Hiking off “The List:” Life After Finishing the New England 67

I met my goal, now what?

It has been almost a month since I summited my final peak on the New England 67 list. Since finishing, I’ve been on two hikes, both completely unmotivated by any of my “goals” for 2018. It’s a strange feeling, hiking off the list, and I find myself waxing nostalgic for the days of working toward an end point. I feel disjointed and disorganized, like I’m hovering in some anti-gravity vortex, with nothing to pull me toward an ultimate goal. This unlimited freedom to hike whatever I want to hike is foreign to me, and rather than enjoying it, I feel lost.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a very list-oriented person, but coming off of one is difficult for me. Sure, there are other lists I could be working on, The 100 Highest, The GRID, Redlining, etc., but I’m even at a point on those lists where the completion dates are so far in the future they feel intangible. Now that I’m no longer working toward anything I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity. I used to be, “Socked In working on the 67,” but now I’m just, “Socked In, in hiker-list limbo.” I raced so fast toward the completion of the 48 and the 67 it makes me wonder if I would’ve been happier going at a slower pace to the finish line.

The Need to Achieve

In the hiking community, both on a smaller level (day hikes) and a larger one (thru-hikes), it seems like a lot of people are racing toward the finish line. It’s no longer good enough to just finish a list or a thru-hike; you have to do it in fewer months, crush bigger miles, and keep your eyes fixed on the ending. The ultimate goal is no longer to enjoy the wilderness slowly, to soak it all in, the goal is to carve another notch in your hiker belt, faster than the “other guy.” I’ve read articles and posts where people argue the point that you can see more of the beauty by hiking faster and I do agree with that, but what are we giving up in the ever-growing pursuit to see more, do more, be faster, finish sooner?

As a day hiker, I have only a set amount of time to finish a hike. There are many times when I don’t have the luxury of time to stop at a spring and just take it all in, and I find myself using that excuse, that I don’t have enough time, as a way to justify my desire to go faster. Fast equals strong in the hiking community, and the more miles you can crush in a day, the more revered you become. It’s no longer about what the woods have to teach you, it’s about double-digit miles and going as light as possible. I’m guilty of that mentality and although I can justify my need for speed because I’m only given so many hours in a day,

I’m becoming more and more driven by the clock and the GPS than by the desire to spend time in the woods.

No Promises to Slow Down

I would love to say that I’m going to change, that I’m going to slow down and take it all in when I’m hiking, but that would be a lie. I can’t change my pace because I don’t want to change. I like going faster and pushing for bigger miles because it makes me feel good when I achieve that goal. Rather than trying to slow down, I’d rather promise myself that I’m going to spend more time in the woods, do more overnights, and ultimately complete an attempted thru-hike of the Long Trail. It’s unrealistic for me to say that I’m going to change my ways and I would be lying if I said I wanted to. Yes, it’s important to reflect on why I’m out in the woods, to remind myself why I hike, but those reasons only make me want to spend more time doing what I love on more days, because days are all I have right now.

So now that I’m hovering here in hiker-list limbo I have to find new goals to work toward. I’m a list-oriented person, and in my 30+ years on the planet, I’ve always been someone who needs, and likes, that drive toward completion. It may be un-poetic and anti-Muir of me to say that I’m not going to hike all the time now “just for fun,” but it’s the truth. For me, the list is what made hiking fun in the first place because it was completion of that list that pushed me to get outside alone, and afraid, for almost three years. It was the lists that drove me to keep going to the woods, regardless of how scared I may have felt many times on many hikes.

Now, I don’t need those lists to drive me to push past the fear, because I’m not afraid anymore, I need them to keep me moving forward toward bigger goals and greater challenges, deeper into the woods than I’ve ever gone before…

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Comments 6

  • Scott Brotherton : Sep 3rd

    For starters, I appreciate your candor….I don’t really understand it necessarily, but…hike your own hike. I see stuff on here all the time about FKT’s and etc. I have never considered hiking a ‘competitive sport’ I guess. For me, it is about escape..Your story reminds me somewhat of people who do ‘tours’ in Europe or wherever ? I guess the question (to me) becomes would you rather soak in and enjoy the culture, see what its like to be a native (so to speak) in Paris or Prague or Vienna or just bust through 20 cities in a month so you can say you have been there…? (Many travelers call them bucket list checkers & I don’t understand the point of doing that either, but who I am, or anyone, to say what is the right or wrong way to travel or hike or whatever ?? ) So, the question begs…Why are you doing what you are doing ? It sounds like to me it is about goal-setting and achievement of said goals (in your case). I agree w/the just of your commentary, & I know there are ‘those people’ who criticize anything that ‘isn’t their way’…. But, the only person you have to make happy is you. So if it ‘checks all of your boxes’, then that’s what is important…

    Reply
    • Socked In : Sep 3rd

      Yeah I have a hard time with not working towards a goal, and rather than writing some puff piece that is meant to inspire people who are like me to be more about slowing down, I decided to take a chance and be honest. No I won’t stop pushing towards goals cuz that’s how I am and always have been. The lists are what got me out there to begin with and if it wasn’t for that drive to keep working towards the goal of finishing said lists I would’ve stopped hiking year 1 because of the anxiety I faced while hiking. I love the wilderness and I soak up every moment I’m out there but I am not going to slow down and hike differently because I may miss out on nature – I’ll just hike more days instead.

      Reply
    • Evan : Sep 3rd

      this chick is a badass solo hiker. I’ve worked from lists across the country and it’s a good way to push your own boundaries. Keep it up Socked In! Youre inspiring

      Reply
      • Socked In : Sep 4th

        Thanks Evan you’re so kind ☺️

        Reply
  • Crocamole : Sep 6th

    1. Congrats on completion of the 67! That is a lot of climbing and driving on back roads.

    2. Your perspective as a day/section hiker adds to the trek. It’s inspiring to read about someone on a similar journey of growth and discovery to a thru-hiker but by a different path that doesn’t involve becoming a cuben fiber hobo.

    3. Lists are the bomb, feel no shame. Because of a list I camped out last night then hiked up Mt. Flume in the rain and loved it. Because of a list I have made new friends. For example, I went hiking for the first time with a coworker, ‘cuz I wanted to hike Huntington’s Ravine Trail and there was no way I was doing “the most dangerous hiking trail in the Whites” alone.

    4. Get the Redline spreadsheet. It has shown me so much remote beauty and is keeping me sane in the 2.5 years between finishing the AT and starting PCT.

    Reply
    • socked in : Sep 7th

      Hey thanks for the positive feedback 🙂 I wish I could afford to be a full-time hiker but alas I have bills to pay so I have to satiate my hiking bug with day hikes. I am working on redlining, GRIDing, you name it, but the finish line is so far away! Happy hiking!

      Reply

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