1. The Not-So Loner
Our favorite trail character was a young man we met on Isle Royale. Each of us had finished a week on the island, multiple nights out, when we met at the same campsite on our last night. We found out he was a young professional making a name for himself in the real world and was on a week-long epic adventure to challenge himself and prove his worth as a man. He had fancy gear, but it was decently broken in and he regaled us with tales of his planning logs, maps & mileage charts. He had proven his merits alone all week, checking items off his itinerary left and right. But as we chit chatted around our respective dinners, we quickly noticed that we couldn’t quite shake him. We really enjoyed getting to meet him and welcomed him in to our family of 3, him taking a liking to our young son and providing him lots of conversation about Legos and whatnot. But we began to chuckle realizing that to put up with us and tag along on a day hike with us, he had missed one thing in his careful, meticulous planning- he needed human interaction. His solo trip had proven one thing to him- solo trips weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
I know a lot of mud has been slung at this generation, but the more millennials we meet on the trail, the more I think they might bring it on themselves (no offense meant). Let me describe the typical millennial hiker we see to you. This trail character is always living the dream and escaping the doldrums of adulting. They usually dress in the $1000 homeless hiker look, which consists of: well-worn Patagonia puffer jacket, trucker hat, pig tails for the girls/ beard or facial hair for the men, bare feet with strap on sandals (no matter the temperature) phone always in hand, stretch pants (guys or girls), screen print shirt displaying some trendy locale or craft beer. They are always eating alternative foods and making sure you notice. They rarely engage in conversation, assuming the worst about you: you must be serial killers, or “worse” …conservative.
3. 18-25 year old males
This breed is always, always the most entertaining. This character is always eager to engage in conversation, take a handout of extra food, or heed a few helpful hints. He is never fully equipped, possibly hiking in jeans and flip-flops, eating out of the same bag of trail mix all week, with a “snafu” in the budget or gear bag. He is always rigging some homemade fishing pole or camp gadget to procure the next sure meal. And somehow, he always makes it back out the trail, looking like hell, starving, and excited to tell you his story.
4. Dog People
These are the most delightful, yet possibly WORST antagonist on the trail, and I completely own up to having been in this group before. These individuals are usually married and working, taking on the new found hobby in the great outdoors. The dog usually is their practice child, never parting ways with it, especially on the trail. They always claim old Fido would never bite you, despite his bark, posturing, circling of you, etc. Fido is always off leash and always gets in your business well before the owner can catch up to him. He is in your food at the campfire, barking, and ruining any chance you have for seeing wildlife. Alas, the owners are always friendly, always talk to you, and always optimistic about life.
5. Trail Runners
Trail runners (been there done that) just don’t get it. While the eagerness to get outdoors and tag 12 miles is impressive, this trail character is always ruining the trail vibe and mojo by blasting past you unannounced. They never have any emergency supplies, and thus always make you dread the moment you turn a corner and find them sprawled out with a nasty ankle sprain. They love to run in bear country disobeying the rules, and always pass you the opposite direction saying they just saw a (interject wildlife creature of choice here) which certifies that you, the cheerful hiker, will never glimpse that beast, as the runner has just scared it away.
6. Photo Oppers
These individuals are always dressed to the nines, not a speck of dirt on them, layered in too many articles of clothing. You’ll find them crowded into the popular sites, posing so that the parking lot, crowds, and cars are out of sight. You find their posts on social media looking fabulous, bragging how they went on a big adventure in the great outdoors. And when I'm scrolling photos on the couch, these are the pictures I drool over.
7. Old Timers
These are my favorite trail characters by far. They are always tough as nails, battle worn and experienced. They are usually willing to talk, entertaining you with tales from all of the places on your bucket list. They speak of hitting the best spots during the times of year you could only dream of getting vacation time because they are happily retired. They’ve honed their gear and food supplies over time to have the niftiest choices and cleverest ways to reduce weight, bulk, and packaging. They always find a way to bring in their alcohol or spirits, and they always make you feel like if you are lucky enough, someday, you’ll be living the dream like them if your body can just hold up.
8. The Elusive Thru-hiker
This is a rare treat and find on the trail. Seldom in camp long, this hiker might be smelled before seen, will be severely under-dressed, and often stare off into space like a crazed mental patient. He or she will often be eating a pack of tuna wrapped in a burrito shell washed down with a bite off a hunk of cheese before turning in to bed, only to be missing in the morning. If you are lucky he or she might recount a tale of adventure for you about one stormy day on top of (such and such) pass.
So what are we? Family hikers that take up too much of the trail? Middle aged slow pokes? Who knows? As time evolves, I'm sure we'll fit into each category in some way shape or form.