Hiking My Own Hike, 6 Changes I’m Making on My Next Thru
Throughout the hiking community, we often hear the saying, “hike your own hike.” But what does it exactly mean? Well, that’s the thing … it all depends on who you ask. Each person has their own definition of what it means to be “thru-hiking.” But we all have different experiences, wants, and needs throughout our journey. Although all of us are in pursuit of a common goal, it’s very easy to get caught up in experiencing things not how you want to. On my next thru-hike attempt, I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and this time, I am planning on changing a few things about my experience.
Six Changes I’m Making On My Next Thru Hike
Using my prior knowledge and experiences from being on the Appalachian Trail, here are some things I would like to change during my next thru-hike attempt in April.
1. Hike More!
On average, a thru-hiker can take anywhere from 5-6 months to complete an entire 2000+ mile thru hike. I took that metric and pushed it to the absolute edge. When I finished my Appalachian Trail thru hike, it was six months to the day from when I started. I and the group I was hiking with throughout most of northern Maine finished on October 14th, 2021. This date, known to many people, is very close to the date that all thru-hikers “should” finish by. The day after I summited Katahdin, there was snow at the summit. I was very fortunate to have finished when I did.
You may say, “but Logan, you hiked 2200 miles and finished, what do you mean hike more?”
Well, to answer that, I’m talking more about not getting to a point where I have to stress about a deadline. Although seeing fall foliage was very nice in Maine, being pressured with a deadline isn’t exactly ideal. When heading north, I heard so often that I needed to “flip or I’m not going to make it.” The overall atmosphere became really stressful, and I felt rushed in some ways. Granted, I ignored them, but the looming thought of not being able to finish at the northern terminus would’ve dampened my experience personally.
This next time on the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing I would like to do is spend more time hiking and work toward a goal rather than taking my sweet time and letting it catch up to me. By all means, this isn’t me saying I want to hike 30s every day, but more for myself to get on a routine and stick to it. There were countless times when I’d sleep until noon and then still not want to hike because I just woke up at the hottest part of the day. Create a routine and give myself more wiggle room. It’s okay to stop and smell the roses; just make sure you don’t end up with pollen on your nose.
2. Challenges Are Cool BUT, Know My Limits!
Man oh man, if you told me that things such as the “Four State Challenge” are pointless and stupid, I probably would’ve agreed with you. But the thing is, I can sometimes say one thing and then do another.
It seems that on many long-distance trails, there are many challenges that test your endurance. Whether these be silly, nonsense, like the “half gallon challenge,” or something more physical. (Granted, the half gallon challenge was something physical in its own right… Two words, 45 mins!)
On my AT thru-hike, I did many marathon days, 30-plus days, and pushed myself to my limits. At the end of almost every single one of these days, I felt like I accomplished something, but at what cost? After the “Four State Challenge,” I felt exhausted, demotivated, and was in pain. I subsequently took a week off trail a few days after completing. A culmination of a silly challenge that led me to sit in bed for a few days and even made me contemplate quitting. I was so over the heat, backpacking food, and everything. This challenge just brought all my problems to the forefront and even fast-tracked lingering issues.
Now, do I have any regrets? No? Sort Of? I just wish I would’ve known that it’s OKAY to stop if you’re not feeling it. Don’t be pressured into stupid things but it’s okay every once in a while.
On my next thru, I want to attempt to listen and know my limits while pushing myself sparingly. DO NOT push myself when I’m already hurt or having a bad day mentally.
3. Create Something Worthwhile
While I attempted to create a portfolio on Instagram of my favorite memories on trail, this wasn’t enough. I wish I would’ve documented more of the day-to-day occurrences that others would likely pass by. In the past, I had made an effort for this, but I’d like to approach it in a different way this time.
On the Appalachian Trail, you likely have heard of the term the “green tunnel” and how it’s nothing unique, but it’s part of the experience! It’s kinda lame, but it’s a reality. Things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but capture those moments anyways.
I feel like a lot of problems with social media today are from people perpetuating only the glamour of their journeys. It’s important to be transparent not only to hold yourself accountable but also to break the artificial mold that social media creates. I feel that a lot of FOMO is created this way and us being so connected with our phones isn’t good mentally. Everyone else’s experiences look so perfect from your couch, but nothing is without fault. I kept most of those “green tunnel” mementos to myself the first time around, and this second time, I think I’d like to show more when I can. It’s hard to not keep things to yourself when documenting, but it’s also important to get your story out.
