Wednesday, March 30, 2016

HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike

Last October, we set out on our very first backpacking trip to hike the 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland south to Harper's Ferry.  Prior to leaving, I predicted there would be some type of weird thing (really, you can read about it here), and of course we had a Hurricane and a Nor'easter heading our way.  The hurricane veered off course, but the Nor'easter was making a direct hit.  We decided to go anyway.  The time had been taken off of work and the planning had been done so off we went. 
When we started out, things weren't too bad.  It was lightly raining, but it wasn't too cold and it wasn't a heavy rain, so we trudged onward.  By the time we made it to the first shelter (the Raven Rock Shelter), we were dealing with injuries, and before long, the weather started to turn. 
We opted to stay the night in the shelter where most of us were up all night listening to the wind and the rain and the large limbs banging on the roof.  It was a wild storm, and I'm thankful I was in a sturdy structure and not my tent. When morning came (very early since we didn't really sleep much at all), it was decided that we needed to end the adventure and head home.  At the time, we were all comfortable with the decision being the right one, even though we were disappointed.  Unfortunately, there was someone on social media who made comments about being "quitters".  This person tried to claim they were trying to give a pep talk, but in the end all the comments were borderline mean.  The other unfortunate thing is that I let it get to me.  I began second guessing the choice we all made, second guessing my ability to even backpack and ended up depressing myself.  There were several times when I considered taking all my gear back to REI and being done with the dream.
There were others on social media, namely those from a Women's Hiking Group, who were sympathetic.  They let us know it was better to "live to hike another day" and mentioned how some of them canceled their trips without even attempting it like we had.  While that made me feel better, I still beat myself up over it. It wasn't until listening to a podcast (The First 40 Miles that I've mentioned before) that I finally got it.  In their episode 13 "Are You Hiking Your Own Hike?" they discussed the top 5 Tips for Hiking Your Own Hike, and #5 resonated with me:
  1. Remember that it’s not a “Winner Takes All” sport
  • Hiking and backpacking is a non-competitive sport where the only players are you and Mother Nature.
  • You’re not separate teams, you’re kind of on the same team, but not always playing the same game.
  • Snow, washouts, mudslides, freak thunderstorms can totally change your plans
  • Learn to respect Mother Nature and be flexible
  • If you go home early you haven’t “lost”
  • No one who leaves a trip alive ever “loses” 
(quoted from The First 40 Miles Podcast episode 13 notes

I don't know why it took this podcast to get through my head what others had been saying all along, but it did. 
Message finally received.

So when you're out in the woods hiking, and a situation arises where you have to end the trip early or alter your plans in some way, it's okay.  You will never beat Mother Nature.  More importantly, you don't have to feel like you need to beat any body.  And if you live to hike another day, that makes you a winner.  Because you aren't dead.  It means people who sit at home on their comfy couch while you're out walking to a privy 100 yards away at 3:00 am in the middle of a Nor'easter dodging falling tree limbs don't have the right to judge any decision you make for safety reasons. 
Our trip attempt from October will just be another one of those "Remember when we hiked in that crazy Nor'easter?" story to go along with all the other stories that have similar remember whens (oddly, we have quite a few of those stories).  And looking back, I think that makes us pretty kick-ass.
So get out there and Hike Your Own Hike

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