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Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

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Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby Suzy » Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:17 pm

Hello HST - I've been reading this forum for quite a while, and really like it. But there's one thing that bothers me that I have yet to see discussed. At risk of sounding like an antisocial person, I wonder if anyone else has these experiences or feelings and would like to share?

I like to backpack alone or with my husband. It is a great chance for us to be alone together and enjoy each other's company. For me hiking is a relaxing break from the intense social world of city life, and what i love is the solitude and peace and quiet - this is why I go there! I don't like to talk while I hike, and I really don't head out into wild, quiet places to make new friends. If the only way I could hike would be to do it in a group, I would not do it. (I guess I am antisocial, a bit.)

I'm not saying I don't like to meet other backpackers on the trail, exchange some friendly words, trade useful information and snacks, and so on - I'm sure I come across as very friendly to others I meet. But - maybe because of this - now and again, I (or we) encounter a "tagalong" - someone who wants to hike with me/us and they can be quite nosey and intrusive and hard to shake loose. I find it harder to get away from the person in these circumstances than in normal life, as I can't make up some excuse about needing to go... can't turn down a side street or nip into a cafe... It is bizarrely the case that in the wide open terrain of a hiking location, I can feel really intruded upon and trapped!

The overwhelming majority of other hikers are not like this - they like peace and quiet too and are sensitive to subtle cues that we are not looking to increase the size of our group! But there are definitely some who are not, and whose plan, when they enter the trail, seems to be "I'll hook up with some others'.

How do others handle this situation?



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Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby wanderin.jack » Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:52 pm

Thanks for writing. I have a long draft essay on trail etiquette that I have yet to release in fear that I'll anger too many folks...and I totally understand your dilemma. When we are faced with this 1) We always limit conversations to others hikers unless they really need something, or put another way...don't engage. 2) We take breaks far far far off the trail so we aren't cornered. 3) if we are cornered pull off to the side of the trail and ask that they pass because wife needs to pee. The problem with that is that within a few miles we have usually caught up to the person so that bring up 4)step up the pace and leave them behind. This works pretty well most of the time. A few occasions we've simply said that "we are looking for a little more of a quite wilderness experience so nothing personal but we like to not talk." One of the above antidotes usually works pretty well. We always start with number one. Oh and one other thing, we try to stay off the JMT until after Labor Day and then we camp far far off the trail like they say to do when you get your permit. Hope this helps!


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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby Suzy » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:41 am

Wanderin'Jack thanks it's good to know others feel the need for strategies for things like this, and those are very useful tips, I'll run them by my husband next time we go out together. I would probably be comfortable to say to people "We prefer to hike alone, would you like to go ahead?" but he is more polite and sociable than I am, so the first three will help a lot. One that we have come up with that works sometimes is "keep feet moving". So we can say hello, quick chat etc, but keep moving. I think being female I probably feel a bit more insecure about the whole thing, especially when I'm alone.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby FeetFirst » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:35 am

Just be honest. I've been on both sides of this scenario and it's basic, really. I think most will understand.

When solo on a soul searching journey I met a nice guy that obviously wanted to hang out. He kept pace with me for about 10 mi. While filling up water I told him "no hard feelings, but go ahead I'd like some alone time." He said cool, maybe I'll see you later. In fact, two days later we were at the same lake and shared a nice fire and whisky. Good times. I told him thanks for understanding my situation earlier and he was cool about it. He mentioned that he actually appreciated some quiet time as well.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby balzaccom » Sun Feb 02, 2014 10:28 am

You are not alone.

We had a similar experience a few years ago in the John Muir Wilderness. My wife and I love the quality time we get alone on the trail. And while we are always happy to say hello and chat for a few minutes with a fellow hiker, there is a big difference between those iittle chats and someone who wants to join up for the duration.

This fellow was climbing up Post Peak Pass ahead of us...and we stopped to pump water just to let him get futher along. He waited. And we followed that pattern all morning--us hiking slower than we normally would, and he constantly stopping to see if we were catching up to him. We finally caught up to him right as he was finishing his lunch and putting his pack on to hit the trail.

Perfect. We stopped for lunch to let him go onward---and he stayed for twenty minutes chatting with us. We actualy thought he was going to stay there, talking to us, until we finished our lunch. He finally left, but it was clear as he was hiking away that we were going to catch up to him again. This time we caught him as he was resting. We said hello, and hiked on by. He immediately threw on his pack and starting hiking right behind my wife.

Now I normally hike a bit faster than my wife, and then wait every mile or so to re-group. But this time I just didn't feel comfortable doing that, so the three of us hiked along for a couple of miles in a line. And it did feel odd. I think we finally tired him out...and we made for a secluded lake for our campsite.

Sure enough ten minutes later he hiked up to us and greeted us again. We had chosen a spot that was a bit isolated for our campsite, and didn't really have space for a second tent. So he camped about fitty yards away and immediately came over to chat.

My wife likes to meditate after each day's hike, and I like to fish. We finally told this guy that we wanted to do those things. Alone. I guess he got the message.

And I am sure that he thinks we're jerks.

But my wife values her privacy, doesn't like to share visions of her laundry, toilet habits, or teeth flossing with strangers. And I don't like sharing my wife with strangers. ahem.

Sometimes you just have to tell people that you want to be alone.

It's curious to me that the only people I have ever met who did not understand this were single men...and that may say something more about them, than about you or me.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Feb 02, 2014 10:58 am

I've never had anyone start hiking with me for too far. Many have with a whole string of questions since I normally will be on some multi month hike and they want to know allot of things but they normally wont keep on for miles.

