There is no shortage of blogs about thru-hikes. It would seem that everyone wants to tell you about their experience . . . which is a good thing. I’ve been reading more blogs about hikers attempting long-distance trails and there seems to be a common theme: how brutally challenging these hikes are.
The last one I read was about a lady that had set too ambitious of a schedule and it was weighing on her. Another one talked about how unprepared they were and how it really caused some problems within the group. One author was dismayed at how mentally draining the endeavor was. Not all of them were hiking the Arizona Trail, but the sentiments translate.
As I make my plans for my hike I often dream of prancing through idyllic forests, gazing out over majestic landscapes in iconic locations. I imagine taking naps next to babbling brooks or sitting comfortably watching sunsets. In short, I think of the good moments rather than worry about the challenges.
Don’t think I haven’t considered the challenges. In fact, I think all I’ve written about so far are some of the challenges – my back, my weight, my fitness, nutrition, hydration, etc. I even wrote about how planning is important but the need to be flexible is paramount. But what I haven’t really spoken about is the “why” I’m doing this hike.
As you might recall, my first foray into “The Wild” was when I ran away with Anthony in 6th grade. Sure I had gone camping with my family as a kid, but that wasn’t wild, that was family. When I got that first little taste of fear and freedom I was hooked. Now, as a solo backpacker I don’t get fearful, I get excited. I still feel the freedom though. In fact, it’s that freedom that I crave the most.
When I go backpacking I don’t have to please anyone except myself (and whichever poor lucky dog that gets to join me). I can sleep in; I can hike without taking breaks; I can hike for hours after my intended stop time “just because”, or I can pull up early at a camp spot just because I like the view & access to water. The only thing I have to do is live.
Reading these blogs has given me some great perspective though. Knowing that I’m going to start off slow and work into my “trail legs” will help me get past that first brutal week. I’m aware that at about day 14 there will be nothing I can do to slake my hunger. I’m infatuated with the idea that for 8-12 hours a day I’ll be burning more calories than I can carry and will be inclined to lose weight. I’m also looking forward to stopping into the gateway communities for hamburgers, pizza and beer KNOWING it won’t hurt my boyish figure.
All of these reasons, and more, are why I’m really looking forward to (rather than truly dreading) the hike.
I know it will be good for my soul.