The Early Morning Trail


I’ve made a vow to hit the walking trail early this summer, shortly after the sun is up. I’ve walked for years on the sidewalks of Hillsborough, but am now venturing farther to the trail.

In the South, when you pass someone on the street, you say, “Hey.” If you want to go a step beyond “hey,” you call out a comment about the weather.


I stepped onto the trail.




Uh oh.

My fellow trail-goers weren’t responding.

Some averted my gaze. Some looked at me but said nothing. Not even a slight smile.


Maybe saying “hey” isn’t a rule of the trail?

At a turn, a man with a German shepherd was so pleasant we went right into the weather.

In fact, I crossed his path again twenty minutes later, and we discussed the weather some more (although I’m not sure we came to any firm conclusions).

But mostly, runners and walkers ignored my greeting.

I’m not giving up, I thought. I’m going to keep up my attempts to be friendly.

A man about my age came toward me. By his side was a young women I suspected was his daughter.

Time to pull out all the stops, go a step beyond “hey.”

“Good morning,” I said.

The man frowned at me. The woman looked down. They were intent in conversation.

“Her sister’s name was Rose,” the young woman said.

“Then I doubt if her name was Rose,” the man said.

“Duh, people!” I wanted to shout. “Of course not. You don’t give sisters the same name.”

But I didn’t.

I want to follow early morning trail etiquette, which seems to feature a lot of silence among strangers.

Cliff goes to the trail in the afternoon. He comes home with glowing tales of friends he’s made.

So it must be the early morning crew.

They’re pondering the day ahead. They haven’t downed their morning coffee. They endured a tough argument the night before.

So do I keep trying?  Or is silence fine at seven a.m?

What about you? Do you stick to your own on a walking trail? On the sidewalk?  Smile?  Nod?  Speak?

P.S. Of course in the Bob Newhart show, three brothers share a name: Darryl, Darryl, and Darryl. So maybe, tiny maybe, the woman’s name really is Rose just like her sister!

35 thoughts on “The Early Morning Trail”

  1. I got a few chuckles out of this. I would greet people and say hi also. After, all, I am southern. But honestly I love my solitude so I would probably choose a place where I didn’t bump into people. And if I were on the trail and people were in a no convo mood, I’d relish that. But each of us is different. Can you live with the silence? Can you soak it up or will you miss the sidewalk and those convos about the weather?

  2. Keep saying “hey”. Teach those non-southerners (or sleepy ones) that it’s only polite to acknowledge another human’s presence. They could at least nod! I usually smile or say “hey” to others I meet while walking but not always. Guess I should take my own advice. (PS It was Larry, Darryl and Darryl but it still could be Rose and Rose)

  3. I think people are so plugged into phones and music they’ve forgotten how nice it is to listen to the sounds of nature and possibly greet another person. When biking, we generally nod at other riders, if stopped, there’s usually talk about the rides, weather, etc. In NYC, no one talks to each other.

  4. I always make eye contact and say Hi to folks when walking or hiking no matter where I am, but I don’t walk early in the morning. I am looking forward to the opening of the Riverwalk!

  5. In the early morning, many people sort of get into a Zen mood while walking. They may not want their meditation interrupted. I would watch them and if they make eye contact, then I would speak. Otherwise I think they are not wanting to be bothered. Also, some people are not morning people and just hate to talk until after their coffee etc. You need a walking partner who can chat while you walk.

  6. I’ve found that having a big enthusiastic Lab along is good for a smile and a hi…and not just from fellow dog-walkers. We’ll be glad to let you borrow Baxter to see if he makes a difference. 🙂

  7. I love the runners and walkers who are so into themselves and their earphones that they can’t enjoy a walk for it’s own sake.It’ so nice to enjoy the wild life and stop for a chat

  8. Interesting convo here. And I’m back with more on the topic. As a person who has been taught to reach out I always glance at people and say hi unless I am in a discussion and then I think it’s kind of rude to interrupt listening to my friend to greet people. I almost never want to get into a convo but if I do, I often an invigorated by it.

    As an introvert I really get why people need to carve out space for silence. Maybe they are going to work in a cubicle in an hour or two. I would go bonkers in a cubicle but if I worked in one I’d for sure be finding a quiet place to walk where I was not expected to be social or hear anyone else’s chatter. I might wear earphones with no music just to give the impression I am not available. We live in a fast paced world and I applaud anyone who gets out in nature and walks whether they are sociable or not. It’s all about survival! And then again, maybe it’s a North/South thing….

