Randall posted, "... or stopping to camp 4 miles from the trailhead to play with all the latest gadgets you just bought at REI."
Hey! That guy sounds like me! What's wrong with taking my toys when I go out to play? :-) Come to think of it, my toys probably add up to some of you folk's base weight!
Anyway, this whole discussion brings to mind the Mt. Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire. I have both hiked and driven to the top of Mt. Washington. When you drive, they give you a CD or tape to play in your car that tells about the history of the autoroad. It was built in the 1800's long before cars came along, as a carriage trail. But, almost immediately, it drew people from all over the US attempting to break some kind of record on the road, including the fastest to walk backwards to the top!
This to me illustrates something in human nature that just has to create a challenge out of anything. In this fellow Karl's case, it happens to be hiking the AT. Now for me, I am tickled pink to be able to hike to the top of Mt. Washington and not have to go back down in an ambulance. But, if it weren't for those who see breaking records as a challenge that must be faced, we probably wouldn't be watching the Olympics on TV right now!
Even though I'm slow-poke, I enjoy meeting people of all types out on the trail. I recall a solo trail runner once who stopped to ask me directions. It was a cool, wet fall day in New England. I was wearing waterproof shoes, longjohns and a poncho, he was wearing sneakers, running shorts and a tee shirt, covered with mud from the trail. All the while he was talking to me, he was running-in-place. After he left, I had to sit down and rest because he made me tired. :-) But, I enjoyed our talk.
Another time, while I was huffing and puffing up a pile of boulders someone had labeled as a trail, a dozen college age "kids" came bounding down the trail like gazelles. A couple of minutes later, another group of a dozen gazelles came bounding by, asking if I had seen their mates. I answered, "You betcha, they went that-a-way. By the way, where are you from?" They answered that they were the Dartmouth College trail running team. I gotta admit, for a moment there, I was jealous. Could of had something to do with the fact that I had at least 35 years on them.
To tell the truth, I mentally remember my hikes as much by the people I meet on them as much as by the scenery that I encounter. That's true whether they go flying past with a wave and a shout or it's other slow-pokes that I sit down with and brew a cup of tea.