Unforeseen consequences of going light
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James Byrnes
(backfeets1) - M

Locale: Midwest.... Missouri
Unforeseen consequences of going light on 10/12/2009 02:27:33 MDT Print View

Going light can play havoc with your trail experience. This has been especially true for me the last three summers of my travels in CO and WY. My advanced age (50's) and physical challenges (bad knee, lower back, shoulder pain) plus less than ideal physical condition and being a flat lander, initially led me to the light side. The adaptation of this approach to backpacking has led to an unhealthy state of over confidence. Several times I've traveled off trail over very rugged terrain (for me), gained/lost 4000ft a day, cold rain ,hail, slippery footing, plus 15 -20 mile days. Every time I push my limits successfully I find myself becoming over confident. Some of my carefully planed 5 days trips have turned into 3 day, just because I wondered if I could. On several occasions I've become confused as to my location (lost) and felt blithely unconcerned. I take side trips off trail thinking that if it doesn't work out I'll just backtrack. Oh!!!! the shame of planing on the fly.
Has anyone else experienced this developing over confidence and could it become dangerous?

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Overconfidence on 10/12/2009 04:32:58 MDT Print View

Interesting post!

I too am in my 50's -- with degenerative disc disease, which is what led me to the light side.

Getting lost is not so much an issue for me since I usually walk on well blazed trails like the AT and our local Ohio state and national forests.

I must confess the opposite reaction to yours, though. Since I now have less of a buffer between the outdoors and me, I tend to worry a bit more about where I am and how far I am away from the nearest help. I often assume I'm lost even when I'm not.

However, overconfidence has had one negative consequence. When I was carrying 35 pounds (and 65 in my youth), I was pretty careful where I put my feet and really paid attention to the trail in front of me. There's nothing like hitting the (rocky) ground rib and feet first with 65 pounds on your back.

Walking with, say, 8.5 pounds on my back now (including 3.5 pounds of food for 2.5 days) has encouraged me cruise down the trail, sometimes hopping over streams and not paying attention on flat ground as I lose myself in thought. Such overconfidence has led to a few twisted ankles wrapped tightly in duct tape.

Must pay attention . . . must pay attention. Sure is fun to contemplate the universe instead of the ground in front of you, though.

Stargazer

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Overconfidence on 10/12/2009 05:59:19 MDT Print View

Must pay attention . . . must pay attention. Sure is fun to contemplate the universe instead of the ground in front of you, though.

Hmm...but the universe is the ground in front of you!

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
The universe on 10/12/2009 06:23:41 MDT Print View

>Hmm...but the universe is the ground in front of you!

But only the smallest part of it. Have you ever watched people walk around a city sidewalk? They often stare at the pavement at their feet and not at the world around them. Most of our lives we are earthbound. We stare at our feet instead of up at our larger world.

A story about John Dobson, the great "sidewalk astronomer" illustrates:

John was constantly rousted by the rangers for setting up his huge homebuilt telescopes in the parking lots of national parks for the edification of anyone who passed by.

Said one ranger, "The sky is not part of the park."

"Ah," said Dobson, "But the park is part of the sky."

My kinda guy.

Stargazer

P.S. On the other hand, there's a nice interlude in Moby D*ck (will get censored) where Melville describes the sailors in the high crow's nest staring for hours in a mystical daze at the far horizon. After a while, they simply fell to the deck and their deaths. "Beware, oh ye Pantheists," Melville wrote.

Overconfidence can be a dangerous thing but it can also free you to see the wonders that nature can bestow. It's tough to find the balance: Feet firmly on the ground, head in the air.

Edited by nerdboy52 on 10/12/2009 06:27:33 MDT.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: The universe on 10/12/2009 06:33:56 MDT Print View

"It's tough to find the balance: Feet firmly on the ground, head in the air."

Nice posts. I found the best thing I ever did for this was to learn T'ai Chi. I'm a tall guy and it used to be that if I caught a toe on a rock or stepped paving slab, I'd pitch forward heavily, jarring knee or back as I fought to regain balance.

Since I learned T'ai Chi, I walk more upright, and if I hit an obstruction with my toe, I still have enough weight and balance over the trailing leg that I simply withdraw my toe, step over the obstacle, and carry on without breaking stride.