  9. My husband and I are hiking a lot on the Appalachian Trail. Talk about few and far between people! But almost everyone says hi and has a quick comment. Keep saying hi, keep smiling. It is not so important to them as it is to you!

  10. I bike my neighborhood area at least once and during the summer twice a day. I say Good Morning or Hi to people and for the most part they respond or nod if they are plugged in.
    Since it is yard sale time, I pack a few bucks in my pocket and browse. I have learned from stopping at the sale I am dubbed as ‘bicycle lady’. At some of the sales I have been told they see me every day. What I want to know is where are they? They aren’t the walkers, dog walkers, runners or other bicyclists I see, so why aren’t they yelling Hi from their homes?

      1. Thanks for being a gentle force of good. It can be a challenge staying ‘good’ when someone is rude or demanding (especially in your work situation with customers) but it does work better for all involved in the end! 🙂

  11. “Hey” Barbara,
    My early morning trail is a path by the river. There are definitely “regulars,” the 8 o’clock walkers, the 9 o’clock, etc. We exchange “good mornings.” Most are friendly. Some have dogs. There is one guy who has gray hair and a gray mustache who never speaks and always looks grumpy. I’ve nicknamed him the “old king,” When he is with his wife, the queen, she greets me with a smile and a nod and always walks ahead of him.

    I have made up stories about all the regular walkers, but I haven’t stopped to talk and test out if any of my theories are true. For a series of mornings I passed “the lovers,” a couple who held hands and leaned into each other while talking in soft voices. They were in their 60s. All of these people are going to show up in a novel of mine someday.

  12. Barbara,

    Keep saying hi! I walk a beach trail and aways say hi, hello, or hey and ninety seven percent of the time get a response or a little conversation.
    My daughter lives in a busy city where no one speaks, and I find it sad. No smile, nod or hey. Are we really beyond acknowledging each other?
    For me it is who I am, and for some folks a little greeting or acknowledgement means the world.
    I say lets keep doing so!

  13. I’m definitely a “I’m running and concentrating” person and won’t say hey but I’m not trying to be unfriendly, just trying to stay in the groove.
    Did Cliff already do the Appalachian Trail? I thought he was walking that sometime soon?

  14. Keep up the Hey’s! I like it when people greet me or acknowledge a fellow walker. We need to spread the love n manners!! Though I do my walking at noon during my lunch hour, people are friendlier ( or maybe it’s the Midwest folks!). Something I’ve always wondered though, after you go around one loop, do you need to nod or smile or anything after you’ve said hello on the first encounter? Hmm

  15. I have a terrible time knowing what to do about the second lap! And, sometimes I’m spacey on faces and can’t remember if I’ve seen someone before. That’s when I know I need to watch too much talk about the weather. I don’t need to repeat “Do you think the rain will hold off?” to the same person two (or three!) times.

  16. Hi Barbara,

    I am not a regular jogger, walker by any means. But, where I am in California, I find that it would be “the odd person out” who didn’t in at least some way acknowledge someone passing by them on the roadway or sidewalk. No one is ignored. Is this because we all believe that we live in the same “community”? Bad sidewalks, common pathway to a common interface/intersection – we’re “neighbors,” even though we may not know each other.

    This is perhaps unlike the very beautiful trail you have depicted where I might imagine people coming from some distance away, and perhaps, may travel to this spot, so as to begin their morning walk!

    I don’t wear athletic gear, and I don’t wear athletic shoes! Just my usual comfortable shoes — I don’t look like a “serious” walker/jogger type. But, many who pass by me do, and no one ignores me – not the serious jogger, nor the very old woman with the dual purpose, walker/grocery cart. They really do aknowledge in their own often suble ways my glance, smile, or “hello.”

    Okay, I don’t say “hey.” My daughter does, but she’s much younger than me! Perhaps, I take a fleeting smile, glance, or even a slight grimmace as a resounding “hey!”

      1. No, it’s not that we are “so friendly”!! It’s just that there really are “pockets of ways” of treating people all over the US (and not always meant to be “unfriendly” by the locals who live in these ways). But, as a former Bostonian, I can say that I breathed a loooong sigh of relief upon returning to California! (okay, Barbara, Californians may indeed be more friendly!!). And, case in point, recently went back to Boston, and was reprimanded and screamed at by three roller skaters along Comm Ave. (Commonwealth Ave.) who didn’t like that we were slowly trying to park our car as they tried to skate faster than our car was going! I can live without that stress!!

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