View Full Version : Preparing the mind

02-24-2012, 18:16
I've had a lot of people asking me how I'm preparing for my upcoming thru. And honestly, I'm not doing much in terms of hiking for it. I have the trail proper to do that... right? I've gotten my gear list pretty much nailed down (might switch out my penny stove for something else, though... jury's still out on that).

What I have been doing with my time is mentally preparing. Reminding myself why I'm doing it, that it's something I can accomplish and finish, and also getting myself in the mindset that at some point, the trail will become tedious and at least on the surface, seem to have lost its appeal. But I know that that only marks that I've hit my stride, and that I'll truly be fitting in, when the day as a whole seems uneventful. It also helps to know that even sitting in a rundown shelter in some national park in the pouring rain is still better than anything I'd likely be doing off the trail.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not avoiding hiking completely right now, I'm just doing about a day hike a week or so. Nothing crazy, but I'm also not adhered to a couch.

Am I in the wrong in preparing this way, or is it how I should be approaching all of this? Please, WB, I'd like your feedback, whether you've completed 0, 1, 2, or 30 thru-hikes.​

02-24-2012, 18:32
I'm sure you'll get a lot of different replies.

My own experience is that the only way to prepare mentally is by 'on the job hiking' and that consists of putting one foot in front of the other and keep walking no matter what. Always quit tomorrow - not that day.

I sat down on the trail somewhere up north, laid back in the leaves and said as loud as I could, "THIS SUCKS SO BAD". Waited a minute, got back up and kept hiking.

If you're the kind of person who can 'suck it up' in daily life you're probably as ready as your ever going to be.

02-24-2012, 18:49
I'm hoping that I get a lot of different replies! I'm excited to see the variety of responses to this.

I got the idea that the only way to really prepare in any sense for thru-hiking is to actually thru-hike, like you said, one foot in front of the other. That's why I haven't really been too obsessed with trying to get myself "prepared" now - I have the dang hike to do that!

In my experiences, I've been pretty consistent in sucking it up and not taking bad luck or unfortunate events personally, not letting them bring me down. I'm pretty compartmentalized, which has given me a pretty solid ability at shrugging things off and taking them for what they are. It's reassuring that someone with your long distance experience seems to be in agreement, too.

02-24-2012, 19:05
Im getting ready for my first thru-hike attempt as well and I feel very mentally prepared. I think its just about keeping your expectations in check and get used to the idea that you will be in the woods for 100-200 days depending on how fast you go. If you can get into a mindset where hiking and being outdoors is your day to day reality, then I think you will be fine. If you stay in your current mindset of living in a house with modern conveniences then the trail life may seem rough.

02-24-2012, 19:14
whether you're running a marathon or LD hiking, the key is to never think about "how much farther". Instead, like 10-k says, and hes got the experience to back it up, take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and never quit until tomorrow.
i still run distance, and my neighbors ask me how i do it, and i tell them i just put one foot in front of the other till im done.

bamboo bob
02-24-2012, 19:16
The hardest thing about Long Distance Hiking I think is getting up every day and hiking. If you can do that past Damascus you will likely get to Maine. It is not easy. Avoid staying in towns past breakfast. Overnight and out. Peer pressure is so hard. All the guys want to stay and party. Its not until two months later you find out that some of them had always planned to leave at Harpers Ferry or NY.

02-24-2012, 19:16
Mission focus! You'll see so many others lose sight of it and end up throwing in the towel.

BTW, ever read Warren Doyle's 2 page book about hiking the AT? Some good points to wrap your head around.


bamboo bob
02-24-2012, 19:23
BTW, ever read Warren Doyle's 2 page book about hiking the AT? Some good points to wrap your head around

Doyle does have some points. But for me it IS a five month vacation to be enjoyed not a job or even a chore. Pure recreation. I do agree that you can learn a lot about everything on the trail. The best part is you meet some wonderful people.

02-24-2012, 19:27
I just finished reading 'Appalachian Trials' by Zack Davis. It's pretty good and deals with what you are looking for. I don't have any connection to Davis or the book other than as a reader.

02-24-2012, 19:41
Really, the only thing you need to be prepared for is getting from Springer (or Amicalola) to Neel Gap. When you get to Neel Gap then you think about the next resupply. Rinse and repeat and that's a thru-hike in a nutshell. Boredom will probably kick in sometime in the Mid-Atlantic as well as little frustrations with heat, bugs, and rocks. Then you just push out the miles until you get to New England and it all gets better. I wouldn't be worried about not hiking right now, you're probably better off saving your body the extra wear-and-tear.

02-24-2012, 19:44
Peer pressure is so hard. All the guys want to stay and party. Its not until two months later you find out that some of them had always planned to leave at Harpers Ferry or NY.

absolutely nothing makes me angrier then being lied to

Now as to my training plan new gear was all shook down,
I slept a couple of nights in the hammock,
I cooked many a meal on a lot of stoves, with different pans in the backyard
dayhiked a couple of times carrying everything.

basically I shook out the cobwebs

I also answered alot of questions, you know the standard ones (sigh!)


02-25-2012, 11:22
I can remember before my thru hike that I would play out every conceivable scenario in my mind for months ahead of time. In its own way, I actually think it helped me. Of course, the actual trek will be whatever it will be, but the mental conditioning is very important. Who was it that said it is more head than heel? Smart man.

02-25-2012, 12:24
I trained pretty hard before a hike and it ALWAYS was a good thing.the stronger u start the better u will feel at end of day.the mental challenge will ma ke or break a hike but feelg good at start in only a terrific benefit c u out there!

Wise Old Owl
02-25-2012, 12:27
Try to leave your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at home, it's very heavy and the trail demands UL......Thinking.

02-25-2012, 13:17
Try to leave your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at home, it's very heavy and the trail demands UL......Thinking.Lot of truth in that there statement.

Wise Old Owl
02-25-2012, 20:01
Honest - one of the things you can do is lay the whole pack out on the carpet - look for obvious doubles repack it . then go for an over-nighter near the house.. take a pad and pen... make it your first night out....hike a ten, set up camp then write down stuff that you forgot or thought you needed - if you don't reach for it - leave it behind.

I am huge on using the camp stove in the kitchen a couple of times and get the FBC down and stuff, Going outside on a cold night and sleep under the stars... in the backyard - get the bugs out and then go.

02-25-2012, 20:58
I'm doing half the trail this year and the other half next year and frankly I'm amazed at how unconcerned I am about the hike. I know it's not a thru but a thousand miles is still a lot of darned walking. I did about 120 miles of it last year so I kinda know what to expect. I also learned pretty much what I don't need (several pounds worth in fact) I'm intentionally doing it this way so I can relax and enjoy it all. I'll be the one egging you on to have one more beer in town. I'm trying to not take it all too serious. I mean the point is to have fun out there....right? I met so many cool people on the trail last year and look forward to meeting more this year. To me thats a lot of what it's about.

And besides...as Lone Wolf so aptly puts it..."It's only walking....". Strangly enough his rather blunt and honest attitude toward hiking the trail has somewaht influenced my approach to it.

02-25-2012, 21:03
Great thread. The trail, as a former hiker once told me before I began my quest back in 2007, is this - the trail is 10% physical, 90% mental.

The best advice is to resist expectations, don't worry about trying to plan your schedule- its gonna change, and take it one day at a time. And if you get into a tough spot, just say to yourself, "It's only one day. I can do this."