Another thing I would like to change about what I create is to make sure I back up my photos! For the love of God, iCloud needs to cooperate with this one too. When I was nearing the end of my first thru-hike, I ended up losing my phone in a pond in Monson, ME. The thing is too, I bought iCloud storage the night before but lost everything regardless. So this time, I’m hoping I can be more conscious and back up things sooner and more frequently. Oh, and also not lose my phone in a pond.
4. Keep In Touch With Others More
On trail, I originally planned not to be super social and keep to myself. That turned out to not be the case, and I found myself talking with everyone, and probably too much. On trail you tend to meet some of the coolest and most unique people ever. These people you may see once or twice, or they could stick around and end up hiking with you for a while.
I feel like I picked out a pretty good bunch of people to stick around with, but I had one problem. I didn’t end up keeping in touch with these friends once we switched paces or even post-hike. Some of these people whom I wish I had the courage to reach out to just disappeared like an enigma. It’s a sad part of hiking, but this time around, I’d like to make a more conscious effort to keep in touch during and after the hike. If you’re reading this and you hiked with me, I am sorry. But know I still think about you all, and you truly left an impact on me! It’s hard to keep up with so many people, but at least making an effort may be a step in the right direction.
5. Don’t Let Others Dictate My Experience
Many times when hiking, I found myself becoming sucked into groups and not following plans as I wanted. Sometimes when you’re in a group, a singular person begins to dictate what happens, and then it becomes hard to separate.
It’s very easy to become complacent and get stuck in groups because, well, it’s fun! But also, it can be draining too. There were a few times when I felt pressured into taking zeroes simply because everyone else I was hiking with was doing the same.
Now, you may say, well, isn’t it easy to go on by yourself? No, not exactly. It’s easy to meet people on trail, but to find those with whom you truly want to stick with for the long haul, it’s different.
Groups are fun, but they can also be draining. Reiterating that I love all of you I hiked with, I just also happen to have a low social battery. I have no regrets in this aspect, it’s just that sometimes being alone and going your own pace is freeing. Some of my best moments were when I was by myself, night hiking, or feeling totally isolated.
On the Pacific Crest Trail, I hope I am able to find a happy medium of this. I do not want to feel pressured into making decisions because it’s what “the herd” wants to do. I want to be like Sinatra and be able to say, “I did it my way.”
6. Side Trips Are OKAY!
Lastly, in my own version of HYOH, I would like to be okay with side trips. Throughout the majority of my hike, I had the mentality of being “pure,” and it likely served to my detriment. If you’re unsure of what this concept is, just scrounge any social media forum about thru hiking.
Now, while I do believe there are certain criteria to become a “thru-hiker,” there also needs to be an understanding regarding it. In my eyes, I felt I could never stray from the trail, never take a side trail or anything. I remember that because of this, I missed out on so many cool things. Towards the end and after hiking 80 percent of the trail, I said, “screw it” and began having more side trips.
Some of my best moments on trail were these side trips. Whether it was a 2.5-mile side excursion to McDonald’s in Pennsylvania or a simple blue blaze to a view, it was special. Take time to smell the roses and check out the side views because who knows when you’ll be able to see them?
On the Pacific Crest Trail, I know I may not be able to maintain a continuous footpath, but I’ll try my best while also seeing the small overlooked things as well if I can. I’m from the east coast, and with wildfires every year, who knows when else this kind of opportunity will arise?
Your accomplishments are your own. Don’t let others dictate how good what you’re doing is or if it doesn’t fit their criteria. On the inverse of things, I’ll also try not to be “that guy” and let others HYOH as well. No one likes someone who is ultra-preachy. After all, it is just walking, right? Or something like that…
In summation, I hope to learn from the past, be flexible, and have the most enjoyable experience I can in April. Saying you’re going to hike your own hike is one thing, but it’s another to actually do it. It’s YOUR experience, and make it what you will. Here’s to whatever comes next!
You can follow my Instagram @logan.laliberte for more photos or stay tuned on here for more.
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