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a woman alone on the appalachian trail
August 28, 2006 6:14 AM   Subscribe

"It’s a cliché among hikers that there are as many ways to hike the trail as there are people who hike it. Most start at Springer Mountain in Georgia and end at Katahdin in Maine; a few start in Maine and head south. Purists walk every 2,167.1 miles of the trail marked by white rectangular blazes painted on the trees. Blue blazers take short cuts on side trails marked with blue. Yellow blazers hitchhike ahead along roads. And then there are the pink blazers. Pink blazers pursue women."
posted by jessamyn (155 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
A disturbing counterpoint to "A Walk in the Woods". Creepy.
posted by GuyZero at 6:34 AM on August 28, 2006


But I had, it seemed, completely mistaken the character of the people with whom I would share my hike. I thought that I would be among “my people,” like the exiled Duke and his subjects in As You Like It . Instead, the Appalachian Trail felt like a fraternity, where a man could be a man and the girls are left at home. There were, it seemed, no minorities or homosexuals, and very few women on the trail. I had expected progressive open minds and good karma. Instead, what I found was the status quo. Actually, it felt like the status quo might have been 50 years ago.

This really sucks for deja. I understand her love of the mountains and the desire to complete the journey.
posted by nofundy at 6:37 AM on August 28, 2006


I was oblivious to men’s feelings—in the same spirit of disrespect that they had shown me since Tray Mountain—but I wasn’t looking to ruin anyone’s hike. I just didn’t care.
posted by smackfu at 6:40 AM on August 28, 2006


Nothing ruins wilderness like an assload of people. I suggest a side trip to pick up a large german shepherd or rottweiler.
posted by jfuller at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2006


She had me until it turned out she slept with the same people she described as creepy in the first paragraph. It doesn't help you avoid getting stalked if you actually sleep with creeps.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:46 AM on August 28, 2006


Excellent (and disturbing) article that I would never have encountered otherwise - thanks.
posted by Eyebeams at 6:46 AM on August 28, 2006


That scared the crap out of me. Sad that even in the wilderness you can't get away from creepos.
posted by agregoli at 6:50 AM on August 28, 2006


Wow-- great and interesting read. Thanks for posting this.
posted by bonheur at 6:53 AM on August 28, 2006


parts of that totally scared the shit outta me. american culture prides itself on being so "progressive" in regards to women. "look, they don't wear burqas!" the hate in our society just takes different forms.

“Listen,” I replied, “I’m really sorry that you can’t control yourself, but you have to understand that I am a woman alone in the woods. I don’t know who you are and I don’t trust you. I’ve been out here for five and a half months and you’re not the first fucking weirdo that I’ve met. If you come any closer, I will defend myself. I will fucking kill you.” As I said this, I felt a surge of power, confident that I could utterly destroy this man.

most guys would call her a bitch for this rather then giving her a high five for sticking up for herself.
posted by andywolf at 6:54 AM on August 28, 2006


She had me until it turned out she slept with the same people she described as creepy in the first paragraph.
so with this logic a girl that goes on a couple of dates with a guy that turns into a stalker is asking for it. that's bullshit.
posted by andywolf at 6:57 AM on August 28, 2006


I've heard and read a lot of stories about AT hiking and this is the first account that described the trail as infested with stalkers. Reading through the trail journals of women thru-hikers, it sounds like deja's experience was unusual.
posted by justkevin at 7:00 AM on August 28, 2006


jeez. i always thought that i'd like to hike this trail some day. this article totally ruined it for me--deja has totally driven me off the trail, too. but it's not her fault: she showed me that if i actually tried it, i would have hated it.
posted by lester at 7:01 AM on August 28, 2006


My God - she comes back from six months of potentially transfiguring escape and publishes the 'Men Are Pigs' Digest, volume one million? Her stories are awful - the behaviour of the fellows in her story is pretty despicable - but her comportment sounds grotesque even in her own account of the trip. Her final sentence notwithstanding, she seems proud of her attitude. I can't imagine what she's leaving out.

Then again, she was what, 23 at the time? Not the first callow youth to come back embittered after her soul-searching journey. I feel bad for her, but nothing else. I wonder if that's her desired effect.

Still, ditto GuyZero: after reading A Walk in the Woods this is an eye-opening glimpse of politics in a place where I've always comfortably assumed politics didn't and couldn't exist.

But finally: this is bad writing. It's not good cultural criticism (too narcissistic, too shallow), nor good travel diary (change place names to office numbers and you have life at my last job, with no loss of detail), nor good plain ol' poetry (too flat), nor compelling memoir (since the pretty clear implications seem to cut against the writer's intentions - the narration having gotten away from its author somewhat). Fascinating subject, fascinating setup, but the article itself is a big letdown. Part of that is the author's personality: her self-righteousness gets in the way of her own simple story, when a more analytical approach might have enabled her to account for her own attitude. (Simplicity through complexity, instead of complicating things by leaving shit out.) Part of it is just the prose. Whatever.

jessamyn: Thanks for this post, all else aside. It's not the 'best of the web' in any sense, but it's interesting in spite of itself, and I'm glad I've heard of this topic.
posted by waxbanks at 7:02 AM on August 28, 2006


No. Not what I said.

Listen, she had been warned the environment was unsafe, and that the men behave very badly. She meets some of these men, and they behave abusively toward her. After this, she sleeps with the very guys who had behaved abusively. It certainly doesn't justify their behavior toward her, but she's not a sterling example of watching out for her personal safety either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2006


I don't think its so much that Deja slept with numerous men, but it seemed that from the start that she might have been better off not sleeping with those men. From her first encounter in Georgia, it seemed apparent that she was around men who had issues on how to respect the opposite gender. Throw in the isolation of the trail and the need by many for companionship...and voila, not exactly the best mixture for one night stands on anybody's part.
posted by Atreides at 7:05 AM on August 28, 2006


*Confessor shakes his head*

It's a sad thing, but the nature of the Trail as a long-term individual pursuit acts as a sieve; you'll get more of the relationally-impaired element, from male chauvinists to stalkers.

That said, people like Uncle John do not deserve anonymity, and what happens on the trail shouldn't necessarily stay on the trail. Why did the article's author wait so long before publicly denouncing Uncle John as a harassing stalker to other hikers? Did she ever think to involve law enforcement in her predicament?

I'm not trying to shunt blame for the perpetrators' actions on the victim; I'm merely criticizing the naivity of her initial response, or lack thereof. Perhaps the author didn't become so much meaner as wiser during the course of her journey.

Full disclosure:
I'm actually speaking from the perspective of a prospective Uncle John, a person who has engaged in mildly stalkeresque behavior in the past - which is why I consciously avoid any involvement in real-life communities.
posted by The Confessor at 7:06 AM on August 28, 2006


andywolf:
She had me until it turned out she slept with the same people she described as creepy in the first paragraph.

so with this logic a girl that goes on a couple of dates with a guy that turns into a stalker is asking for it. that's bullshit.
Um, no. By this logic a girl who meets a guy who dated her friend and turned out to be an asshole, pegs him immediately as still an asshole, and then goes, 'Aww, but he's being so charming...'

...That girl's an idiot. 'Asking for it' is a nasty phrase but there's no denying that this girl's sense of Easy Fun appears to have stopped overpowering her sense of how to deal with guys only after a few bad encounters. Which only means that she was ignorant when she set out. That she was something offputting when she finished is worse. Her treatment by the men she depicts is awful as well. But it's not misogynist to ask why these men would fixate on attractive outgoing confident women up for fucking them in the wilderness. It's misogynist to say she deserved it. But no one is saying that.
posted by waxbanks at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2006


I thought the thing that was so interesting about the article is the real conflict between what she's saying about weird clingy and creepy guys that inhabit the AT (I'm sure there are creepy guys everywhere, and creepy women too) and her own quirky behavior that she blithely recounts as if that had nothing to do with some of the hassles she encountered. She did sleep with the Uncle John guy before he exhibited creep tendencies, fwiw.