This has meant I can pay more attention to sky and scape while keeping moving, I just take in the trail ahead along with everything else and flow with it. It's a great feeling, seeing everything but concentrating on nothing.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: The universe on 10/12/2009 07:18:50 MDT Print View

Isn't it interesting how the mind works? I just got back this evening from a tough peak scramble north of Tokyo. On the way down I was watching how others took their steps negotiating the very steep, razor-sharp stone jumbled trail. And I watched my own steps and concentration to see where I walked lightly and where I tripped over the rocks. If I, like so many of the inexperienced walkers I saw today, kept my mind on the possibility of a fall and injury, I inevitably tripped up and had to scold myself back into stepping back from myself. As long as I let go and simply saw the trail as a kind of stairway I was able to pretty much effortlessly make it down the inclines and find routes without a misstep.

It had something to do with the shoes, too. Being very light (and everyone else wore heavy leather mountain climbing boots) I couldn't afford to simply come crashing down on the rock cracks, I had to step gingerly and be aware of where my feet were, but also where and how my whole body was positioned. Sometimes, when I felt cocky, like when on several occasions a really beautiful woman would come walking up past me, I dashed down the trail, and somewhere the rocks would slip right out from under me and plant me on my butt. Funny how rocks seem to know just when to do that...

PS. Stargazer... I loved your Melville quote!

Edited by butuki on 10/12/2009 07:21:52 MDT.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Walking as a meditative act on 10/12/2009 07:32:21 MDT Print View

Wowzers! Great posts. Most BPer's are such realists (in the best sense of the term). It's good to see a few idealists in the crowd.

Effective walking is kind of like eastern-style meditation, isn't it? Awareness without concentration, or is it concentration without self-awareness of the act of concentration.

What's the old Zen saying? When walking, just walk. When eating, just eat.

The nice thing about going light is that it takes your mind off the load and you can thus be aware of the act of walking and/ or the beauty of the world around you. But beware, oh ye, Pantheists, lest ye fall into that great, magnificent abyss.

Stargazer

P.S. Glad you like the quotation, Miguel. It's in one the interminable, digressive chapters about whaling that everybody skips when they read the novel.

Edited by nerdboy52 on 10/12/2009 07:44:51 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Unforeseen consequences of going light on 10/12/2009 19:48:39 MDT Print View

> On several occasions I've become confused as to my location (lost) and felt blithely unconcerned.

How lost were you? I mean, should you have been concerned? Did you have absolutely no idea where you were? Or did you know well enough approximately where you were so that you really had no reason to be worried?

What I mean is, maybe you really didn't have a reason to be concerned. Maybe you know that you have enough food and strong enough legs for an adequate safety margin. Maybe it's not overconfidence but simply plain confidence in your abilities. Maybe you've started enjoying backpacking so much that you're not quivering in fear like a beginner anymore.

Maybe I'm just overconfident, too.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Agree- don't miss it on 10/12/2009 19:54:27 MDT Print View

If you don't look up from your feet now and then while hiking, you'll miss it. Then all you've done is taken a walk.

James Byrnes
(backfeets1) - M

Locale: Midwest.... Missouri
clarification on 10/13/2009 01:53:52 MDT Print View

How lost were you? I mean, should you have been concerned? Did you have absolutely no idea where you were? Or did you know well enough approximately where you were so that you really had no reason to be worried?

Diane:
The point I was clumsily trying to make, that I was not concerned about the amount of energy expenditure necessary to figure / find my way out of my predicament. If I were to be lost for an extra day out, I would simply hike more hours/miles to stay within my food allotment. Faith in my equipment performance is no longer a concern. My experience as to route finding off trail (game trails), finding wild sheltered camp sites (as opposed to established over used), being able to visualize my ability to traverse terrain by looking at the elevation lines on a topo map (steep, and type like boulder field, talus, etc). It's one thing to read about outdoor skills and quite another to experience reality in application and consequences. Because of light weight gear, strength and conditioning requirements are much lower than I expected. So the question for me is will I or others find ourselves in hazardous situations that would never have occurred with use of heavy gear. (Deeper penetration into wild areas, less chance of trail traffic offering a safety margin,etc.)