I am often asked what I learned on trail and while I am still sorting out the bigger “life” aspects, here are the Top 23 things I learned ABOUT the trail while ON the trail. Enjoy!
1. The brighter and more frequent the white blazes are, the closer to a road you are.
2. When your boots are wet, just walk down the middle of the trail, straight through the puddle. It’s softer and flatter than the rocks on the side of the trail.
3. There are two general crowds out here: the outdoor crowd and the party crowd. And while there is some crossover, it’s best if the two segregate themselves. Preferably by a mountain or two.
4. Eat your heaviest foods first. Especially if they are high in calories.
5. Taking pictures of views with some trees in the foreground only produces lots of close up pictures of trees.
6. If a rock, log, leaf pile, etc. looks stable, assume it’s not. It will most likely roll over on you.
7. Hiking poles are required equipment, even if only going to the water source. Those that don’t have them quickly acquire them.
8. There is something very unholy about sitting on a privy and having cold wind rush up your bum.
9. When it’s muddy out, take small steps. Otherwise, the trail will become a slalom course as you slide down the trail.
10. When someone passes you on an uphill, don’t watch them. Knowing how steep the trail gets is demoralizing.
11. Stairs are the most demoralizing and depressing thing humans have ever invented.
12. Trail trolls are real. They live under roots and rock crevices along the trail. They grab poles and don’t let go until you do.
13. I don’t like walking in groups. People inevitably slow down or stop to take pictures just as you look away from the back of their pack, causing you to smash into them.
14. Rain is temporary. When it rains, just put your head down and keep walking. Sooner or later, the sun will come out and the views will be amazing. Works the same with pain.
15. I hate being tall. Kneeling over to get under fallen trees. Spider webs in your face, even when you’re at the back of the group. Branches hitting you in the face because the trail maintainers are obviously shorter.
16. Differences are ok. We each come from different backgrounds and educations, and we each have different reasons for being out here. Either accept these differences or move on, but don’t force your reasons on me.
17. Hiking alone is ok. Actually, it’s good. It helps with focus, self-development and reflection.
18. When hiking in groups, EVERYTHING will take more time. A simple “5-minute pee break” will turn into a 2-hour lunch break/nap time/might as well just set up camp for the night.
19. Taking pictures is ok but remember to look at the view too. Too many people live life through a viewfinder and don’t ever experience the world. This was hard for me to learn, or accept, but I am so glad I did.
20. Slow down to spend time with a loved one. It’s the memories, not the miles, that are important.
21. All distances listed in any guidebook are measured on a flat map and in straight lines. They don’t take elevation change into account, nor the never-ending serpentine twists the trail inevitably takes.
22. This trip costs more than just money. It’s emotions, energy, friendships, love and stability, all of which can be washed away like the dust on my boots.
23. Hike until you can physically touch the shelter. When you look up and see the shelter 100 yards off and start to think the day is finally over… That’s when you will trip, fall, run into something or otherwise ruin a good day.
And there you have it… Hope you enjoyed my list of learnings. Now get out there and go hike!