Change the Language, Rewire Your Hike

There are some four letter words out on trail. In my conversations with other hikers out here, I have been making a conscious effort to stop using them, and it has not only made a positive impact on my hike, it has created some really interesting dialogue.

‘But Dandelion, we know you have no filter and can make a sailor blush, what words could possibly be off limits to you?’ Yes, I know. I may be named for a flower, but delicate lady I am not.  However, I am a storyteller and I recognize that words have power. How we talk to ourselves, and yes, we all do it, especially out here, is really important if we want to accomplish what we set out to do.

What are these two four letter words? ONLY and JUST. The majority of the time I hear these used, it is in a self deprecating way. Let’s tackle them individually.

’I ONLY did (insert amount) miles today.’

That is a view worth taking your pack off for!

I remember my first double digit day. I felt unstoppable and powerful. Now, I catch myself feeling bad for ‘only’ doing 10 miles into town. Calling 12 miles ‘only’ a Nero. I swear one of these days my husband is going to reach through the phone and shake me when I lament to him about these so called short days. I am giving myself absolutely no credit for what it accomplished. Sure, maybe I did fewer miles than the day before, or on my average day, but maybe the terrain was brutal. Maybe I enjoyed some trail magic or stopped to talk(and just maybe inspire!) some day hikers.  Maybe I lingered a while at an amazing view and, oh I dunno, ENJOYED the trail for an afternoon. So? That is part of this journey, too. Here’s the kicker: everyone has their ‘only’ amount. From those putting up regular 20 milers to those averaging 12 to get to Katahdin in 6 months and everyone in between.
How we speak to each other about ourselves can have an impact, too. For example, when you say ‘oh yeah, I only managed to get 15 today’ to someone who might see 15 as a great accomplishment, you not only take yourself down, but you might also plant seeds of doubt in that person’s head. So let’s start to flip this script.  You didn’t ‘only’ do 15 miles. You did them. Your body is amazing and carried you up and across 15 miles of mountains! That is cause for celebration. Focus on what you did accomplish rather than what you didn’t. I try to make a habit out of thanking my feet at night while I’m slathering them with salve before bed. The term ‘self care’ may be an abused buzz word in our society, but my body is carrying me to Katahdin, if talking to it helps even just a little, sign me up.

I’m JUST a (insert amount of miles a day) hiker.’

This one kills me. All of us out here are hiking. The trails and all they hold called us out here in one way shape or form. We really should be inspired by each other more. I’ve met hikers going for FKTs, attempting a single year triple crown, and working their way up the coast on the ECT. And they are all amazing. But also, for  one person, hiking from road crossing to road crossing may be an enormous feat, and they are amazing, too. There should be no diminutive ‘just’. Isn’t that part of hiking YOUR own hike? That it’s yours, and to compare to and qualify it against another’s is defeating.

Finally, I want to cheer on my favorite bunch of hikers, the section hikers. You guys are awesome and insane. You redefine how to tackle this 2200 mile challenge and you do it completely on your own terms. And EVERY time you come out, you have to rebuild your trail legs. I am in awe of you. Cheers!


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Comments 1

  • pearwood : May 17th

    Thank you! As I think about making another attempt on the AT next year I realize that I have to do my hike, not someone else’s. And that means a lot fewer daily miles than most folks are able to do. The reason I avoid group hikes is that I can’t keep up or go the same distance. I have to hike according to my own strength and stamina and not try to meet the expectations of others.
    Blessings on your way,
    Steve / pearwood


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