5 Most Common Newbie Thru Hiker Emotions
Working for a local, specialty outdoor retailer is an incredible experience. For a practitioner of that sport, it can be a dream job. As a former thru hiker working at mile 31 on the Appalachian Trail, my job at Mountain Crossings has taught me things about thru hikers that I never would have noticed if I didn’t have this unique point of view. As the first major stop for NOBOs, and a checkpoint to review your first few days on trail, the staff at Mountain Crossings gets to see thru-hikers in all states of mind. Here is a rundown of the five most common feelings new thru hikers are having as they enter the door for their first resupply on the trail.
Shock and Awe
This is maybe the most popular state-of-being for thru hikers who have chosen to go for the early start. Georgia may have a reputation for heat and humidity, but up in the mountains, the bitter tendrils of winter hold on through the end of March, and the chill lingers well into April. It is a wet and cold climate in which to be dropped out in the woods, knowing you’ll be there for six months. Many thru hikers push their way through the old door of the shop with an unresponsive glaze over their eyes. They are quiet, taking a few minutes to gather themselves, forgetting the oversize pack on their back that has become their enemy. They don’t say much at first as they process the trials they experienced to reach this place. One hot shower later and these hikers are bouncing around again, and making friends with other new thru hikers. Sometimes that’s all it takes!
Tired and Uncertain
These thru-hikers are very open about their doubts and worries. They are already emotionally worn out and troubled over their own disbelief in themselves. When you see the face of a tired and uncertain hiker, you can count on them to be a good listener. It’s hard to figure out everything you need to know about a thru hike before you start and most just need to be reminded of the fact that it’s okay not to know. Time will teach them what we can’t. We offer them a shakedown and spend some quality time addressing the factors leading to their distress. They are often very open and receptive to new ideas, or tips and tricks that can make their life on trail a little easier. All these hikers need is a good amount of encouragement and a little bit of time to get a feel for the trail.
Anger and Distress
Some thru-hikers respond to the reality check of the first few days on trail in a completely different way. They bust into the shop huffing and puffing over the unexpected trials of their hike thus far. Maybe their gear is failing them, maybe they didn’t check the forecast, but something is not going as they planned and they are very upset. These hikers are combative from the get go, and it can be hard to meet their needs, which, much like their expectations of the great outdoors, are too high. Once again, a hot shower and a meal goes a long way to soothe these stressed-out hikers. Though these types of hikers can be hard to deal with and sometimes difficult for other hikers who are struggling, being angry and frustrated is a natural reaction for many people feeling out of control in their new environment.
Peace and Love
The opposite of the angry hiker is the one who walks into the shop with a huge, goofy smile on their face despite the three days of rain they just walked through with a leaking rain jacket. They greet you in a chipper tone before you can open your mouth for a greeting. Things may not be going perfectly but they are grateful to be embarking on their hike, and too happy to worry about it. This breed is rare because let’s face it, getting into the groove of a thru hike is tough, but their positivity is encouragement for other hikers around them.
Humble and Motivated
Most beginning thru hikers fall into this category, which consists of many emotions that balance each other out. They walk in feeling beat up, but they are more or less ready for the next stretch. They’ve done their research and feel fairly prepared. They have been waiting for so long to take those first steps that they are going to make it through the first 100 miles off grit alone if they have to. These hikers know that there is little that can truly prepare them for the act of walking to Maine besides simply getting out and doing it, so that is what they are set on doing.
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