My Goals While on Trail in 2021 – More Than Just Making Miles

Hiker above a canyon. Completing goal of Hayduke Trail

More Than Just Making Miles. 

We’ve all heard of it…goal setting. With the turn of the New Year I have been able to do some reflecting. Reflection forces me to think about the deeper questions in my life, and my hope is always to gain more insight. This has led me to set a few personal goals while on trail in 2021. 

I am thinking about these goals in relation to hiking long trails, but this doesn’t mean they don’t apply at all times. Opportunities for personal growth, learning, and perseverance are endless…no matter the situation. With a little forethought and guidance through goal setting I hope to continue learning about myself while also enjoying these outstanding trails. It can be so much more than just making miles. 


This year I will be attempting the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail.


That is a huge objective in itself — but I also have goals within this bigger undertaking. Just as it is helpful to break a long trail down into little pieces, it will be helpful for me to break my goals into smaller chunks, to better understand what they are and how to meet them. 

Hiker on galcier. Completing goal of Wind River High Route

Here are 4 goals I have while on trail in 2021:

1. Self Care

It all comes down to basic needs before anything else on trail — I need a constant reminder of that. Have I eaten? How much water have I been drinking? Did I remember to put on sunscreen? I have learned the hard way that if I neglect to take care of myself in the backcountry (or in life generally), I’m not exactly being set up for success. 

I also want to spend time thinking about what my body and my mind need after the necessities. This may show up in the form of a needed rest day, a good conversation with a close friend, stretching, laughing with my partner or listening to music. I feel committed to the practice of keeping myself well however I can. 

2. Recognize Emotions

The trail will undoubtedly bring many highs and lows, both literal and figurative.  This year I hope to practice recognizing and naming my emotions while on trail. Personally, I have noticed that I can struggle with negative patterns of thought. This can be true on and off the trail. In fact, sometimes it feels magnified while hiking (of course!) i.e., “this sucks, it would be so much better if it wasn’t hailing on me right now.” While it’s normal to feel a huge range of emotions, I want to focus on the positive.

Frustration, anxiety, disappointment, fear. There are many other ways negative emotions might show up on a long trail. I am 100 percent sure they will surface at some point for me this year. In these moments I find it very challenging to name whatever emotion comes up, but I am willing to put in the work to try. Hopefully by acknowledging my emotions, I can leave negativity patterns behind and see the joy in each moment — however wet or scary they may be. 

Trail in Colorado

3. Grow with My Partner

I have done all of my hiking with my partner. We have spent countless days outside together on short trips, routes, or other thru-hikes. Inevitably, things come up while doing a thru-hike together, just as they do in life. I feel as if that helps us to grow closer to one another. I hope we are both able to harness tough moments and turn them into growth. Those moments could be something as simple as setting up the shelter. 

Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there. I have learned that experiencing all the imperfect and perfect moments with someone who I care about is special. It creates memories. It brings out sides of us we didn’t know we had. And, hopefully, it helps us build a stronger relationship with each other. I am excited for that opportunity on these two long trails. We are truly walking into the unknown together.

4. Log My Journey

I have never done anything quite this daunting. This isn’t my first thru-hike, but it is my first time on any of the three long U.S. trails, let alone two of them. So, I am setting a goal to log my journey. It may be blogging, posting on Instagram or keeping a few notes and the mileage of each day. I am excited to have a way to share my journey with others and have memories to look back on (in who knows how many years). I am fairly positive that things will get fuzzy as the memories get older. I hope to counteract this “forgetting” by finding creative ways to log my trip as I go. 

Working Together

Setting and meeting goals is an ongoing process. It will be no different with my goals while on trail in 2021. I may not meet them all or I may need to shift my focus at some point. After thinking about these 4 goals I noticed that they all work in tune with each other. If I use good decision making, practice self care, and work to recognize my emotions this will help me grow with my partner, as well as create more mental space to log my journey. A long trail in itself is a big undertaking. Having incremental goals will help me in making each small step towards multiple termini in 2021. Thanks for reading and please continue to follow along and subscribe to my posts!


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Comments 2

  • pearwood : Jan 26th

    It is going to be an interesting year for the two of you. Keep posting and letting us know how you are doing.
    Steve / pearwood

    • Jeff : Jan 27th

      Hey Pearwood,
      That seems as if it was always true for everybody – even with only one trail. Thanks for reading — Hopefully I find the time to keep posting.
      Looks like you will be out there on the AT this season – maybe we will cross paths… never know.


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