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  1. #1

    Default When Does The New Wear Off And The Struggle Kick In?

    I am sure some will not relate, but for others it may hit home...I will use myself as an example.
    For many trips, I would say the majority of them...Day 1 & 2 are high moral basically no matter what.
    Then that 3rd day hits and typically day 3 is my hurdle of the trip. If I can mentally get thru day 3 it is a good forecast for the rest of the trip.
    When I am on a 3 day trip, I don't want to end on day 3. On a 9 day trip, day 3 is a hurdle.

    Let me paint the picture...
    Desk job full time, grinding out the 10 mile road walks and weekend hikes all year but for the majority of time...not conditioning.
    I plop myself some wheres along a long trail for a 9 day extravaganza of crushing miles and the timeclock starts. Mental and physical for me.

    By morning 3 I am about 50 miles into the walk, physical drain is well underway and depending on how the mental game is that trip determines what my brain starts telling me. Its a fight.
    Sometimes the mental game has gotten the better of me and I go home early. I HATE THIS WITH A PASSION. All that planning, expense, and dreaming down the crapper in the matter of a few hours and choices.
    Then I get home, and within 24 hours I am kicking my rear for not staying.

    So for me personally from lessons learned, from now on outside of a physical injury - I will require myself to stay on trail(or in a hotel) 2 nights before I come home early. What typically happens for me when I have quit is, I will get to a town and stay the night, the next day I get up, feel like crap either mentally or physically and say "I don't wanna do this anymore, I am going home" and then I make up my best excuse to tell friends and family why I didn't meet my goal and I swallow the pride.

    Now sometimes I have had a viable reason, like when the foot pads completely disconnected from my feet last year on the CDT....I could have probably gotten another 20 miles or so out of that trip but its whatever....
    other times though I have (LOL) blamed it on the trail being too muddy, or being sick/ exhausted, too much rain....blah blah blah goes the crap horn. Its like my brain goes into the same mode as a drug addict goes into with a fix, but my brain is working on an excuse to quit instead of the fix for an addict.

    Lastly, I feel like I am a pretty self aware person...And I feel like at 36 my psyche is evolving a bit..not just with hiking but with life ie what is important, what I value, what I approve of and what I dont...but specifically to quitting, I feel like I am quitting less as I get older. Improved mental health? More experience = better plan = less failure? Finally got tired of quitting?

    Disclaimer: I am referencing about 5-6 hikes out of 5k miles of walking, but boy do those 5-6 really grind my gears looking back!
    Trail Miles: 5,125.9
    AT Map 1: Completed 13-21'
    Sheltowee Trace: Completed 20-23'
    Pinhoti Trail: Completed 23-24'
    GSMNP900: 134.7(16.8%)
    Foothills Trail: 47.9
    AT Map 2: 279.4
    CDT: 210.9
    BMT: 52.7

  2. #2
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    I begin the first day strong and finish it fatigued and disheveled.

    It happened again last year. Started at the James River and climbed the Rocky Rows and Bluff Mountain in darned good shape. But by the time I got to the Pedlar River, I was gassed. My age is showing. I'm 63, I've done about 834 AT miles, and I hope to do a couple hundred more in the next two or three years. They'll be the same, no doubt. Start strong and whither into a husk by the end of the day.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    ...
    For many trips, I would say the majority of them...Day 1 & 2 are high moral basically no matter what.
    Then that 3rd day hits and typically day 3 is my hurdle of the trip. If I can mentally get thru day 3 it is a good forecast for the rest of the trip.
    ...By morning 3 I am about 50 miles into the walk, physical drain is well underway and ...
    ...
    Gambit,

    You're on a topic here that is (or at least has been) hot for me, too.

    Since ever I did travelling, day 3 brings the Blues.
    I'm well aware of this, and take measures like, performing a slower pace on day 3, and possibly include some reward.

    May I guess a bit here:
    When you've done 50 miles within the first two days, the physical drain will be real and will sure put you down mentally.

    I'm almost double your age and had a long and hard time learning to set the main focus right, in hiking: Inner balance and wellbeing is way more important than to achive a certain goal.

    All the best!

  4. #4

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    I am pretty much the opposite, starting weaker and getting stronger every day after the first 2 or 3. Day 2 has been a killer on many hikes, destroying faith in body and soul so I have learned to plan my trips with as short of a Day 2 as possible. If I don't go too hard and blow myself up in those first few days I ascend to a higher plane where the suffering is not able to overcome my joy. I feel it, but laugh at it rather than cry. Once in this zone the worst days only make me stronger.

