Thinking about…your mindset before you hike the Appalachian Trail


Mountain hiking

Mountain hiking (Photo credit: arnybo)

Discouragement.  Disappointment. Physical pain. Exasperation.  Dreadful weather.  Slick trails.  Mail-drops that aren’t at the post office when you get there.  Blisters.  Humidity and heat w

hich sap your hardiness and hinder your hiking until the cooler part of the day.  Mobbed shelters.  Difficult people.

These are some of the dynamics you will (yes, I said will) meet when backpacking the Appalachian Trail.  Even so take heart, and know this before you set about your journey; there will be joy.  Days of elation and striking beauty.  Nights of amazement under the stars.  Spectacular moments that are lifetime blessings.  Look for them.  Trust that they will come.

Here are some techniques you may find useful to adopt before you strike out for the Appalachian Trail:

The image shows a sign on the Appalachian Trai...

The image shows a sign on the Appalachian Trail at the northern trailhead of the 100-Mile Wilderness giving the following warning: “CAUTION. IT IS 100 MILES SOUTH TO THE NEAREST TOWN AT MONSON. THERE ARE NO PLACES TO OBTAIN SUPPLIES OR HELP UNTIL MONSON. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS SECTION UNLESS YOU HAVE A MINIMUM OF 10 DAYS SUPPLIES AND ARE FULLY EQUIPPED. THIS IS THE LONGEST WILDERNESS SECTION OF THE ENTIRE AT AND ITS DIFFICULTY SHOULD NOT BE UNDERESTIMATED. GOOD HIKING! MATC” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perfection does not exist on the Appalachian (or any other) Trail.  Hardship is part of the price paid for the glorious experience of hiking it.  If you’re susceptible to black-and-white thinking, realize that each mile and each day will bring a combination of arduousness and delight, and regardless of the difficulties, when you finally complete your hike it will be with a deep sense of attainment and reward.

Release the following expectation: hiking a specific number of miles per day.  A wise backpacker has said, “begin slowly…the 20-mile days will come.”  In my case, there were just two high-mileage days and both were triggered by necessity.  One was a 17 mile push to retrieve a Saturday mail drop in Maine; the other was simply because I missed some trail blazes in Pennsylvania.  By the end of that day I had walked 23 fatiguing miles!  Even if you’re in the best of shape you can expect about 7 to 10 mile days in the southern Appalachians.  As you reach the 10-percent trail grades in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, doing a 20-mile day is easier.  Even so, who says you have to?  Who is looking over your shoulder?  What person has hitched a pedometer to your pack belt?  This trip is for enjoyment and personal growth.  “Hike your hike” cannot be repeated enough.

Remember, during despondent moments, that you can do this.  A setback does not have to become something which derails your hike.  I once heard “if you’re sick and tired of hiking, go into town and get a motel room for a few days.  Kick back, rest, decompress.  If you’re not missing the trail in two or three days maybe you need to set your sights on another goal.”  There is no shame in this.  Besides, the Appalachian Trail is not going anywhere.  Never abandon your desire to hike it while the fire still burns inside you.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under The Appalachian Trail

One response to “Thinking about…your mindset before you hike the Appalachian Trail

  1. Honest, thoughtful blog. Thanks for liking my recent post, Timothy – it led me to yours!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s