When a Thru Becomes a Section
Starting at the beginning (which is the middle)
I started a thru-hike in March 2015. It became a section hike after I fell and broke my wrist. (That happened one year ago today!) A few weeks after surgery I returned to the trail to summit Katahdin, and complete the 100 mile wilderness. On June 3rd, 2016 I got back on the trail to complete the section from Appalachian Market in NY (mile 1409) to Monson, ME.
I’m really glad that I got a second chance to return to the trail, even though I’m no longer a thru-hiker and now a LASH-er (long-ass-section-hiker)! I had 9 months to reflect on the 1300 miles I did last year and realized I wanted to do things differently this time around.
Hiking My Own Hike Was Easier Said Than Done (YMMV)
Last year I really got caught in the trap of comparing myself to others and ended up putting a lot of pressure on myself to do at least 20 miles a day. That was an all-day affair for me, with very few breaks and even less enjoyment. I pushed myself because: 1) that seemed to be the norm, so I thought I must not be pushing myself enough, 2) it put me on pace with lots of fun people, and 3) I was under a time crunch. These are dumb reasons because I wasn’t enjoying myself. I can picture some of you seasoned veterans wagging your fingers at my noob mistake saying, “Smiles Before Miles,” or “You weren’t Hiking Your Own Hike!” Let me tell you what you can do with that finger: put up another one, make a peace sign and then give me a hug. We all have our own struggles on the trail, and this was mine.
This year I have my dog with me for the entire 660 mile section, so for both our sake’s we are taking things slowly. I have 3 full months to do this section, so there is less time pressure to get miles in. And I’m content to be with my pup and meet the other folks who are going my pace.
I’m hiking about 10 a day, with a few 15 milers in there when it feels right. Big surprise- I’m enjoying the hike so much more. Instead of rushing to finish I’m realizing that I will be a little sad when it’s over. At this pace there is plenty of time for dipping into rivers, canoeing around ponds, admiring views from mountaintops, unexpected adventures with locals in trail towns, doggy naps, journal writing, talking with other hikers, or whatever the hell else I feel like doing. What a luxury to be out in nature with daylight to burn!
Less Zeros, More Near-os*
Another big difference is my feelings towards town days. I feel less drawn to staying in town. I still like coming into town (real coffee!!), but this time I also like leaving town. I cruise in, do what I need/want to do, relax, and cruise out to the next shelter or campsite.
I don’t feel like I need clean laundry, showers, real beds or indoor comforts as much as I did last year. Maybe that’s because I’ve been dreaming of coming back to the trail since last August, or because I’m doing lower mileage days so I’m not as physically torn down, or maybe because the hike feels more mine this time – whatever the reason town just doesn’t have the same draw as it used to. Honestly, I think it’s because I’m more emotionally satisfied by spending my day doing what I want to do instead of what I think I should be doing, so I’m not looking for satisfaction through consumption.
There’s also the small matter of the ridiculous amount of money I spent last year, and the amount I invested in my gear this year. I’m choosing my town stays more judiciously this year, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything (*she writes from town*).
Here’s to the next 400 or so miles left!
*A non-hiking day is a “zero” day. A low-mileage day is a “near-o.”
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