Yes, it’s that time of the year. The internet is abuzz with thru hikers making plans for their grand adventures. They are packing their packs and checking them twice; they want to find out if they are too heavy or not. The Campmor catalogs are all tattered and worn, and you can feel the excitement on Facebook as you all get ready for your life-changing decision to thru hike America’s great long trails.
I also get excited this time of year, even though I don’t plan to thru hike until 2015. In my mind I am starting to get ready. I like to be early.
Some things I’ve learned from reading and talking to many thru hikers
Most thru hikers look back at their hike wishing they had taken more time. Their advice:
The destination will be there when you get there. Enjoy the journey.
This will be the time of your life. Don’t rush it. If you do, you’re only going to wish you hadn’t.
Hike your own hike
Another thing I hear a lot: HYOH.
Hike your own hike. Be comfortable in your own boots. Don’t be driven by others’ pace or expectations.
If a ten-year-old can do it, we can
I just finished a book about a ten year old girl who thru hiked with her parents in 1973. If she can do it, we can too.
Long distance hiking is very physical, but I find it more of a mental battle. When it’s hard you can slow down; when it’s easy you can speed up. But the mental battle always rages. There are going to be times where we need the fortitude to reach down inside ourselves to places we don’t normally go to find the mental strength to continue. It is there in all of us; we just have to look hard enough to find it. Let’s stay in the game, Georgia to Maine!
My Five Step Program
I have come up with a five step program to help me have a successful thru hike. I believe that following this program will give us overwhelmingly better chance at success.
- Never ever leave the trail and give up in the rain. We all know Murphy’s law. Rain is Murphy’s way of thinning the ranks, so don’t fall for it. You know you’re going to get wet; deal with it. Never give up on a rainy day. You will hate rain for the rest of your life if you do. Stay in the game.
- Never leave the trail to give up on a sunny day. Murphy is taking a break so take advantage of it. Go out and walk; it’s a beautiful day. Never give up on a sunny day. Stay in the game.
- Never give up on a cloudy day. Cloudy days are a free pass. They may not be sunny but you’re not going to get wet. So on cloudy days don’t quit; stay in the game.
- Never quit in the snow! Snow is almost like a free pass. If it were rain, you would be getting soaked, but you get a lot less wet in snow. It’s the trail showing you how pretty she can be. It’s time to get out there and make foot prints; stay in the game. Never quit in the snow. You knew this was not going to be easy.
- If you hike for a cause you have a much better chance of success. You are not hiking just for yourself. You can always let yourself down. But it’s a lot harder to let down your cause. When hiking for a cause, the rain doesn’t seem as bad, the snow is prettier, and the flowers smell better because you know your hike is helping others as well as yourself.
And HIKE for Mental Health is a great cause. It will be my cause on my thru hike. Think about making it yours. Think about the instant bond you will have with a perfect stranger that you come across on the trail who is wearing a Hike for Mental Health t-shirt. Or when, as a nobo, you pass a sobo and you’re both wearing Hike for Mental Health t-shirts. Think about it. But above all STAY IN THE GAME!
Godspeed, class of 2013! Let’s make it the most successful year yet.