Backpackers and The Giving Tree

In a previous article, I wrote how the long trail hiking experience is changing.

In particular how the free/donation based services are giving way to for-profit transactions.

That is not bad…it just reflects reality.

On the Pacific Crest Trail, one well-known Trail Angel closed shop. Another generous person sounds tired. And a third pillar of the community, from what I can tell, has had some unruly and entitled guests.

The percentage of people who are self-centered, entitled a-holes may be small..but when more people hike the long trails, the amount of self-centered, entitled a-holes goes up overall.

The Appalachian Trail is mainly for-profit hostels of one sort another now. I suspect other longer trails will become similar.

And that is not bad. A for-profit business may be better equipped, and able to set boundaries, more so than generous spirits whose generosity may be taken advantage of.

Spend ten minutes to watch this forty-year old cartoon adaptation of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein:

Like all good children’s stories that have stood the test of time, The Giving Tree is a story that works on many levels. The simple story appeals to children. But the allegory of the story itself can have multiple meaning and interpretations.

For the outdoors community, the meaning is simple: These generous souls can give and give..but only so much. Even people are who considerate and try their best not to take advantage of someone’s generosity may still have an impact.

It happens.

Sheer numbers dictate the result.

And not just hostels and trail angels. The small towns up and down the trails may not be equipped to handle so many people. Even businesses have been known to be fed up with hikers in towns, too. And, if a percentage of those people are entitled, self-centered a-holes…

So if someone sighs over how people just want to make money off the trail and/or outdoors people, just think of the alternative.

In ideal world, we could all give and be reciprocated in kind.  People’s innate goodness would ensure kindness and courtesy.

But it is not an ideal world.

Some people will take the apples, the limbs, the trunk. And only leave the stump behind.


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8 years ago

So do you think the AT is becoming too commercialized? It seems like it there are parts where it is easy (maybe not the right word) to hop off and go into town. I have only done a few multi day hikes and nothing like the AT so maybe I am not understanding but I have always carried enough food and know where the water sources are to re- supply. To me to enjoy the “long trails” is to stay on it, sleep on it and stay out of the hostels and only go into town for re-supply and enjoy… Read more »