This was a paper I wrote for my Effective Communications class at Grace College of Divinity.
Among the hiking community a popular phrase permeates the trail: Hike your own hike. Every hiker has a philosophy about how to prepare, pack, hike and camp. At the foundation of any packing philosophy is determining comfort at the hiking level or comfort at the camping level. The phrase Hike Your Own Hike has become prevalent on the trail due to arrogance of some or lawlessness of others. Hike Your Own Hike is an aphorism; hikers debate its application since it varies in its absolute definition. The hiking community struggles to define whether Hike Your Own Hike has a universal application beneficial to the community or if it is a personal declaration to enhance one’s own hike.
Although the origin of the statement is unknown, and there are no documents to trace it back to, the statement has taken on a life of its own within the hiking community. It is stated in various ways such as live your own life, mind your own business, control your own destiny, but its universal meaning is, “Travel your own journey. Let others travel theirs.” In other words, each person has an idea of the way life should be lived.
The causative behaviors that have sparked this ideology are numerous; choices in gear, clothing, food, and entertainment along with moral structures, and personality traits. Hikers have varying philosophies for comfort and entertainment. Therefore, debate wages over whether habits should be personal or communal. This means trail habits have come into questions such as how loud radios should be, how far should one go when partying, is it considered graffiti or art in trail shelters or is proper sanitation acceptable along the trail or in designated areas.
Renee “She-Ra” Patrick is an avid hiker who has completed The Triple Crown; the AT, PCT and the CDT, and she addresses the Hike Your Own Hike philosophy in her article by admitting that there are many different hiking styles on the long trails. She states, “Hike Your Own Hike is about tolerance. It’s about recognizing our differences and being ok with that.” Tolerating the differences of one another allows hikers to appreciate the diversity on the trail. It is what makes the trail beautiful; that it attracst people from all walks of life.
With the numbers of hikers getting larger each year, decisions have greater potential to affect other hikers, especially those in close proximity. The ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) reports the number of hikers have grown exponentially over the years. The reports show that from 2007-2013 the number of hikers jumped from 526 to 875 hiking the whole trail. Although hiking may be an individual sport, there lies a multilayered leisure subculture or community where membership, identity, and status are shaped by intersections of class, race and gender. In other words, as the number of hikers grows, the potential grows for diversity to leak into the hiking community. The trail is no longer attracting only outdoorsy, nature loving people. People are coming to the trail for solitude, sport, and achievement.
The answer to finding middle ground with the Hike Your Own Hike premise is one of morality. Kenny Howell says in his article When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply,
“Hike your own hike also contains a moral framework to keep the more self-centered core principle in place. This framework represents a basic standard for hiker etiquette. In layman’s, it means that every hiker is entitled to hike their own hike up and to the point that it begins to negatively impact the experience of another hiker.”
People choose to take to the trail for reasons that can be pseudo selfish: therapy, health, entertainment or sport. Howell explains that hiking can be a great experience until one’s experience becomes disruptive to another person.
There are two potential reasons Hike Your Own Hike is misleading is: first it gives license to those who want to enjoy their hike in any way they feel. There are no rules. Second, it suggests individual hikers to hike their own specific way free from peer-pressure from others. A hiker should feel comfortable to use the gear they want, walk as far as they want, and be critiqued less than others.
However, both of these should be filtered through the lens of community. When an individual steps foot on the trail, he/she immediately becomes part of a community of hikers and every decision made will affect others in some way. To be a part of community of any kind means there will always be limits on individual freedoms; you are free to do as you like until your freedom begins to affect the freedom of others. We all have to live together in perpetual compromise. Gutmann and Thompson write in their article Valuing Compromise for the Common Good, “To begin to make compromise more feasible and the common good more attainable, we need to appreciate the distinctive value of compromise.” In other words, sacrifices will have to be made by each individual for the common good of the community. Without sacrifice, there will always be disagreements and the possibility of unpleasant experiences on the trail.
 “Hike Your Own Hike [Archive] – WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail.” WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail – Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail News, Appalachian Trail News Announcements and Articles. Accessed October 24, 2015.
 Patrick, Renee. “Hike Your Own Hike.” She-ra Hikes. Last modified February 18, 2015.
 Howell, Kenny. “When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply [Part 1].” Appalachian Trials. Last modified January 2, 2015.
 Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis F. Thompson. “Valuing Compromise for the Common Good.” Daedalus 142.2 (Spring 2013): 185-198.
Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis F. Thompson. “Valuing Compromise for the Common Good.” Daedalus 142.2 (Spring 2013): 185-198, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10591657.
“Hike Your Own Hike [Archive] – WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail.” WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail – Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail News, Appalachian Trail News Announcements and Articles. Accessed October 24, 2015. http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-40445.html.
Howell, Kenny. “When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply [Part 1].” Appalachian Trials. Last modified January 2, 2015. http://appalachiantrials.com/hyoh-does-not-apply/.
Patrick, Renee. “Hike Your Own Hike.” She-ra Hikes. Last modified February 18, 2015. https://sherahikes.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/hike-your-own-hike/.