Getting to the end of the trail in one piece is a great goal, but there is so much more to making the most of your trip!
Its takes a great amount of effort just to finally be able to put your feet on the trail. The gear gathering probably started months or even a year before you left home not to mention route planning and food prep. It can take up lots of time and brain space. And if you are like me, once you set foot on the trail, you realized that you had given very little thought about how to think about your trip except to avoid bears and hope you can hang your bear bag.
Priority One: Mindset
You're already on the trail, so you feel pretty sure you can do this. But what's next? When we start an adventure, there are many thoughts that go with how we think we will experience it. From the physical challenges and joys to the emotional highs and lows, the trail offers a vast range of experience in each day. Here's how you can get the most out of it.
#1 Think ahead
You may start your hike or your day sore or tired, but when you feel discouragement creeping up behind you, imagine yourself at the next shelter or campsite feeling fulfilled after a daily goal accomplished.
#2 Stop and smell the flowers
Literally. Enjoy stops and set reasonable daily and mileage goals. We can get so caught up in our hike and getting to the shelter or making the miles that we miss the beauty all around us. The experience itself is worth contemplating. I love being away from the office and the to-do list, the traffic, and the noise of everyday life. Enrich your day on the trail by hearing new sounds, feeling the sun and the breeze, and by appreciating the beauty around you. It's not everyday you get a whole day in the glory of the wilderness. Use all your senses - take it all in. You'll be glad you did when your day at the office comes again.
#3 Make friends
There are so many people on the trail from all over the country and even around the world. Everyone on the trail has at least a love of nature in common as different as the rest of our lives may be. Even if you aren't the social type, give a friendly or at least polite greeting to fellow hikers. Remember that uphill hikers have the right-of-way. Campsites and shelters are great places to get to know someone else. By taking a few minutes to get out of our own head, we take a break from our own stresses. A little chat at the watering hole or a deep conversation at camp can help improve our own frame of mind.
#4 Breathe and contemplate the meaning of life
John Muir said, "I never met a discontented tree." How profound to put ourselves at a slow pace of life - that of nature's pace - to keep us humble and life simple. The fresh air is healing to our minds and souls. Breathe deeply and feel the healing power!
Keep your day and your pack organized for less stress. Take the time to organize your pack so that you have meals for the day accessible and snacks within reach. Keep personal hygiene items separate from other gear and at hand so when the need arises you aren't digging in your pack for them. Keep in mind that things can shift and compact during your hike. A little organizing will go a long way to keep from stressing over the little things.
Keep these 5 points in mind to get the most out of your time in the great expanse of nature!