Buh-bye, AMC

Because of various persistent ignorance within the local Appalachian Mountain Club chapter, I had tried to make a few waves within it as a whole, toward having them acknowledge the merits of barefoot hiking and to encourage their volunteer outing-leaders to be more accepting of the practice.  All AMC activity fell by the wayside as Covid took hold, but two years on, as members started to get bolder and go out in groups again, I started poking around the AMC trip listings website to see if they were starting to get back to something like normal.

Outings were indeed happening, with typical cautions about masks and virus transmission. I recognized a name or two in the leaders listed for the trips -- some in the "local walks" committee group I already knew to be foot-phobic, and ignored those.  Then I noticed that another one who I had been out with before and who had been fine with me back then, was going to lead a jaunt in a park I had *just* re-visited myself only a week beforehand.  He calls himself "hidden Boston", likes to explore little-known byways and sites with interesting histories, and has written several articles about that in some local newsletters.  I reached out in a friendly, supportive way, and the exchange took a surprising turn.

Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2022 18:14:36 -0500
To: "hiddenboston"
Subject: Breakheart

Hiya, I finally thought to dip into "regi" for the first time in ages and found
your Breakheart trip!  I was just over there a week ago, in fact, and besides
being in the park again I was trying to track down the DCR people who in theory
are handling the "new map" project.  There was one started pre-Covid but who
knows where that data is by now -- I saw a nice preliminary on a temporary
kiosk at an exhibit they were doing by the lake, but never anything since.

Anyway, it would be fun to finally get back into an AMC activity or two, it's
been too long.  I've been doing [and more often than not, leading] our weekly
jaunts in Harold Parker, but not everybody there likes pounding over rocky
knobs.  I was glad to be back on Ridge recently, I really like that trail,
along with Eagle Rock yadda yadda.  Some places really need to get re-blazed,
like the one up to Breakheart Hill from behind HQ.

What time are you grouping up, does the site have the right time of 09:30?
I'd like to see if I can make it.  [You might also recall I'm the barefooter..]



Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2022 01:33:04
Return-Path: "hiddenboston"

How goes? It's definitely been a long time. Covid really hit the AMC hard
for so long but we're finally getting some hikes up there on a regular basis.
I need to run things by the powers that be since hiking shoes are required
for this hike. No guarantees but I'll let you know either way!


Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2022 19:31:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Breakheart
To: "hiddenboston"

Heh, my "hiking shoes" did just fine a week ago.  If the PTB aren't up to speed
on this, have them read my article:
which I originally intended for the Mud, but it did appear in the Cape
chapter newsletter.  I could only hope they move past that false altruism
and realize what our bodies are capable of, and you've seen me handling
your previous hikes...

Even though he possibly didn't mean it that way, the response I got was so disgustingly dismissive, especially surprising coming from this guy I thought of as an ally, that I posted a copy of the rest of that exchange as a bit of a rant into into the "Society for Barefoot Living" mailing-list:
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2022 09:46:01 -0500
Subject: AMC, after 2 years off: FAIL

If anything, attitudes within my local AMC chpater [Appalachian Mountain
Club] have gone more downill than they were pre-Covid.  After 2+ years of
avoiding group trips as many other people did, activities have started up
again and I reached out to a local leader who I've gone with before to join
one of his group hikes.  Let me be clear: I have been on his outings before,
he's seen how I roll, and there was no problem with my feet.  This time, I
emailed to confirm his timing, reminded him that I was the barefoot guy,
and this is what I got back:

  === from AMC hike-leader ==

    Hello again! So here's the deal: If you can wear hiking boots, you're more
    than welcome to join us. But this comes from the top: I can't allow you to
    join if you're barefoot because of the need for protective wear on an AMC-
    sanctioned hike. But again, definitely join us if you bring suitable
    footwear, thanks!

..."If I can wear hiking boots"?  WTF??

I sent him this in reply.  I'm debating whether or not to even try escalating
this, because I didn't get solid results last time.  I don't expect much in
the way of progress, so I think I'm just done with that bunch.  They do NOT
get my renewal in August, do not pass go, do not collect 50 dollars.

  === me, back to hike leader ===
So who exactly is this "top" you speak of?  Are these the same foot-phobic
local-walks committee people I've run into before?  Ken Cohen?  Lisa
Fleischman?  Beth Mosias?  Or is this up at Faith's level?  Last *I* was
told, decisions like this were supposedly left to individual leaders based
on on-the-ground evaluations.  What's really going on here?  A little honesty
would go a long way.

At this point in my life, boots are out of the question for me.  I'd be
miserable, and at far *greater* risk to myself trying to stumble along in
them.  Why risk ankle sprains when I don't need to?  I don't own boots, and
don't ever expect to.  And by "asking for permission", especially of the
wrong people, you set both of us up for failure -- this wasn't how you and
I interacted before, if you'll recall.

I would like to materially support organizations like AMC and help further
its goals, but if this is the kind of attitude I get from elements within it
who won't even identify themselves or their thought process, that just
supports my thinking that I don't need AMC to enjoy the outdoors at all.
As many others, I sort of put it all at arms' length over the last 2 years
when Covid was a much larger factor, but that certainly didn't keep us
off the trails.  Before that, the weekly "conditioning" slams around Rock
Circuit with Paul and Christine in 2019 were fun, they took a real-life view
of me instead of blindly adhering to some cocked-up "guidelines" that
don't necessarily benefit everyone.  Just another example of cordial and
collaborative past interaction with AMC.

