Jan 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm #1298118
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Yes, it’s different. When we hike in the Sierra, we don’t see many couples hiking together. We see a lot of men, and a few groups of women. But plain old couples like us, not so much.
And it’s funny what happens when all those men see M on the trail. P tends to hike a little faster than M, so he usually greets these hikers first. They are perfectly happy to be seen resting on the side of the trail while P hikes up and past them. All is well in the world until M comes around the corner.
The minute they see the lovely M hiking along, they make a great struggle to get going again. They jump to their feet, hoist up their packs, give a few grunts, and push themselves up the trail.
So now we are hiking along the trail, P in front, and a group of guys who are just killing themselves to keep up, and M hiking merrily behind them all. The only problem is, they often can’t keep up the pace. And so, slowly and inexorably, M passes them by. She is slow and steady—but she never stops.
Her only hope is that they don’t die of a heart attack while she does so. They gasp and wheeze, sweat and groan. M smiles sweetly at them. Well, sometimes she does.
They just don’t want to admit that a woman might hike faster than they do—especially a woman of a certain age. (And no, we are not disclosing proprietary information. Let’s just that we’ve been married well over thirty years, and neither of us is in the bloom of youth.)
It’s true that there are a lot of people who hike faster than we do. We’re happy to let them walk on by. And we admit that we often have an advantage, as our packs are certainly lighter than a lot of the packs that we see on the trail. It’s always easier to climb up a pass with 25 pounds than with 45 pounds. Or sixty.
But none of that matters to those guys when M appears on the trail.
Go figure.Jan 17, 2013 at 12:21 am #1944597
I did a 110-mile AT section hike last year with some friends and ran into an older thru-hiker named Gene the second day we were on the trail. He was in his 60s but man could he hike. He woke up before us everyday in order to get an early start. We played leapfrog for three days — he would keep going at a steady pace while we would race past, only to tire out and have him pass us shortly thereafter. He was a great guy, and I sometimes find myself wondering how he's doing.
On my very first backpacking trip (60-mile section hike on the AT in Shenandoah NP with 45lb packs), we ran into another older man who was easily outhiking us. He had the same idea — wake up early and hike a long time. I first learned about ultralight backpacking from him; he had a pack much smaller and lighter than ours, but still maintained full functionality and safety.
Every single person in their 50s or older that I've run into on the trail has been in great shape and absolutely knows what they're doing. I can only aspire to be one of those guys in 30 years.Jan 17, 2013 at 1:07 am #1944602
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Well, for some guys it's not wanting to admit that a woman might hike faster. But for a lot of other guys it's wanting to impress the woman. Ever since I read "Tales of Neveryon", by Samuel Delaney, I've always maintained that society has it all wrong… it's men that are designed to try to make impressions and dress up in feathers and makeup, not women. Most men want women to be impressed with them, and usually feel that women have little interest in them. Every other animal does it… why should human males be any different?Jan 17, 2013 at 3:58 am #1944612
@newtonLocale: Southeastern Louisiana
"Every other animal does it… why should human males be any different?"
"I've always maintained that society has it all wrong… it's men that are designed to try to make impressions and dress up in feathers and makeup, not women."
Come down to New Orleans this time of year and you'll see a lot of that behavior. It's Carnival time. ;-)
I have two speeds on the trail, slow and stopped. My hiking buddy and I usually maintain a 2 to 3 mph pace dependent upon the terrain. No one may deny us our right to take a break while we stop to refuel and "smell the roses". We've gotten to a point where the only people we care to impress are our wives and ourselves. ;-)
NewtonJan 17, 2013 at 5:15 am #1944620
I loved your vignette. :)
I just finished reading the book "A Billion Wicked Thoughts", in which a couple of researchers studied the biology of human desire in terms of data they have collected from search terms used on the Internet. Fascinating read that helped me to understand the biological differences between women and men when it comes to sexual desire. It actually helped me to understand that we are just animals after all and that a lot of the behaviors from the opposite sex that perplex us make sense when you think of it in terms of sexual desire and evolution.
