[at-l] hike prep

Ken Bennett bennett.ken at gmail.com
Wed Dec 9 09:51:43 CST 2009

On Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 10:06 AM, Cody Girl <codycodygirl at gmail.com> wrote:

> I believe that good gear can HELP me get to Katahdin but I fully understand
> that no gear in the world is going to do it for me.
> I believe even more strongly that being in the best condition I can
> possibly be in before I start will have a HUGE impact on me getting to
> Katahdin.
> So my question.  When people talk about the mental aspect, what exactly are
> they saying?  Stick to it ness?  Refusal to quit?  Optimistic attitude? And
> so on.  I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on what mental skills it takes
> to get to Katahdin.

Gear doesn't get you to Katahdin. You actually get your gear to Katahdin. It
gets a free ride. On your back. Something to consider for each item in your
pack. Being in shape is a huge help at the start, but your advantage
diminishes after the first two weeks.

Head game: all of those things and more. But most important, I think, is a
flexible mental attitude. The ability to take what the trail gives you --
good and bad -- and be able to enjoy it. Or at least appreciate it. If it's
raining, that means the springs will be running. If it's hot, at least you
don't have to carry any extra clothing. If it's cold, that means the bugs
are gone. If your trail friends want to stay in town when you want to keep
hiking, you get to meet new ones up the trail. It means the flexibility to
make a plan, then adapt that plan to the new reality every single day.

Now, you can take the flexibility thing too far. Some hikers do just that,
and end up staying in town for days or even forever. If you want to get to
Maine, you need to hike the miles. Just be open to things that you didn't
expect or plan. My motto is Semper Gumby -- "Always Flexible."

As for determination (what you called "refusal to quit"), well, you need
that too. I suppose there have been hikers who never thought about quitting
the Trail during their hike, but they are rare. I think what you need is a
vision of what the finish line looks like, something you can bring out of
the back of your mind on mornings when you just don't want to get up and

Have you read the Thru Hiking
Jim and Ginny talk a lot about the mental aspect of a hike. It might be a
good read.

I've only completed about 1/3 of the trail, so my mental issues are
different. My determination is to complete the whole thing in 1-2 week
sections. But then I get out on the trail, and it's really hard for the
first 3-4 days, and I get to town, and I think "Hey, I'm on *vacation*, I
can stay here for a couple of days" and I have to push myself to get back on
the trail and keep hiking. Then it gets easier, but the pattern repeats
every year.

Good luck. Have fun. Have a plan, but don't plan to stick to it (except for
the Katahdin part.) If you are totally miserable and it's been raining for
days and you just want to go home, DON'T. Don't quit after a bad day, or
even after several bad days. Everyone has bad days. If you have a bunch of
GOOD days and you still want to quit, then you can give it some serious
consideration. But don't quit after a bad day. (Yes, I know this from
personal experience. Grrr.)

Big Cranky
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