If you want to put said PTB directly in touch with me for a reasonable, adult
conversation, feel free, but if they can't or won't understand why I live the
way I do and why it presents little or no risk to activities, possibly *less*
so than the mainstream, that may not help.  But seriously, none of us need
the mental stress of this.  The erroneous and short-sighted "barefoot is bad"
attitude needs to be forcibly laid to rest across the entire organization, or
this crap will never stop.

The hike-leader offered a somewhat meek excuse and continued pointing a finger vaguely upward, but still wouldn't make an exception for an outing that NOBODY further up that chain was going to be personally anywhere near and frankly, it was none of their business.
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2022 16:10:40 +0000 (UTC)
From: "hiddenboston"
Subject: Re: Breakheart

This comes straight from the Director of Volunteer Relations.

So I did get some clarification and they say that it is up to the leader's
discretion, and I personally want hikers to be wearing footwear on this
hike.  It does appear that other hike leaders may allow it so you can
check with them as hikes get posted but for this hike, I 'm sorry to say
that unless you wear boots it's not going to work out.
Realizing that he'd been infused with the party kool-aid and it would be futile to continue, at this point I steered our conversation toward different and more positive topics, such as a different park I was intending to explore a new area of the same weekend.  I said I'd report back, and suggested the area as someplace he might want to bring a group someday because it was a bit of an adventure.  That part's not important here, but I was trying to keep it friendly.  The conversation on the barefooters' list continued a bit more, including a suggestion to just "casually" run into some group outings via careful timing and guessing their route.  I've sort of done that; it's had mixed results.
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2022 14:11:51 -0500
Subject: Re: [SBL] AMC, after 2 years off: FAIL

WRT following an AMC group ... I've done that once or twice, arrived late,
caught up with them, played dumb, and on at least one trip the leader said
"join us!".  [My Osceola trip, written up.]

In this episode, the leader later clarified via email and said that officially
it's still up to the "discretion" of each leader, but I'm still mystified why
he's insisting on boots at a park I was happily pounding around *a week ago*,
after he's seen me handle things just fine on other outings.  He probably
fears that I'm some kind of "bad example" for the other participants, or
some such muck.

On other outings I've simply hit the same park around the same time with my
own route, relying on dumb luck to choose a way that might intersect the
group along the way but not make a point of it.  I could always arrive at the
same time as a group, park some distance off, and cruise right by them toward
the trailhead as they're still gathering, and just offer a cordial "hello"
on the way by.

But I think I'm largely done with AMC.  Having to go through this just to
be led on a hike that I can easily figure out myself isn't worth the mental
stress of dealing with the ignorant half the time, let alone the false hope a
couple of years ago that I was helping AMC as a whole come around to reality.

A few days later, I turned that theory into direct action, also logged for posterity into the barefooters' list archive.
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2022 09:45:40 -0500
Subject: Re: [SBL] AMC, after 2 years off: FAIL

My renewal comes up in August, and I already had their form kicking around
[AMC mails them very early, hoping to pull in more money for the summer
season].  Instead of a check, I wrote "see enclosed" on the form and included
this, on my own "official letterhead".  Buh-bye.


To who it *should* concern:

Normally, I'd be renewing my AMC membership soon, because I do generally
support any organization that helps take care of outdoor spaces.  But after
two-plus years of staying away from group activities, when I tried to reach
back out to active participation again, your core leadership apparently still
hasn't gotten the POINT of


or google for "amc" "mud" "barefoot" if you don't want to type all that.

So, NO.  I don't *need* the AMC to enjoy the outdoors.  They've arbitrarily
pushed me away for the last time.  That I *lead* hikes in Harold Parker almost
every week these days, or slam out 6 or more miles in the Fells or Blue Hills
and other local parks semi-regularly, in all seasons, that doesn't seem to
matter to them.

Most of this originally seemed to come from certain "local walks" committee
people, such as Ken Cohen, Beth Mosias, and Lisa Fleischman to name specific
ones I have tangled with over time.  Someone really needs to sit them down,
along with your current volunteer director, for an honest talk and find out
what their problem is.

You would also do well to make sure this note lands on Susan Arnold's desk.

If someone wants to actually have a thoughtful, adult, *evidence-based*
conversation about this, I am available via email or phone.

     hobbit @ [email]
     member  ######  until August
Further discussion ensued on the list, including a mention of the "liability" fears sometimes offered as excuses by leaders and coordinators. 
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2022 09:02:06 -0500

"Liability", that's a riot.  A lot of those groups make you sign waivers, FFS.
Including the AMC folks.  Who am I going to *sue* over a foot boo-boo, the
park services for letting people into their death-trap woods?  As usual, the
excuses never reflect actual rational thought.

The hiking community is basically one of the friendliest out there, at least at an on-the-ground level.  They generally respect each others' choices and sometimes learn from them, whether it's chatting about gear, homes, jobs, past trips ... or even something they've never encountered before, such as clearly competent and confident barefooting as an example of what's possible.  The really hilarious part, throughout all of this?  On absolutely NONE of the AMC-sponsored hikes I ever went on, did any leader ever actually check that anyone present was an active AMC member.  Nobody ever showed a card.  We were only asked to sign the legally meaningless bulk "waiver", and off we went.

_H*   221030