Caretaking: Community for the Self-Excommunicated

Once, a German hiker arrived at the Guyot campsite and exclaimed, “This is like a hostel, but in the wilderness!” I realized that he was right—although many people hike out into the backcountry to experience solitude as means of achieving temporary freedom from the rigidity of the “real world,” there is still an inherent sense of community that is almost impossible to avoid, especially if you’re staying at Guyot, which is one of the highest-use sites in the Whites.

Water
Sign to the spring

Many youth hostels in Europe are comprised of the communal kitchen area (where backpackers join forces to share the costs of meals and cook together), bunk rooms (where people are pretty much forced to socially engage at least a little) and general hang-out space in which travelers can relax and network with fellow backpackers in order to formulate potential new plans and adventures.

In that sense, Guyot is much like a hostel, despite the fact that more often than not, people are out hiking to escape the crowds. And although the crowds at Guyot can be overwhelming for campers (I had 91 people there the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend) it all feels worth it when I get the chance to witness new friendships created between hikers.

The Spring
The Spring

Like the hostel bar, Guyot, too, has the essential “watering hole”—on any given evening, hikers can be found congregated around the spring, exchanging the usual initial interview while filtering water for drinking (How long have you been out here? Where did you hike from? Where are you headed next?) Likewise, campers gather in the designated cooking area and similarly converse over their Whisperlites and Jetboils. Tidbits of their conversations (gear, maps, backpacking tricks, ultralight methods, recipe exchanges) often drift up to where I’m normally hanging out on my porch. Guyot has this designated space in order to keep food odors all consolidated in once place. This is a bear precaution, yet it also serves to enhance the sense of community that Guyot provides.

 

Shelter logIn the shelter, the Guyot log is a place for hikers to leave notes and messages for one another, and misc. comments. Every day during my morning trash sweep, I check for new entries, because I totally love these small gestures of camaraderie.

One entry in the shelter log
One entry in the shelter log
A gem found in the shelter log
A gem found in the shelter log
Tent glowing in the dark
Tent glowing in the dark
Flag on West Bong for Flags on the 48
Flag on West Bong for Flags on the 48

Saturday, September 12 served as this year’s Flags on the 48 Day. I was so impressed with the countless hikers that carried flags and poles to the top of each of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 footers as a tribute to September 11. I got to meet the flag bearers for West Bond, a group of gentlemen who have been participating yearly. This is yet another example of people coming together in the White Mountains! Check out www..FlagsOnThe48.org/

 

One another note, I am honored that Quinn the Girl was highlighted on the AMC Trails Blog. Thank you everyone for your kind comments both here and on Facebook. 🙂

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