    Look at my Longhos Loop from last year if you want to see what I'm talking about. Biblical rains, snow, bugs, people, no people and even a trail delivered case of covid could not break my spirit. The only thing that came close was two days of wading through wet vegetation between Dixville Notch and Nash Stream on the Cohos section (Days 44 and 45). I didn't have rain pants and my boots were full from my legs hitting the greenery. That made me swear a lot so I don't claim to be invincible

    I still say if you aren't feeling it, it is always OK to cut a trip short or turn it into something easier. I've done it in the past and will again I am sure. If it isn't happening as planned might as well turn it into something that works. Good luck on adventures big and small Gambit. Keep finding ways to get out and enjoy it while you are young. It only gets harder later
    Last edited by LoneStranger; 04-20-2024 at 17:17.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  5. #5
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    Due to family commitments, most of my hikes have been 5 days-ish. My first 5 nighter on the AT was to ne a NOBO VA triple crown, but on day three my right knee gave out due to over exertion. I was camping in a remote spot weighing my options when a fit thru hike comes cruising by, still going strong after 18 miles. That was pretty demoralizing. The next morning I decided my only option was to hike over Dragons Tooth on one leg and get to 4 Pines where I could call for a shuttle. I survived, although 4 Pines definitely lived down to its reputation.

  6. #6

  7. #7
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I've had plenty of failed hikes due to (pick as many as you'd like): heart problems, slow pace, bad decisions, COVID, addiction, and more. It was easy to quit those hikes since I wasn't far from home, it may have been different if I had flown further afield.

    I'd like to focus on the positive - one of the best hikes I ever had was when I called my wife and asked her to pick me up a day later. I slowed down a bit, enjoyed the hiking, and didn't need to push for extra miles each day. I should have learned my lesson that one time, but still tended to make my hikes "death marches". Advancing years is improving my memory, though, and I now plan shorter days on my hikes. If I want to go further than planned, great, but I can make the planned mileage with time to spare, or squeeze in a zero for bad weather.

  8. #8
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    I go out craving solitude sometimes, but after about two days, especially in remote areas, my spirits start to sink. Just curious if anyone else feels that their morale stays higher when hiking with a buddy?

  9. #9

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    5-6 regrets in 5,000 miles? Congrats!

  10. #10
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    Add a small, top lit, twig fire to your end of the day activities to cheer up your trips.

    th.jpeg

  11. #11

    Default

    If my prior seemed flippant, apologies.

    Two solutions to the 3 day Gambit Blues (cue a minor key bluegrass wailer)

    1. Lone Stangers solution—plan an easy day 3

    2. Plan your favorite meals for day 4. You’re only allowed to eat them if you are on trail day 4. Otherwise you have to give them to your least favorite in-law that you know will enjoy them.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for starting an interesting convo

  13. #13
    Registered User Slugg's Avatar
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    I take two different types of backpacking trips..long trails and rambling around wilderness areas.

    I have cut trips on long trails short twice, one I attribute to still being a beginner and the trail/conditions being harder and the loneliness factor being more intense than anticipated (June BMT thru attempt cut halfway short) and the other time I just cut the trip a day short. If I am planning a 8 day section hike, I will plan for mileage that I KNOW I can do in 8 days, but I THINK I can do it 7. That keeps me motivated to reward myself finishing “early”.

    For rambling around wilderness areas, I find it more tempting to cut trips short because my vehicle is usually just a days hike away. Something I do to fight the temptation is plan routes that take me really far from my car. Sometimes I will also come back to my vehicle mid trip and do a night of car camping then head back out for a day hike or some more backpacking. I have even been know to drive into town for a hot dinner mid-trip, then back out to the trailhead to car camp, resume for another night or two of backpacking.

    I do also find that the older I get the less tempted I am to cut trips short and the easier it is to enjoy myself and stay in the moment without even thinking about quitting. I think the older I get the more I have come to value and appreciate my time on the trail in contrast with “normal” life. And as I work my way up the AT, each trip becomes more and more logistically complex and expensive, and therefore quitting a trip early has greater consequences. Same logic applied to trips in other parts of the country/world.
    Appalachian Trail ‘16-
    678/2198
    Pinhoti Trail ‘17-‘20
    321/321
    Benton MacKaye Trail ‘17-‘21
    286/286
    Bartram Trail ‘22
    116/116
    Foothills Trail ‘21
    78/78
    Palmetto Trail ‘22-
    22/380

  14. #14

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    For most backpacking trips, the only time I use to have issues with motivation to stay out past the second day was when I use to stop early and had nothing really to do. When I started planning my trips where I hike most of each day, maybe taking some long breaks during the day at something interesting, only stopping at night to eat and sleep, I stopped having any motivation issues. Though lately, I don't even mind stopping early as I always enjoyed reading and now keep several books on my smartphone's Kindle app which gives me something to do.