The article is clearly set up in a specific way, to have a dramatic effect, and yet as waxbanks says it's the story from the perspective of a fairly young woman who may have had some of her naive idealism crushed in the course of a trip she thought would go differently. Hiking the AT is often an emotional journey for people and what they read into their own experience is often as interesting as the nuts and bolts of what actually happened. This is a pretty new article, I'll be interested to see what the responses are from the hiking community, whether it's a bunch of "you go girl!" or "wtf?"
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 AM on August 28, 2006


Well, like so many other places in the modern world, the AT has a tremendous surplus of males-- and they are nothing but miles and miles of bad trouble.
posted by jamjam at 7:16 AM on August 28, 2006


Although I've never been on a serious hike in my life, nor do I have any desire to, I really enjoyed reading the article because I could relate to it so easily as a woman. I think the struggles she describes in her hike are very common to our gender, in any setting: becoming physically intimate with someone before getting to know them, and then struggling to extricate yourself from a very one-sided relationship. The whole AT society just seems like a microcosm of the rest of America...but then again, I'm pretty cynical about men.
posted by lagreen at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2006


It seems like she borrowed the tents of several men in the first legs of the hike. Seems like a pretty bad way to establish one's self as an independent respectful person.
posted by shownomercy at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2006


Very interesting read. I just got back from hiking on the AT a few weeks ago, thought we didn't go the whole thing. In an odd way, I can see where the creepos comes from; after being alone in the wilderness in a world of isolation, some people can get very desperate for human contact. Sure, people say that the AT is over-crowded, but think of it this way: If you start out from Springer Mountain along with anyone else, and you're all going the same direction, you're not going to cross many paths except for some day hikers and people coming from up North. Even when I was hiking in the GA/SC portion when has more day-hikers, my friend and I still crossed very very few paths with other hikers. Our sole human contact tended to be at the nightly shelters. In a way, it kind of a release from the seclusion from rest of humanity. And when that happens, people tend to do whatever they can to fit in. Take the Yale guy- he went from creating a situation of awkwardness with the comment, "That's out of line," to being just another one of the guys when he went all sexist on her. Out there, there's nobody to balance out the extreme natures of people which seem to come out in full force. No way to run away. It's sad, but I would never recommend a female thru-hiking because I can easily see what she writes about happening. Then again, we had to end our hike early because my knee gave out for no good reason where I wouldn't have been able to make it out on my own.
posted by jmd82 at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2006


Maybe I missed something (reading the article as I try to recover from being away from work for a week), but I took it that she'd only actually slept with Uncle John, and the rest were just rumors that were being passed around about her.

Regardless, that bit with the guy, "Stowaway," in the woods freaked me out.
posted by BoringPostcards at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2006


> Sad that even in the wilderness you can't get away from creepos.

I live near Springer Mountain at the southern end and have walked portions of the Trail many times. If that's wilderness, then so is Disney World. There are places where the "path" has been worn down to a bare earth thoroughfare twenty feet wide by mobs of people in waffle-stomper boots and looks exactly like a motocross bike course. If you want wilderness you don't go on the trail, you get a USGS topo map and go where there is no trail.

And even then (though getting well off the trail cuts down on the number of weirdos you encounter, and noting that I am not female) I take the large canine companion and the .44 special. Neither of these is heavy enough for bear, but then it's not bears that worry me.

posted by jfuller at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2006


jessamyn writes "I thought the thing that was so interesting about the article is the real conflict between what she's saying about weird clingy and creepy guys that inhabit the AT (I'm sure there are creepy guys everywhere, and creepy women too) and her own quirky behavior that she blithely recounts as if that had nothing to do with some of the hassles she encountered."

Well said. It's just a single angle view and doesn't strike me as particuarly trustworthy. I think I would be skeptical of her testimony in court. She passes on some interesting snips about the psychology of the trail but in the end I didn't find deja to be a very sympathetic character. It would make an interesting doco. if you got to hear the different views of the participants. Thanks jessamyn.
posted by peacay at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2006


I have to reject outright any criticisms of this person based on whether she slept with someone at one point. Feelings and perceptions about people can and do change. One-night stands happen. Relationships are mutually consensual. Sleeping with someone does not give that person carte blanche to treat you however they want for the rest of your life. With the Uncle John character, the point at which she said "Thanks but no thanks" is exactly the point at which he needed to lay off. She was clear about what she wanted to allow and can't be accused of sending mixed messages. She may be unlikeable as a person to many people based on her tone, but she's not in the wrong. Any argument that suggests she 'deserved it' because of her wanton behavior leads down a road I suspect few people want to be on.

Personality and choice issues aside:

This was a very interesting read. I've hiked several weeklong sections of the AT (all in groups of women numbering up to 10), and I don't doubt a single thing she describes here. The AT is a strange place.

People really romanticize the AT. As she points out, it's not a wilderness out there. Almost all of the trail is very close to major highways and towns. Quite often, campsites and shelters double as firepit drinking rendezvous locations for townies, some of whom are sketchy people. There have been a couple of murders along the trail in the last 20 years.

The trail itself is mostly uninspiring, a muddy rocky path through Eastern woodlands. What attracts people to thru-hiking is not natural beauty, but the challenge of the length of it, and of completing an unbroken walk of six months or more. It's not the desire to see magnificent views, because you mostly don't. It's not the desire to have a backcountry experience, because you mostly don't. The people that are out there as end-to-enders primarily want to prove something to themselves - that they can endure a long walk and do something independent. So I agree that thru-hikers as a group are skewed in a way that means more of them are not well socialized.

The AT's safety guide provides a list of ways of avoiding crime here: number one is 'don't hike alone'. Having been out there, I would wholeheartedly second this. Even with pepper spray, don't hike alone. Here's an article examining perceptions of security among hikers.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2006


I'm confused by this statement:

The whole next day, I thought about what Stix and Easy Rider had said, and how not even one of the other men had had the balls to defend me.

Why is she looking for men to defend her?
posted by aberrant at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2006


It seems like she borrowed the tents of several men in the first legs of the hike.

That's not really unusual. Thru-hikers obsessively try to cut down on the weight they carry, to the point of sawing the handles off their toothbrushes and warpping pills in plastic wrap rather than keeping them in bottles. Many thru-hikers do not actually carry a tent, but rig up a small tarp instead. In most regions, a tent isn't strictly necessary, because the trail has a series of lean-to shelters that can sleep 10-30 in sleeping bags on the floor.

So if you are hiking without a tent, a lot of times people who are just out for a week or weekend and have a spare will loan it out to a thru-hiker. It gives them a welcome privacy break from shelter sleeping. Sometimes, too, in popular areas, if you hike a long day the shelter is totally full when you get there. So you sleep in the woods under your tarp, but someone might offer you their tent, too. There's a lot of that sort of offering and sharing on the trail.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on August 28, 2006


Why is she looking for men to defend her?

She goes back and forth on wanting external approval quite clearly in the article, even pointing it out herself once:

...Uncle John said. “You’re all dykes or whores.”

I wish there had been a wiser, smarter woman on the trail to confide in at that moment. If she had been there, she would have told me not to fall for it. But, there were no other women around except for an 18-year-old section hiker who let men get water for her. Suddenly, I wanted validation and approval.

“Why don’t we hike together a little?” I ventured.


Clearly she's more than a little confused about wanting company. Which is OK, everyone gets confused once in a while, but she seems to project everything on to the men she meets (although they're even more messed up than she is).
posted by GuyZero at 7:37 AM on August 28, 2006


I had read this article a few days ago, and was struck by the writing style as well. It made it hard root for the author - it was just a little too whiny and self-absorbed. That said, I am not sure why we would expect the 'trail' to be much different than society at large, other than some lame romantic notions. Out of some larger unknown number of people, some men were jerks. An inexperienced woman may have contributed somewhat to her own negative experience or not handled everything perfectly. It surely is no reason to stalk her, and I am glad she was able to finish her hike.

What do we learn from this?

Or men/women can be co-dependent assholes - as they say - film at 11.
posted by sfts2 at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2006


but I took it that she'd only actually slept with Uncle John, and the rest were just rumors that were being passed around about her.

She said:

"I used other guys to ditch Easy Rider in the same way that I used Uncle John to ditch Ibby. In fact, the only effective way to ditch a pink blazer was to cozy up to someone else."
posted by smackfu at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2006


A male friend I hiked with a lot on California peaks did a couple 500 mile legs of the AT back in the 80s, and as he tells it, it was fairly similar to the story in this article. He was probably about the same age as the author here and I think got treated in much the same way by older, creepier, strange men. He said that it only took a couple days before he started to dread staying in the lean-to structures where thru-hikers would congregate and preferred to sleep under the stars off trail by himself. He has loads of stories of vietnam vets that would argue and fight with everyone, make up games, and be drunk/high most of the time.

I think the Pacific Crest Trail is more for pure hiker types looking for a challenge without much drama. I've yet to hear any freaky PCT stories aside from the many "here's another time I lost the trail by myself and almost starved to death".
posted by mathowie at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2006


I keep tuning in at 11, but there is never the promised film.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2006 [3 favorites]


Maybe I missed something (reading the article as I try to recover from being away from work for a week), but I took it that she'd only actually slept with Uncle John, and the rest were just rumors that were being passed around about her.

