I’d like to try to explain a small portion of the mindset you get into as a long distance hiker. Sometimes what we do or how we act is counter-intuitive, quirky, or downright insane. What kind of person hikes for thousands of miles? How do we cope? What keeps us going? What exactly is rattling around in this crazy head:
Mileage: Some people ask how we can walk thousands of miles, but complain about a .5 mile walk to a shelter or a 2 mile walk to town. Here’s the thing, on a 4000 mile trek, every mile counts. Every mile that doesn’t count towards that is effectively wasted. Fractions make whole numbers, and the more we veer off trail, the more time wasted. So, when we have to waste steps, we’re pissed.
Packing: Thru hikers take only what they need…but sometimes stuff they want. For instance, I don’t need a bottle of Jamison, but it sure tastes good. Generally though, it’s as light as possible. Some even sacrifice comfort. I do to some extent, but I mostly travel in style.
Pressing On: Many people ask, “How do you maintain the will to continue.” I don’t really know. I’m having a blast, and I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world. There are days that suck, but you press on to better times, and overall, I can’t imagine ever quitting. I don’t understand the people who don’t like Hawaii. They say they have “Island Fever.” I think it’s a crock. If you can’t be happy sipping a Corona on the beach of a tropical island, you just don’t get it.
Thinking: When you hike for the majority of the day, you have a lot of time to think. The same thought will rattle around in your head for hours. Pondering, meditating, looking at the same subject from different angles. It’s nice to be able to complete a thought from start to finish without being interrupted by a phone call, text, email, or another person. Sometimes a wild animal will cross your path and distract you, but you can’t fairly call that a distraction. The singularity of though and action is amazing. In a world where we value the illusion of multi-tasking, being able to hold a single thought for an extended period of time is rare. It’s also very enlightening.
Why: It’s an adventure. More importantly, I love to travel. There’s no feeling like being completely self sufficient in the wilderness. It puts you on a whole different level. I walk into the woods and I am completely independent, free, and comfortable. It’s the best feeling in the world.