Three things that can spoil a hike
Drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org
Before heading out on the trails it is important to plan the adventure and also to look forward to it. But be aware of planning the hike together with these three: Self deception, over-confidence and optimism. They often show up together, ready to head out with an enthusiastic attitude of the sky is the limit, everything is possible and to hell with precautions
The challenges on the trails that make hiking an adventure most often come simultaneously from two sides: the inside and the outside. And a large part of the planning and preparation before any serious hike is to learn to differ between them.
The challenges from outside can be anything from eroded trails, missing signs, storms, bears, gear that break down, rivers that flood, fallen trees, early snow, empty wells, dropping temperatures etc. These are the things you can learn about and practice how to handle in advance. Even though you can’t know what will hit you, or when.
Self-deception, over-confidence and optimism from above most often look forward to these challenges, downplaying their size and calling them “the adventure” . Moments that can be recorded and shared on social media for fans and followers, and enjoyed, as if there is never any real risk.
Challenges from the inside: know Thyself
But where challenges from the trail is most often cheered as welcome, many hikers never consider the possibility of challenges arising from the inside.
Meeting unknown personal challenges from the inside can make hiking a enlightening activity, simply because you can learn a lot about who you really are when the hike gets tough and you have to find (often little known) resources inside to deal with unexpected feelings and differ between what is your emotions and what is the nature of the factual reality the feelings try to embrace.
The thought of getting to know thyself is great, when cool and clear headed. But the chances of this seldom arise when all are going well, but more often when you are tired, wet, freezing, lonely or one of the other billion feelings you can suddenly stumble into out on the trails.
Feelings that can sweep you off your feet faster than a raging river, or fill you with fear, anger or fall into an abyss of lost meaning and hope. You can suddenly find yourself trapped in emotions much harder to escape from out there, when you have neither old friends, family or any of the modern get-away tricks at hand like TV, shopping, social media, good food, lots of sleep, or drugs to use as an elevator away from facing yourself.
The challenges coming from the inside are harder to prepare for, especially when being caught up in self-deception, feeling over-confident and/or optimistic about what is possible for you.
And you could easily end up relying on pure luck to make it through, if you don’t plan and take into consideration the risk of the unexpected to happen and more important – put aside resources and accept the risk of days when the trail is fine, but you are not… and you have to go real slow, taking one step at a time, just to get through the day.