She admits to sleeping with "Uncle John" and "Easy Rider."

Miko, I don't think anyone's turning on her because she slept with men, or defending the actions of the men because she slept with them. It's not defending the actions to say that she shouldn't necessarily have been surprised that unwanted attention might be a possible result of sleeping with men you don't really know on a confined trail. I'm not defending muggers if I question someone for walking alone through Central Park at night.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:43 AM on August 28, 2006


Why is she looking for men to defend her?

Because in a group of 10 or so men, two acted like aggressive assholes. I think she was waiting for one of the others to call them on it and defend her.
posted by mathowie at 7:44 AM on August 28, 2006


It is a cynical microcosm, but it doesn't solely indict men. Like a lot of women, she wants it both ways -- to be independent of the men, but to have someone with "balls" defend her when she's feeling vulnerable.

She clearly says she cozied up to the next guy to get away from the last guy -- it's hard to feel sorry (worried, yes) for her when her own opportunistic intimacy draws loners who've caught that scent, and (not surprisingly, given they're men) interpret it as being about her rumored sexual promiscuity. These are male strangers hiking alone in the woods, after all. A trained dog and a weapon would be on my packing list. Oh, I forgot, I hate camping. Thank goodness.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2006


I did my thru-hike in '96, when I was 17. I was the youngest person on the trail that year, clearly young enough that there was no danger of a relationship between me and most of the women that I met. (Plus, I was spoken for; our first wedding anniversary is next week.) The result was that I spent a tremendous amount of time hiking with females. Males, females, it was all the same to me given the lack of sexual tension. But to the females, it now occurs to me that I was a great person to hike with: I was essentially a charm to ward off creepy guys.

The moment I heard about the murders was from a southbounder a few days into Virginia. From then until Harper's Ferry I hiked with the same group of folks, half of whom were women, the other half of whom were happily-married men. Everybody was desperate to feel safe. We had bowie knives lashed to the chest straps on our packs -- a habit I retain to this day -- and half of the group secretly had cellphones stashed in their packs.

We ended up hiking with the primary suspect, "Philip," for a while. We'd spotted him as a pretend thru-hiker, his bizarre gear and invented trail stories giving him away, and contacted federal investigators. The FBI wanted to scope him out, but they couldn't very well pretend to be a thru-hiker; they'd be spotted as a fake in a heartbeat. After a very tense week, it turned out that Philip was, in fact, a murderer, but the wrong one. He'd escaped from an asylum and was hiding out on the AT. We received a free breakfast in Pearisburg for our troubles.

At the time, I wasn't cognizant of the difficulties faced by women on the trail. I'll be going to The Gathering in October -- I'll be certain to talk to female long-distance hikers about the matter there.
posted by waldo at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2006 [6 favorites]


Actually, what really piqued my interest was the (almost blithely tossed-off) mention of Uncle John taking her to the emergency room when she had a bad reaction to her Lyme disease medication.

So here's this guy. You depict him as a harasser who has just about driven you off the Trail. You stay hidden for several days to throw him off your scent.

And then you let him take you to the hospital and stay with you while you recover?

She's right -- she undermined herself. I would have liked her to focus on what *that* felt like. How powerful and independent are you really? Especially if you let yourself be cared for by someone you consider abusive?
posted by GrammarMoses at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2006


BoringPostcards: she also slept with "Easy Rider," and sounds pretty callous about it: When he invited me to sleep in his tent, I thought, “Why not? He’s here and he’s easy.” And she sure implies there were others: I used other guys to ditch Easy Rider in the same way that I used Uncle John to ditch Ibby. (Maybe she didn't literally sleep with them, just toyed with them. I don't really care; she was definitely inviting the rumors and bad juju with that behaviour.)

And I felt sorry for stowaway. That was a bad situation all around.
posted by ook at 7:47 AM on August 28, 2006


Boy. I type too slowly.
posted by ook at 7:48 AM on August 28, 2006


Let it be known that yeah, I think she acted like quite a flake, and was indeed young and naive as mentioned above. Still, everyone's responsible for their own behavior.

Like a lot of women, she wants it both ways -- to be independent of the men, but to have someone with "balls" defend her when she's feeling vulnerable.

I don't know; I'm pretty independent myself, but I'm picturing the scene realistically. I'm trying to get close to the fire because it's late and I'm cold. Ten guys are standing around. One makes a critical and perhaps threatening comment. Another appears to speak up against it, and then turns that into a threatening comment. Sure, I could 'defend myself' by giving back as good as I got. But what are my odds here? I don't know these guys. No one else is speaking up. There are ten of them and one of me. I'm not sure I'd feel at all safe doing anything other than quietly walking away at this point. And I'd be sleeping with one eye open.

Put yourself in the same role - imagine yourself as a potential sexual target for ten people who could overpower you. Imagine it as a prison scenario if you have to. How mouthy are you going to get?
posted by Miko at 7:53 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Why is she looking for men to defend her?

I was surprised by this too. She says the other men are ballless for not speaking up, but she doesn't have the courage to say anything either.
posted by justkevin at 7:54 AM on August 28, 2006


Like a lot of women, she wants it both ways -- to be independent of the men, but to have someone with "balls" defend her when she's feeling vulnerable.

Like a lot of people, she wants it both ways -- to be independent of other people, but to have someone defend her when she's feeling vulnerable.
posted by transona5 at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, in all fairness, she actually doesn't have any balls.

Actually, I completely sympathize with her there. To realize that nobody on the hike is really your ally when people start getting weird must be a really discouraging feeling.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2006


I think the end of paragraph 38 sums it up:
Thru-hikers are notoriously self-absorbed, and I was no exception. My hike was about me, not about us.

Reactionary; alternately the victim or power grrl. One does not end up in situations like these unless they present themselves as available for the chaos or are ingnorant to the effect their behavior has in creating these types of social snafu's.

Most of the troubles were the result of her decisions/actions.
posted by Jeremy at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2006


Miko: But put yourself in the role of one of the eight other guys. Two guys who seem chummy with Deja make semi-offensive/suggestive comments. She doesn't shut them down. Maybe she's good friends with them and this is typical riffing. I'm not sure I would have called them out if I was there and didn't know the dynamics.
posted by justkevin at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2006


Yes, she was young, naive, possibly too trusting, and not exactly smart with her choices on the AT.

However, a lot of the comments I'm reading on here seem to be saying underneath that "she was dressed like she wanted it."
posted by dw at 8:11 AM on August 28, 2006


Wow, what a group of thoroughly unpleasant people, the author included - Astro Zombie nailed it. Also:
As Uncle John and I talked, I learned that he was a Dead Head from Boise who hated Walmart and once got fired from a delivery job for refusing to cut off his beard. I liked him immediately.
WTF?!?

What really blew me away though is how it seems you wouldn't be able to swing a dead cat without hitting ten shmucks on that trail; if I'm going into the wilderness, it's so that I can get away from people, buddy system be damned.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:14 AM on August 28, 2006


The thing that amazes me is that she seems completely unaware that some people might have different understandings of what sex means than she does. This thread proves there are lots of people who can think of sex in terms of one night stands, but there are also lots of people who think that that if someone sleeps with you, it means she loves you and wants to commit to being with you.

I'm not trying to excuse Uncle John's behavior. He definitely should have moved on when she said she wasn't interested. But it's amazing how shocked she was when, after she had sex with him, he assumed she wanted to be with him long term. To a lot of people, that's what having sex means, it means "I love you and want to be with you." To sleep with someone and not have any idea what sex means to that person is a huge mistake.
posted by straight at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wow, waldo. Way to paint an amazingly tense story with so few words. Yikes!
posted by blahblahblah at 8:21 AM on August 28, 2006


blahblahblah

Expanded Version Here
posted by The Confessor at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2006


This whole story doesn't make me want to hike the AT. It sounds like 2000+ miles of co-dependency and desperation.

Maybe it's that way on the Pacific Crest, too. I don't know. But it is a lot less urban.
posted by dw at 8:30 AM on August 28, 2006


it's interesting that an article that's primarily about a woman feeling threatened and stalked by men turns into a discussion about her actions. if genders were reversed would there be a similar discussion?
posted by andywolf at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2006


if genders were reversed would there be a similar discussion?

