As technology changes, so does the trail life. On the PCT last year, it seemed everybody was carrying some sort of device to listen to music. I had my tiny MP3 player with it's several hundred songs programed into it. I don't remember what Answerman had, but he was listening to audio books along with his music at times. Indie used an I-pod with not only songs, but hundreds of pod casts. His favorite being the dirt bag diaries.
Music helped lift the spirit to new levels, but also had the ability to take oneself out of the present moment. I found music to be really helpful when attempting the tough climbs, or when I just felt bored. At one point in Northern California, I hiked past an older man going the opposite direction and he asked why everyone was wearing headphones!
There were a couple of times headphones became a safety risk. One such time was in Southern California. As I was jamming to one of my favorite songs, I heard a distant "shaker" that I had never heard in the song before. Just then I glanced to the side and saw an enormous rattlesnake retreating off the trail into the underbrush, inches from my feet! Another time was near Crater Lake, Oregon. Indie was about a hundred feet behind me, I was humming along to another favorite song when I experienced something that felt like an earthquake. I immediately yanked the headphones out of my ears, and a few feet behind me, was a stampede of dozens of full grown elk! They ran right in between Indie and I, and I just stared dumbfounded. I doubt they would have trampled me, but I never heard them coming, the music blasting in my ears to blame.
Before hiking the TRT, I decided not to bring the MP3 player, and tried my best to enjoy the sounds of nature everyday, all day. I decided to say rosaries instead, whenever I had the urge to listen to music. Praying and hiking are a good combination.
If you decide to hike the TRT, just remember many miles of trail are shared with mountain bikers. If I had brought the MP3 player along, I doubt I would have used it during these sections because amazingly, the bikers were hard to hear sometimes. Listening to music would have been a safety hazard in my opinion.