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    Default Psychologically, What Do You Believe Helped You Hike the AT?

    For everyone who has hiked a thru without quitting, what lessons are you willing to share with the rest of us hopefuls? They say that it is 90% mental, but what specifically was hard for you? What made you (or others) quit or push through to the end?

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    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WIAPilot View Post
    For everyone who has hiked a thru without quitting, what lessons are you willing to share with the rest of us hopefuls? They say that it is 90% mental, but what specifically was hard for you? What made you (or others) quit or push through to the end?
    You might ponder how this might apply to a thru hike. It resonated with me, anyway.

    http://www.ndoherty.com/stockdale-paradox/

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    for me, the hardest part was being uncomfortable (sick, hot, tired, hungry,thirsty, lonely, sore, blisters,etc.) quite frequently. Like many, I was used to being comfortable - adjusting the thermostat, walking to the sink or refrigerator whenever I was thirsty, etc. What kept me from quitting was several things. First, knowing that, no matter what I said to others about being bored, no longer enjoying myself, etc. - the real reason was it (the trail) was too hard. I kept looking at others who were pushing on and told myself, "if BeanPole or Horseradish or whomeevr can do it so can I." The other thing was the fact that I had thought about a thru-hike for the biggest portion of my life - I knew finishing would allow me some closure and if I had quit in Franklin or Harper's Ferry or Hanover I would not have the peace of letting go. In other words, I would have felt compelled to try it again. When I hiked, there was a guy out there attempting his 4th thru hike (and I think he finished).

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    Garlic
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    I really like to walk. I never did have a bad day on the AT.

    If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. It's supposed to be fun.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    Registered User prepcore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    You might ponder how this might apply to a thru hike. It resonated with me, anyway.

    http://www.ndoherty.com/stockdale-paradox/
    That whole page was amazing! Made me think A LOT! Thank you for that.

  6. #6

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    Prior to my AT thru-hike I did four things that had made quite a bit of difference:

    1) I'd talked to some past thru-hikers and they had gotten me straightened out on parts of thru-hiking reality prior to starting my AT thru-hike (thanks Twilight).

    2) I did treadmill work carrying my backpack on the treadmill during the year prior to starting my AT thru-hike in order to get myself in better shape so Georgia didn't seem so daunting. Once I got to be able to do the treadmill work at 6% incline at 3.5 mph while wear my fully loaded backpack for 45 minutes straight, I knew I was in good enough shape to start the AT at Springer Mountain.

    3) In the year prior to the start of my AT thru-hike I'd hiked all the name brand trails in my neck of the woods (Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) and did those hikes regardless of weather -- through quite a bit of rain and thunder, blasting heat, snow and good weather (hiking the Knobstone Trail in July was certainly an eye-opener and later, didn't make Virginia on the AT in the summer seem so unbearable). Quite a few of those Indiana, Ohio and Michigan trails I ended up hiking multiple times before starting my AT thru-hike. Paradoxically, I also got some speeding tickets when traveling to those trails (Ah, if you're intending to be an AT thru-hiker soon, you should find that hilarious).

    4) I found a 12 mile trail near where I worked (1/2 hour a way from work) that I escaped to several times a week after work during the year prior to the start of my AT thru-hike.

    As the start of my thru-hike approached I went on a day hike to that samenearby trail with what was supposed to be a hike sponsored by the local hiking club in Indiana. On the day of the hike, only one other guy and I had shown up at the start of the hike. Since I had hiked that particular trail so many times in storms and during wintertime in the snow and summertime in the Indiana heat, having a little drizzle wasn't that big of deal to me. The other guy had decided he was going to hike in the drizzle too so he and I hiked to the end of the trail. He'd known I was going to start my AT thru-hike in a few months and near the end of that day hike he'd asked me what I thought my chances of finishing the AT on a thru-hike. I told him 100%. He laughed and said to me, "No, I mean what do you think your real chances are?" I told him 100% again.

    Then I had the most wonderful person you could ask for as my AT thru-hike support person -- have I told you lately Karen how much I appreciated all you did for me on my AT thru-hike?

    Also, I learned quickly to adapt once I'd started my AT thru-hike. To just relax and find beauty and pleasure every day of my hike. I'd also hiked with some of the best people you could ask for as fellow hikers -- most of us came from entirely different worlds and just happened to have shown up at a spot in the woods, coincidentally at the same time. It made all the difference -- it made the adventure fun and thought-provoking and relaxing and just plain enjoyable to be around those people.

    Well, that's what made the difference for me along the way.


    Datto

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    I had completed numerous marathons, a couple ultra marathons,and bicycled solo across the country before my thru hike and I can unequivocally say the thru hike was harder than all the rest.

    Hardest part? Hills. The mantra "no mountain lasts forever" helped me get up the steepest ones..... That and a piece of peach flavored Jolly Rancher hard candy......
    Last edited by Spokes; 05-05-2012 at 23:21.

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    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    uh lets move on.
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

    Woo

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    You might ponder how this might apply to a thru hike. It resonated with me, anyway.

    http://www.ndoherty.com/stockdale-paradox/
    Hey, I use this idea all the time. I didn't know it had a name. As an academic administrator at my University, I have to put up with a lot of "stuff". Someone asked me how I deal with it and I said that "I hope for the best but expect the worst".

  10. #10

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    My first thru-hike was the PCT which has a few different issues, but most are the same no matter what trail it is.

