Before we dive right into another one of our ramblings, we wanted to first wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season. Just as importantly we wanted to wish everyone a Safe and Happy Holiday Season. This year has been a whirlwind of change and a whirlwind of activity for everyone. Yet, one thing humans are incredibly good at is having resilience through adversity and then the courage to adapt. It seems every time we have made a fool-proof plan this year whether that was hiking back in March of 2020 (which we didn't) or being with all our loved ones these Holidays the fool-proof plan has made a fool out of us. While still being extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to spend the Holidays with some of our loved ones that are within our bubble, or circle, not everyone will get to be present this year, and that is a sad but necessary reality. We will all have next year, and hopefully many years after, because of the difficult choices in the present! We not only at ElevenSkys, but we as individuals, want to make sure we are always doing everything we can to be the best for those in our community and in our world, you. So, before we get too deep and ramble before our rambling, just know that we are wishing you a Safe and Happy Holiday Season, and we understand. We understand the pain, understand the sorrow, understand the longing, but also understand the joy, understand the happiness, and understand the bonds of family and friends that will only grow stronger to share love for many years to come! Happy Holidays!
Santa Night Hiking...
Unfair he has animals to guide him...
We have to talk to him for some pointers!
Now, onto a lighter note, a quick ElevenSkys Ramble. Let us keep it light and let us keep it fun, so we will dive into the world of what we liked to call the "Echo Greeting". The Echo Greeting is a special trail tradition, and only a trail tradition that could have possibly grown on the grandfather of them all, the Appalachian Trail. Where did it come from originally? Honestly, it came from a bunch of smelly hikers sitting around a campfire somewhere in Virginia, and talking about the prior day. (We know we probably were not the originators of this tradition, but we created it without knowing of others who had done it, so it became our little trail family tradition). We had been seeing 100s of people a day on trail (not an exaggeration, it felt like we were passing someone every 5 minutes in this section), and had internally laughed when our trail family would pass someone, because every one of us would say Hello, how are you, or some semblance of a greeting. It was hilarious, it felt as if we were parrots one after another echoing a greeting. We also felt for the random passerby, having to respond 5 separate times. Hikers are all about consolidation and efficiency (let's be real laziness) so we came up with a plan around that campfire.
The next day we were going to try something new, something ingenious! We planned, laughed, and went to sleep in anticipation of the first time we would pass someone the next day. The feeling around camp the following morning was quite bubbly, everyone was looking forward to seeing our plan in action. We all packed our belongings, and began our hiking train down the trail. Quickly, we passed our first patron. We were first in the line of our trail family (5 hikers) so we were the first to start. We said "Hello", but before the patron to our show could respond, the second person in line said "How", then the third said "are", then the fourth said "you", and finally the 5th person in line said "doing?" We were giddy with excitement, and we could see the puzzlement on our patrons face quickly turn to amusement as they saw what we had accomplished there! They appreciated the creativity, the efficiency, and the quickness, and responded collectively to all of us with a chuckle and a "Great!" The game had begun!
Not as fun as a game when you play it with snow and trees...
For the rest of the trail this game would fluctuate. If we were hiking with 2-3 members of our trail family that day, we would come up with slogans or greetings that would work for this number. At one point we had a hiker train of about 11 people, and had the great opportunity to make this work! It was fun, it was different, and it let the miles fly by with a smile in our hearts and on our faces. Everyone that was part of this game that we passed, always would follow the same pattern of facial expressions. It started with confusion, then would progress to mild amusement, and finally complete at laughter and realization! We were amusing ourselves as well as making other hikers that we would see for a fraction of a second on their separate journey smile, and maybe just maybe they would find a new game to play as well!
As any game grows it begins to take a shape onto itself. The game becomes not just the act itself but the preparation and the thought behind it. We know would spend time in camp each night, creating catch phrases for 2 people, 3 people, 4 people, 5 people, and so on and so on. We would create the classic catch phrase of "How is your day?", then we would create whacky and weird catch phrases of "What percent squirrel are you?". Yes, there were some inappropriate catch phrases that were shot around camp as well, and yes maybe once or twice we utilized them, but only ever to another thru-hiker. A SouthBounder who would understand the humor and understand the weirdness that only the AT can provide. We would also stop instead of continuing to hike when we would use especially weird phrases, so we could describe what was going on and pass on the fun to our fellow hikers who were going in the wrong direction. (Southbound Snub*). The game grew and grew and it was glorious!
How many Southbounder's does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
None! They all screw it the wrong way!
*We love you Southbounder's, just a quick joke from our inner AT Northbounder Heart.
This game is really only meant for the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. You can play it anywhere you wish, but to clarify when we say only meant for these two above trails, as a thru hiker it is really only where it can be utilized frequently. On the Appalachian Trail especially, you will pass multiple people everyday during the summer months. The Pacific Crest Trail has been growing to this point as well. On the Continental Divide Trail if you would try to play this game, you might be able to play it for one day, on Mt. Elbert, and then you would just be stuck with all these good catchphrases and no one to share it with for the rest of the journey! We have used it on other trail systems but very very rarely. So, while it is a game that can be utilized anywhere, if you want to play it frequently the AT and PCT are your partner!
Create some greetings, generate some ideas with your trail family, and see the laughter on the first person's face when you pass by. Also like any game though please use discretion. We have been fully prepared to play this game with a Southbound patron on the AT, but read the situation, and read the feelings of the hiker as we got closer, and you could see that they were not in the mood for this game. That is what this game is about and in a broader sense the trail, any trail. It is about having fun responsibly, about having fun in the way all of those around you can join in the laughter, join in the joy, and simply join. No exclusions or no separation from a joke at others expense but instead a joke with everyone in mind. So, while we joke about Southbounder's, it is a joke built out of the large community of being a thru-hiker we are all a part of the same activity, same community, same joke. We spread the game with any hiker, so they can have the fun on their journey that we have found. Smile, wave, and echo as you walk by:
*Yea you will probably need a big trail family for that one!
With everyone in our hearts and minds this "weird" holiday season,