Jul 19, 2015

Hike your own Hike, Live your own Life

   I began the Pacific Crest Trail under the notion that I would be travelling alone.  One of my most pressing concerns was what I would be doing with my evenings.  While hiking alone seemed more appealing generally, it was terrifying for me to imagine being alone at night months on end.

I'm not afraid of the dark or wild animals or any such thing, but I am terribly afraid of my own thoughts.  Solitude confronts us with ourselves our inherent nature; our pasts and our impending futures.  I'm one of those that has extreme trouble turning their thoughts off.  What fresh insights might I discover when plumbing the depths of my mind?  What newly formed regret? How many thoughtless actions waited in my memory for moments when distraction was utterly gone?
The curse of the introspective is the deep pool of mind from which they can birth new self-criticisms, by way of examination.  Although inevitable if I wish to finish this hike, I must admit: I violently abhor the idea of confronting myself and my past every single starry solitary evening.

 Now that I've admitted all of that: you, my reader, can understand how the first several weeks of my hike were the most difficult and emotionally taxing. I can't begin to explain the terror one feels when completely alone but is utterly inept and untrained at being so.  After a while however, I found I was able to distract myself by focusing on only one thing.  The hike itself.  My thoughts would center around only the hike and I would watch the world happen around me absent of my regard for its occurrences.  This worked.  I became a proficient hiker and managed to stay focused and quite effective at mind management for the month of my hike.
  Later however, I began hiking with friends I'd made on the trail and it was good for a time.  Social deprivation can be as detrimental to the spirit as hunger or thirst, and travelling with friends became a way of mitigating that.  There are drawbacks to hiking with others, though.   For one the quantity of problems and reasons to stop hiking, whether for only a few minutes or for several days grows immensely,  as each party members problems become the group's problem.
     Secondly, hiking with someone else is... burdensome.  I know when you go hiking with your friend a few miles down at the local canyon, it doesn't seem that way, but when you've got to make 25 miles to get to the next water source, all you really want to do is zone out and focus on what's ahead of you.  Hiking with others is a distraction to your purpose.
   The best part of hiking with others actually has nothing to do with hiking at all.  It's that period when the day is done, and you sit meditatively by your campfire.  The warmth of social interaction with someone whose shared the hardships of your day then becomes priceless.  Without it, the tendency is to become immersed in your own thoughts which, like I said above, can be grossly negative when left unchecked. 
  As it stands now, I try to blend the best of both worlds. I hike alone and at my own pace, but, when possible,  attempt to camp with trail friends.  I think this is the best method and I recommend it for all thru-hikers.

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