Just discovered this thread today. Great reading.
Have spent a lot more time in the last 10 years off trail than on. (Yes that makes me awesome.) One notable exception was few years ago while my group was resting at Amphitheater Lake after coming down Cataract Creek Pass, and looking at the talus field between us and the direct route to Upper Basin, we decided to drop down to the JMT and go over Mather. We are all very happy we did it. Yes it was crowded, but the Golden Staircase was something to see as was Palisades Basin.
Maybe if we saw a bunch of discarded (thrown off a cliff) boots and shoes by solo hikers inspired by Wild we'd judge harsher, but we didn't see any, and I'm told that fad was very short-lived anyway.
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