Absolutely.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2006


I bet it's a pretty common mistake to think you can escape the illness and neurosis of society at large by hiking the AT. If anything it's just going to be worse, a magnifying glass, traveling with the same people in the same direction, physical stress, isolation, etc... We're pretty grim, us humans, always on the edge it seems.

Anyone who intends to hike the AT with a gun better be fully fucking prepared to use it and I don't mean wave it around, otherwise it's worse than no weapon at all, I think people forget that. If you make the choice to pull out on some deadhead drifter oxycontin snorting stalker dude, you have to shoot him, center mass and then there you are with that to deal with. Happy Trails.

The trail names thing is interesting, kind of a metafiltery this is my current persona thing, kind of a hobo deal...
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2006


FYI, the author isn't preserving anonimity. Thru-hikers, like club kids or dead heads, like to pick a new name for their experience out there.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2006


FYI, the author isn't preserving anonimity. Thru-hikers, like club kids or dead heads, like to pick a new name for their experience out there.

Well...

Names and certain details of this story were changed to protect people’s privacy.

I took that to mean that even the "trail names" in the story aren't the actual trail names used by the people in question. I could be wrong, though.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:40 AM on August 28, 2006


Miko said: Any argument that suggests she 'deserved it' because of her wanton behavior leads down a road I suspect few people want to be on.

dw said: However, a lot of the comments I'm reading on here seem to be saying underneath that "she was dressed like she wanted it."

This seems to be a theme. Does victimhood also confer sainthood? On your view, can we ever criticize a victim's choices without 'seeming' to condemn their character? Your responses, with their "any argument that suggests," and "a lot of comments... seem to be saying," turn back on themselves. Quite frankly, yours are the only comments that suggest or say these things. The people you're [maybe] criticizing [or putting on notice, or whatever] are doing the internet equivalent of yelling at the screen during a horror movie: "Don't go into the basement alone after a creepy caller corectly predicts a power outage!" "Don't have sex at summer camp on Friday the 13th!"

andywork says: if genders were reversed would there be a similar discussion?

Metafilter is an equal opportunity snark.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:51 AM on August 28, 2006


What happened to Deja with that group of men is a standard game groups of men run on women: a couple of them act crazy and dangerous, which forces her to choose a protector who exploits her sexually, but keeps her from violent rape. Consent in such a situation is a convenient fiction.

I don't think Deja herself has come to terms entirely with what happened to her, but at least she isn't blaming herself. Anyone who's read the stories of, or talked to children who've been sexually abused knows it's often very difficult to get them to stop blaming themselves-- it's the default coping strategy.

It's also the default coping strategy of society, as this thread so amply demonstrates.
posted by jamjam at 8:54 AM on August 28, 2006 [3 favorites]


But I had, it seemed, completely mistaken the character of the people with whom I would share my hike.

true, and that character isn't very good ... on the other hand, she's rather mistaken about her own character ... i sense a certain amount of manipulativeness on her part, not just in her actions on the trail but how she's chosen to present them and the fact that she's chosen to present them in the first place

yeah, sure, those guys were creepy ... but i think she's a little creepy, too

He smiled, indulgently it seemed, at my cute resistance.

to me, that says more about how she wanted to be seen by uncle john than what he was really like

there's a really weird dynamic going on between the two of them and it wasn't all him
posted by pyramid termite at 8:58 AM on August 28, 2006


Consent in such a situation is a convenient fiction. [...] It's also the default coping strategy of society.

All heterosexual intercourse is non-consensual, i.e. rape?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2006


She wasn't sexually abused. The guys in her camp were probably jerks and probably not rapists.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2006


What happened to Deja with that group of men is a standard game groups of men run on women: a couple of them act crazy and dangerous, which forces her to choose a protector who exploits her sexually, but keeps her from violent rape. Consent in such a situation is a convenient fiction.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by justkevin at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


What was she, in prison and had to be someone's botch? She couldn't leave the trail?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2006


What happened to Deja with that group of men is a standard game groups of men run on women: a couple of them act crazy and dangerous, which forces her to choose a protector who exploits her sexually, but keeps her from violent rape.

what do you think, we all get together every friday night at the bar and plot these things out?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2006


As if any group of men could make a plan that didn't involve all of them having an equal chance to have sex with her...
posted by smackfu at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2006


pt, ixnay onway ethay anplay!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


As if any group of men could make a plan that didn't involve all of them having an equal chance to have sex with her...

No no! Didn't you see A Beautiful Mind? If all the guys at the bar can agree to ignore the beautiful one, they all get laid! In this case, that means having sex with each other, though. Oh well, the sexual economy is hom[me]osexual, anyway.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:06 AM on August 28, 2006


if genders were reversed would there be a similar discussion?

I think there might be, but it would be gender-neutral -- no equivalent to the references to "a lot of women" or dismissive comments about people of the writer's gender who consider themselves independent yet also need help at times ("power grrl") as if this were some kind of hypocrisy.
posted by transona5 at 9:06 AM on August 28, 2006


Consent in such a situation is a convenient fiction.

Yes, I think I read the news article on this one: Housewife Charged In Sex-For-Security Scam.
posted by GuyZero at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2006


pt, ixnay onway ethay anplay!

Yeah, PT. Keep it up and we'll be filing a grievance with the union.
posted by dr_dank at 9:10 AM on August 28, 2006


a standard game groups of men run on women

It's in Chapter 7 of the How To Keep Women Down manual. There's a whole section there on how to decide who acts crazy and dangerous in a given round of the game.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:11 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hell, I've heard drunken fratboys say stuff to women that would make even Stix blush. Nevertheless, what a sphincter...
posted by pax digita at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2006


What happened to Deja with that group of men is a standard game groups of men run on women: a couple of them act crazy and dangerous, which forces her to choose a protector who exploits her sexually, but keeps her from violent rape. Consent in such a situation is a convenient fiction.

What a hoot! Having been part of innumerable "groups of men" over the last 36 years, I'm wondering how I missed ever being part of this "standard game." And the thought of these hikers on the Appalachian Trail getting together and deciding which ones would get the opportunity to "act crazy and dangerous" so the others could reap the sexual benefits is just too much for words -- to say nothing of the fact that nobody in the story acted "crazy and dangerous" (as opposed to slightly offensive) that night.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2006


The situation jamjam describes isn't a result of some elaborate plan. It's simply a common dynamic, as described from the woman's perspective.
posted by transona5 at 9:16 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm just wondering though, how many of us have acted like idiots at that age and put ourselves in unsafe situations? I have, and I'm lucky nothing bad happened to me. Maybe it was all her fault that she didn't go into her hike knowing that as a woman alone, she needed to be careful. I would hope if she hiked again, she'd do it differently.

What no one has really said though is that her hooking up with some of those guys seems much more of a defensive measure (to get rid of previous hookups who stalked her) than about the hookup. She looked for a man to defend her because she was a least a little cognizant that she might be outnumbered and in danger. She did it gracelessly and it caused other problems, but it's not entirely clear that if she hadn't she wouldn't have been in *more* danger. She wasn't trying to "have it both ways;" she was running up against the reality in our society that women are never as free as men to feel safe when they're alone. That they're always targets, that the desire to bum around the world, get drunk, hook up with random strangers is a much more dangerous undertaking for a woman than for a man.

Maybe she hoped that wasn't true on the trail, and that was dumb of her, and she ended up flailing around the best she could to protect herself.
posted by emjaybee at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2006


no equivalent to the references to "a lot of women" or dismissive comments about people of the writer's gender who consider themselves independent yet also need help at times ("power grrl") as if this were some kind of hypocrisy.

In this thread, many mean things are said about hikers in general, about men in general, and about rich and middle-class bozos who can afford to summit Mt. Everest. In fact, one young man's independence is directly attacked as absurd, and he died. Only nice things are said about the lone cripple, who rocks in every way.

Now, what was that you were saying?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2006


lagreen : "I think the struggles she describes in her hike are very common to our gender, in any setting: becoming physically intimate with someone before getting to know them, and then struggling to extricate yourself from a very one-sided relationship. The whole AT society just seems like a microcosm of the rest of America."

For what it's worth, I think those struggles are very common to my gender as well. Basically, there's a high likelihood of having problems when you fuck someone before getting to know them, especially if you're in a relatively confined community / space (and while the trail is long, since everyone is moving at more or less the same speed, in more or less the same direction, the space is much smaller than looking at a map would make it appear). I think that's universal for men and for women.

andywolf : "if genders were reversed would there be a similar discussion?"

