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  1. #1

    Default Expectations Vs Reality of a Hike

    I thought about elaborating on the title but think I'll leave it at that and see where people run with it.

    I think in todays trail culture, people sit and dream of their hike - romanticizing the concept of hiking the trail but when reality sets in while feet are on the trail, plans go out the window, and pitch perfect turns into murphy's law.

    How do you bring expectations and reality/outcome of a hike closer together?
    • I think the simple answer is "don't shoot for the stars."
    • keep your plans modest and mileage goals realistic.
    • Some things like weather and impact of other hikers are out of your hands.
    • Know your capabilities
    • Keep your plans limited but be prepared.
    • Roll with the punches.
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
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  2. #2
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    Reality hits some hikers when they discover that though they planned to not use hostels/motels and only sleep on the trail, it is not quite possible.
    When, no matter the past weather history, it will be colder and wetter when you are out on the trail. Be prepared.
    No matter how hard you hike to make it to town, the Post Office will close before you can get there.
    Even with new equipment, you can have an equipment failure and or breakdown.
    No matter how well you try to take care of your feet, you probably will get a blister.
    Blackheart

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    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Long distance / thru-hike expectations? Generally overly optimistic, especially with novice hikers. The reality is far different than the romantic notion. The dream is one of sunshine and cool dry days camping at day's end by a panoramic vista sunset - that gives way to cold rain or stifling heat and humidity, muddy trails, fog, crowded shelters and camps, wet clothes, starchy meals, etc. There's a higher degree of suckiness than most anticipate to be embraced to enjoy the days where it's more like the dream than the reality.

    Shorter section hikes? Generally much more grounded with the advantages being much less pressure to finish / make miles, inclement weather can often be avoided by scheduling, often better food can be enjoyed, /shortening / modifying / bailing out if necessary becomes an easier option, etc. - and there's the big plus of usually a lot less "investment" both emotionally and financially in the hike.

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    Default

    I walked in the rain last Sat. on purpose. Kinda nice. Maybe a little realism.
    Could practice rain walking today too.

  5. #5
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    I live in a city and hike to get away from people. So, if I go hiking and there are a bunch of people, I will stop hiking in that place and go somewhere else. I will always do this and never be apologetic about it. Also, the other day I forgot my stove fuel so I hiked 7 miles back to my car so I didn't have to camp with dry/cold food. Then I got a hotel with points that I had and enjoyed some beers in Dahlonega. Nothing went as planned, but everything went perfectly.

  6. #6
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dudeijuststarted View Post
    I live in a city and hike to get away from people. So, if I go hiking and there are a bunch of people, I will stop hiking in that place and go somewhere else. I will always do this and never be apologetic about it. Also, the other day I forgot my stove fuel so I hiked 7 miles back to my car so I didn't have to camp with dry/cold food. Then I got a hotel with points that I had and enjoyed some beers in Dahlonega. Nothing went as planned, but everything went perfectly.
    Not criticizing, but couldn't you have made a small cooking fire?

  7. #7
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    Is it possible to hike the AT without hitchhiking or do some resupply points require you need to hitch a ride into town?

  8. #8

    Default

    More than a few that attempt a thruhike have never backpacked before. That scene in Wild where Reese Witherspoon is loading up her pack and putting it on in her hotel room for the first time the morning she is leaving to begin her hike is more truth than fiction for many, many people.

    If that is your case, or even if you are just an inexperienced hiker then your best bet is to just set a goal of making forward progress. Don't quit. Make it to the next town. Resupply. Keep going. Within 3 or 4 weeks you should be in good enough shape physically to complete the hike...question after that is do you really want to.

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    I actually found the opposite, The realities was much greater than my already high expectations. Murphy, when he did visit, also supplied a better result than what I expected. The saying the trail will provide was very evident in my thru as one who was giving his trail name by an angel on the AT.

    How I 'made' that happen, though it was not me, was my approach to the trail, me as a student, me as a child, the trail as my teacher and instructor. I listened, I obeyed and I was greatly rewarded and greatly loved and appreciated. Though that was not bringing the expectations closer to reality, but thankful they were apart in the way they were.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by PGH1NC View Post
    I walked in the rain last Sat. on purpose. Kinda nice. Maybe a little realism.
    Could practice rain walking today too.
    Its funny because some of my fondest memories of my long distance AT hike are of the times when it rained all day and all night. When I read people posting about cancelling a trip because of the weather I think that they are just missing out on an experience. There's more to life than sunny days. You have to learn to live when its rainy, snowy, cold and the wind is blowing.

  11. #11
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Surprised at how boring and tedious a long-distance hike can become. I've seen more than just one passing reference that completing a long distance hike is more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge.

    Similar to those planning for the AT, I planned for over a year to hike the JMT. I wanted to see that beautiful scenery as well as do something that would get me beyond the two-night hiking trips I had limited myself to up to that point. I would say that setting up camp on Day 7 is when the tedium of "set up camp, break camp, hike all day, repeat" started to set in. After about another week, even the scenery (as beautiful as it was) started to get a bit monotonous as I would say to myself "same scene, different mountain". On Day 14, I distinctly recall saying to myself "oh yea, this is why I came out here to do this hike" as I walked among the beautiful Rae Lakes. But once Rae Lakes were behind me, I was pretty much ready for the hike to be over. I finished up the JMT within the next week... and while travelling home, I was pretty much saying to myself "I don't have a desire to do that again".