+1 on this read!Jan 17, 2013 at 8:02 am #1944649
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Thanks Raquel. I'll have to track down that book and check it out!Jan 18, 2013 at 12:16 am #1944927
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I think this is often a case of us having stereotypes predefined that skew our rational thought processes and it's not just men that do this.
I was on the receiving end of this on a recent trip as I chatted with a young female (30-ish) backpacker while we retrieved our food sacks. She asked me where I was headed and when I told her our plans for the day she responded, "WOW, that's really great! It's really nice that you can still do these kind of trips…). Now I know that it was somehow meant as a compliment… at least that's what I tell myself and I appreciate the fact that I am twice her age but it was very condescending none-the-less since she knows nothing about me. When I told my hiking buddy about her comment, he laughed and said "I'd like to see her try to keep up with you on the trail."Jan 18, 2013 at 6:31 am #1944946
cool. Just a warning for you…it's a pretty racy read! Most of the data is pulled from porn sites.Jan 18, 2013 at 11:40 am #1945019
Your thread is delightful!
A few years ago my hiking buddy (who is also my best friend's husband, as Emma detests hiking)arranged for a Rim-to-rim trip through the Grand Canyon. Besides the two of us, he also invited some members of another group he hikes with, a pretty exclusive men's hiking club.
When we met early in the morning on the North Rim,the other two men were furious (I don't speak their dialect, but I can tell ticked-off in any language!) He had previously told them what a good hiker I was….but sorta neglected to also add I was female. A loud argument ensued, with the two of them insisting my friend leave me behind as I was sure to slow them down and ruin the trip. He just smiled, nodded, and told them, in essence, "just wait."
By the time we reached the river, I had easily passed them up, and waited with some group snacks at the bottom. They were happy and surprised. We started trading trail stories and jokes, and quickly became good friends as they realized I wasn't going to slow them down. By the time we reached The Box, it was 112 degrees, and one got heat exhaustion. Since my background is medical, I was able to get him cooled down and he was able to finish the hike.
On the way up, the guys opened up that they were shocked a woman could hike so well. They had tried to get their wives interested but hadn't had any luck. A long conversation ensued, with occasional translation by my friend, as we discussed the differences between men and women, what we each look for out of our wilderness experiences, and how to perhaps approach their wives so that they would be more interested in joining them in the future.
We all finished a fantastic hike in great spirits and with new, lasting friends. That "exclusive" hiking club is now open to all. Even Emma has joined our hikes!
Adorning my desk is a priceless picture: the 4 of us, standing on that bridge over the Colorado river, grinning like crazy. Happy in any language.Jan 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm #1945107
[x]Jan 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm #1945331
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I often hike the Cactus to Clouds trail to Mt San Jacinto. There are a couple of women who hike this trail frequently and kick the butt of about 99% of the men who try it. There are some "old" people who hike it and kick the butts of most people who are 30 years younger.
This trail has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the continental US. Backpacker mag rated it the 5th most difficult day hike in the US. Skukra rates it as one of his 10 favorite hikes, with a difficulty rating of "very difficult."Jan 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm #1945339
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Hiking is a sport that ages well. Decades ago, I had my butt kicked by 80 year olds on various summits and ski slopes. I'm halfway towards becoming that 80 year old.
On gender: I tried a long time to find hiking companions who could keep up. Lots of guys would agree to do, say, Half Dome and Glacier Point in a day or maybe Rim-to-River-to-Rim + Half Dome + that slot canyon in Zion in a 3-day weekend, but usually they'd bonk. Whereas the young women would never bonk, but sometimes, after the first 30 miles in a day, would get to a point where they weren't having as much fun and felt no compunction against stopping for the day. From that I concluded that fit women tend to have more endurance, fewer pain receptors, but more common sense. Whereas men had greater strength-to-weight, ego, and risk of being injured on the trail.Jan 19, 2013 at 7:14 pm #1945379
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
I see a lot of men, and especially young men, who get a little too much machismo going on and they crash about 80% of the way up Mount Whitney. I don't see so much of it in women. They seem to be smarter about protecting their bodies. Young men go faster, but then they burn out.
