Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 139: The problem of fewer miles

Day 139: 8/25/14
1052 to 1062
Miles hiked: 10

By 2 PM on my second day back on the PCT, I was already having a mini-meltdown.  I’d completed 10 miles, my pre-determined limit for the day to be easy on my foot after the stress fracture.  What was I gonna do in the 6 hours still left before dark?  I am so conditioned to keep hiking as long as there is daylight.   I felt the pull of the trail with every cell in my body.  But I realized I needed to rest my foot.  I was not gonna re-injure my foot.  NO WAY was I risking that.
Totally frustrated with my 2 PM finish time.
So I set up camp.  Thank goodness it started raining and continued raining until the night.  That made it much easier to be still in my hammock while I tried to think of ways to slow down and figure out how to manage my new my low mileage goals.  I tried to think about everything I’d learned about stillness and meditating while I’d been off the trail, but that was in the Redwoods and back in a house or a town.  It is so much harder practicing on the PCT. 
The soothing sound of rain on my tarp.
I reflected on the course of my day.  I thought I had been going as slow as I could possibly manage.  I took a break every hour to take off my shoes and massage the feet.  I was really trying hard but it was tough sitting very long. I wasn’t in the least bit tired.  My muscles ached to go go go go.  They had only just started to warm up, and there we were stopping again.  Such an endorphin junkie.  I thought I’d done the right thing by diligently going to the gym for hours every day, going swimming, keeping up my cardio and doing weight training.  But I now I almost wished I didn't have such a huge imbalance between the strength of my legs and lungs, and the weakness of my feet.  Now my legs were getting a taste of the trail and I was having a heck of a time trying to convince them to stop chasing more miles.
What was wrong with me for not wanting to spend more time here for a rest break?
Adapting to shorter miles and to being still was a more difficult mental challenge than I’d anticipated.  I needed to figure out techniques that would allow me to feel as engaged and connected to the outdoors as I do when I am moving down the trail.  Advanced-backpacking warrior-ninja-level  technique. 

While I was hiking, I had also tried to slow down my hiking pace as another way to adapt.  The downhills were OK, but I kept forgetting to take it easy on the uphills.  My darn legs would get all excited whenever I’d start to climb.  Back in the groove like nothing happened, totally forgetting the poor feet.  The feet weren’t complaining or anything, but I could tell they were weak and I didn’t know what they could handle yet.   Anyway, I knew I couldn’t go on hiking like this.  I knew it was a bigger problem- that of my mindset.
Uphills make me want to fly up up up and away.
Mental shifts are the hardest.  In my old mindset doing 20-25 miles each day was a given.  Wake up, hike all day, go to bed.  More miles accomplished equaled greater success.  No wonder it felt so difficult to stop hiking so early in the day!  It wasn’t just about how to fill the time.  It was how to feel like I was out there doing something that I could be proud of.  I needed to redefine my notions of what I was out there for.

If I took a good photo, would that make my hike more meaningful?  What about if I saw a cool flower?  Learned some new skill?  Swam more?  Stopped at more vistas?  Or had some insightful realization?  Those things are so much harder to measure and put a finger on than miles per day displayed with pride at the top of a blog post.  Do badass hikers take the time to sit and watch every moment of a sunrise or sunset?   How will you all know I’m not just a slacker goofing off in the woods?   How will I tell if I’m really having a meaningful experience out here?
After fighting so hard to get healed from my injury, what am I going to do now that I'm back out here?


  1. Do you have a time frame or distance to 'finish' walking this fall or are you just out to enjoy what you can?

    Maybe pick up a book to carry next section? I know I loved reading when we stopped early on the Florida Trail.

    1. I'm going to hike until the snows come. I'm just out to enjoy it as long as I can, no goals.

      Good suggestions- I am definitely going to pick up a book and download some podcasts. I didn't even carry headphones before, but now, I think this is gonna be fun to try some new things out.

  2. Joan ... you mentioned in an earlier post about there being two kinds of hikers ... those that love the whole backpacking/tenting/trail experience, and those who love putting in the long miles and just see their tent (or hammock!!) as a place to lay their head!

    You are so right ... and I guess I never realized that difference till you pointed it out. But I'm definitely in the former category .... I love setting up camp, getting water, making supper, sitting back, watching the world go by. And even on the trail ... I've been known to average 1 mile/hr when there's cool things to check out/photograph/see. And "cool things" might be anything from a cluster of wildflowers I've never seen, to a side trail that piques my interest, to a cloud formation, to a babbling brook!!

    More than once I've ended a hike in the middle of the afternoon, simply because I was tired of hiking. Not tired physically, but tired as is in 'ready to be doing something else'. I'll spend time finding the PERFECT campsite, set up camp, and then just explore, or daydream, or whatever!!

    1. Really like hearing how you do things on the trail. Definitely inspiring!

      I sometimes think I'm the long miles kind of hiker, but now I've decided I'm going to enjoy both styles, and defy categorization! Hehe- I will become more versatile and master the fine art of exploring and doing all the other cool things.

  3. is hard for me sometimes to leap between section hiker twenty plus miles to backpacker, I end up exploring all around camp. I don't think of long days as something to talk about, I love that people go even two miles out there. I certainly don't judge people for miles hiked. So what do I do when I stop early? Read. Swim. Write. Talk to other hikers. Nap. Climb to a high point. It's all about mindset. And what you like. If you don't like the camp part, maybe the pct isn't the right trail until you can get back to longer days.

  4. I love your Totally Frustrated picture. Quite expressive..