    However, now that I've been home for quite some time, and memory of the tedium and monotony have become distant memory... I now I want to go back and take some of my family with me.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by LazyLightning View Post
    Is it possible to hike the AT without hitchhiking or do some resupply points require you need to hitch a ride into town?
    It depends on how far you are willing to walk to resupply, or whether you are willing to carry extra food in order to avoid a long hitch. Every year there are a few people who decide they will not get into a car, no matter what, until they reach Katahdin. Some do manage to keep that vow; most decide it isn't worth the extra hassle. Few hikers are willing to walk 5 or 10 miles into town, and up north it can be a fairly long distance to get to a town from the trail. (Stratton 5, Rangeley 9, Andover 8, Gorham 3.6, Manchester Center 5.5, etc.)

    Regarding expectations: perhaps it's not as bad now, since so many journals are available, but I think a lot of hikers think the LD trails are all wilderness and that they will be lost in the back of beyond. The number of dayhikers, road crossings, restaurants and hostels, etc. can be a bit of a shock and a huge disappointment to some.

  13. #13
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    Some people, especially inexperienced hikers, over plan their trail trips. Nothing is better for planning than getting out on weekends and familiarizing yourself with your equipment. No matter what anyone says about what you are carrying, field testing it yourself will tell you if something will work for you. True, there is great advise given here, but it comes down to what you think and feel about equipment. Once you figure out what works for you, then it's time to see if you can start shedding ounces and pounds. I went from a tent to a hammock setup and now experience the best sleep I ever had on the trail. Is this setup good for you? I don't know. you have to try it and find out. You can rent a setup or go to a hang in your area and see/tryout various ways hammocks work.

    Also remember your bank roll for your hike has to be reasonable. This is one of the no give requirements. I seen a lot of people that had to get off the trail due to lack of funds. You don't have to have 10's of thousands of dollars to hike with. But a couple of grand is not going to work, even if you have drop boxes sent to you. Washing yourself in a stream or pond or lake just don't cut it. You need to clean the stink off of you and out of your clothes unless you like seeing people move away from you when you sit down. Go to town shower your self, wash your clothes and enjoy a good steak. That's reality.
    Blackheart

  14. #14

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    If anyone has even a couple of multiday hike experience in strenuous terrain, their expectations would not be overly romanticized.

    All the more reason to get a little experience before get too carried away by dreaming.

  15. #15

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    If anyone has even a couple of multiday hike experience in strenuous terrain, their expectations would not be overly romanticized.

    All the more reason to get a little experience before get too carried away by dreaming.
    My first multi-day hike showed me how much I was capable of, but also that I shouldn't push myself too hard. I ended up having to quit a day early because I over-did it and was in a huge amount of pain.

  16. #16

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    I keep planning like I can still hike like I was 30 and the reality is at twice that age, I can't.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  17. #17

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    I was a dayhiker with no idea if I'd like the camping/resupply part of the trip. I learned a whole lot from websites like WB, that helped me prepare. There was nothing boring, or mentally challenging at all to my hike. I loved every second of it, rain, snow and green tunnels. Physically, one stumble turned into weeks with a torn ligament that eventually drove me off the trail.

    A year later, the knee is healed. Once I can arrange for someone to care for my dog, I can't wait to get back and complete the trail. Was hoping to get on the trail again in June, but now it's looking like it might be August... so maybe I can get a month and more of AT hiking in this year!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Shorter section hikes? Generally much more grounded with the advantages being much less pressure to finish / make miles, inclement weather can often be avoided by scheduling, often better food can be enjoyed, /shortening / modifying / bailing out if necessary becomes an easier option, etc. - and there's the big plus of usually a lot less "investment" both emotionally and financially in the hike.
    Actually, I think the short section hikers are under more pressure to finish due to a limited and non-flexible time frame. Often this is done during a one week vacation window and planned well in advance, so working around the weather is not an option. They may over estimate their ability and under estimate the difficulty. They also tend to carry every piece of gear they ever bought, making for a heavy pack. I meet several groups like this attempting to do the GA section which had to give up and go home early. The cost of aborting a hike early can be substantial and if they had to travel far to get to the trail, the financial investment could have been significant.

    I ran into this problem myself last week. I had not expected to be done in by tree pollen allergies (which is a new development for me) and getting home from Hiawassee was much more expensive then had I made it to my destination of Marion, VA instead. The money it cost me to get home probably would have gotten me through NC.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Actually, I think the short section hikers are under more pressure to finish due to a limited and non-flexible time frame. Often this is done during a one week vacation window and planned well in advance, so working around the weather is not an option. They may over estimate their ability and under estimate the difficulty. They also tend to carry every piece of gear they ever bought, making for a heavy pack. I meet several groups like this attempting to do the GA section which had to give up and go home early. The cost of aborting a hike early can be substantial and if they had to travel far to get to the trail, the financial investment could have been significant.
    I ran into this problem myself last week. I had not expected to be done in by tree pollen allergies (which is a new development for me) and getting home from Hiawassee was much more expensive then had I made it to my destination of Marion, VA instead. The money it cost me to get home probably would have gotten me through NC.
    I developed allergies later in life. It's annoying. Ask your doctor, but a single Cetirizine pill each day helps me out a great deal. None of the potential Alzheimers side effects that some of the brand name allergy medicines (anticholinergic) have either.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Surprised at how boring and tedious a long-distance hike can become. ...........................However, now that I've been home for quite some time, and memory of the tedium and monotony have become distant memory... I now I want to go back and take some of my family with me.
    I am glad I am not the only one who has had these same feelings.
    If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

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