View Full Version : things learned on an AT thruhike

05-04-2014, 19:13
my non-hiking friends always asked me about what "I learned about myself" on my hike. I always replied, somewhat TIC, that I learned I could walk very far with a pack on my back.

Of course I always said that in jest. But turns out I may have learned exactly that and maybe a little more. My wife and I went to camp with my son and his family recently. My son was entered in an ultramarathon and we all decided to camp nearby.. I took him to the race starting line early on the morning of the race and found out that the race was to 100% benefit a local charity. So, at the last minute I signed up. Figured that I would go as far as I could and support a very worthwhile cause. I don't run, don't like to run and never in a million years thought of myself as a runner. much less a marathoner. Mixed up the jogging , walking, and breaks throughout the day.

But I applied the principles that I learned on my hike. Kept myself hydrated. snacked frequently. rested occasionally. Did not get caught up in the urge to "keep up" with anybody else.And I finished the thing. and finished ahead of a few who did not know how to pace themselves. I am surprised as I can be. mind you I am not saying that I am going to give up backpacking and take up running but I am surprised at how well the mental aspect of a thruhike prepared me to just walk up unprepared and finish this race. I wonder if the same works in reverse? I would imagine it does.

05-04-2014, 19:22
I just ran the 48 mile zion traverse with a group of ultramarathon runners. This was the first time I stayed with a group during an event like this and it was educational. What I learned is that my hiking pace was actually on average a bit faster than the runners. On the uphills I was much faster but they would run more of the downhills and flats and in those sections they outpaced me. Bottom line, I was talking with the most experience in the group and he told me I would have no problem "hiking" an ultra, though I do through in a bit of jogging to vary the pace. I have done 50+ mile days and I would loved to see how far I could push it. I have yet to go beyond 19 hours and that would be my major challenge.

05-04-2014, 22:10
At home I generally socialize with a small group of friends. Outside of work I'm somewhat of an introvert.

On my thru I learned that it was fun getting to know folks from a wide age range and every economic strata. On the trail we were all the same. Sadly, I have admit, that back home I would not have gotten to know these fine folks. We probably would have been invisible to each other.

05-05-2014, 07:02
Many things including that people care about me and are willing to help me.

Perhaps the most unusual and unexpected thing I somehow learned is I can remember people's names. Now I am not perfect at it, but before the AT, unless I really knew you, I just was unable to recall a person's name. After the AT was just something that started working. And something I put to good use as ski school instructor after the AT, calling students by their name helps a lot.

05-05-2014, 08:10
Great story about the long race. A guy I met on the PCT had failed to finish several ultras before his hike. After his hike, he finished first in the state of CA. He attributes it to the lessons learned on the PCT.

When I left for my PCT hike, my first thru, I was a young, aggressive lieutenant in my local volunteer fire department. When I came home, despite a long absence, my chief promoted me to captain. He said he saw something different and then I was the guy standing in the driveway. I guess I learned patience and long-term strategy.

My wife is a thru hiker, too. Our closet, and then our house, got a lot smaller after that hike. That in turn caused a decrease in money needed, then an increase in time off work, and eventually early retirement.

05-05-2014, 08:36
4shot.. thanks for this post. I wish Whiteblaze had more like this one.

Here's some of what I learned from my 2006 six month northbound thru hike:

First thing, I learned in first couple weeks.. it's ok to hike slow. Let the speedsters take off, it's not a race. I started out trying to do higher mileage but when I realized that anything over 12 mpd on ave and I'd get all the way in six months then I relaxed and enjoyed myself more.

second major lesson I learned: don't sweat the small stuff! so many people get all in a huff over small things.. something isn't open or isn't ready when they want it to be. Just wait a bit. Life is to short to complain about all those minor issues. I'd go so far as to say a big lesson of any long distance hike is to come to accept the trail as it is. I often seem to start out fighting the trail, swearing at it (why so muddy/steep/hot/cold/buggy) and eventually that takes too much effort so ya just deal with it. When I stopped complaining about all the small stuff life got better!

3rd lesson: the best gear is what works for me (or you or him). Gear gets to be too big a topic and so many are into the ultra light hiking style.. so what if something ways a few extra pounds. If It works for me and I can handle the weight why not use it? A lot of folks seem to like trail runners, and weightless alcohol stoves. I tried both. But I returned to hiking in boots (so much more comfortable) and my trusty whisperlight stove (good ol' reliable never lets ya down!!!).

There's probably more but that's what comes to mind right now.

05-05-2014, 09:32
I learned to separate the important things in life from the BS.
And that less is more.
And in the jungle (or woods) is still my favorite place to be. (also travelling to a new country or place)

05-05-2014, 18:42
...don't sweat the small stuff....

Put another way, "Don't sweat the petty stuff, and don't pet the sweaty stuff!"