Reader Response

posted Dec 10, 2017, 9:38 AM by Paul Wagner
We love hearing from the readers of our blog, and one of them, in particular, always has something interesting and often funny to say.  Walter read our post about advice for beginners, and he sent us this note.  After laughing out loud at it, we asked if we could post it here, and Walter kindly gave us permission. 

" Deer M and P

"We are not beginners, but I still enjoyed reading your blog today. You write so well, and the advice is just so sane and reasonable. There was one little problem. I was reading your blog at breakfast this morning and noticed a few typos. I mentioned this to my wife, who is an editor, and suggested that she offer her services. For example, I pointed out your recommendation that people should bring a “top map” (you left out an “o”). This led to a short and unpleasant exchange.

"Wife: A topo map! Did they mention that you have to know how to READ A TOPO MAP? Like what the little lines MEAN?

"Awkward silence. It was kind of a rhetorical question.

"Me (quietly): Yes, I think they mention that.

"We have not spoken since. Apparently she has a long memory and has not yet forgiven me for some perfectly honest mistakes concerning certain summits that had to be climbed. Yes, I realize (now) that you need to pay attention when all the little brown lines are close together. But I really don’t know why there is a problem. It’s not that important, is it? You are in the mountains. It isn’t flat. What do you expect?

"Your advice on many different topics has been very useful. I would add a few things to your list of things to take on your next backpacking trip.

"First, a sense of humility. The Wilderness is big, and you are small, and the wilderness doesn’t care. Be very, very careful, especially if you are hiking solo. And even if you are experienced, you can and probably will screw up. Allow for mistakes, and forgive yourself. If everything went according to plan, it wouldn’t be much of an adventure. I would add that dehydration and hypothermia aren’t the only things that can make you stupid. Fatigue works just as well, at least if you are my age. Why did I pitch my tent on this nest of ants? Why did I leave my stove out in the rain? Why did I think i could rock-hop this stream (and how long will it take me to dry off)?

"Second, a sense of humor. A comedy of errors is still a comedy. The wilderness is full of jokes for those who keep their eyes open. I know it’s a drag looking at photos from other people’s trips, but for an amusing time check out “Death March” on my wife’s site, , concerning a trip we took a few years ago. Also, if you are going solo, as I often do now, it’s good to have an imaginary friend to share funny stories with. I’m not going to tell you my friend’s name (it’s not “Wilson”), but we have a pretty good time together.

"Third, a sense of wonder. My wife wonders how she got talked into taking another trip. But seriously, it is a wonder how easy it is to get lost in some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world and have it all to yourself. You just have to walk for a couple of days. In a state in which more than thirty million people live, you can go bed at night and know that there is no one else within three miles of you in any direction. Once or twice, late in the season, it was more like five miles. The moon, the stars, the dark mountains all around. It takes your breath away.

"You guys are an inspiration. I intend to keep backpacking until I just can’t do it any more.

Walter J"

Thank you for sending this to us. Walter.  We loved the humor---and love the suggestion of taking those three things along. 

P thinks everybody has made that topo map mistake at least once.  he did it memorably in Yosemite with a Nat Geo map that had so many different color codes on it that you couldn't see those tiny little lines to well. But we found out what we were missing once we starting climbing and climbing.   That's when M asked to look at the map.

He knows we're in trouble when M does that!