    One thing I learned from doing really long trips is you don't allow yourself to think much about the next day or beyond on a trip and keep your head in the present day. Certainly don't dwell on what you'll do when you finish or reach the next resupply point (at least until the day before when you need to start planning for it). If you start thinking too much about the future, you can make yourself feel impatient to get it over with.

    The only motivational issues I've had in recent years was finishing the CDT last December. Being out for more than 5 months starts to get old, particularly when you have been hiking alone for weeks and the scenery is getting less and less interesting as I got further south into New Mexico. I've heard a lot of CDT hikers are tired of the trail by the end (in either direction) and many take every shortcut imaginable to try to finish even a little earlier. I didn't take any alternates whose sole purpose was to cut miles as I figured once I started doing that, I'd have even less motivation going forward, making it even easier the next time.

  15. #15

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    I remember hiking with a lady who called day three “Personality Day.” It was the third day when the fresh, newness had worn off, and you had a couple of days of maybe not sleeping very well and more activity than you were used to at home. That’s when inner personalities of group members arrived, and those little grating traits showed up. She said the third day was the bad day, and it would get better from there. She always hiked with groups, and was referring to group behavior, but when I look back at my past hikes, everything is happy until the third day, and then the grumbling occurs. There’s a little soreness and I want to eat something that doesn’t look like mush, and I don’t want to hear “that guy’s” dumb store again. Then, I either get over myself, or I go home.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by HankIV View Post
    If my prior seemed flippant, apologies.

    Two solutions to the 3 day Gambit Blues (cue a minor key bluegrass wailer)

    1. Lone Stangers solution—plan an easy day 3

    2. Plan your favorite meals for day 4. You’re only allowed to eat them if you are on trail day 4. Otherwise you have to give them to your least favorite in-law that you know will enjoy them.
    I also was concerned my response might sound like I wasn't appreciating the problem WB is a polite society compared to much of the internets heh. I hope you didn't read it that way GM!

    The struggle of the first few days is both physical and mental for me. Sundown of the first day is always a mournful event. I think it goes back to our animal instincts. We are pack animals meant to be with others when the sun goes down so someone is watching for tigers That first sunset can make me want to cry feeling the distance from my pack or it can give me the urge to pack everything up and run home as fast as I can to be with the pack. I am supposed to be there on tiger duty! This rarely happens other than the first night.

    When I say I've had many trips blow up on Day 2 I am not joking. This is almost always a physical problem. I tend to go nuts on Day 2, pushing too many miles, too much elevation and far too many hours. You know, hiking like it was Day 20 heh. Racing out of the blocks might work for younger folks, but as an old fat man I need to force myself to not kill myself. Pushing it often leads to improper hydration and nutrition which leads to a blown stomach that can take days to get back online. One of my Long Trail failures and the successful '22 SOBO thru started like that, as have many others. It took me years of banging my head against that wall to figure it out. Now Day 2 is under 10 miles if possible logistically and I try to be in camp by 3pm.

    As for the issues of staying on trail for the long haul I have several tricks that work for me. Everyone has to find their own tricks I suppose, but mine are geared towards hiking alone in places where I may not see people for days at a time. I sing a lot. Not along with music on speakers or earbuds (never listen to music at all), just singing old Springsteen songs to the bears. I also employ a good sense of humor about the absurdity of the the struggle at times. Given I had 45+ days of rain on my 57 day loop last year I took to singing a twisted version of Annie's Tomorrow about how the sun will come out next Thursday, its only eight days away (based on a real weather forecast.) If you can make yourself laugh it is easier to keep going. Get too serious about the struggle and it weighs you down.

    I guess that is really the key. Figure out what makes you happy out there and keep your mental gaze focused on that aspect of the hike. Pretty views, birdsong, a well tended privy...whatever brings you the joy you were looking for when you planned the trip. This will make me sound old (which I am) but I like to recall a Zig Ziglar quote. I can't find it now, but the version in my head is "Don't quit now. This is where you wanted to be when you started. If you quit now you will have to go back to the beginning." Given how many times I planned and failed again and again at both the LT and even the GLT this has special meaning for me. Remembering that I am where I wanted to be is vital to staying positive in the face of whatever the trail is throwing at me.

    Again, I really hope I didn't come across as not understanding the struggle. I can show you a video of me crying in a state park laundry room waiting for a shuttle driver if you want proof that I know just how real it can be out there.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  17. #17
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    I've probably done closer to 3k miles on overnight trips, not as much as you, but the only time I've ever quit in the middle of an overnight trip was in winter when blizzard conditions were forecast. I've gotten in a bad mood and considered quitting several times, but I guess I'm just stubborn. Also I only get out on long trips once a year, so quitting early means the time I've spent most of a year anticipating gets nixed, which is a big motivator.

