When I meet people in town who are not hiking the PCT, they might ask me how many miles a day I hike, after I say average 20 miles a day it hardly ever fails that the follow up questions is don’t you get bored. So for all you wondering how thru-hikers stay occupied while hiking sometimes ten hours a day, here is my breakdown.
Prayer and Meditation
I try to start my day with a rosary to practice my faith and build intentions for the day. Its ten hail Marys and one Our father repeated five times and I dedicate the first ‘decade’ to a happy and safe trail day, second to someone I know who could use prayers, third for gratitude of something, fourth to something large scale worldwide, and the fifth goes to me being the best me I can be. With this practice, I get into a positive mindset right off the bat. And while I’m always questioning and redefining my beliefs and faith life, practicing the rosary gives me a sense of tradition and humility. I will also at one point of my day, typically when I feel like my brain is getting stuck in repetitive thought, I’ll spend 10-20 minutes of “mindful walking” where I focus fully on my steps; how my heel peel off, how my knee bends, how my arms swing, and move my focus up the body. Then I’ll focus on one sense at a time, trying to smell the tree sap in the air or the aroma of heated rocks. Next, I see everything as if I have never seen that view or moss before, taking in each different shade of green that my eyes can handle. Doing this gives my hiking a refreshed purpose and grounds me to the goodness of what I am out here to do, walk and be a part of this environment fully present.
Listening Podcast/audio books/music
Since I already have 2,000 miles under my belt of thru-hiking, I found myself this time around listening to more podcasts. I previously have thought all of my thoughts, so now I can just listen. Personal favorite on trail is National Park After Dark, where two girls tell stories of deaths from animals, weather, humans, and the unknown. It’s a wonderful reminder that while I spend all this time growing in touch and comfortable with the great outdoors that even the most experienced people still get tested and share the dangers that hide behind every mountain peak. Many people spend time listening to audio books, which I finished one on trail but personally it’s not my favorite pastime because I’ll get distracted by some plant, cloud, or thought, then miss what is happening in the book. Music-wise, I grew sick of my own music very quickly, so I downloaded ten friends’ longest playlists and have been going through each of those.
Hiking with others
Maybe only 15% of my time is me hiking with someone. If my pace brought me to another random hiker on trail, I love spending a mile of walking together, sharing those basic conversations of where you’re from, why you’re backpacking, which Knorr pasta side is your favorite. Sometimes if they are cool enough (which most of the time people you meet on trail are), I might find myself hiking most of the day with them, going on and on about anything. My personal favorite is when I find someone who plays DnD and they go on about some campaign or characters they’ve had. If I’m hiking with my trail family, a lot of the time we don’t really have a conversation; everyone is just telling jokes, making imitations, or singing a song out loud. It’s the moments I’m hiking with a single person in my trail family and you start to have those personal conversations about past mistakes, future dreams, options, love, lost, and climate change, in these moments is where you get to hear the actual monologue of people’s thoughts they have been thinking on trail. Finally, once all the stories have been shared and the jokes have been told, a game gets played. Mostly Contact, riddles, and badly describing movie plots till someone figures it out.
Lastly, just staying occupied with your own thoughts or no thoughts at all. My brain just turns off and the only thing that happens is one foot then the next. I think about what I’ll eat for dinner, what I want to resupply with next. I’ll often imagine stories or situations of what my future could look like if ‘x’ happened, and I’ll play that out for days, falling into a rabbit hole. When I’m exerting myself with an uphill climb, I don’t think much. All of my energy is going into hiking; there’s not enough time for thought. I’ll try to recall as much of a movie plot or tv series as I can if I get bored, but if you’re bored, than you’re boring.
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