Yup.
posted by Bugbread at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2006


I'm just wondering though, how many of us have acted like idiots at that age and put ourselves in unsafe situations? I have, and I'm lucky nothing bad happened to me.

i have, and i wasn't as lucky

What no one has really said though is that her hooking up with some of those guys seems much more of a defensive measure (to get rid of previous hookups who stalked her) than about the hookup.

i'm not sure that explains the first hookup, though ... and there are other strategies she could have followed, such as finding a group of people who weren't weird and hanging out with them ... you can't tell me everyone on that trail is a creep
posted by pyramid termite at 9:26 AM on August 28, 2006


In this thread, many mean things are said about hikers in general, about men in general, and about rich and middle-class bozos who can afford to summit Mt. Everest.

I see one negative comment about "alpha males." Mountain weather conditions, though, probably aren't going to read that thread and get the idea that it's okay to attack male climbers.
posted by transona5 at 9:28 AM on August 28, 2006


This seems to be a theme. Does victimhood also confer sainthood? On your view, can we ever criticize a victim's choices without 'seeming' to condemn their character? Your responses, with their "any argument that suggests," and "a lot of comments... seem to be saying," turn back on themselves. Quite frankly, yours are the only comments that suggest or say these things. The people you're [maybe] criticizing [or putting on notice, or whatever] are doing the internet equivalent of yelling at the screen during a horror movie: "Don't go into the basement alone after a creepy caller corectly predicts a power outage!" "Don't have sex at summer camp on Friday the 13th!"

First off, you take what I'm saying as defending her actions. I'm not. And I said I wasn't. She is no saint.

Second, what I am suggesting here is that when you start saying she deserved it, you're entering the territory of "she was dressed like she wanted it."

Finally, this isn't a horror movie. It's one thing to say "don't go in the basement!" to a movie screen. It's another thing to look at someone else's highly co-dependent situation and telling them they deserved every bit of horror they got.
posted by dw at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2006


pyramid termite : "what do you think, we all get together every friday night at the bar and plot these things out?"

No, of course not. It's a standard game we play. There's no need to sit around and plan it, anymore than we need to plan rock-paper-scissors or draw schematics to determine how to play 1 on 1 basketball. It's common secret male knowledge. All you need to know is the secret handshake that signals "game on".
posted by Bugbread at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2006


what I am suggesting here is that when you start saying she deserved it, you're entering the territory of "she was dressed like she wanted it."

Except that no one said she deserved it. Except you, in scare quotes. I believe this is known as a straw man.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2006


It's another thing to look at someone else's highly co-dependent situation and telling them they deserved every bit of horror they got.

No one said this, either. Why do you think that they did? Do you think she deserved it? Why do you keep on bringing this notion of 'just deserts' up? My friends, I have spotted the martian misogynist.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2006


I got the feeling that you can hike the Appalachian Trail blindfolded just by following the stink of patchouli.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


when you start saying she deserved it, you're entering the territory of "she was dressed like she wanted it."

That's an oversimplification.

Nobody is saying she deserved it. Some people, myself included, are saying her behavior contributed to it. Cozying up to one guy you don't like, just to get rid of another guy you don't like, is asking for trouble. Doing it repeatedly, especially in a relatively small, gossipy community, is really asking for lots of trouble.

Yes, it's unfortunate that women are often the subject of unwanted attention, and that a solo woman hiker is de facto more unsafe than a solo man. That's sad, but it is a reality -- so in the abstract, in this sort of situation I'm strongly inclined to side with the woman's point of view.

But there are obviously better ways of dealing with these problems than the ones she chose. (Like pyramid termite, I refuse to believe that every single man on the AT is a lusty slobbering jerk. I also refuse to believe that she was the only woman on the trail.) The fact that the deck was stacked against her -- which it is -- doesn't automatically excuse her from all responsibility for her actions.
posted by ook at 9:54 AM on August 28, 2006


This really struck me as a gross distillation of human interaction. I didn't really want to read more than half of it. It's very interesting, though, and I'm glad it was posted.

It depresses me about males. It makes me wonder if I'm any different. And, yeah, Déja wasn't the most sympathy-inducing person, but I know I've met scores of girls who end up feeling and acting the same way. Our society just kind of sucks.

I guess I'll go back to working now.
posted by blacklite at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2006


I'm going to defend jamjam here to some degree. By the way, I'm male. Obviously the notion of it being some conspiracy or plan is ridiculous. As someone else mentioned it is more of an unconscious social dynamic. Single woman comes into a group as an outsider. Group makes her feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. This happens often when men or women join a new group but with a single woman, more so if she is young and attractive, an atmosphere of menace hangs over it. How does she get rid of the sense of threat and join the group? By hooking up with one of the men.

I emphasize that this isn't necessarily conscious. Aggressive come ons are enough to do it. Or some men may make those comments simply to put someone in a one down position. Or whatever. But it's easy for the woman to feel like there is an undercurrent of threat there as long as she remains single.

---

On another note, mark me down in the camp who finds everyone in the article incredibly self absorbed. I know it's their vacation, their "experience" but still what a bunch of lamers. Not to mention that orchestrating your experience so everything turns out just right is usually counterproductive.

---

And to andywolf's first comment, I think she handled the scene with Stowaway great but a high-five?! Setting questions of goofyness aside, it's quite possible the guy had OCD and exulting in feelings of triumph after being a (necessary) part of what must have been one of the worst experiences of his life is just crass. And ignorant of the pain of others. Not that I am accusing the author of this, she seems to have kept it in a reasonable perspective.
posted by BigSky at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2006


Interesting read. Like many others in this thread, I lost most of my sympathy for the author as she revealed what a doofus she was (and please, she wasn't in prison, and she chose to sleep with the creeps), but I kept reminding myself that she was 23, and we're all doofuses at 23. Sometimes I wonder how any of us survive to adulthood.

Thanks for the post, jessamyn!
posted by languagehat at 10:19 AM on August 28, 2006


Turning to me, he added, “Déjà, I think you’re sexy. If you were the last woman on earth I would sleep with you. Actually, if you even make it to Pennsylvania, I’m gonna poke you.”

Can anyone suggest a good, effective comeback to shut off this kind of talk? Is there one?
posted by JanetLand at 10:19 AM on August 28, 2006


"Wouldn't your fist get jealous?"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2006


Hose him down with bear spray and walk off?
posted by GuyZero at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2006


Well, another reason to never try to hike The Trail besides laziness, wussiness, misanthropy, agoraphobia and a dislike for further pain and discomfort: with my luck I'd be unable to get rid of the unrequited luv of the one pathetic lonely cranky psychotic pervert for hundreds of miles around with an obsesssion for short chubby middle-aged jack-o'-lantern-headed chudmen like me -- and most folks'll say it's my fault for being So Sexy.

By the way, these unrelenting through-hikers sound like macho bozos: why would any 21st-century American need to hike The Trail from one to the other in one go, especially when one might freeze to death? I can see strolling along for a few weeks at a time in pleasant walking weather, say spring or fall, till it gets too hot or cold and/or I run out of money; I can't see treating it like a Holy Pilgrimmage -- I don't even get that enthused about going to the liquor store when I can afford something decent. What sins must one commit to need that kind of expiation?
posted by davy at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Not sleeping with him?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2006


- The AT

added to my list of places where sex is a tricky thing.
posted by carsonb at 10:34 AM on August 28, 2006


She wasn't trying to "have it both ways;" she was running up against the reality in our society that women are never as free as men to feel safe when they're alone. That they're always targets ...

This was the hardest part to face in this piece. I kept thinking of young women who -- every day -- face similar 'trails'. I can't look at a 13 year old girl without wondering how well she is prepared for being 'prey'. She has to learn pretty quickly that her world is constricted by the ever present danger of men. She can (and often will) attach herself to any man for protection; she can try to bluff her way through ('dyke!'); she can use men sexually to buy her way through ('ho!'); she can pretend to opt out ('frigid!'); she can 'uglify' herself for camouflauge ('fatty!'); or she can take refuge with her family or in groups. God forbid she try to be adventuresome. She will get what she deserves.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:36 AM on August 28, 2006 [7 favorites]


bugbread: You are saying the female-perspective version of "all women are bitches or whores."

The men described in the article are assholes, to be sure, but examples of misogyny in an article written to protray the poor attitudes of men on the AT can hardly be used as evidence against the entire sex.

It's interesting that Emily Weil did not mention any decent males she met on the trail, save for the 77-year-old and possibly Riff. I feel like she was trying to slight Riff.

"Josie, whom many men said was the only good woman on the trail..."

She associates him with the misogyny of others, while he apparently did not act abusively towards her. She tried to make Riff seem the amateur...

