Group to Clique

Well, the blog is back online, as has been previously established, and hopefully I will be back to my regularly scheduled blog posts.

Anyway, having spent five months among the backpacker sub-culture of the outdoor sub-culture, I’ve been able to observe certain trends among my comrades-in-trail. Some were good, like the fact that most of us were fairly chill people who hadn’t completely bought into consumerism and whatnot and were very willing to share, help out, and pay forward. Others were…not so good, like a certain degree of snobbishness towards those who didn’t hike or were not willing to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail all in one whack.

However, one of the more awkward things I ran across was in a shelter (three-sided structure with a floor and a roof) in Maine, where the gentleman who maintained the section of trail the shelter was on had left a Q&A based on various questions that had been written into the shelter register over the years. Someone had mentioned that the trail in the area was a bit difficult–which it was, let me tell you. Lots of steep bits, bare rock in some places, coming close to needing to boulder instead of hike in others.

The fellow had written, and I’m paraphrasing here, “That’s how we like it. It helps keep the number of people who come through here down.”

This peeved and worried me.


Well, for one thing, I have a bit of a populist streak. I really don’t like it when people’s reasoning for doing something boils down to “keeping the riffraff out,” especially when A. The area they’re keeping folks out of doesn’t belong to them and B. The reasoning is purblind stupid. Most folks who’re warned off by rugged trails are warned off by the concept of backpacking to begin with.

For another thing, that elitism is dangerous to its practitioners. It says of something “This is mine, and I do not want to share it.” It’s how a friend group turns into a clique. The difference is outwardly a subtle one, but inwardly, it is as different as night and day. It is a group not based around a common interest, one that will easily allow others in, but rather a group based on keeping others out–a “friend” group where its exclusivity becomes part of the allure. This sort of friend group is, in the end, based at least partly on pride and arrogance, and this is damaging to the soul.

Now, I’m not saying that this fellow is an awful human being. What I am saying is that it’s very easy for this kind of thing to creep in to how we think about our hobbies, especially the ones we’re very passionate about, the ones that become part of our identity. Tread carefully, and, like the last post said, treat other folks as human beings, same as you are.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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