How about a plain old feeling of accomplishment? Of course, the journey is the thing, but all journeys must come to an end at some point.
Getting there is half the fun. But it's only half.
It started off as a challenge and quickly became a journey then an adventure which mutated into an obsession. But for me, I had to leave at 800 miles in due to a heart problem and now itís just a waiting game to start again next year. On the trail you wake up, eat, pack up, and move forward and a whole new adventure will unfold as the days goes on. Back in the world of the mortals itís been difficult for me to communicate what actually happens on the trail. I think that what happens on the AT can only be truly appreciated by those who have done the trail, so bragging rights only go so far. Those who have completed the journey truly know what it means. Itís a personal thing that is shared with a few. Its an elite club......
"Life's Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, smoldering and totally worn out, shouting...Holy S*#t...what a ride"
Personally, I question myself always. I always have, and likely always will. When I talk about finishing this huge task, I wonder if I'll get there. If I'll be able to push myself that far. Taking 6+ months off, pushing my body, searching my soul, worrying about my husband getting enough calories daily so that he doesn't waste away to nothing...these aren't things that I want to talk to death and then come home short of any of them. When I come home, I want to be able to say, "I did what I set out to do!" I want to be more sure of myself than when I left.
My understanding is that this was the issue that caused Paul Petzolt, who was instrumental in introducing Outward Bound to the US, to leave that organization and found National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
He found the attitude and atmosphere of Outward Bound to be confrontational with nature, that nature was something to be "conquered". Mr. Petzoldt's philosophy was more that man needed to learn to meet nature in a more conciliatory way. Learn about nature, then adapt yourself and your behaviors to co-exist in harmony and in a complimentary way. Nature was something to be appreciated, not something to be "beat".
Guess I subscribe more to the NOLS philosophy, and hence, put much less emphasis on "conquering" the trail.
Probably room for both philosophies, but they can cause some angst at times.
never tried to thru, probably never will, but if i plan on hiking from point A to point B then by definition not making it to point B is a failure. if i plan to go hike just for kicks and start off not caring where i end up at the end, thats different, but is i beleive a very uncommon mindset, especially for a thru. i dont think a great many people show up ats pringer having done all the preparations for a thru and at a time where schedule wise it makes sense to start a thru without the intention of finishing it. its just too big an undertaking. i mean, if you were able to take 6 months off from your life to do a thru and had to wuit after only 3 how can that not be viewed as a failure? sure, you still got something positive from it i am sure, but by definition not doing what you set out to do is a failure.
Last edited by rocketsocks; 06-28-2012 at 13:20. Reason: the quote or signature comes from Sassafrass Lass,~Dolly Parton
And no, I have not thru-hiked the AT, but yes, I have done a long-distance, multi-month hike and actually exceeded the planned destination. This happens often, I exceed my planned hike.
I guess if you grew up in a competitive environment you may view goals and plans differently. I just don't think it's necessary to imply that "how can that not be viewed as a failure" because someone changed their plan. They may well have met every one of their goals.
And no one I know or read about, ever speaks about "conquering the trail", they talk about conquering their desire to quit and reaching a goal through the ups and downs.
People often talk about conquering a mountain, but those are the guys dudded up in the latest "expedition chic" outfits and holding court at the wine bar talking about the upcoming trip to <insert trendy mountain climb here>.
And no, a thru hike isn't a competition against other thru-hikers--but it's false logic to then say "competition is bad".
The competitive spirit is GOOD, and contributes to your success rate in more than just a thru-hike.
" Ok, maybe it doesn't eat at everyone, but most. If you're ok with the whole class being Valedictorians because they tried, then ya won't mind not completing what ya set out to do."
Totally unfair and incorrect analogy.
world of difference between changing a plan because you want to and just failing to complete your original plan. one is changing your mind about what you want to do, the other is failing to do what you want to do. again, not saying there arent positives to take from every failure, because there certainly are, but by definition, it is failure to want to do something, to plan to do it, to attempt to do it and not succeed for reasons other than you decided you really didnt want to do it.
one of the intregal parts of planning is planning for change, that any plan needs flexibility to adjust to unforeseen circumstances or conditions, or just because you want to. i have a tendency to "overplan" my section hikes, so that i know what to do, where to go, should an emergency arise, or if i should decide to be impulsive an explore an area originally not in my "plan".
so much of my "plan" is actually no plan at all.its this acceptance of new conditions and the ability to adjust to those conditions that has led me down paths i never would have hiked otherwise.
to not follow through with a "plan" does not necessarily constitute failure, or as ed viesturs says" getting to the top is optional. getting down is mandatory.
its all good
if halfway through something you truly decide you just dont want to do it and change your plana ccordingly, thats not a failure. only you will know the difference.
or in short, to answer the OP's question- because they want to finish.
"or in short, to answer the OP's question- because they want to finish"
and THAT....is the right answer.
its all good
It's not, just a high point of the journey. To me long distance hiking is just more efficient & I feel more a part of the trail. You get in great shape & get into a routine. I can't imagine doing it for a week or two every year & just when you get in shape & atuned to it you have to get off the trail.I hold section hikers in high esteem for this reason. To me they put a lot more effort into their hike. You get to feel the highs & lows in the extreme on a thru. The end is a goal, but just one of many. Each day you set goals. How far, what to see, etc. I think most thru hikers will consider the end of the hike a high point, but there are so many high points of a trip. From special places on the trail & the people they meet along the way. Almost 25 years after my through I still keep in touch with several people I met on the trail. Same holds true for people I met on the PCT.