Being Present on Trail
Despite the fantastic life that the thru hiking experience is, oftentimes I get frustrated at the pure mundane task of hiking for 8 hours each day. I listen to music or audiobooks for half the day or more to get through the hours.
On week 6 of my hike, I was heading from Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN.. 76 miles without a town to stop in. That’s five pure days of hiking without going into town (barring any emergency) and walking nearly a hundred miles with what I had on my back. This would be the longest I’ve gone on trail without stopping anywhere and the longest I would have to spend with myself.
This made me nervous for a couple of reasons:
1. I haven’t hiked that far in that short of time. (I still feel like a beginner backpacker, but I knew I could do it.)
2. I needed to conserve battery, so that meant less phone time.
This meant that I had to be in my own head for a full work week with nothing but my thoughts. I wanted to tackle this head-on, and to at least try to avoid my phone during the day besides the small clips I filmed to remember the days.
I spent less time babbling to my camera and more time focusing on the people around me. I made it a goal to be present for the moments the woods and the shelters had to offer me with more intention. After a few days of beautiful weather, hiking in the solitude of my mind, and regrouping with the tramily, I realized I was having the best week on trail so far.
This turned out to be a great time and although I don’t think it is necessarily right or wrong to wear earbuds during your hike or to use your phone throughout the day, I’d say it’s alright to do what you feel makes you happy and energized. By the end of the fourth day, I decided I could listen to music if I wanted to, and that gave me a huge boost of serotonin to finish the day. That didn’t take away from the fact that while I was with my hikers and new friends, I enjoyed our time together at the shelters, campsites, fires, and water sources.
Once I began focusing on the good in the situations I found myself in, the things I was nervous about melted away. I hiked 76 miles in five days and used my phone for the least amount on trail, but more importantly, I learned how to be present. I’ll say that was a successful week.
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