Getting lost is not always a bad thing. There are some times where getting lost can be very dangerous and not recommended however some times getting lost can be good. There are two types of getting lost while on the trail. The first type is that of getting turned around or unable to find the correct trail. The second is getting lost in your head.
How is getting lost on the trail good? Even if you just hike the wrong way down the trail or end up somewhere your not supposed to be keeps you on your toes. So many times while hiking long distances you just point yourself in a direction and go. Face down eyes to the trail just in front of you pounding out the miles. Getting lost reminds you that you are indeed on an adventure and that everything does not always go as planned. The trail has its own agenda for you and will do whatever it can to ruin or destroy the plans you had made. This creates a love hate relationship with the trail. You love the trail but you hate the fact you know it will change your plans.
These types of changes, distractions, or sidetracks do not have to be bad. Many of them if looked at as positive events they can be an amazing part of your story. If you choose to look at them in a negative way then they will drag you down. If we were to take a poll and ask people who have hiked on any of the long distance trails if they have ever gone the wrong way you will find a high percentage have. More often than not they are lost inside their head when they miss a blaze or get turned around after stopping for a break. Other cases of getting lost can be the cause of fatigue or dehydration. Often times after getting lost or turned around can be laughed off. Other times serious emergencies happen and people get pulled off the mountains.
There were several times while on the AT I had to reassess the situation and my bearings before heading off on the trail again because the trail looked identical to the trail I had been hiking on causing deja vu moments. “I just crossed this bridge…. no I think its another one… just keep going eventually you will find a blaze….” One thing I will say is if you ever feel you have missed a blaze on a trail or think you have gone off trail look behind you. More times than not I would miss a blaze in front of me and turn around and there was one right behind me. Another fun tip about trail hiking is that you should always turn the direction you turned into the camp to continue on the trail. For example if you turned left to get to the campsite or shelter turn left onto the trail when you are ready to leave. Unless you are headed back in the direction you came.
The deja vu moments for myself were typically caused by day dreaming or getting lost inside my head. On long distance hikes you begin to hike the trails of your mind while hiking the trail. As you put one foot in front of the other the monotony of doing the same task eight hours each day causes you to begin to think about anything and everything. You think about your past your future and everything in-between. There are some points where you slip away from it all and then return. Its very similar to driving the same route often enough that you blink and you have some how missed a whole section of the road and you are now many miles away from where you started. In the beginning you will be very worried of where you are placing your feet so you are constantly thinking about where to place your feet but eventually you will get lost and then hit a root or rock and you will be instantly brought back to the trail. Getting lost in your mind is a great thing. Helps you clear out the clutter. That is in my opinion one of the greatest things about hiking is to get away from it all and clear out your head.
What do you do if you find yourself getting lost on the trail? What is your best or funniest getting lost story?
Air mattress explodes as you crawl into your sleeping bag long cold sleepless nights. – “You chose to be out here and its better than sitting in a cube”
Sleeping bag zipper breaks and there are several cold sleepless nights -”You are still warm enough not to be in serious danger. You chose to be out here”
Wake up to freezing drizzle and you must continue on. – “LETS DO THIS”
Half way up a massive up and fading fast. – “Just keep hiking …. left foot right foot …. count your steps and rest after 30″
Those were some examples of how I kept myself going during some of the hardest times of my adventure. As long as you can stay positive anything can be accomplished. If you begin to fade into that black hole of negative attitude your mind will tear you apart both physically and mentally. So how do you keep positive even during the hardest times? Each person is different and they have their own techniques. I can not tell you how to do it or even suggest methods because everyone is different. What I can tell you is that everyone goes through these times on the AT. Some have lots of little moments others have several big moments that change their trip completely. None of the items above were huge but put them all together and they can weigh on you heavily.
The toughest time on the trail was the night my tent leaked and I was forced to stand under an awning for hours. At first I was upset and angry my tent had leaked. My feelings then morphed into trying to stay warm and semi dry. Eventually the whole situation became funny. Regardless of the problems at hand it was still better than being stuck in a cube in my past life. Staying positive is mostly about the perspective you look at things with. Just remember “it could always be worse” and “there is someone else worse off than you”.
