Hikers Beware: Haters Ahead
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.
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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