Etiquette for Hikers

By Raymond R. Lang

Editor’s Note: This essay appeared in the 1923 (Vol. II, no. II) issue of Trails, a yearbook published annually by the California Alpine Club based in San Francisco. Its author, Raymond R. Lang, delivers practical advice for the modern out-of-doors experience, which is at times both tongue-in-cheek and hilariously and oddly specific.

The etiquette of the walking tour has undergone several important changes since the better classes of society have seen fit to adopt this mode of travel. There are many new customs and manners for the wellbred gentleman or lady who would jaunt correctly.

The costume should be the first consideration. A correct costume for walking, either before or after dark, consists of shoes (2), socks (2), undergarments, trousers, shirt, necktie, coat, and hat. A soft shirt is considered good form.

When walking alone, together or in groups one should not talk or laugh in a loud or boisterous manner. Should anyone give imitations of a factory whistle or in haste to pass knock one from the trail, a slight expression of annoyance such as lifting the eyebrow is permissible. But all the time be sweet; remember it takes all sorts of people to make a world.

Cutting capers (e.g. walking on the rails to West Point, climbing trees, turning handsprings) though quite the rage in certain speedy circles, simply is not done while walking with members of the opposite sex, on the Sabbath. The gait should be well timed, dignified, and calculated to cover the ground rapidly, though gracefully.

The pastime which is really coming into its own is conversation. Conversation should be painstakingly planned in advance. Select some of the best standard works on the great out-of-doors; purchase a text book on botany, and read up on the flora indigenous to the particular region to be traversed. Consult Bartlett’s “Familiar Quotations” for appropriate verses dealing with the woods and trees and flowers (“this is the forest primeval”). Glance through the “Book of Knowledge” and Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf. This should prepare you for any dialogic emergency.

It will doubtless be observed that some young ladies apparently escorted by young men, carry coats or knapsacks. Doffing the hat politely, accost one of these thus: “Will you not permit me to put your things in my knapsack?” The young gentleman will then say in the quaint colloquial language heard on the trail, “Aw put ’em in mine; there’s lots ‘a room.” After the transfer has been made, to on to the next couple. This procedure will earn for you the undying gratitude of all of the young men.

In every large group of people certain men and women will become attracted to each other. This sort of thing happened in Napoleon’s day and still occurs even in our best social circles. They distinguish themselves in ways which need not be catalogued. It will be noted that the ones in question disappear from time to time. Thereupon inquire repeatedly of everyone, “Have you seen Bob and Jean?” The entire party will then be in a pleasant state of anticipation when the happy lovers reappear. Bob and Jean in all probability will ask you to be best man at the wedding. In any case their first child will be named for you.

The foregoing instances are, however, but mere trifles which may occur at any turn of the road. The true superman or superwoman of the trials must be possessed of that certain divine something, that “Je ne sais quoi” ability to rise superior to all occasions, which distinguishes the truly great of all ages. Certain obstacles are to be overcome by the observer of trail etiquette in order to qualify as one of these. Suppose for instance, an acquaintance asks you to take care of a sweet girl from his home town. She has never hiked before. At the ferry building you are presented to six feet of sweet girl, draped in a brown corduroy riding skirt. She apologizes coyly for her high heeled white kid slippers — “they were the only old shoes she had.” You assure her with the usual bits of pleasantry that the costumes on these walks are most informal.

You find that her chief interest in life is paleontology, that she just loves flowers, and “never eats.” She picks flowers from all the gardens in Mill Valley, and poison oak all the way up Mount Tamalpais, and hands the bouquet to you to carry.

Several of your best friends pass you on the trail. Seizing the arm of one you say, “Dan, I want you to meet” — You will get no farther. Dan will interrupt you with, “Excuse me, Dick. There’s a girl up the trail I’ve just got to see; I’ll be right back.” He will never come back. After five other so-called friends have given the same response you devote yourself in desperation to the needs of the sweet girl. The trail is steep, and the direct rays of the sun are more than warm enough. After the third mile when the sweet girl complains of thirst you give her an orange from your luncheon, which is eagerly accepted. By the time a few more tidbits have been accepted your luncheon is gone. You can see your finish. You find yourself revolving in mind dark schemes of escape.

Toward the top of the hot and dusty trail is an overhanging rock below which yawns a cavern some three hundred feet deep. You are seized with an almost ungovernable impulse to push the fair paleontologist over the edge, kick her flowers after her and take a short cut to Mill Valley.

But as superman you realize this as a glorious opportunity. You restrain your rude passions. You turn to the sweet girl, a cheerful countenance. You give her first aid for tortured toes; acquire for her additional food begged from friends when luncheon time really comes. You select the longest and easiest trails back to Mill Valley. At the ferry you return the sweet girl to her friend with a countenance gleaming with happiness; as you wring his hand — instead of his neck.

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