A thru-hike is like walking a not-so-flat marathon on a daily basis. Obstacles will hit: blisters, sore feet, chafing, injury, dehydration, bugs, weather... the list goes on. There will be days we stretch ourselves thin, struggling to find the energy to continue.
I’ve had too many days to count where I hit a wall in the afternoon. Physically exhausted, mentally drained. Questioning why I put myself through this. The challenge becomes getting back into that mindset, that place where walking is a euphoric experience. When the afternoon fatigue hits, or mother nature throws a tough day, some combination of these things get me through:
- Eat something. Food will, of course, give us an instant energy boost. Even those gifted with endless stamina will need to fuel correctly for better endurance on a multi-month hike. Carbohydrates and sugar will spike your glucose levels and can be used immediately (dried fruit, nuts bars, crackers, peanut butter, candy). Food is fuel, and a body that is burning 4,000+ calories a day needs to be eating every 2 hours to maintain energy levels. Another idea? Caffeine. Mio energy drops, coffee, or other energy water enhancers are all great options.
- Find a swim spot. In areas with sufficient flowing water, a quick dip can leave you incredibly refreshed and energized. It doesn’t have to be a hot day to pop in a creek or lake for a rinse. After all, your body will sweat profusely even in mild weather. The cold water stimulates our active muscles and promotes recovery. Looking for a major boost? Go naked.
- Smoke some herb. With respect to other hikers and National Parks, take a moment to wind down and enjoy the backdrop. Cannabis boosts mood, quiets the mind, and is a natural painkiller. It’s all about choosing the right strain- Higher CBD for pain management, hybrids and sativas for relieving physical tension and motivating. Spliffs are awesome to throw in the mix for an extra kick too. I love the way smoking enhances my surroundings while hiking, and helps me stay focused and connected. A peaceful mind during intense physical exertion helps put the small hurdles into perspective.
- Music. Putting headphones in and jamming to tunes has a way of bringing your mind and body into the zone. Uptempo music helps to power through a challenging climb or injury. Depending on location, be wary of rattlesnakes, bears or other animals that might alert you by sound.. and possibly keep one earbud out. Don’t forget about the chill vibes. I’ll often put my favorite mellow tunes on to find a calm rhythm with my steps to get through the day. I have to also say this: Don’t become that guy who always needs music to hike, save it for the moments you’re struggling to find motivation.
- Stop for a second and think. Simply, the power of positive thinking. Midst the difficult moments we face on the trail, our mind needs reassurance. In the face of adversity, I’ll remind myself how grateful I am to be out on the trail. The fresh air, beautiful views, water, community, physical challenge, solitude, wildlife, plants- all of it. The tough moments are what enrich the experience of a thru-hike. How we utilize them is what separates those who finish from those who don’t. Most physical challenges can be overcome; it’s the mental ones that will hand us defeat. Remember where you are, what you are doing, and how fucking cool that is.