In Defense of Blogging, Reading and Journaling About the Trail
I read an article this week – with one of those “Top Ten” types of headlines that lures you in. The net net of the whole thing is that to be prepared to hike the AT you should immediately get away from your keyboard; close up that book; shut off the iPod, iPad, iWhatever; strap a very,very,very large pack on your back and hike up and down hills …in the cold and in the rain and snow, etc…
Don’t get me wrong, this neophyte hiker firmly believes that it is important to get in shape for a thru hike. But being told to hike, hike and hike some more as preparation, smacks of a rapid drill sergeant determined to make someone’s experience as crappy as possible. Of course there will be awful, awful days on the trail, but if all you focus on is the negative, you will never get your butt out of the armchair and onto the trail.
What’s wrong with knowing ways to cut down on the weight in your pack? Why not learn about how best prepare for cold or heat? We don’t all learn the same way, why would we prepare the same way?
One successful thru hiker from the class of 2013 told me that after about 500 miles it was all mental. How the support of his family was a key factor to his success. And, if I hadn’t already, to go read Appalachian Trials. So, maybe in addition to hiking up and down mountains in the rain with a heavy pack on, I should share what I am doing with those most likely to provide me with support and work on my mental preparation.
Another successful through hiker told me that weight is key – really key. Wherever you can, go lighter if you can afford it. So maybe I should be reading the blogs and journals of successful thru hikers to see whatever tips I can find to help me make wise choices. What can I live without?
One key point that I found in reading a lot of journals from 2014, is that many of the hikers that dropped off before Virginia were those that said, “Sure, let’s walk another 5 or 10 or 15 miles today to get a great burger or to catch up with someone or just because.” Rather than give their bodies time to adjust, they pushed it and got injuries. So maybe I should be reading journals from those who didn’t make it, and see if I can learn from their experience. And wish them well if they get another chance at a thru-hike. In fact, if we believe that all you need to be successful is to walk for miles and miles with a lot of weight on your back, wouldn’t it logically follow that most repeat hikers would make it on their second try?
Without this blog, Appalachian Trials, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail and the journals of countless wannabes, got-to-bes and trail angels, who knows what I would find out a few days in? Maybe I would need to throw out a lot of the gear I purchased unknowingly and create a windfall for an outfitter on the trail. Could I learn from hiking? Hell yeah… and I have. But how do you learn about actually thru hiking the AT without, well, thru hiking the AT? Would a general go into battle without learning about the enemy and the environment? Or would a little research help?
So here’s to the Hermione Grangers of the hiking world! Be a student. Read. Learn. And then go out and hike up and down mountains, kick ass and learn some more.
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Sure there’s a lot we learn after we get on the trail. But learning as much before we get there is very important. Blogs, journals and getting to at least one hiker fest are also ways to garner a wealth of up to date practical knowledge and can make a world of difference. Thank you for your thoughts. Are you leaving in 2016? Enjoy the journey.