"he thought he knew it better than anyone...They respected his ... gruff, stoic posturing"

..despite completing the trail several times.

The presence of one decent male in the article would provide a good foil to the assholes, but without it Weil comes off as a man-hater.
posted by tylermoody at 10:38 AM on August 28, 2006


I think the writer is confused about whether, once she was on the trail, she wanted more to finish the hike or to be part of the group, to be a hiker as she came to understand the word.

This is very odd behavior. She admits to sleeping with a bunch of guys on the trail, and then is surprised when the guys start to act weird about it.

She doesn't deserve to be threatened or made to feel uncomfortable, but who did she think she was meeting on this trail, monks on pilgrimage? She's in a rough environment, where I would expect people to behave roughly and like jerks.

Turning to me, he added, “Déjà, I think you’re sexy. If you were the last woman on earth I would sleep with you. Actually, if you even make it to Pennsylvania, I’m gonna poke you.”

Can anyone suggest a good, effective comeback to shut off this kind of talk? Is there one?
posted by JanetLand at 1:19 PM EST on August 28 [+] [!]


"I have full-blown AIDS."

just kidding. The response is "get lost" or a suitable profanity laden version thereof. She doesn't have to win the conversation or emerge dominant, she just has to get rid of the guy.

I read this, and I keep thinking she wants more to fit in with the hiker community than she wants to finish her hike. At the start it seems she wants a contemplative solitary experience, but then she's socializing with everyone, learning their names, sleeping with them etc. Maybe they're confused by her actions because she was confused about what she was doing there?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2006


There are plenty of coping strategies for smart, mentally tough, experienced women when they get into idiotic man-games like what was portrayed. I know plenty of women that could have used humor or their own form of aggression to deal successfully with the situation. The potential for physical confrontation, while I understand is a possibility, the reality is, that that would quite unlikely I think. Unfortunately, being just 23 and seemingly somewhat naive, these didn't present themselves to the author.
posted by sfts2 at 10:45 AM on August 28, 2006


I think she created aliases for the true trail names. I live near the trail, participate in Trail Days every spring and have met several of the trail's famous and infamous characters.
Riff, one of the AT’s infamous hikers. Riff had hiked the AT more than seven times in a continual back and forth “yo-yo.” He always hiked with a tired black lab named Josie, whom many men said was the only good woman on the trail. The trail was Riff’s home; he thought he knew it better than anyone, and many of the young men looked to him as a guru. They respected his enormous gnarly beard, the tattered kilt he hiked in and his gruff, stoic posturing.
Riff = Heald and Josie = Annie, who is a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The rest of the info is on the mark. Annie is also famous for being an outstanding shelter mouser.
posted by maggieb at 10:46 AM on August 28, 2006


The longest hike i did was 40 miles in 4 days on the CT part of the AT. Yes, you do meet a lot of people. The "wilderness" is surprisingly crowded sometimes. All the people i met were very nice, and willing to share food and libations. But i wouldn't recommend it to a lone female hiker.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 10:56 AM on August 28, 2006


I like what Surfurrus said. It takes quite a while to learn to handle yourself as a woman in this world, especially if you've been brought up (as many of us were) to expect generally decent male behavior. It's shocking when you first confront predatory, threatening, or simply rude behavior, no matter what age that happens -- but when you're young, you don't always have any good sense about knowing what to do.
posted by Miko at 11:24 AM on August 28, 2006


So is "pink blazer" a real term, or did the author invent it?
posted by smackfu at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2006


No one said this, either. Why do you think that they did? Do you think she deserved it? Why do you keep on bringing this notion of 'just deserts' up? My friends, I have spotted the martian misogynist.

Yup, you found me. Now hang on while I get laws passed requiring women to get a note from their husband to buy birth control. Just wrapping that up... there. Now, what's next on my to-do list? Daily groping of women's breasts....

Nobody is saying she deserved it. Some people, myself included, are saying her behavior contributed to it. Cozying up to one guy you don't like, just to get rid of another guy you don't like, is asking for trouble. Doing it repeatedly, especially in a relatively small, gossipy community, is really asking for lots of trouble.

I think I looked at some of these comments and saw this as "she brought it on herself." And that's not "she deserved it," but it's getting close.

But as I read back through the comments, there's only one I think is edging over the line. The rest aren't. So, I take down what I said with apologies.

But there are obviously better ways of dealing with these problems than the ones she chose. (Like pyramid termite, I refuse to believe that every single man on the AT is a lusty slobbering jerk. I also refuse to believe that she was the only woman on the trail.) The fact that the deck was stacked against her -- which it is -- doesn't automatically excuse her from all responsibility for her actions.

It's an odd community structure. It's linear, in that it moves up and down a line rather than having a geographic center. It seems to attract people who are borderline sociopathic, and they co-mingle with "normal" people. And there seems to be this ongoing guilt trip about not wanting to stop someone from going all the way. You drop a 23 yo woman into this, and it's not going to be pretty.

Did she buy into the culture out of idealism? Or was it a need to fit in? Hard to say. But by the end of it, the encounter with Stowaway shows that she's hardened.

As an aside, why is it that navel-gazing first person is all the rage in writing these days?
posted by dw at 11:35 AM on August 28, 2006


So is "pink blazer" a real term, or did the author invent it?

Google shows no other uses of it in that context FWIW. Although I did find several very sharp women's jackets while searching.

And I find one LJ entry where a women referred to a fellow (male) hiker whose nickname was "Pink Blazer". Which is odd in this context.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on August 28, 2006


So is "pink blazer" a real term, or did the author invent it?

I'm guessing she coined it, since a search for "pink blazer" +Appalachian on google doesn't return any relevant results except for her article.
posted by justkevin at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2006


Jfuller: I live near Springer Mountain at the southern end and have walked portions of the Trail many times. If that's wilderness, then so is Disney World. There are places where the "path" has been worn down to a bare earth thoroughfare twenty feet wide by mobs of people in waffle-stomper boots and looks exactly like a motocross bike course.

True enough, but for those of you reading this and thinking that there is this vast surging mob walking from Springer to Katahdin, keep in mind that most of these people drop out within the first few hundred miles. I thru-hiked the AT in 1980, something like 2000 of us lit out from Springer, about 100 made it to the end. I believe this is fairly typical. By mid-Virginia the thru-hikers get scarce, and begin to spread out as well.

It is true that very little of the AT is wilderness, but much of it is fairly wild still. I learned to avoid the crowds even in the mid-Atlantic states by hitting the trail at dawn, hiking a dozen miles by noon, then going off the trail a quarter mile or so for lunch and a siesta. Hit the trail again around 4, hike until 7 or 8. I hardly saw anyone some days.
posted by LarryC at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2006


Hikers discussing this article.
posted by maggieb at 11:52 AM on August 28, 2006


I'm sorry, but by the time I was 19, much less 23, I was well aware that in boy-pal groups, nailing one person was enough to get you disrespected, much less nailing a bunch of them. Only an idiot sleeps with someone to fit in.
posted by dame at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2006


I hate to be completely flip-flopping on all of this, but:

Emily Weil is a travel writer and environmental journalist. She has written for Backpacker, Transitions Abroad, E/The Environmental Magazine and other publications. She is also the backwoods correspondent for www.eco-chick.com

I've done a search on Backpacker and can't find her in the byline. Ditto E or Transitions Abroad's website. She's not listed as a current author on eco-chick.com.

Does anyone else find this odd?
posted by dw at 12:02 PM on August 28, 2006


"not even one of the other men had had the balls to defend me"

Oh, brother. This person was emotionally unequipped for this from day one.

In a town setting you can pick and choose bad boys for casual encounters with a reduced chance of negative effects, because it's an open, dynamic social structure.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:02 PM on August 28, 2006


as far as whether or not she "asked for it," i kinda think it depends on what "it" is. i'm there are a lot of things she wasn't asking for (e.g., the rude comments around the campfire at the beginning), but to some degree she should have expected some reaction to some of the things she did. (to be clear, i don't think anyone is ever asking to be raped or stalked or threatened.) if "it" refers to a) being uncomfortable around someone because you slept with them and dumped them or b) having them ask you to explain why you did that or c) having them tell someone else you slept with them and then dumped them, then i think you did ask for that.

it kinda seemed like her main complaint was that uncle john kept wanting to "talk things out." personally, having to spend days on end "talking things out" would be hell on earth, but it doesn't seem violent or aggressive to me. it seems like she could have just stopped talking to him and gone on her way instead of talking to him and whining about it later.
posted by snofoam at 12:18 PM on August 28, 2006


Aaah. Emily Weill is a nom de plume for this article.

