Hiking Your Own Hike

At the pace we’ve been making on the Pacific Crest Trail, its hard not to be passed by so many other thru hikers. Everyone else, at least to my eyes, is in such better physical shape. They blaze past, often never to be seen by us again. We started with 20 different hikers at the border, and most of them I haven’t seen since mile 1. I had formed brief friendships with some, barely learned their names, and poof! Gone.

As much as that really sucks, I’ve come to accept this fact.

Nobody hikes the same hike. 

In three weeks, I’ve made it as far as Big Bear; approximately 260 miles. From the photos and accounts of these other hikers I met, I can see that most of them are at least 100 miles ahead of me. I miss them, but I’m also happy for them. Their bodies are taking them fast and far, and that’s awesome. Mine is going a little slower, and that’s okay. This is my hike. Nobody can hike it for me. Were I to try and keep up with these other hikers, I’d be betraying my body, and I’d no longer be hiking my hike.

The saying among thru hikers, ‘Hike Your Own Hike’, (or HYOH) it is to keep to yourself on the trail. Not to be antisocial, but to not tell other hikers how to experience their hikes. You hike your hike, I’ll hike mine. But also to not try and hike someone else’s hike by doing as they do. 

To be a little philosophical (and maybe a little dramatic), I think that every hiker is given a hike to hike, and little can change that. Like a destiny… but smaller. Your hike has boundaries: physical and mental. It comes with principles and habits, routines and beliefs. It’s the groove you find yourself in when your body is okay with what you’re doing, your mind is clear, and so is your consciousness.

To violate you’re hiking ‘destiny’ is to bring hardship on yourself.

The trail isn’t hard on you, you are.

So far I’ve experienced foot pain, back pain, blisters, exhaustion, nausea, headaches, confusion, and more. I personally believe this is because I’ve been trying to hike a hike that’s not mine. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, trying to be strong and fast like the others. But I’m not the others, I am me.

My best days are the days that I hike at a pace that is comfortable to me, I don’t worry about getting to the same camp as the others, and I break when I want to, not when others suggest it. More often than not, those days I actually meet the same goal as others, just not as early in the day. I’m okay with that.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t push myself, I just don’t try to meet the standards of someone else’s hike.

Thru hiking is such a physically demanding experience, stretched over a long period of time, that to work outside your own boundaries is a recipe for disaster. It’s not like a marathon where you run for a while and then stop to recover and train for next months. Every day you get up and you hike all day, then go to bed, wake up, and do it again. Again, and again, and again. You have to learn your limits. And you have to learn to let go of friendships.

You can always reconnect later, but not if you kill yourself trying to keep up with them.

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