Four days in Sequoia Nat’l Park

  • I noticed that when I hiked at the front of the group I had lots of energy, and wanted to hike quickly, but when I hiked at the back I got tired more easily. I am sure that this difference is mental, and I wonder why that would be. Maybe if you were someone at the back of the group, evolutionarily, it made more sense to conserve energy and expend it elsewhere. It may just be the difference between setting your own pace and marching to someone else's pace.
  • We played lots of word games on the trail. Word games are like NP computational problems: difficult to solve, but once you have the solution it's easy to verify that it's correct (here's an example: A man is dead in a room, and the only other object in the room is a rock. How did he die? He's Superman, and the rock is kryptonite).
    That said, I'm pretty good at solving these, especially rule-based games like Green Glass Doors. The game solutions fall into one of three categories: properties of the object, properties of the words, and habits of the speaker. To check if the solution is in the third category, try repeating exactly whatever the speaker said followed the rule - if it does not pass, then watch the speaker closely for verbal or physical tics. To check if the solution is in the second category, try saying words that mean the same thing or resemble the same object that passed, to see if they also match the rule. If they don't, then you're in category 2 and you should examine the words to see if they fit. Otherwise try category 1.
    The other key point is that your brain is your enemy, because once it generates theories it will latch onto them, and you'll continually try to confirm your thesis instead of disconfirm it. A famous example from Peter Wason in psychology is that subjects were given a rule and a sequence of three numbers - 2,4,6 - that fit the rule, then told to make other guesses to figure out the rule. Most subjects generated fancy rules - only even numbers, only increasing by 2 - when in fact the rule was simply three numbers in ascending order. The key to winning word games is to try to disconfirm your theories as quickly as possible.
  • The conversation was superficial for most of the trip. Topics of conversation included SAT scores/schools applied to, cool stuff you and your friends from home do, favorite music/movies, sharing values through condemnation of other groups - lazy people, stupid people, etc. Many times this was extremely disjointed - one person shares, the other person shares, with no continuity. I tried where I could to steer the conversation to stuff I was interested in talking about - whether people become more cynical as they age, why people drink for fun, instead of bowl or ballroom dance, what are the best questions to ask to get interesting conversations, etc.
  • As a self-imposed punishment for hiking way ahead of the group for most of AWE (a three-week wilderness trip I did with other Athenian students in 2005), I hiked in the back the entire way, with one girl in particular, far behind the rest of the group. This is a persistent hiking problem, and led me to think of the other group members as selfish, but also led the girl to worry about holding everyone else back. If hiking together is the goal, the only solution is to put the slowest members at the front. If you're ahead of the slow people you'll always hike away from them.
  • More than a few times I wanted to do something a certain way, and on reflection realized that it didn't really matter and that I probably just wanted to show I was in charge, and stopped. I'm glad I caught myself and I'm wondering if I'll have to deal with that forever or if I'll learn a new style in time.

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One thought on “Four days in Sequoia Nat’l Park

  1. Papa J

    I liked number 2, thought your definition of superficial was interesting in number 3, and disagree with number 4. As we both know when we put the slow people in front, it does not mean the fast people will slow their pace. Instead they will pressure the slow people from behind and instill a feeling of being tailgated for the person in front. My experience with people being tailgated both while driving and while hiking results in an angry backlash. I suggest that the best method is hike in whatever position makes you comfortable and when the leaders get a certain distance ahead , e.g. 30 yards, the people in the back use a signal to tell the group to slow up. This lets the people in the front get frequent 1minute breaks, and every body can walk at their own pace. Everyone wins. This is just my observation though.


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