Interesting that she's not claiming this to be her own. Something still keeps bugging me, though, like this is highly fictional.
posted by dw at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2006


Does anyone else find this odd?

Well the end of the article has a disclaimer mentioning that names have been changed. So.... yeah.
posted by dsquid at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2006


I found usage of the "pink blazer" term from 2003.
posted by amber_dale at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2006


I can't look at a 13 year old girl without wondering how well she is prepared for being 'prey'. She has to learn pretty quickly that her world is constricted by the ever present danger of men.

Yes, we're all ruffians and gadabouts.

*twirls evil mustache*

(look, I'm fully cognizant that females have to deal with shit males don't (and vice versa) but ridiculous hyperbole like that makes feminism sound more like the a House Mother; 'beware those nasty boys!')
posted by jonmc at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2006


Nice post. Weird article, which at first surprised me, and then, on reflection, not so much. I do think the author handled herself poorly in a couple of situations, but she did get to the end.
posted by OmieWise at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2006


Wow she managed to make herself less and less likable as that article progressed. Interesting stuff though.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 12:41 PM on August 28, 2006


Wow, dw, I can't believe someone who would bother with a nom de plume would make it so easy to find her. (The same phrasing in your bio? Come on.)
posted by dame at 12:42 PM on August 28, 2006


Wow, dw, I can't believe someone who would bother with a nom de plume would make it so easy to find her. (The same phrasing in your bio? Come on.)

Clearly, she's less smart than we thought. And young. Very, very young.

I'm happy I'm not that young and stupid anymore.
posted by dw at 12:44 PM on August 28, 2006


She's really terrible about anonymity. Appalachian Trailway News, May-June 2005, pg 21, para 5 (PDF).

Just in looking at this... good grief, no wonder the trail is in such bad shape in spots. I mean, that's what, 500+ people who did the full 2000+ in 2004?
posted by dw at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2006


I'm pretty young and pretty stupid, but not that stupid.
posted by dame at 12:58 PM on August 28, 2006


why is it that navel-gazing first person is all the rage in writing these days?

Thanks, blogosphere!
posted by Miko at 1:00 PM on August 28, 2006


maggieb: Thanks for the link to the hikers forum discussing the article. Interesting to read their reactions.
posted by justkevin at 1:04 PM on August 28, 2006


Clearly, she's less smart than we thought.

Maybe she's aware that she was a dumb, callow youth at the time, mixed up with the wrong crowd and struggling to find her way in the world, and the whole piece is a fray-style confessional, her grueling odyssey along the Appalachian Trail being a metaphor for her inner journey to self-awareness.
posted by cardboard at 1:11 PM on August 28, 2006


That's fascinating how quickly Google destroys anonymity.
posted by smackfu at 1:18 PM on August 28, 2006


Can anyone suggest a good, effective comeback to shut off this kind of talk? Is there one?
posted by JanetLand at 1:19 PM EST on August 28

Laughing hysterically until you have to wipe the tears from your eyes.

Belching loudly-- or better yet, farting loudly-- while saying, "That's what I think of that idea."

Scratch your crotch and say cheerfully, "Sure! If you don't mind catching a good dose of the crabs."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2006


I wonder if she took her nom de plume from this book.
posted by Eyebeams at 1:31 PM on August 28, 2006


I always liked the Woody Allen thing: "Actually, I'm bi, and you don't click with either of my desires."
posted by pax digita at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2006


why is it that navel-gazing first person is all the rage in writing these days?

Because "write what you know" has gotten dumbed down to "write what you've done," resulting in an endless parade of autobiographical twaddle that was written to be read on This Horrible American Life, including figure out the spots where the arbitrary breaks for 10 seconds of lousy music go.

A catalog of your experiences and bona fides is not what you know, you stupid little shits.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:03 PM on August 28, 2006 [3 favorites]


Very serious talk and I have a fever today. I read the article a few paragraphs in imagining hikers in blazers, even pink ones. Then it struck me that this image was all wrong. But I liked it and it almost made me want to hike the AT.

But in more seriousness, I wonder what was said was left out or changed, not deliberately, but if only by memory which is so poor and so often doing work to defend our own worldview. When she slept with these men, what did she say when she fell asleep or woke up? Would anothers person's words and actions be exceptionally confusing to people have the mental makeup or inclination to be isolated for so long? I hope I only express a curiousity for details we will never see and interpretations we will not be lucky enough to hear. We have so much idiocy and conflict with the comforts of friends, family, shelter, tv and internet at hand; just imagine the magnification of emotions and ego and foolishness and misunderstandings out on a perpetual walk.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:19 PM on August 28, 2006


Oh, crap. Just something pre-emptive here: I was hoping to dodge the ethical questions and just mull over the experience and what we were missing. I am not blaming her for picking up stalkers or pink blazers, but blaming her for leaving out the intriguing complexities of those relationships and people.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:34 PM on August 28, 2006


What was with that throwaway line about "Uncle John" sitting in the corner snorting oxycontin? She's so bizarrely casual about it... is oxy a common thing on the AT?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:22 PM on August 28, 2006


maggieb: What I noticed about the hikers' thread: Everyone in that thread agreed that "Riff" doesn't exist, yet you immediately knew who he was [Riff = Heald]. That's interesting because the folks in that thread seem to be dismissing Goodspeed's story as obvious fiction based on their trail expertise...
posted by cribcage at 3:52 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


...just imagine the magnification of emotions and ego and foolishness and misunderstandings out on a perpetual walk.

Kingfisher, I want to catch whatever fever that you have.
posted by peeedro at 3:57 PM on August 28, 2006


Peeedro, I think it happened when I put my keys in my mouth the other day. (Trying to manage stairs and multiple bags, and not attempting to unlock anything within or without me.)
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:24 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Heald does exist, and appears to be a frequent hiker. This is from a site that distributes a DVD about the hike.

"the vid is cool. it brought back some very deep memories for me and has ignited my soul for another pilgrimage hopefully next year. what i liked best was how you illustrated the authenticity of the trail-- ALL the walks of life (no pun intended), both good and not so good-- the magnetism that this trail holds for people (heald being a prime example), the culture and the glamorization of such an intense undertaking. it is insightful, comical, and among other things, downright inspiring."
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:30 PM on August 28, 2006


Leaving aside all the sexual politics about her conduct and whether it contributed to her experiences, the person I blame for the general cog diss of this article is its editor.

A good editor getting this as a first draft should have sent it back and said something like:

fascinating article, but the most fascinating bit of it is the sexual politics. You shouldn't just throw away a line like 'I used other guys to ditch Easy Rider in the same way that I used Uncle John to ditch Ibby. In fact, the only effective way to ditch a pink blazer was to cozy up to someone else.' How about you rewrite it and tell us more about that?

I think a better article would have started like "I was alone on the AT, and Uncle John had appointed himself my protector. He was a creep. [description of how creepy he was]. Unfortunately, I'd already slept with him". Now that's a killer opening paragraph.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2006


AmbroseChapel, you've got an editor's eye. Now I want to read that article.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on August 28, 2006


Crazy woman sleeps with crazy men, discovers they become crazy cavemen, forcing her to become a crazy cavewoman.

Guh.

I'm glad there's a near-commercial "wilderness" hike that can accomodate people like that. That way, I'm not encountering them on my hikes.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:50 PM on August 28, 2006


I think a better article would have started like "I was alone on the AT, and Uncle John had appointed himself my protector. He was a creep. [description of how creepy he was]. Unfortunately, I'd already slept with him". Now that's a killer opening paragraph.

Not to an article. To a novel.

That I would totally read and Nancy Pearl would lust over.
posted by dw at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2006


>AmbroseChapel, you've got an editor's eye.

Thanks, languagehat. And the point is, don't we all? An article that really examined her thought processes would be fascinating, whether it was on a hike, or as someone said upthread, in an office. As it is, it's just one "huh?" and "wtf?" after another.

Is she a victim or a heroine? Is she fierce and independent or is she the kind of woman who waits for men with "balls" to stand up for her? Why is she so casual about the drugs? She just presents so many things as "and then this happened" without any self-examination. I don't need her to beat herself up over her behaviour, but surely just a smidgeon of "now, I know this is going to sound a bit strange, but" would have gone a long way.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:09 PM on August 28, 2006


["don't we all?" refers to "I want to read that article", sorry.]
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:11 PM on August 28, 2006



but ridiculous hyperbole like that makes feminism sound more like the a House Mother; 'beware those nasty boys!'