    Another possible difference is I tend to hike fewer miles/day than you. I've actually never done a 20+ mile day in my life. My max is 18 miles which I've done several times and my average is more like 12-15 miles/day. I know I could probably push for more, but I know that once I get past 15 miles my body wears out and it stops being fun for me, so I don't. Sometimes I quit at like 3 pm, either because I'm still getting my trail legs, or the next good stopping spot is too far. But it doesn't bother me, I like my camp time, and I'm probably one of the few hikers left who still brings a paperback book to read when I have down time.

    The last several years I've done 12-14 day trips on the northern part of the AT and the deep mental and physical fatigue you describe usually hits me about day 9 or 10. It's probably because I don't take zero days (I've only taken one in 1,800 AT miles, because I needed to go off trail to replace my shoes). I've learned to plan mileage more conservatively for the last few days, which has really helped the past couple years.

    Three different times I can remember thinking about quitting but pushed through:

    1) The section between Pearisburg and Daleville, VA. There were a lot of back-to-back 2,000' climbs and descents in this area and I was pushing 15+ miles/day. I finished in 6 days but probably should have taken 7. I got really bad plantar fasciitis the last 3 days, to the point where it was so stiff I could barely walk after getting up in the morning. It would ease up after the first 1-2 miles and then come back in the afternoon. I made it, but I still remember having to use my hiking poles to get from my room at the HoJo in Daleville to my car to go home.

    2) A 14-day, 170 mile section hike from Port Clinton, PA through southern NY in fall 2020. This was during COVID and I purposefully avoided shelters and did a lot of stealth camping. The rocks really beat up my feet, the scenery wasn't all that great, and after 10 days with almost no social interaction I really started to miss my family. On Day 11, I finally got past High Point in NJ and out of the rocks. I went into the general store in Unionville, NY for lunch, where I met a fellow NOBO section hiker who also seemed rather starved for company. We hiked to Pochuck Mtn Shelter together where we met a couple of SOBO thrus and we all had a nice dinner together. Combined with the NJ boardwalk section and a couple of hot dog stands, this provided me with the morale boost I needed to finish.

    3) Another 14-day, 170 mile section hike the next fall from southern NY through central MA. This time it was the weather. Not only did it rain a lot during our trip, it was super wet the month before too, which made the trail conditions unpleasant. I remember trudging through a day of heavy rain to the campsite at Dennytown Rd, only to get swarmed by mosquitos. Then getting poured on all night at a campsite in CT, waking up with a pool of water under my tent, followed by another 16 mile day in heavy rain. Some of the stream crossings that were normally easy rock hops became ankle-shin deep fords, and my feet got super blistered after being wet for 3 days straight. I was in sad shape by the time I reached Great Barrington, but a night in a motel to dry out my gear and pamper my feet, plus some soul food and a few drinks at a restaurant downtown helped me get through the last 2 days.

  18. #18

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    At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I am rising to do the work of a human being. What do I have to complain about, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

    Marcus Aurelius

  19. #19

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    FWIW - I used to get spooked into the "Hurry Ups" and pushing my pace the first few days, which by the end of day two or three I had covered 30% more miles than estimated and consumed a lot of energy to the point I wasn't sure I could do the balance of the trek. It took me a while to figure out why I was doing this to myself. There were no pressures from home to leave the trail early, my on-trail speed estimates were pretty spot on with a little conservative bent that usually got me to the departure point with about a day to spare, so there was no need to hurry. After I thought about this a while I discovered the culprit was the end of hike return trip deadline, especially if they were flights I had tickets for. I think this is a fairly common thing among long distance treks of 3 or more days out, at least until one can work out the reason for the behavior. It took me a few years to figure out how to deal with the "hurry up" thoughts.

    To combat the "Hurry Ups" I consciously slowed my pace the first few days and would sit by quiet ponds or forest glades to listen which actually reduced the thoughts of leaving the trail early and go home with well crafted tales of flooded river crossings, big foot attacks, or marauding bands of deep forest survivalists. I would still manage to reach the departure point with plenty of time to spare and felt a lot more refreshed having enjoyed every step and listening spot instead of quick step stumbling over root and rock. For me, until I figured out the worst that could happen is missing a flight (never did btw) and paying a few dollars more for a ticket change back home.

    Not sure if this helps or not, but I promise it won't hurt if you find yourself pushing hard for no apparent reason!

  20. #20
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    I'm kinda like Traveler, it it's a 5+ day trip I only schedule the first two days doing 7-8 miles/day and enjoy. The third day I try to do 13+ so I'm busy/focused all day and that gets me by the third day blues (Desk job so 13+ is a bunch for me). I'm with ya though, seems like 3rd day is when it hits. I'm a winter hiker; short days and long nights will get you down if you let it.

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