How do y'all stay motivated when a thru-hike doesn't pan out like you expected?
Whether you're on the PCT facing reroutes due to snow or wildfire, you're off trail due to an injury, or you've only got a few weeks to tackle a trail but things don't go according to plan... this question is for you.
This question is sparked by my two most recent thru-hike plans falling through. I was originally going to tackle the Guadalupe Ridge Trail between Guadalupe Mtns National Park and Carlsbad Caverns in May - until the week of my trip arrived and the national parks closed the backcountry for camping due to wildfire risk.
I figured, no big deal! At least I still have the Foothills Trail coming up in June! When, of course, I tested positive for COVID just days before my flight and had to remain grounded.
I still have hikes planned for the fall, but having two blows in a row has been discouraging. How do you stay motivated to keep adventuring onward when you're unable to make miles like you anticipated?
Photo from Guadalupe Peak Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Somewhat relatable issue? I’m currently hiking the CDT and had to bail from the redline in the San Juans because I caught it too early and a late season storm moved in. Taking an alternate or backup plan can definitely leave you feeling deflated and discouraged, but I try to look at the silver lining of it and recognize how many more opportunities are now available because one door closed. It’s a bummer to have planned everything out for it to just be a wash, but that’s when you got to pivot and decide which amazing backup plan you want to replace it with because there are just so many amazing and incredible adventures out there, no matter the season. Hope this helps some!2
It is a bummer and wash. You have spent a lot of time, time away from others, compromises and money to hike. Yeah, it's disappointing and Sucks a rock! This is a disappointment, and you are entitled to feel crummy. We understand: screw "pivoting".
The grief may abate. Work retail for a while. It's a mindless job and you can plan your next adventure. So sorry.0
I think that it is all about perspective. I love to reflect on every day and write down my feelings and how each day goes. I feel that this helps me to understand more about how I feel. For instance I just got back from a trip to Iceland and did 100 miles there. I fell and tore some ligaments in my foot and ankle on day two and it hurt a lot. But I didn’t let it get me down I pushed through the pain and made it all 100 miles. We have to learn from the lows and the highs. It is hard but perspective is everything!1
Oh, boy, this question hits home! I was on the PCT for most of this summer, finally attempting a thru hike. I started 4/25 and made it to Etna, CA (1,600 miles) before I had to jump up due to a wildfire. It would be the first of at least three or four times where a wildfire would cause me to have to alter my plans.
I definitely felt a sort of "disconnected-ness" with my thru hike attempt after having to initially skip. Not only did my continuous northbound footpath end, I was eventually denied seeing the US-Canadian border due to a wildfire. I was also literally smoked out in Oregon when I went back and tried to hike SOBO and pick up miles that I had to skip earlier in the summer. On more than one occasion, I certainly felt as if I was just bouncing around the West Coast wilderness... unsure of what I was actually doing. I was still hiking the PCT but it had become a disjointed mess.
In short, I think perspective is important. I didn't get to complete the entire PCT, even though I really wanted to. I had to alter what my goal for "being out there" was as I was actively hiking... which can be a difficult thing to do. Ultimately, I told myself that I was on a PCT journey. I was still out there, still hiking, still meeting people, still going to places I hadn't been to, etc. If you can be flexible and make the most of what you are dealt, that is a large part of being content with your situation.1