So I'm a bonehead who can't plan effectively. Call me a hypocrite.

It's unfortunate that some people still take themselves or life too seriously.

Some may say, "Yeah, it's fine to laugh at yourself, but not others." I disagree. People are funny. Look at political cartoons, comedians, or YouTube - humans do and say silly things. People are comical. If you think it's evil to laugh when others do amusing things, then you need to bend over and ask the nearest person to remove the stick up your butt.

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