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Following the Herd.
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Following the Herd. on 05/11/2013 13:54:41 MDT Print View

A short piece I just put up on my blog.


Following the Herd.

Or not.

Surfing a week ago was an excellent reminder of the pervasive herd mentality amongst us humans. While driving north, we witnessed all the big spots: Sunset, Topanga, Malibu…all overrun with the typical crowds. Yet we found waves just as good with nobody on them.


We were willing to take a chance and not find surf. We were willing to be creative. We we’re willing to walk a little bit further. We were willing to get up a little bit earlier. We were willing to drive a little bit more.

But most important, we were willing to go to places that people don’t talk about, places that aren’t “surf spots”, places that don’t appear in the reports or register amongst the internet chatter. Accordingly, we don’t write reports and post pictures that can identify these places.

Because the herd seems capable of only going places it has been told about.

Which has me thinking about all the local beauty that surrounds me, the little canyons and peaks and surf breaks that don’t get much attention, little gems that sit silently waiting in my own backyard. The tiny walk-in campgrounds that are easily accessible for overnight trips, yet are just out of reach of the majority of the herd. Small, unnamed rock outcroppings and points that can generate a fun wave without attracting crowds. I think about all the little places I’ve seen that have been on my radar for years, yet for some reason, have failed to get back to for further exploration. David Chenault touches on this in a recent post here . I was especially struck by this idea: “The second principle is that while living somewhere which makes you always want to travel is bad, living somewhere that is so good you never want to leave is worse.”

I think I have found a very happy medium here in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. My son and I will shoulder packs and head out this afternoon on a short backpack to check out another local spot we’ve never seen. Hopefully the drive and the hike will have thinned the herd.

Edited by xnomanx on 05/11/2013 14:27:00 MDT.

Paul Mason
(dextersp1) - F
I don't know ... on 05/11/2013 18:49:10 MDT Print View

I get the impression you are lumping all those people at the crowed places into one group. There can be many reasons why they went there
- close by
- easy parking
- a lot of food places
- watch the girls
- watch the boys
- just to kill a few minutes
- just need to touch up their tan
- safety
- price of gas limits where they go
- surfing with friend who like the area

It doesn't mean they are a herd - everyone following.

Something to meditate on is what initiated your thought for the juxtaposition in the first place?

Why did you choose the differences you did to comment upon?

Stephen M.R. Covey - "We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior."

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.

Wayne Dyer

Edited by dextersp1 on 05/11/2013 19:00:54 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: I don't know ... on 05/12/2013 14:10:48 MDT Print View

Go hike in the desert off trail by yourself...

Then you will understand :)

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: I don't know ... on 05/13/2013 08:42:12 MDT Print View

"Because the herd seems capable of only going places it has been told about."

Other than the above quote, I didn't see this as a judgmental OP, more of a general observation.

When I read the OP, I thought about my Wonderland hike scheduled for August. Like the JMT, AT, PCT, BLT, etc this could certainly be considered a herd activity. The Wonderland has lots of red tape, only allowed to camp in designated sites, portions of the trail are within earshot of the road, access to privies, and three locations to pick up resupplies in 93 miles, hardly a wilderness experience.

But the Wonderland is popular for a reason. It offers some challenges for the average Joe with combined 44k' of ups and downs, the scenery is gorgeous, and many opportunities to see wildlife. The only other hiker on that trail I have any interest to see is my 12 y/o daughter who is joining me. I'd rather there weren't so many people and it'd be great if I could (responsibly) camp anywhere I please but I have to take the good with the bad.

So likening the Wonderland to a crowded beach.... I'm very capable of hiking elsewhere and I don't feel that my experience will somehow less special because of the volume of traffic.

Any time I want to witness herd activity, I just logon to Facebook and read the memes du jour. Apparently we're on the edge of being forced into slums, FEMA concentration camps, and DHS is preparing to invade the U.S. with 2700 MRAPs and a gazillion rounds of ammo! Gotta love groupthink.

FWIW I live in the desert portion of Washington and we've already reached 96* in May. I get my share of tumbleweed hiking but I enjoy seeing the pictures of the desert in your area Nick. It definitely has a different flavor than the Palouse.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
The Herd on 05/13/2013 10:29:32 MDT Print View

My friend and I are hiking this Saturday to a popular, local peak.

There are more interesting places. Places with less people and perhaps more scenic.

But this peak is able to be reached easily from his home and let him be back by early afternoon.

Perhaps we are following the herd.

But when you have two small children, time is a valuable commodity.

I also value the friendship we both have.

So we found a way to spend hiking and still allow him to fulfill his role as a father.

Following the herd? Maybe.

Or maybe we just found a way that allows him to balance his responsibilities as a parent, husband and a friend.

Edited by PaulMags on 05/13/2013 12:17:22 MDT.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Following the Herd. on 05/13/2013 10:36:41 MDT Print View

Ever see animals congregate at the best feeding grounds, or watering holes ?

