I just returned to civilization after a 6-day, 80-mile hike with an old friend around the stunning Three Sisters Mountains in Oregon. That’s where I discovered The Hiker Mindset. And I wonder if you have it too?
Day One of the hike was challenging. My body wasn’t used to humping a 40-pound pack for ten miles up meandering climbs and over dusty trails. My left shoulder ached. My feet complained. Day Two was even harder, as we pushed for 15 miles. On Day Three, we left our heavy packs in the tent and, with just some water and snacks, climbed to the summits of Broken Top and South Sister, two intimidating mountains with outrageous views.
Those efforts took us 11 hours, and although I came into camp that night bone tired, the thrilling memory of standing on top of the world twice in one day made the exhaustion worth it. As the trip went on, I found myself falling asleep earlier each night. On the final evening, I was snoozing even before the sun went down.
Throughout the hike, we sometimes encountered young, fit men bounding along the trail carrying 50 pound packs without apparent trouble. We met pudgy plodders puffing away as their bellies jiggled with each step; gritty couples sharing a love of nature, physical exertion and one another; gray and wrinkled old timers eager to stop for a while and share their knowledge of the land; determined single women inspired by “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s famous book about her solo hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT); a few hardy families with children bounding their way over rocky trails; and even dogs carrying their own supplies in pouches draped over their backs. Some of the people we met were day hikers planning to return to their cars before the sun went down. Some, like my friend and me, were hiking the circumference of the Three Sisters over a week, and some were “through hikers,” rugged souls out on the PCT for weeks or months.
I began to notice some similarities in the people we encountered on the trail, something I’ve decided to call The Hiker Mindset:
- A genuine awe at nature, often marveling at the simple beauty around them: “Can you believe how lucky we are to be out in this gorgeous part of the world?”
- A smile and nod to strangers, a willingness to talk, share knowledge and offer help if requested.
- The knowledge that discomfort is part of the deal. If you hike all day with a heavy pack, your body will ache, your feet will get sore, your fingernails dirty, and your shoulders stiff.
- A recognition, counterintuitive to many, that you actually get stronger with each passing day. Over time, your feet will toughen up, your shoulders will get used to the heavy pack, and your aches will amazingly start to disappear.
Our hike ended, and my friend and I drove back into town. Our phones suddenly buzzed with texts and emails that hadn’t been allowed into the wilderness. Before I started the “sorry for my delayed response” emails, I paused to write down the reflections above. And I realized The Hiker Mindset isn’t just about hiking in a beautiful natural landscape. It can be applied to each moment of our lives. So, here’s how to practice:
- Express awe and appreciation of the beauty around you
- Be helpful to people who ask
- Embrace discomfort as part of the deal, and
- Recognize that you get stronger every time you choose to persevere through the tough stuff
See you out on the trail.