    • There is little that a few days of a dry hotel room and town food can't fix. I commited to never quiting on the trail. If necessary I would take serveral zeros and enjoy myself in town before even thinking about quitting.
    • I constantly talked to myself out loud how I was hiking the entire trail in comfort with great strength and vigor and having the time of my life (works to change a negative line of thinking).
    • A MP3 player can really help take your mind off a bad climb (but don't get too use to using it all the time).
    • Ahead of my hike, I researched everything abou the trail and read numerous trail journals which gave me a heads up of what could happen.
    • Your Attitude is very imporant as it influences how your will preceive what is happening around you. Try to keep a positive attitude about everything. Even if you feel like its all hitting the fan, think about what is going right. You can still walk, your sleeping bag is still dry, you still have a snickers bar for latter, etc.
    • Don't think about going to town and eating town food more then a day away. It will drive your mad if you are thinking about it 3 days away.
    • Hike at your own pack and daily mileage goals. Don't get too attached to a group that will cause you to change your hike into somone elses. It will frustrate you if you are struggling to keep up and you risk injury and an end to your hike.
    • Don't be afraid to hike solo. There are plenty of people to talk to during breaks throughout the day and camp with most nights.


    Actually, I had a divine encounter during the only week that I was having a bad time of it. It was hot, I was exhausted from lack of sleep due to getting up predawn to beat the southern California desert heat and from hiking into the night for the same reason (this is the PCT). I hadn't seen another hiker in several days as I was towards the back of the pack and had hiked the previous afternoon in pain due to cramping issues. At Walker Pass, all I was hoping for was to find decent water, instead I met a trail angel who was just starting to pack up after being there for 2 weeks straight. I had met her back at the start of my hike when she gave me a ride to a PCT hiker gathering. She fed me watermelonl, soda, and other good stuff. As I was leaving, she mentioned that she would be doing trail magic in central Oregon latter in the hiking season. I told her that if I was still hiking, I'll hopefully see her there. She said, "Oh, you'll make it." For some reason, that never left me. If I ever had a negative thought about quitting, I'd remember that and say, "I can't quit or I'll make her a liar." And for the most part, after that point, I was having a great time for the rest of my hike. If I had allowed a few bad days to cause me to get off, I would have missed one of the best times of my life.

    Don 't quit. things will get better. The sun will shine again. Your sleeping bag will dry out. Blisters will heal. Town food is just ahead. There are many times as many nice people on the trail as there are idiots so walk on.

  11. #11

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    Well, I agree with Garlic and can't remember too many bad days.
    What helped? Where to start?
    Being in the woods everyday is as good as it gets.
    Being around like-minded people and learning from some of them even more about the outdoors.
    One of the best things about long distance hiking is that you don't read newspapers or care about what's happening in the world.
    You care about the trail, weather, food, water, how much weight is on your back.............you know, important things.
    You don't worry about going to work, or what day of the week it is, or car payments, cutting the grass, or work, or what you are going to wear that day or what is clean....(nothing)........
    Instead you learn about some history, botany, wildcrafting, birds of prey, how wild animals really live, different religions & cultures, geography, nutrition, and most importantly: that less is more.

    And when you're finished, you'll realize that you just learned some of the most valuable lessons in life and your life will never be the same. (and you can't wait to do it again)
    Good luck and have fun out there.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Old Owl View Post
    uh lets move on.

    sage advice wise owl. We need to keep board space freed up for more "critique my gear list" or "which type of stove is best" threads.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlehead View Post
    Well, I agree with Garlic and can't remember too many bad days.
    What helped? Where to start?
    Being in the woods everyday is as good as it gets.
    Being around like-minded people and learning from some of them even more about the outdoors.
    One of the best things about long distance hiking is that you don't read newspapers or care about what's happening in the world.
    You care about the trail, weather, food, water, how much weight is on your back.............you know, important things.
    You don't worry about going to work, or what day of the week it is, or car payments, cutting the grass, or work, or what you are going to wear that day or what is clean....(nothing)........
    Instead you learn about some history, botany, wildcrafting, birds of prey, how wild animals really live, different religions & cultures, geography, nutrition, and most importantly: that less is more.

    And when you're finished, you'll realize that you just learned some of the most valuable lessons in life and your life will never be the same. (and you can't wait to do it again)
    Good luck and have fun out there.
    +1 Fiddlehead,I could only add and say you will also learn some geology,astronomy,meteorology,and all the different types of mud.LOL

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    Registered User Sir-Packs-Alot's Avatar
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    I had section hiked the trail many times before my thru-hike in 03' - and if you added up the sections over the years... I'd done the whole trail a few times. But the hard part for me was the fact that 03' set new records for being the wettest year on the trail ever! Putting on the same wet stuff no matter what you did. Aside that - I always tell folks that it's the mental game. The macho men who drill themselves into the ground and quit the trail at Neels Gap (after just a few days on trail) vs. the senior citizens that have been planning, training and have the patience to adjust their bodies to the trail always show me that !

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    wookinpanub
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    I was a very early southbounder and only had a hiking companion for 1/2 day during the whole trip. Psychological battles were 90% of the entire journey.
    There were some things that I believed helped:
    1) I had no experience to draw from, thus I had no idea when things were going badly. I just assumed that's the way it was. Doesn't everyone get trenchfoot the first 3 weeks after 18 days of precipitation?
    2) With no one around, there was no one to complain to. Griping really does no good when there's no one to hear.
    3) By that same token, I did not have anyone around me complaining. There was no negativity surrounding me. I'm convinced that this has something to do with the higher success rate of southbounders.
    4) I grew up in Florida and the idea of hiking toward home, instead of away, was sometimes the only thing that kept me going.
    5) I stopped counting the miles left pretty quickly. I adopted the attitude that this was how I was going to live my life and "pretended" that there was no end. This made for strange feelings on Springer Mtn.
    6) The psychological problems, particularly depression, would hit me all of a sudden. Typically, I would wake up with this "bear" on my back. I learned that it never lasted all day, though, so I didn't panic when it happened.
    "Solvitur ambulando" - It is solved by walking

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