Hikers Beware: Haters Ahead

Congratulations!

You’ve decided to become a thru-hiker! Now it’s time to stand on a mountaintop and sing it to the world.

Making the choice to drop your real life and adopt a life in the mountains takes a lot of courage and at times, you can feel like you’re drowning in a river of your own emotions. Before I began to tell those I care about, I had to forge my own river to better understand myself and what I was feeling. Typically, I radiate with excitement for the miles to come but there are moments when self-doubt clouds my view, daunting my spirit and abandoning me to the fearful question of “Can I really do this?”

There’s only one way to find out.

When the skies are blue, the birds are singing your name, and you decide to share the good news with others, chances are you will encounter a myriad of responses. Be prepared for high fives, hoots and hollers, and exploding fist bumps. The world is now yours for the taking so what’s not to be excited about? When I told my employer that I would be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, she immediately congratulated me on my bravery. She told me about how her dad does section hikes every year and that her favorite book was “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, which was sitting on her desk. After expressing that my getting on the trail inspired her to get out of the office and explore the world, she stated she may even tag along with her dad. Um, what? Pinch me if I am dreaming but did my employer just give me the green light to have the summer off to hike 2,650 miles? And not only that but also told me I was an inspiration? If I wasn’t already stoked to be hiking the PCT, there’s no way I wasn’t then.

But, what comes up must come down (unless it’s the AT which always goes up) and if your experience with announcing your thru-hike has been anything like mine, it won’t all be sunshine and trail magic.

Surprise!

There are people out there who will criticize you for choosing to follow your feet. Some might call you selfish while others simply stare at you in disbelief. Many will say you have lost your mind and you might actually find yourself wondering where you left it. A few of the punches thrown my way were “This is the stupidest thing you have ever done.” “So you’re going to be homeless and unemployed for almost half the year?” and “I don’t understand why you do the things you do.” Bummer, right?

People throwing salt at you will only season your sauce.

Don’t let the negativity of others bring you down. Instead, feel the pain, take a deep breath, and then use it to prepare yourself for trail life. Thru-hiking is not going to be easy. Much like the disparity of reactions you will receive from others, there will both be times of wonder and reverence as well as days where you have to dig to the bottom of your soul just to take one more step. Be excited for the opportunity to discover who you are in your rawest form. Dare to laugh, to cry, to marvel, to hurt, to love, to grow. Embrace the fact that this might be the hardest thing you will ever do. There is such power in that, in willingly taking on what others have labeled impossible. After all, anything worth having is not easily obtained. Happy trails!

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Comments 12

  • Curtis Murley : Jan 6th

    I’ll be telling my employer this week that I’m thru-hiking the PCT in April. I hope she’s as understanding. See you out there

    Reply
    • Taylor Key : Jan 6th

      Either way you’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime! There is always time for work. See you on the trail!

      Reply
  • Michael : Jan 6th

    I just sent of for my permit, I start June 1st! #hatersgonnahate

    Reply
    • Monte : Jan 7th

      Where would one have to apply to get a permit to hike the Appalachian trail? Eventually I would like to try for the Triple Crown of hiking and would like to make everything official. I am a newbie to hiking at 60 years of age. I was inspired by the movie “Wild”, and have made this my retirement goal! Any advice is much appreciated! Thx! 😎👍

      Reply
      • Dragging Anchor : Jan 7th

        Only certain areas along the trail require permits and are available at those sections.

        Reply
      • Pam : Jan 7th

        My dream for over 20 years has been to hike the AT!! I’ve retired recently and am looking forward to heading out this spring.. I was born in 1959 and I’ll be 59 this year with hopes of setting off on my journey on my birthday!! April 21… time will tell if the dream becomes a reality this year!!!

        Reply
    • Taylor Key : Jan 7th

      Right on!

      Reply
  • Edward Weber : Jan 7th

    Good luck, God bless, and be safe.

    Reply
    • Taylor Key : Jan 7th

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Toto : Jan 7th

    My husband 65 and I am 55 completed the through hike from April-October 2017. It was totally amazing and recommend it to everyone. If we can do it you can. Good luck and enjoy every step. It is well worth it!

    Reply
    • Taylor Key : Jan 7th

      That’s amazing! Congratulations to you and your husband. Your comment made me even more motivated to do this thing. Thank you!

      Reply
  • Pando : Jan 12th

    I just watched Lady Bird last night and I can’t help thinking of the mom when I read some of the negative comments you experienced. Some of those (maybe all of them) sound like textbook parental fear/love/concern. You have an excellent attitude and best of luck on your hike!

    Reply

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