It's natural for mammals to form large groups at the best spots.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Following the Herd on 05/13/2013 11:22:51 MDT Print View

I've gone to Jellystone, Yosemite and a few other places, there is a good reason they are so popular. Hit the good spots to see what it is all about, then go to the out of the way spots. I live in an area where I can either drive a short distance, or simply take off from my yard for however long of a distance I want to put in, winter or summer. Works for me.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: The Herd on 05/13/2013 11:48:07 MDT Print View

@ Paul: Well said. As someone who fits the same description as your friend, I have the same sentiments. I also try to go early too, so my absence goes with little notice.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
The Herd on 05/13/2013 14:10:45 MDT Print View

Quite a lot of defense of the herd here.
I guess some of us think like predators and some of us think like prey. (Insert winking smiley face wearing sunglasses with its tongue out here so people don't flip out)

Of course there are reasons to follow the crowds; crowded places are often that because they offer something exceptional..if not simple convenience.

But there are ample reasons to not follow.
I'm struck by how often I find a hidden gem somewhere that seems to be completely off the collective radar...yet exists well within the range of really well traveled areas. The High Sierra is rife with these spots, many only mere miles from some of the most well traveled trails in the country. It strikes me that people can forget that there are other options out there.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
The Herd on 05/13/2013 20:35:59 MDT Print View

Craig, I agree about many places folks miss while bping the JMT Highway. I've said this before, I've been a few miles from the JMT and seen very scenic lakes, one, the prettiest I've ever been to after a good snow year, the snow still hanging in there in early August. Plus, not seeing anyone for four days, never staying in the same place more than one night.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Why avoid the herd? on 05/14/2013 02:56:47 MDT Print View

For me, I think it's more about trying to avoid having my experience defined by others. I admit that I find it hard to put my own spin on a trip, a view, a place or an experience when there are a hundred strangers there pointing cameras, chattering and congregating around a point.

Don't forget though that avoiding the herd doesn't always mean going further or harder. When my kids were little, they taught me that you could get away just as easily by stopping only a few ks from the carpark. The views and the experience didn't just magically start 10km out, and you could finangle some peace and beauty by stopping for the night at the point everyone else was pulling their water bottles out for the first drink.

I ponied up for my away time by taking the kids with me. Which led to my wife deciding that she was missing out, and refusing to stay home the next time.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: the herd on 05/14/2013 07:22:58 MDT Print View

Well done Craig.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
The Herd on 05/14/2013 08:04:26 MDT Print View

Not defending "The Herd" but rather questioning the tone of the article.

It is good to get off the beaten path and explore different areas.

Safe to say I wander off the beaten path, but that's not an option for everyone for various reasons.

While I can agree with the sentiment of the article (get away from the crowds, explore a different place), the article did come off a little like those people in an urban record store who wear the Buddy Holly glasses: "I know this obscure band you've never heard of..therefore I am cooler, hipper and more in the know than you. :)"

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: The Herd on 05/14/2013 08:46:45 MDT Print View

"Hiking Hipster" would make a great trail name....

Art ...
(asandh) - F
The Herd Within on 05/14/2013 09:49:20 MDT Print View

I think that true "away from the herd" existence happens within. Sometimes out of the way physical travel can help to accomplish this ... sometimes not. The mind's relationship to the physical space is what's key. I can go to more out of the way places in a day, just sitting in my little white room, than most people visit in a lifetime.

Sometimes the man on the street, at first glance appears to be part of the herd, but if you look inside him you will see much differently. Not to get too creepy, but the recent Cleveland thing is an excellent example.

Paul Mason
(dextersp1) - F
That was my first thought on 05/14/2013 14:11:24 MDT Print View

Paul Magnanti

"the article did come off a little like those people in an urban record store who wear the Buddy Holly glasses: "I know this obscure band you've never heard of..therefore I am cooler, hipper and more in the know than you. :)"

That was my first thought.

"Hipster Hiker" is a good handle but aren't hipsters just another herd? "Portlandia" did a good video on it.

Edited by dextersp1 on 05/14/2013 14:13:36 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Hipster on 05/14/2013 16:21:29 MDT Print View

I am a hipster hiker. I like going places that other people don't go to.

If I climb a peak and too many people have signed the register recently, I don't post any pictures or a trip report to retain my hiker cred.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: The Herd on 05/14/2013 19:50:10 MDT Print View

"The High Sierra is rife with these spots, many only mere miles from some of the most well traveled trails in the country."

All it takes is a map and a little imagination. Sometimes, just a little imagination.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: The Herd on 05/15/2013 19:19:06 MDT Print View

+1 Paul

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Following the Herd on 05/15/2013 23:41:18 MDT Print View

Trying to find a shot on Photobucket I just came across a "herd" walk I did last year.
Because it is well maintained and advertised I put it off for a few years but a mate convinced me to do it.
The first day in , it started to rain. It rained heavily all night.
The next morning the other 2 lots of walkers walked out, so we had the trail to
ourselves.. (you can only do it one way)
nice and sunny after that, no one about.
So here are some pics from the herd walk :

Cheesy 1
Cheesy 2
Cheesy 3
cheesy 4
cheesy 5
In praise of the cheesy walks where the herds roam...

Edited by Franco on 05/15/2013 23:46:06 MDT.