Baby Steps: Thru-Hiking Isn’t for Everyone
So, What’s Next?
You have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk, and you have to learn to walk before you can run. There’s an order to things and steps that are supposed to be followed, but not everybody follows them. Those are the people that go from barely crawling to running. I’m one of those types of people. When I find something I’m interested in, I tend to go full speed ahead towards it. I research, read, study, plan, and obsess over that topic. Hiking is one of those things that I’ve gone full speed ahead towards.
My Relationship with Hiking in a Nutshell
I was brought up expected to spend time outdoors, and I went on a few smaller hikes as a young adult with my family, but I was never overly excited about hiking. After getting married, my husband and I went on a handful of hikes and then stopped after I strained my knees and he had to carry me down the mountain. Setting out on my own for the first time, and my love affair with the mountains didn’t start until May, 2015.
Setting out on a solo hike for the first time was exhilarating. I felt so strong and proud and empowered while completing that hike. I climbed 8 mountains in all that summer and set the goal for myself the next summer to climb 10 mountains.
That was in April of 2016, and since then I’ve summitted 82 mountains.
Seeing that number is mind boggling to me. 82 peaks in a little over 12 months. They weren’t all massive, some were only 1300′ high, but I climbed each and every one of them, and over 90% of the hikes were done solo.
Learning to Take Baby Steps
Hiking that many mountains in a year, and falling in love with the thru hiking culture and all that it stands for, meant the logical next step, in my mind, was a thru hike. But, now I realize by rushing into a thru hike, I was actually forgetting why I started hiking in the first place. I had forgotten why I go out there and spend hours in the woods.
Planning a thru hike wasn’t what I was meant to do this summer, I was trying to run before learning to walk. I’m still a baby hiker, with only 1 full year of trail time under my belt. Although some people set out on a long distance backpacking trip with no previous trail experience, that’s not my path. There’s a particular quote I try to remind myself of when I get too obsessive about summitting mountains, rather than enjoying the trail. It helps keep me grounded and focus on hiking my own hike.
“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” – L’Amour
I’ve taken the past few weeks to reflect on my decision to postpone my thru hike and I made peace with this choice. Learning more about overnight backpacking, going on a few overnight hiking trips, and just enjoying being in the woods are some of the plans I have for my summer off. I will revisit the idea of a long distance backpacking trip next fall.
With an extra month of free time, I’ve also decided to spend some of my time giving back to the trails that have given me so much. I’m adopting one of the local trails on a range of mountains that I fell in love with and will be responsible for performing trail maintenance a few times a year. Although I know it will be hard work (managing water bars, removing blow downs, etc.) it feels really great to be in charge of keeping a small section of the White Mountains accessible for others to enjoy. I’m learning how to walk before I run, and always trying to remember:
The Trail is the Thing.
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