Actually, that is the cry of the anti-feminists (i.e., Paglia). And, yes, that point of view unjustly catagorizes all men as "ruffians and gadabouts" (and worse).

My statement was: "I can't look at a 13 year old girl without wondering how well she is prepared for being 'prey'." The world is hard for young women. Feminists say, "I can help you learn to live in it - even help you learn how to hike the mountain or walk the street alone." This is something too few young women hear -- and something never said to Emily Weil apparently.

My original statement was sarcastic ... I am saddened that too many people just agree with Paglia, et al that ... 'adventuresome young women should stay home or they will get what they deserve.'
posted by Surfurrus at 7:12 PM on August 28, 2006


BigSky

good point, the high five was more in the general sense of a woman standing up for herself. i don't know many that would think they were capable of being confrontational when threatened. hell, even guys for that matter.+
posted by andywolf at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2006


Just in looking at this... good grief, no wonder the trail is in such bad shape in spots. I mean, that's what, 500+ people who did the full 2000+ in 2004?

No, that's 500+ people who finished their hike in 2004. Many people -- myself included -- don't finish the trail in their first attempt. I'm still missing CT, MA and VT. When I get the foot surgery that will let me hike again, I'll wrap that up and be listed as a 2,000 miler for that year. Maybe 2007 will be my year.

What was with that throwaway line about "Uncle John" sitting in the corner snorting oxycontin? She's so bizarrely casual about it... is oxy a common thing on the AT?

Lord no. Marijuana isn't uncommon, but nothing beyond that.
posted by waldo at 8:23 PM on August 28, 2006


It seems to me, too often people in the US are searching for transcendent experiences within the context of a brute force pissing contest with nature. Instead of enjoying the little things of life they need to be the type of person who can finish a 2,000 mile hike.

Sure, some are doing it because to them it's fun but some seem to do it just to prove they're better than those who can't/don't.

And I'm another person who had considered doing the trail until I read this.
posted by drezdn at 8:37 PM on August 28, 2006


She's really terrible about anonymity. Appalachian Trailway News, May-June 2005, pg 21, para 5 (PDF).

i thought she was merely naive ... now i'm leaning towards fucking clueless

suggestion for her next article ... "Pink Blazers on the Internet Trail - My Stalkers Move Online"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 PM on August 28, 2006


So I was (from early on) disinclined to like this author or sympathize much with her. But having gone off to the whiteblaze.net boards, where a group of AT hikers are/were discussing the article, and read every stupid annoying post in that thread, I'm reminded of what someone upthread here said: the AT draws a self-selecting off-on-the-wing fragment of (primarily) American society, which can throw anyone off, especially an arrogant early-20something fresh out of college whose main area of 'expertise' is how much she's travelled. The whiteblaze thread is like MeFi on a high Troll Index day; the comments are largely fatuous, with a folksy condescension from the older members (e.g. the tendency to call people 'hon,' 'sweetie,' and other such diminuitives, a nauseating habit that I associate with stewardesses and my former neighbours in Texas) and a startling lack of critical insight.

There is a comment from someone who apparently corresponded with Goodspeed during their hike in 2004 (it's at the end of the thread):
Yeah, I hiked with Deja in the beginning of my hike. She was a strong hiker and pulled ahead quickly. We kept in touch via email mostly. Other hikers know her better, but I haven't recognized a name in this thread so far that's had any time hiking with her.

So to clear up a few questions:
Sly, all the trail names were changed except hers. I know who's she's talking about though.

In 04 there was one southern/mid-atlantic stream crossing that was way-over the banks when I got there and read at the next shelter it was extremely high a day or two before. So, a short hiker could have experienced waist-high water. And, she was in front of me at that point.

[...]

I will say this: Yes, she was stalked, persued, pink-blazed on the trail. We create our own experiences in life. This was hers and y'all want to take it away from her and say it isn't true, isn't accurate, or "right" enough.
That's the closest the thread comes to insight, unfortunately. The last paragraph there sounds like a young person's emotional phrasing to me (straight up appeal to sympathy), but after reading that thread I'm tired of this game of competitive parsing; suffice it to say, the sense of the commenters here (that Goodspeed made some errors of judgment and nurses a grudge out of a young person's understandable myopia, partly because her Grand Journey Through the Mountains turned out to be a lot like other everyday shit) seems to line up with Dharma's comment on the whiteblaze board.

It's unseemly that people are investing time in cooking up reasons not to believe Goodspeed, when a grain of salt and a review of reports of AT harrassment might suffice. The hikers' reaction seems defensive - unsurprising given the identification with the Trail that shoots through their exchanges - and ends up excessive. But then people don't seem to like being lumped in with a faceless class of offenders, and it's easy for men (particularly male hikers) to read this article and feel attacked. That's a combination of literary failings and personal failings, I suppose: Goodspeed doesn't seem to want to present a balanced view of life on the Trail, but no one's forcing her to do so, to the article's detriment. Still, a number of the comments here have a meanness that's out of proportion with the failings of the piece in question. (And whoever's talking above about Camille Paglia: dude, you're way off. Actually read her writing if you intend to criticize it. Jeepers.)

I'd definitely be interested in reading reactions from other groups of hikers, preferably more even-keeled ones than at whiteblaze. Any other boards kicking Goodspeed around?
posted by waxbanks at 6:57 AM on August 29, 2006


Actually, that is the cry of the anti-feminists (i.e., Paglia)... I am saddened that too many people just agree with Paglia, et al that ... 'adventuresome young women should stay home or they will get what they deserve.'

I thought this was interesting. I don't take Paglia as an anti-feminist, but rather as a sex-positive feminist. I rather like that about her. Would you care to defend this claim? For instance, I'm thinking of the line from Sex, Art, and American Culture: Rape is an outrage that cannot be tolerated in civilized society. Yet feminism, which has waged a crusade for rape to be taken more seriously, has put young women in danger by hiding the truth about sex from them. I disagree with this categorical condemnation of feminism, and even Paglia admits it's overbroad, but the substance of her criticism is the same thing that troubles us in this thread: feminists must separate the 'is' from the 'ought.'

This seems to be the heart of the matter: we want women to feel empowered, to hike and climb and work and fuck with and alongside men without feeling fear or discomfort. Yet we do not yet live in a world where women can be so free. Feminism has helped us to close the distance between the world as it is and as it ought to be, but it's important to plan for the world as it is while working for the ought. Those who attempt to live in the world of equality that has not yet been achieved are frequently disappointed, and sometimes endangered. Like Weil, they've got to learn to separate their aspirations from reality.

Thisis not really a criticism; young people need to figure these boundaries out somehow. Youthful whining aside, Weil seems to be a very tough, free, open lady. I'm impressed by her accomplishments, by her energy, and by her toughness. With AmbroseChapel as her editor, we'd never have had this conversation: we'd all have sat back to whistle at her impressive prose and even more impressive life.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2006


We create our own experiences in life.

Truest words in this thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Why do stupid articles get the most comments?
posted by splitpeasoup at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2006


OK, just to be clear...people can say the following:

"most guys would call her a bitch for this rather then giving her a high five for sticking up for herself"

"her self-righteousness gets in the way of her own simple story"

"...That girl's an idiot."

"men/women can be co-dependent assholes"

"I think she acted like quite a flake, and was indeed young and naive as mentioned above."

"but i think she's a little creepy, too"

"and that was dumb of her, and she ended up flailing around the best she could to protect herself."

"She is no saint."

"I lost most of my sympathy for the author as she revealed what a doofus she was"

"Only an idiot sleeps with someone to fit in."

"This person was emotionally unequipped for this from day one."

"Wow she managed to make herself less and less likable as that article progressed."

"Clearly, she's less smart than we thought. And young. Very, very young. I'm happy I'm not that young and stupid anymore."

"I'm pretty young and pretty stupid, but not that stupid."

"A catalog of your experiences and bona fides is not what you know, you stupid little shits."

"Crazy woman sleeps with crazy men, discovers they become crazy cavemen, forcing her to become a crazy cavewoman."

"i thought she was merely naive ... now i'm leaning towards fucking clueless"

"an arrogant early-20something fresh out of college whose main area of 'expertise' is how much she's travelled"


We can demean her character in almost any imaginable way but I can't speculate that I think she's ugly?

Just wondering why my comment got deleted.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2006


pics, plz, k?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:34 AM on August 30, 2006


allkindsoftime... some nice admin saved you from making an ass of yourself, and you complain?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on August 30, 2006


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