Four Life Lessons From Hiking
It is funny how walking, when under the term hiking, suddenly becomes a whole new endeavour. As I am not the most co-ordinated of people, hiking is pretty much the perfect pursuit. Having been ‘walking’ for the past 26 or so years I have gained enough skill to be able to pull off the sport without too much affliction. But as I said hiking is in a whole new realm to just simply walking, something most people do every single day of their lives.
Hiking often involves carrying loads, over varied terrain and distances, sometimes for multiple days at a time. It is this combination of weight, distance, location, and time that make it go from an everyday thing, to a challenge.
At the moment I am three weeks into the GR5. I have done the equivalent of walking from sea level to the top of Everest twice (without the altitude problem). I have covered roughly the same distance as going from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. All the time experiencing some rain, some very strong winds, some blindingly sunny days and heat that sizzles your skin. The trail has involved scree slopes, precarious drop offs, countless snow fields, and lots of steep ups and downs.
I have been hiking for a very long time and these are the lessons that have become clear to me over and over when I’m out on the trail.
1) Some things you have to do yourself. Sounds simple right. This basically comes from the sadly quite high number of times where I have been having a particularly hard day of it and in my head I am considering whether or not to just sit down on the middle of the path, burst into tears and say I can’t possibly go another step forward. For a couple of seconds this scenario plays out on my head, swiftly followed by me doing a quick summary of the options following my ‘moment’. Most of the time I realize that, hey, we aren’t even close to a road, and so the only real option for my ‘saving’ would be a helicopter flying in, and really that isn’t going to happen. No one is going to carry me, so all that is left would be for me to continue on. Basically giving up wouldn’t get me anywhere, it would just give me a headache from crying, and stall our final arrival, so I might as well just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not bother with the dramatics.
This lesson comes out time and again in many forms, such as crossing a particularly scary ice field. Where I realize panicking won’t make the ice field go away, and in fact, it will just make things worse for me, so it is better instead to focus on the task ahead and break it down whatever way I can, than just get it done.
2) It is better to deal with things when they occur. Anyone who has ever decided to wait until lunch, or the end of the day to deal with a blister, only to have it turn from a small ‘hotspot’ into a giant swimming pool will understand this one.
Yep, catch things when they are still manageable rather than when you are left with no other choice. The benefit in acting early is you often have more choices in how to act or deal with something.
3) Pace yourself. From countless hours of hiking I can tell you that you are far better going at a steady pace and taking minimal stops, especially those that involve sitting and taking your pack off, than long rests. Your body gets into a rhythm and when you change it, it takes time and effort to get it back. If you run and swap between walking and running you get much the same effect.
Life is much the same. Wen you take smaller breaks from your routine it is much less jarring when you get back into it. This can be breaks from work, like holidays or to have children. It can also be breaks from studying, exercising, etc.
4) Sock tans are never sexy.