My body was tired. 40 miles in and everything hurt. Each step pounded my already sore feet. My legs propelled me into an open meadow surrounded by 3 mountains. The soreness subsided and my body did what it knew best: it kept walking. I became engrossed in beauty as I passed waterfalls, roaring rivers, and flowing springs. As mile 50 approached the sun began to set. I moved up the last climb almost autonomously. The sun crested the sky as I reached the top of the climb. Tears welled up in my eyes at the sheer beauty. The sun set over the mountains as I reached camp. I finally lay down to sleep with the pure sense of accomplishment at having hiked over 50 miles.
Before I started my through hike I never realized how hard I could push my body. I had biked across the country but I was unprepared for the pounding my body would take on a through hike. Walking 20 plus miles a day takes an incredible toll on the body. In the beginning, I never wanted to quit anything more. 20 miles felt like a chore. By the end of my through hike 35 plus miles felt incredible.
There’s something intoxicating about walking through the woods. Your mind is free to wander wherever it wants to go. The world feels open to you. A through hike looks impossible, but the benefits far outweigh the difficulty. I hope I can inspire you to get out and hike. It doesn’t have to be 2,600 miles on the PCT. Even a weekend backpacking trip can deliver incredible benefits.
You get your Own Space
It’s a misnomer to think that’ll you’ll “find yourself” on a through hike. If you’re searching for a revelation a through hike likely won’t give that to you. However, a through hike does give you the space to think. Most of your thoughts are inconsequential. I found myself singing random songs in my head or zoning out a lot of the time. Sometimes my thoughts went to interesting places. I had my own space to think about what I wanted. The distractions of modern life were gone. It was me and the woods. No traffic, no deadlines, and no technology. My objectives were simple: walk, eat, drink, and sleep. Through hiking gives you the space to be your true self.
A quiet morning in the woods is worth a thousand quiet drives to work. The peace and serenity are intoxicating. Every passing tree is a new sight. Each bend brings a new sight. Your world is opened which opens your mind. Small changes are more noticeable. The passing bird, the blooming flower, or the scurrying chipmunk all play a part in your day. The little things become beautiful. With all the distractions gone, you can focus on being there. It’s an intoxicating feeling.
A Through Hike Simplifies Things
Through hiking makes life simple. You have one goal every day: walk some miles and find a nice place to sleep. Your body dictates how much you want to walk every day. Feeling tired? Walk less. When you feel good you can walk more. Life is pretty simple. All your worries are gone. You’re disconnected from the world out of cell phone range and away from daily problems. On a through hike simplicity is bliss. How many times in your regular life have you been able to disconnect? There is always something that demands your attention. On a through hike, nothing demands your attention.
With simplicity comes clarity. You realize that you don’t need to overcomplicate things. This translates directly to your life. Complex things become simple. That nagging work assignment becomes much easier. That dreaded phone call to an insurance company is nothing. You become more at peace with getting things done because you’ve realized how easy it can be. Just like hiking completing complex tasks is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Once you get going your momentum carries you through.
When you Walk 1,000 miles Everything Seems Easier
Walking every day is hard. The body takes a pounding. Muscles get sore that you didn’t even know you had. When you walk this far on a through hike daily tasks seem so much easier. It doesn’t seem so hard to make that sale pitch or create that product. You’ve pushed your body so far that doing new things is no longer uncomfortable. You’ve grown comfortable with the uncomfortable. You’re ready for hard things because you’ve already done an incredibly hard thing.
When you’ve done something this incredibly hard, hard things seem mundane. Doing hard things is what allows you to grow. When you’re growing every day you can only become more successful. Learning to grow every day will revolutionize the way you live your life. A through hike will help you grow every day.
You Need Less After A Through Hike
When you live with only a backpack you realize that you don’t need much in your everyday life. During a through hike, you only need a few clothes, a mat, a tent, and a sleeping bag. Ever day luxuries are unnecessary. In town, a carpeted floor is a luxury. Your diet is simple and food is fuel. Things no longer make you happy. Experiences are what fuel you.
It’s incredible how being in the woods changes your perspective. You need less and this translates directly to regular life. At home, you want fewer things and you value experiences so much more. People take on a whole new meaning. A good conversation is so much more valuable than an hour in front of the tv. It takes far less to make you happy.
Hike Your Hike
You learn quickly on a through hike that you can’t try to keep up with people. There are going to be people faster than you and slower than you. If you pay attention to how other people do it, you’ll lose track of yourself. This is how people get hurt. They push too hard to try to keep up with people faster than them. Some people have more gear and some have less. Some prefer tents while others prefer bivvys. There is no right or wrong way to do it. The best advice someone can give you on the trail is to hike your own hike. Walk the pace you enjoy and bring what you need.
This is incredibly valuable advice for real life as well. We try to emulate others far too often instead of doing what makes us happy. Do what makes you happy. Just like it may take someone longer to finish a through hike, it may take you longer to reach your goals. Follow your own path and don’t worry about what others are doing. Concentrating on others is a distraction and will slow you down from doing what you need to do. Hike your own hike and you’ll be so much happier.
People Become so Much More Important
On a through hike, it’s incredible the amount of human generosity you experience. People go out of their way to help you. People gave me food, housing, and most importantly incredible conversation. The woods can be a place of solitude, so any conversation feels so much more meaningful. You learn that people care about each other. When they see someone in need they are willing to drop everything to help them. People drive out to remote places for days to feed hikers. They offer up their homes, their food, and their time.
The people I met on the trail quickly became one of the highlights. When you’re with someone 24 hours a day and seven days a week you learn a lot about them. Conversation is no longer surface level. You learn who a person is truly. I’ve had some of my best conversations on trail as the conversation becomes the singular focus. There are no distractions. This helps you understand people at home. You learn to trust people and open yourself up. You create deep meaningful relationships that last a lifetime.
A Through Hike Will Change Your Life
A through hike is not the answer to all your problems, but it can change your life. I went looking for solitude trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I found some, but what stood out was the relationships I formed. Today backpacking has become so much more popular. You can’t expect to be the only one in the woods, but you can expect to find like-minded people who will do anything for you. You will find a sense of joy you can’t find anywhere else. Your life will be simplified in a way you can apply at home. The benefits of through-hiking are many, but you don’t need to hike 2,600 miles to realize them. A weekend backpacking trip can do wonders. Go find your local state forest and walk 10 miles into it and sleep. It’s that simple.
Through hiking is not for everyone. It’s tough on the body and the mind. The mental toughness you create by walking every day is hard to get anywhere else. A through hike makes you a stronger person on so many levels. A short backpacking trip can do a lot of the same. I hope I can inspire you to get out there even if it’s only for 10 miles.
What have you found to be the biggest benefits of hiking? Have you done any long-distance backpacking trips? What inspires you in nature? Let me know in the comments.
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