Of all of the people who have hiked up the Whitney Trail with me over the decades, the male success rate is about 90%, and the female success rate is about 96%.
–B.G.–Jan 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm #1945383
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
I have known too many women who love fart jokes and too many men not all that interested in sex to believe that stereotypes are anything more than peer-reinforced social codes.Feb 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm #1955110
@stingray4540Locale: South Bay
Funny, I've never noticed any different reactions when I hike with my wife in the sierras, or anywhere else for that matter.
Although she does keep me from going at a faster pace, but it don't bother me that much. I could see how it could bother some.Feb 17, 2013 at 6:58 am #1955185
@carpenhLocale: St. Vrain River Valley
One thing I've noticed (since I started hiking in the Rockies, at least) is that many of the women I pass (or pass me!) on the trails seem to enjoying themselves more than the men– many of the men have grimacing looks on their faces, are grunting quietly, are keeping their eyes focused on the ground, etc. The women are smiling, looking around them, checking out views, etc.
Sometimes, I get the idea that too many men see backpacking as a challenge ("I will conquer all that I face") and women see it as travel ("I will see and learn all I can about a new place").Feb 17, 2013 at 7:08 am #1955187
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I have thought the same thing.Feb 17, 2013 at 9:27 am #1955243
My wife and I got passed up South Sister by an older couple in the 'race' to be first that day have the summit to yourself.
I blame it on my wife.
-and that's not sexist… if I was gay I'd blame it on my husband.Feb 17, 2013 at 9:38 am #1955252
@sparky52804Locale: Eastern Iowa
At least you weren't solo, then you would have nobody to blameFeb 17, 2013 at 9:42 am #1955255
Yeah, saved me some face!Feb 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm #1955400
I like your observation.
I really started understanding the difference between men and women in the coed basic training I attended 17 years ago (Wow, I can't believe it's been that long!) Every time the drill sergeant gave us an almost impossible task to finish with limited time, the women would merely shrug their shoulders and start working towards the task. Every woman would volunteer to do something different and get to work immediately. Many of us (not all) would be smiling while working.
The men behaved differently as a whole under this kind of stress. There always needed to be a discussion on the "best" way to complete the task with several informal leaders arguing over the way to proceed. In the meantime the women would have it all done. I was fascinated to watch the men argue and not accomplish anything under stress.
Just my observations…Feb 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm #1955424
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"This trail has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the continental US. Backpacker mag rated it the 5th most difficult day hike in the US."
Just out of curiosity, what are the 4 ahead of it?Feb 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm #1955435
– -K.T.- –Participant
@hereFeb 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm #1955449
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Thanks, Ken. Those are some bad assed hikes. I feel like a piker for only having done number 8, The Enchantments Traverse, 5 times. But their description is of the weenie route. It only counts for real if you start from the Snow Lake Parking lot and descend Asgaard Pass. It adds an extra 1200' of up and allows you to savor coming down Asgaard about 13 miles into the hike, an exquisite experience guaranteed to send the most discriminating connoisseurs of pain into paroxysms of ecstasy. Doing it in mid May makes it a downright sporting proposition. No matter the time of year, I'll bet it would be up near the top of the list if they gave points for natural beauty.Feb 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm #1955455
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Ken: Thanks for the link. Interesting that none of the more iconic (WHitney, Half Dome, Basic GCNP to the River) trips made it. Rightfully so, as they are all easier.
And while Rim to Rim comes in at #7, Rim to Rim to Rim would be off the scale of these 10 "Hardest Hikes" and numerous folks on this picked that off a year ago (not me, mine was a 28-mile, not 42-mile day).
Still, I'll print it out as a "Death March Bucket List" to aspire to.
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