Not every hike has to be a big one. Not every trek needs massive preparation sometimes you can be out the door for an overnight in just 2 hours. These are things that I have to remind myself when I’m planning my next hike or trek. Sometimes simple is fine, an adventure is an adventure, no matter the distance. This is how I manage to keep hiking despite my busy schedule as a single working mom. I would love to take off for my kid-free weekends and hike and backpack every moment, but the reality of life calls. There are errands to run, kid activities to attend and friends who would like to see my face in person. Thus, I am learning to balance my desire to hike in all my free time with the reality of my world. For now it means taking 1 day each weekend I do not have my kids to run the errands and do all the things, so that the other day I am free to hike, explore and adventure knowing that my responsibilities are completed for the moment.
With the dawn of thru-hiking season upon us I cannot help but be envious of those beginning their epic journeys- from the Appalachian Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail, hundreds of hikers are beginning their adventures over the next few months. My social media feeds will be filled with classic starting pictures, beautiful views and commentary on the hiking life for months at a time. As these fill my feed suddenly those 10 mile day hikes seem tiny and insignificant, and a 5 mile day-hike sounds like a joke. In these moments of comparison I have to take a step back and remember that now is not my time.
I have to be thankful for my ability to hike 5-12 miles without worry. There are many who would struggle to hike 1-2 miles and I am blessed with the physical ability to hike further. As I was at REI the other searching for a daypack I chatted with others in the department, including the staff, who were all astounded that I would hike 10 miles for a day hike. So, it’s all about perspective; while I may not be able to thru-hike this year (or the next) I AM able to hike. And, based on the reactions of others at REI my day hikes are their equivalent of thru-hikes.
All of this became apparent when a friend joined me for a day hike. I put a lot of thought into our day hike for location, distance, views and stamina. I planned us a 6-mile round-trip hike out to Wolf Rocks on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, with the possibility to extend further if we were up to it. The day before our hike it snowed and we decided to push through anyway. At the trailhead the snow was fresh and crisp, unmarred by tracks. As we hiked, me in my trail runners and gaiters, him in new boots, we found bunny and deer tracks crossing our white-blazed path, but no evidence of humans. It was a beautiful sight and easy hiking in the lightly snow covered ground. I gave the distance little thought, nor the snow on the ground, and it was only as we reached the wall of snow covered rocks did I begin to understand how different my idea of a hike might be than the one someone else might have planned. As we stood at the base of those rocks, that just required careful stepping, I was brought back to my first backpacking trip and the vertical rock scramble that I climbed, and I realized that I had just planned a trip of similar scale to a new hiker. Oh how my perspective has changed in 8 months!
We finished our 6 miles back at the car, slightly chilled, my feet a little damp and his feet sore. With that knowledge we decided to end our hike and I remember as we drove away slightly disappointed that we had “only” hiked 6 miles, but it was a wonderful trip. Fresh, crisp snow; good company; wintery views; and fun times climbing over snow covered rocks breaking ground. So maybe, just maybe, those “short” day hikes are just as important and interesting as those out on a thru-hike. For now this adventure seeker will have to be patient and enjoy the day hikes and shorter backpacking trips until my time for a thru-hike comes in 3 years.