You drop your backpack at the shelter, rest, and eat a hearty dinner. Time to process your hiking day on the Appalachian Trail. Here are some practical tips to help you:
- Become aware of the natural world around you. Yes, you’re not eating chips while you’re plopped on the sofa at home, playing video games and watching TV — you’re doing something far better. You’re having the unique, invaluable experience of living for a time in the wild. You’re close to the earth, sky, trees, and animals in a way that is rare these days. Take time to appreciate it.
- Evaluate you hiking day. Some backpackers journal about this, or use the shelter registers to write about it. Others may spend time in reflective thoughts. However you choose to do it, spend a few minutes reviewing your day. What went well? What went wrong? What were the lessons you learned? Put special emphasis on being grateful for the journey you’re on and your season of life as a backpacker.
- Give special focus to your emotions. The “cauldron” of the trail will stir up buried feelings. They are often rubbed raw by the physical exertion the trail demands of you. Express them. Do you feel elated? Sing to show happiness. Are you feeling sad? Tears are a healthy outlet — let them come.
- Pick a favorite moment or experience from the day. Consider jotting a list in your journal with the heading “My favorite moment was…” and pen a line about that event. Perhaps the red tail hawks soaring above took your breath away. Maybe the spring you filled your water bottle from tasted especially good. You may have been fortunate enough to get an easy hitch into town from a kind driver, or maybe trail angels appeared with warm brownies or cold sodas. Don’t lose these memories; record them.
- Look forward to tomorrow’s hike. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, the trail has teachings for you, opportunities to learn and grow. That’s a great gift! Tomorrow will unfold before you with wonderful surprises and blessings — just around the bend in the trail.