Things To Expect On A Thru-Hike

As I sit down to write this article, I’m flooded with memories from the trail. And to think, each hiker has as many memories as I do. This is about the time of year that people set out on their attempt of a thru-hike. They’re going to create just as many memories and get a new, unaltered view of life. Each perspective change continues the everlasting expansion of the world. Which ever thru-hike it may be, months of surprise, adaptation, and heightened awareness lay in the near future.
Below are some of my accounts while hiking the PCT.

Surprises:

  1. I never expected to feel so much pain, and was surprised that it never went away.
  2. Every“coincidence” that wasn’t a coincidence – the universe orchestrated every trail angel we ran into, every car that stopped to pick us up, and every free thing that was given to us. Things happen in a type of order that at first is surprising, but obvious when I look back at those events.
  3. Each town was an unknown. It was surprising what some towns had, and what some towns didn’t have. It was the best town ever if: there was a restaurant, if there was some type of store to resupply, if there was laundry (laundry could be anywhere from a bucket and soap, to an actual washer and dryer), and if there was a shower.
  4. Once we got to Oregon, it was surprising how far we could walk in a day. A marathon? Easy. 32 miles was our longest. But, people did 40, sometimes 50 miles. It’s the type of day when you’re walking during sunrise and stuff food in your pockets. Team NO BREAKS!
  5. We had a water report, but each water source was still a surprise. Some water sources in the desert were questionable – dead flies and bees in a puddle = water source?

Adaptation:

  1. It was explained to me that one I got my hiker legs, the pain would be gone! Not the case. As the terrain changed, my body had to adjust. Each state brought different trail conditions and elevation, so my body was in a constant state of adapting.
  2. We started out sleeping in the desert that got up to 110 degrees, then we had to adapt to sleeping in the mountains in the middle of October which got down to 20 degrees.
  3. We had to adapt to hiker hunger. I learned how much food I ate in a day, and how much food to pack for 10 days – I always packed more than I thought I’d eat because food rations aren’t fun.
  4. Mentally, I had to adapt as well. All the sudden, I’m walking all day every day. This is when life becomes simple because there aren’t many decisions to make. The agenda was as follows: pack up camp, walk, find new campsite at sunset. I loved the simplicity, but it definitely took some getting used to.

Heightened awareness:

  1. I became aware of the smallest change of surroundings, whether it be more moss on the trees, a slight temperature change, a first time sighting of a certain flower or new vegetation. I remember each section of the trail and would notice immediately when it changed, even in the slightest fashion.
  2. When you have 5 months alone, walking with your own thoughts, you find out a lot about yourself. I became aware of my thought patterns, what makes me feel productive, what makes me feel weak and what makes me feel the most powerful. I had a sense of purpose and developed new views of my old life – I realized I feel most alive when I’m hiking, not when I’m sitting in traffic driving to a job I hate (you can’t pay me enough to do that). So, my life now is full of high expectations and an awareness of what I truly desire.
  3. On trail, I felt oneness with my fellow hikers. Nature unites us all, it brings us all to the same experience and without that, I felt disconnected and alone. I became aware, appreciative and respectful of all the reasons a person starts a thru-hike. Ultimately, it’s to connect with themselves and become aware of the life that is flowing through them.
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Comments 3

  • Avatar
    Barry Hudson : Mar 29th

    Thanks for sharing that. I’m definitely opening myself to a higher awareness/consciousness as I head out on the AT in a few days. PCT next year if God’s Universe will have it. May sunshine always flood your path.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jerry Bailey, "Viking" : Mar 29th

    Great article, I’m pleased to hear that everyone is experienced the pain I have at 64, and about to jump onto Springer Mountain. I know this is gonna suck, but these articles are great reading, and great reinforcement! Viking from MT

    Reply
  • Avatar
    emily sue : Mar 29th

    Loved this post. Nature absolutely unites us all. Happy hiking! 🙂

    Reply

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