I've had several times though where I began hiking with someone else. Sometimes for most of a day. I have at times felt more obligated than not to keep up with them and keep hiking with them. More like they are keeping me in tow rather than I am following them. One example was last year when I met this guy coming off of Muir Pass. We began talking allot while resting and then continued to do so on the move. We both had plenty to say and it was nice chatting with him as we went but he was a death march sort of hiker who rarely stopped. As a result in trying to keep up with him I took like 3 photos all the way through the area and was very dehydrated and beat by the time I reached my camp for the night which was a couple miles short of his goal and several miles further than my intended goal for the day.

This thread though makes me think back and wonder if I have ever hiked with anyone for awhile and they might not have wanted me to. Hopefully not. :o
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby maverick » Sun Feb 02, 2014 11:04 am

Hi Suzy,

Welcome to HST!
I agree with others who have said that you need to be honest, not brutally but
diplomatically, unless the person of coarse they continue not get the message.
You need to emphasis what the wildernss experience means to you and how you
like to enjoy it, bid the person farewell wishing him/her a safe trip. When you try
to spare their feelings giving up a piece of your own solitude, they will take it as an
invitiation to continue on with their intrusiveness and invading your wilderness
space. No one should be allowed to do this, sometimes you may need to get
firm, it may feel uncomfortable to you to do this at that moment but that will
wear off quickly once your personal wilderness space is free again.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:20 pm

Suzy, this is an excellent topic, especially for HST where there are so many solo hikers. The worst instance in my experience was in 2001 on our last trip with our son. We were doing the Goodale Pass-Silver Pass loop for four nights. On the second day, we camped at Chief Lake and saw no one except people coming down the trail from Silver Pass. The next day was a layover. We explored around the area and even considered moving to Warrior Lake for more privacy, but since we had Chief to ourselves we didn’t, which turned out to be a mistake. Early in the afternoon right after we’d had lunch, a lone woman walked up to our campsite. She said she was supposed to meet up with a friend, but hadn’t seen her. She said she was freaked out being solo, especially about bears, and wanted to camp with us at our site. I reassured her that there was nothing to fear being solo, having done it many times. In all my bear encounters, the bears were more afraid of me than me of them and had run away. I said my family wanted to be alone in the wilderness to share the experience among ourselves and that there were many campsites nearby. I finally said come with me, I’ll show you a great site and help you set up. If you have any problems or get too scared, let us know. With my wife’s strong encouragement, the woman finally consented. I found her a great site about 50 yards away overlooking the lake. I told her in more detail about where and when I had gone solo while helping her put up her tent. She finally relaxed a little bit and I returned to my family’s site. About an hour later, a large party of twenty-something men (at least ten people) came over the pass and plopped themselves illegally on the lakeside about 50 yards away in the other direction. I went back over to her site to let her know if they hassled her to let us know and she seemed even more relaxed due to the group’s presence. (We found the group a royal pain in the rear since they were very noisy and camped illegally - we wished we'd moved to Warrior.) The next morning we made sure the woman was okay and went over Silver Pass and camped at Silver Pass Lake and then hiked down the final day and caught the ferry. The woman was catching the ferry with her friend. When we said hello to her, she turned away and refused to talk to us. My son (who was 19) was shocked by her behavior, remarking to his parents, “ungrateful snotty ****.”

On my solo trips, I’ve had instances of people hiking along with me. When I was younger, I hiked faster and so left them behind. Now, I tell them I’m too old to keep up with them. I also tend to politely project an aura of wanting to be alone since I've never been good at hiding my personal emotions. It seems to work.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby markskor » Sun Feb 02, 2014 1:41 pm

Odd that this seldom happens to me when over a day in. Lots of good trail stories though; takes all kinds.

In the past, if on trail, I would have just increased my pace, and slowly walked away. Unfortunately, most youngsters compete - trail speed; might not work. Us oldsters have learned to slow down instead.

Now that I am ancient, found a better way...After becoming social but if not compatible, lag behind and quietly go off trail...(maybe 1/8 mile and take a short break - good time for a fatty?)

Usually being a solo, if already camped somewhere and someone pulls in...Heck, have made some great friends this way. However, if someone truly "unwanted" infringes/pitches their tent too close, etc, I have been known to just get up, pack up, and head down the trail...One of the main reasons I solo, (and lots easier than becoming flustered)...lots of room Sierra.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:07 pm

I do mostly off-trail, so this has not happened much. I would just be very straight-forward from the beginning. No "tricks", just politely say no. IF that does not do it, firmly say no. THEN start the tricks.

It seems to me that a certain demographic - younger than we old timers - are really into the social aspect of backpacking, and to them, tagging along is natural, fun and think everyone loves this. I do not think it occurs to them that we rather be alone, and alone a LOT! Four days without seeing a single person is pure heaven to me. Actually, my purposeful avoidance of other backpackers probably seems rude to them. So to all the trail social butterflies, I apologize if I seem rude. I just would rather not talk. A simple greeting might even break my wilderness experience. I am not in the least offended if you do not say "hi" to me either. A smile is enough.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby Rockchucker » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:12 pm

A smile and small nod then be on your way. People are weird, they don't think, going into someone's camp is like following someone into the bathroom to continue a conversation while you s#*+.
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Re: Trail Etiquette - How to Politely Deter unwanted "third whee

Postby austex » Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:30 pm

R.C.going into someone's camp is like following someone into the bathroom to continue a conversation while you s#*+.
LOL! You nailed it.
I do also seek solace on the trail and will slow my pace on the trail; easy to do (old fart) Or like Mark said go a bit off trail and take a break. Yes a simple nod/smile/hi will do and is appreciated. It's like a golf game to me. I paid for it (got a permit) just like everyone else and I'll play my game the way I want; even though it means a "foot Iron" out of some rough... Am I a bit slow? Play through!
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