How do you stay positive during tough situations?
When planning to go on an backpacking adventure for several months or even several weeks you have to take everything you own and find most near and dear with you. All of that must be placed in your backpack. The challenge is that you can only take what is necessary, what fits, and does not weight a ton. When doing this I began to find that many of my possessions became trivial or not needed and found having less stuff made not only moving easier but my life felt less cluttered. While finding out what was most important to me possessions wise I began to look at things differently. I started to do the same thing with memories emotions and the like. Things that bothered me in the past became trivial and let go. In doing so a clean feeling began to appear. A feeling that plants must feel after a nice gentle rain passes through. (more…)
There has been a large debate ever since the creation of portable music devices. The heart of the debate is whether or not you should listen to music while you hike. My personal opinion on the matter is that of to each their own. I typically do not listen to music while hiking, but having it available and using it every now and again is great for getting you out of some funky days or times. A lot of it boils down to what makes you comfortable while out on a hike. If I am hiking in a place where there might be mountain bikers or is heavily traveled by hikers I will hike with one ear bud in and one out. This is so I can hear when people come up from behind and want to pass.
If you were to take a look at my music library there is no real theme other than music. I collect music so there is everything from Classical to Pop and everything in between. There are a few exceptions however. I am not a huge fan of the metal genre or rap. I also find myself creating sound tracks based on moods or even themes like using the word hike or walk.
There were several times on the AT where I found that it was just me out there between points a and b and needed some kind of boost. During those times it was nice to pop in my ear buds or even just play without head phones. I will say that natures sound track could use a bit of a mash up with your favorite tunes. It is also neat to have your own soundtrack. One thing I would like to stress is that that just because you like it does not mean everyone else does. When I had my music blaring out of my pocket I had not seen another human for hours that day. Just remember to be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to other people.
Do you hike or trail run with music? If you do what do you listen to? If not why do you prefer not to?
Give people enough time and they will surprise you.
In my last post I talked about community. Today I want to talk about people. There are always people who will rub you the wrong way and then there are others who you will more naturally gravitate towards. On the AT you can always hike on your own and you can choose to camp on your own but if you camp near or in the shelters you are stuck with those people for the night. Being stuck with some people is not always a bad thing. (more…)
Otter and Boar Cabin Crews
Living in the city and working in corporate America many people tend to loose sight of the amazing feeling of community. This is not always their fault it can be caused by many factors of life.
Leaving it all behind and hitting the trail for a few days, weeks or even months can restore that connection to community. What is community? Community happens when people connect or come together for a common purpose. You live in a community, your social networks are a community, and the trail is a community. (more…)
I have mentioned to a number of people that the AT is the Disney World of hiking trail. This statement can be seen as both positive and negative. Before you go off and think I am crazy let me explain first.
Every year is the “biggest year” in terms of the number of people who are hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) whether it be thru-hikers, section hikers, weekend hikers, youth groups, scout groups, or spring breakers. The numbers are staggering at how much of an increase they have each year. To see some of the past totals and the most up to date numbers of the AT they can be found at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Website. (more…)
For most of my experience in Georgia on the AT the nights were very cold as were the days. I found myself wearing my warm gear both during the day and at night. I did make a decision on one of the harder days to wear my merino t-shirt and my fleece jacket instead of my Columbia Omni-Heat Reflective shirt. This turned out to be an extremely important decision. After hiking six miles in this weird misty fog with the temp below freezing causing all the water that hit the trees or myself would instantly freeze. However it was still wet enough to cause my pants and socks to become soaked after only after twenty minutes or so into my hike. I stopped at a shelter and evaluated things. I could have gone another five miles to the next shelter and risk it being full. I stayed put and quickly unrolled my sleeping pad and sleeping bag. I also changed out of my wet clothing and into my warm gear right away. Inside the sleeping bag with my warm clothes I began to finally warm up. (more…)