The Lessons We Learn

Our first section hike taught us a number of lessons. Some lessons were learned right away, while others revealed themselves over a series of events.

  1. Lighten Up. When packing for a multi-day hike the adage "Less is More" is very true. If there is not an imminent need for an item, leave it behind. Moreover, it is up to you to make the difficult decisions about what items should be removed from your pack. Don't put your hiking partner in the difficult position of becoming the Pack Police. Not only will you resent their feedback, but you won't hold yourself accountable for what you shouldn't have carried.
  2. Take Your Vitamin: Vitamin I. Ibuprofen is a staple for long distance hikers because it reduces inflammation. Don't think you need it? Think again. The rigors of hiking 10+ miles in a stretch can be profound. Treat early and treat often. Don't wait for symptoms, by the time you get them it is too late. Taking precautionary measures with a morning dose will benefit you more than you can imagine. I learned that I also need to take a dose partway through the day after the morning dose has worn off.
  3. Read the Signs. Your body talks to you but you have to LISTEN in order to benefit. Stop and eat if you are feeling hungry. Take a rest for a few minutes if you are weary. Enjoy an extra long sip of water if your throat is dry. Ignoring the signals your body sends makes a hike more difficult and can result in injury. It is hard to put on the brakes when you just want to crank out miles but your body will thank you for listening.
  4. The Turtle Slows the Hare. When you are hiking with another person you will each have a different pace. As contrary as it seems, the faster hiker should always defer to the slower one and match their pace. It is hard -- you want to get up and go -- but running ahead is guaranteed to result in one of two things: either your partner will try to keep up and tire out even more, increasing risk of a trip or fall or they will maintain their pace and a large gap will separate you. I am the slower hiker in our partnership. Through the miles of hiking we've learned that I go faster when I lead and actually slow down if I am following and not keeping pace. We have gotten similar, unsolicited, feedback from other hiking couples.
  5. Stop to Smell the Roses. Hiking is more than a physical act. It is the opportunity to connect with nature in a very special way. The views along a trail are varied and unique each step of the way. You have been given a very special gift -- insight into a world that very few people see -- cherish that gift and capture all of the moments you can.
  6. Thoughts Manifest Reality. Every thought that goes through your mind will manifest your reality. If you bog yourself down with criticism over a misstep, concentrate on office dramas, reflect on what is wrong with the world (and so on), your energy will reflect the same. This is true on the most basic level, with thoughts of "I'm so tired," "My feet hurt," and "I don't think my body can take this any more" perpetuating themselves into those realities. Make your experience positive by focussing on the good thoughts. Notice the beauty in the world around you: the lifecycle of plants, the singing of birds, the flow of water and boost your self-view with positivity. Your body and soul will thank you.
  7. Every Girl Needs a Pole. A trekking pole, that is; two are even better. Trekking poles provide balance and stability during a hike. I cannot count the number of times I have rolled my ankle during a hike but not gone down or gotten injured because my poles were literally propping me up. And those sneaky tree roots that sneak out and grab your feet can be a hiker's worst nightmare. I have gone sailing through the air after tripping over something on a trail and caught myself with my poles several times. Other benefits of hiking with poles is that they naturally help to maintain your cadence and they keep your upper body moving (it is not uncommon for arm muscles to atrophy a bit after many days on the trail).
  8. Create Your Own Joy. Every experience on the trail is yours and yours alone. Your hiking partner may see the exact same things that you do, but their perception and memories are shaped by every experience that led them to that point. Every thing that happens in your day, from sunshine and sweat to rain and pain, are part of what creates your joy. Embrace every experience and appreciate it.
  9. THINK Before You Speak. Slow down your thoughts as you converse with other hikers and ask yourself before you speak: Is It True? Is It Helpful? Is It Inspiring? Is It Necessary? And Is It Kind? Make sure that your words have a positive impact on others.
  10. Focus on Faith. Faith has many meanings and I am looking at all of them. Trust yourself and your abilities completely. Have faith in God. Give credence to your fellow humans. Believe.