In the Spirit of Giving
I’ve only been an active member of SP for about six months now, but every so often I think about why I post on SP. I don’t mean this in the negative sense of “Why do I bother to post?”, but rather in the affirmative. “I post on SP because…”
I suppose I could ask myself why I bother to post. While I love to hike, due to proximity and life choices, I typically only hit the trail a few times a year, so I am by no means an overly active member of the hiking community, so contributions such as Trip Reports or new Route pages are going to be slim. While I love scrambles, I am not a technical climber, so I have no real expertise to offer. And finally, posting takes time! It can take a fair amount of time to submit a high quality document on SP, and I’m busy enough already! If I looked at it this way I would never contribute anything to the site. But to ask the question in the affirmative is the better choice, and for me to answer that question I have to go back to a conversation I had with my friend Rob Wood, back in August 2005.
Those who have read the few trip reports I have submitted have met Rob. I am lucky enough to have him as a good friend and hiking companion. But when I showed him the pictures from my 2005 trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, he planted the seed for “I post on SP because…” As Rob looked at my pictures, I told him my stories about the trip. Afterwards he told me “You need to tell people about your trip. These pictures and your stories are art.” Keep in mind that Rob and his wife are very active in the art community in our town, so it was easy for him to make this leap from “hiking trip” to “art”. It also happened to be a Friday afternoon at the end of a long work week, so we were well into the Sierra Nevada – the Pale Ale, not the mountains – and usually at this point the conversations end up on the philosophical side. But the idea that my hiking trips had any artistic value was hard for me to buy into. I didn’t see it that way. My attitude was “Other than for a few very close friends and family, who would care?”
But Rob’s comment gnawed at me. Why should I share my stories with total strangers? Keep in mind that for the most part I am a very private person. I have only loosened up on this in the past few years. Prior to Rob’s comment I never would have considered voluntarily sharing my stories with distant friends, let alone on a public forum like SP. If someone asked, sure I’d tell them. But I wouldn’t walk up to someone and say “Let me tell you about my hiking trip.” But after my 2006 summit of Longs Peak I decided to post my pictures of the climb on a website and I e-mailed the link to quite a few friends and family. At the time I thought this was rather presumptuous. Why would most of these people care? What I found surprised me. People did care. Not all, but quite a few. I received numerous replies, which astonished me. It was then that I realized that maybe it was good to share my stories.
Besides being a great information resource, SP is a creative outlet for me - for an activity that I love – spending time in the mountains. But are these stories art? I’ll leave that argument for others. But when I look at this from the concept of how my pictures and stories have impacted the lives of some of my friends and family members, I know that I have enriched the lives of many. And of course Rob and a few other close friends have been the biggest benefactors. Rob for instance had never been hiking in Colorado that summer afternoon in August 2005. He has now been twice and we are currently planning our third trip for July 2009. My nephew (and closest friend) Dave has been the luckiest recipient as he has been on trips with me to Great Smoky Mountain National Park about a dozen times and then RMNP this past August. My son Andrew and his friends have developed an interest in hiking because of the trips I have taken them on. There are other friends and family members who have benefited as well. But regardless of who I have involved, the point is the same. In my story telling, and persistence to get myself, and my family and friends out in the wilderness, I have positively impacted these people’s lives. They consider it a blessing, and I am grateful for that. With these friends and family I have given much.
And while they say it is better to give than receive, when it comes to SP I have and will always be more on the receiving end versus the giving end. Again, due to the limited number of trips I take, there is only so much I can contribute. But I have spent many hours perusing the far corners of SP and I have benefited so much from the information that has been posted. As of now, all of the hikes I have planned for my 2009 Colorado trip have been inspired by my research on SP. And it is more than just the Mountain and Route pages that have provided me with good information. Many Trip Reports and Albums have been good resources about hikes that I hope to attempt. Even a few of the Forum threads have provided some valuable information to me (while other Threads have made for some really humorous late night reading - a cold beer and Forum discussions can be a good combination). And many SPers have inspired me to make the effort to get out on the trail closer to home. They may not be the epic adventures of the Rockies or the Blue Ridge, but I now realize that I need to hit the trail more often.
But I have read enough comments on SP to realize that many contributors get frustrated, which could lead them to decide to not post. Being a public forum there is always that chance of receiving some critical feedback. Although, generally I have found that SPers have been genuinely friendly regarding submittals. Others complain that their submittals don’t get many - if any – votes, so this becomes a reason to not post. Based on the trends I’ve seen I figure that if something I submit doesn’t see a lot of hits, or get many votes, then maybe the SP community wasn’t interested, or maybe the quality wasn’t there. I take that as more of a reflection on me – and I move on!
And I know that some people are concerned about their posts getting buried in the large volume of information that is submitted to SP. That is true and there is no way to avoid that from happening. But within the SP community there are information junkies like myself - that’s how I found the SP in the first place, surfing the web looking for information on RMNP. We go digging through the far corners of SP, looking through every possible Trip Report, Mountain and Route page, in search of that one great hiking experience. Finding these stories also makes for enjoyable reading as many members have told so many great tales. And while you may get frustrated that your material doesn’t get a lot of hits or votes, you should take comfort knowing that your story just may positively impact the life of one other person. Someone will stumble across that Trip Report or Route and find something new to do next weekend - or next year.
Besides receiving, SP offers us the chance to give. The opportunity to enrich the life of someone else is just a mouse click away. So if you have a quality story to tell, post it! Sometime, somewhere, someone will be glad that you did. And if your story positively impacts the life of one person, inspires them to go to a place they never would have thought of until you wrote your story, then wasn’t the effort worth it?