What have you learned from hiking? A challenge to hiking bloggers
“Hiking has taught me a lot about life and gear over the past 15 years. What has it taught you? My challenge to fellow hiking bloggers is to write a short post about what you have learned from hiking.
Maybe you learned the meaning of life or maybe you learned that wool is itchy, there are no wrong answers. Keep it simple and fun, I think it will be interesting to see what everyone is learning on the trail.
If you post to Twitter, then add hashtag #hikelessons”
I read the above about this challenge a few weeks ago , when it was reposted on my friend Guthook’s blog- Guthook Hikes !
My plunge back into hiking came at the end of my middle years, after being introduced to it by the UMass Outing Club, in 1967. Backpacking eventually was derailed by decades of hard work, family obligations, and the accumulation of too much stuff that eventually grew into a pile so cumbersome that I am still pushing my way through it all. It took formal retirement in 2002 for me to return. I’m beyond thrilled to report that I’ve walked over five thousand miles, and have spent over a year out of my past four doing what I love best.
SO: What have I learning from all this hiking?
-I treasure the stripped down experience of walking north where I can trade in my routine, everyday life for unexpected adventures. Walking forward can be unpredictable, yet it happens within a framework of much simpler goals, framed by more expansive views (“ I have to get way up on that ridge today, then see where I might end up by late afternoon or evening”.). So much happens in a day when you wake up early and move though woods, deserts, or fields and encounter animals, insects, plant life, and other people who are also walking around.
Backpacking allows me to embrace simplicity, resourcefulness, vitality, community, and adventure all in one fell swoop. Hiking is a universal experience that ties the ordinary adventurer to Odysseus, Daniel Boone, Shackleton, and other important explorers who inspire us to go places. I consider myself fortunate to be on the list of individuals who seek encounters with nature on a twenty-four hour-a-day, all-day, months at a time periods.
-I have learned to deal with adversity by conserving my psychic energy in order to focus on moving ahead, even if it means walking backwards sometimes. While I walk, I strive to reduce the time I spend in tension and indecision.
-I am more ready to pass through what I call the “open doors” that present themselves at intervals during a hike. There are two major approaches to dealing with a long distance backpacking trips. One is to follow the “ be prepared” school of thought exemplified by hikers like Terrapin Flyer and Granite who cooked and dehydrated all the food needed for some 160 days of walking, then packed it all into 30+ boxes that were shipped to themselves along the PCT. The alternative approach is one taken by Richard Wizard, who never mails himself food, but prefers the challenge of making do with what he can sift through along the way. I used to be a hiker who was locked into over preparation due to expecting some worst case scenario, but have now relaxed a great deal in my fretting about what could go wrong. See that bunch of campers off the trail over there who might be having a good time? I now walk over to them and ask, “Who are you guys and what’s up ?”
-Hiking is a hardware and software reset that restores my health and vitality. I have lost as little as 17 and as much as 33 pounds on my long hikes. Losing weight is no big deal- most of America is on some sort of weight loss program, but the thru-hiker program is unique in that the weight continues to drop despite consumption of vast volumes of food, up to some 6,000 calories a day. I can remember times when I felt like a super-human, throwing down marathon length distances on a daily basis for weeks at a time. It just doesn’t seem like it could happen, but it does.
-Lessons learned on the trail extend to life off the trail. Sayings that may ring hollow chime brilliant when you are walking along a trail. “Momentum helps”, “Just get moving”, “Stop and smell the roses”, “Share”, “Hike your own hike”, “Early to bed and early to rise”- the list is endless. All of these aphorisms have deeper truths that reveal themselves with increased visibility under travel conditions. Every single one of them also applies when off the trail.
-People make the trail. I started the Appalachian Trail on my birthday, March 27, alone. However, I met several other hikers at the first campsite who became best friends. Not only did those same people reach the Katahdin summit with me on Sept. 16, 2007, but three years later General Lee, Richard Wizard, and I walked together to complete the 2,760 mile Pacific Crest Trail. General Lee and I thru-hiked Vermont’s Long Trail this past August. My most satisfying memories are replays of scenes where there are other people present. Here’s my favorite AT photo – a blurry one taken into the setting sun in Virginia just past the Thomas Knob shelter.
In the photo MeGaTex is hiking up a lushly planted hill “in formation”, with Denny Dog close on the heels of General Lee in the lead. We call ourselves MeGaTex, representing the states where the members live. We’re planning another big one for 2013.