5 Exercises in Humility
Been there, done that. I know my shit – and even how to bury it. Having the halo of mystical wisdom that only accomplished thru-hikers have, how do I not get blinded by it?
Did It Once
As you probably already know, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2017. And in the most purist way even. I did the Approach Trail and the stairs of the Amicalola Falls with my pack on, as well as Mt Katahdin. No slack packing what so ever, no skipping trail through different side trails leading to shelters.
I learned a lot about hiking and myself. My gear worked well. I got sick and recovered. A dear relative passed away during my hike and I walked through my mourning. I survived and I thrived.
Now I’m Doing it Again
As I’m preparing for my second thru-hike attempt, this time on the Pacific Crest Trail, I feel confident to say I know what it takes. The struggle and the joy of long distance hiking is etched into my very being.
But what if I’m over confident? Although I know I can do this – I have the stamina – long distance hiking is something that affects you heavily. No matter how light your gear is. For that reason I have started to feel this fear of underestimating the effort.
Exercises in Humility
Once I started to realise my concern about parading over confidently to the PCT, I have tried to find some ways to ground myself. This is by no means a perfect list of things to do or something that suits for all. But perhaps a suggestion of things one might try to simulate the humility of a first time thru-hiker.
1. Read Pacific Crest Trials
I know this sounds the most shameless promotion of the book related to this very site. Just in case you got a slight taste of vomit in your mouth, I have to state that I’m brutally honest here. The thing is that I read the Appalachian Trials before the AT and it was helpful. The Pacific Crest Trials is mainly the same book with a different cover, but damn it helped to find the virgin mind.
2. Watch the Videos
Go to YouTube and watch several thru-hikes. Get excited with them. This might seem obvious, but watching more than one helps to get you in to the mood. And to remember that there will be struggles ahead. Do it more for the excitement than for learning.
3. Talk with Hikers
Find some Facebook groups. Send cheerful messages with exclamation marks to some absolutely beserk individuals that are doing winter SOBOs or calendar year triple crowns, while you are planning your trek. Get excited together, although you might wish to hike alone. Joy is contagious.
4. Be Responsive and Flexible
Ask for help from alumni hikers and actually listen to them. (At first, I did not.) You already know what works for you, but try new things regardless. Getting too fixated to your old habits and gear might work against you. Every trail is different and every thru-hike is different. Whether it’s a question of hiking boots versus trail runners or sleeping bags versus quilts. Mix things up a bit. It’s meant to be an adventure anyway.
5. Do Yoga
Or mindfulness. Or what ever does the thing for you. Preferably something physical that requires concentration and connects to your breathing. Planning might get too analytical, too sophisticated. It’s important to stop planning and enjoy the feeling of being present. Because that’s what I think thru-hiking is at its best.
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