I find local small-town newspapers to be far more interesting and insightful than national rags.
Small-town America is far removed from the influence and will of large corporate business moguls, national political forces, and big-spend advertisers. It would be naive of me, however, to believe small-town politics are uninvolved. Yet there seems to be a mitigating force in rural America that helps maintain a reasonably controlled discourse when there are differing points of view: community and civility. Such pure human qualities are sorely lacking from national media outlets these days, in my observation.
For instance, I recently read a few articles from the Wet Mountain Tribune out of Westcliffe, CO. There was an article about how the Spanish Flu reached and affected these remote villages over 100 years ago, relating it to our current situation with COVID, and reflecting on and contrasting these two times in history. Another article was about the impact of the spring snow runoff coming early this year and another about mistakes new ranchers make. It’s just relevant, small town talk about things that matter to the people big-city news agencies know and care nothing about.
One might ask why a hiker would blog about this. Fair question.
I like to research the areas in which I am hiking. It offers perspective and reminds me that the trails I hike are surrounded by people who live here and care about this place on a much deeper level, sometimes through the eyes of many generations. Who understands these places more than the people who have made them their entire world? It’s humbling and it instills a sense of responsibility in me for how I should treat these places and respect these people. The wilderness is their neighbor, and the trail is a pathway into their universe, maybe one that sustains itself through community and acts of civility.
Maybe we have uncovered the secret about how we have come to call ourselves a "hiking community". We speak of trail angels and hiker towns as if they are somehow in a different communal category than hikers. Maybe they are not physically hiking with us, but do they not exude the generosity and unity of the trail? And do they not evidence through their selfless character the very reason we call ourselves a community? Indeed, I would suggest they complete the definition.
So, the next time you take to the trail, spend a few minutes discovering the place and the people that surround it and have made it their home.