I Don’t Listen to Music When I Hike—Here’s How I Don’t Get Bored
Exposing the weird things I do to occupy my mind when I hike.
Before I even get started, I want to say that I have no problem with people who listen to music or whatever else when hiking (just please please please use earbuds so you’re not forcing everyone around you to also listen to your music). I completely understand that sometimes some people have to bust out the tunes to get through the day. What’s that thing they say again? Oh yeah. Hike your own hike.
While hiking, all I’m really doing is walking. I always put my phone in airplane mode when I hike so I’m not even tempted to stop and check Instagram or whatever else. This stems from a group hiking trip I went on before college where we weren’t supposed to bring our phones, which led me to discover that I really like being able to disconnect from “the real world.” Without distractions, I’m able to think things through all the way until I feel like I’m actually done thinking about them without getting interrupted partway through a thought.
On the other hand, sometimes when I hike, I don’t think about much of anything at all. I just focus on where my foot needs to go for the next step. It’s sort of like meditating, except that usually, my brain is moving too fast to actually meditate, so by moving my body, I’m able to somehow give my brain the space to slow down.
I’ve already taught myself the alphabet backward throughout various long runs and hikes. I’ve also just about gotten to the point where I can do the alphabet forward and backward alternating until the letters meet in the middle (A, Z, B, Y, C, X…) This one is trickier, so I’m still working on perfecting it. Is this a useful skill to have? Absolutely not. But it’s a fun challenge.
On day hikes, I seem to often end up spending a good portion of my hike singing (in my head if there are people around, or out loud if there’s no one to be seen). Usually, I end up singing whatever the last song I was listening to before getting out of the car at the trailhead was. Apologies to the trail runner who came up behind me one time and got to witness me singing a horribly off-key selection from Hamilton.
Sometimes I pick an object and try to count how many I see over the course of my hike. On one hike this past summer, I counted 17 frogs in about 20 miles (0.85 frogs per mile!). I anticipate that on the AT, counting salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be a good pastime.
Accomplishing Bucket-List Items
Something that’s on my bucket list of funky little things I want to accomplish is learning the Schoolhouse Rock Fifty Nifty United States song. You know the one: “Aalaaabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas…” Somehow my childhood never involved learning this song, but for some reason, I really want to know it. When I’m hiking, I can’t simply look up a video to get the lyrics down, though. Instead, I have to go through all the states in my head to make sure I have the one that comes next alphabetically, and then I have to hope I’ve correctly remembered the tune of the song. This is another one of those things that are not useful at all unless I for some reason need to rapidly rattle off all the states in alphabetical order and don’t have access to the internet.
Stay tuned to see what other fun things I come up with to occupy my brain on my thru-hike! Will I become someone who listens to music when they hike? Only time will tell.
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