The Thruhiking Papers

Fears and Expectations

We look at a thruhike as a learning/growing experience. So this is closer to the ‘head trip’ that we normally write about. Ginny wrote this about a month before we started our first CDT thruhike. Some of you might want to consider the questions that it raises - particularly since so much of what she wrote became a part of our trail reality during both of our CDT thruhikes.

Fears and Expectations

What do you expect out of your thruhike? What do you hope? What do you fear? No matter how much research you do ahead of time, reality is always different from expectations.

For fun - consider what your expectations are for the trail. Best hopes - worst fears. These were some of mine:

  • Growth - learning - serenity
  • Ability to go back to being happy with myself - with Life.
  • Lose some of the cynicism.
  • Growing closer to Jim - fear of getting too close too. Will I bore him? Irritate him? It's a lot of togetherness.
  • Total immersion in nature - time to sit on a mountain peak and stare across the ridges, across the plains, time to watch the sky, the clouds, the stars.
  • Happiness.
  • Fear that the push for miles will not allow enough play time.
  • New experiences with animals - grizzlies, elk, moose, etc. That always gives me joy.
  • Moments of joy - moments of peace.
  • Closeness to God - time to pray.
  • I don't really expect much in the way of contact with people.
  • Possible conflict with locals - some trail magic maybe, mostly indifference I think.
  • The lack of other hikers will be different. Good in many ways, but there won't be the kind of comradery we knew on the AT.
  • Fear of not being physically and emotionally strong enough. Can I do long miles, day after day, without breaking down? What if it gets to be sheer drudgery?
  • Fear that Jim is not strong enough.
  • Will one of us get injured? What if we get sick? If one is injured, what then? Separation? Could we? Would we? Could I watch him go on without me? Could I hike alone without him? Could I abandon the hike after waiting so long?
  • Hope of getting strong again - getting my body back. Dancing across the rocks. (Also crawling across the talus fields.)
  • I know we'll get tired of our food - and at the same time, we'll always be hungry.
  • Weather - I hate cold and wet, but we're likely to run into a lot of that.
  • We'll learn to read maps better, read the land, learn to flow with the land.
  • Hopefully we'll get back our ability to know what matters, and what really isn't important.
  • Flexibility - most important gift of the trail.
  • Self reliance - we can do it.
  • Growth as outdoors people and as individuals. Going to trail graduate school.
  • Life reduced to the basics - this moment, this day, this mountain. One minute at a time.
  • Fear - getting caught in a thunderstorm, a blizzard, face to face with a grizzly or a mountain lion.

After trail fears

  • Where will we go?
  • How will we live?
  • Can we go back to "normal" life?

What we have been told about the CDT

Those who have hiked it don't seem to have the same kind of love for the trail that AT hikers have - except Jim Wolf. Is that just because it is so hard? The trail is a trial.

I romanticize thruhiking, nature, the mountains, etc. It is one aspect of life, it isn't life itself. Or is it?

I want to be able to say, "I walked here all the way from Canada." Even more, I want to go back to our friends and say, "We did it." Not ego – but pride.

We could lose our lives over this. Is it worth it? It is only six months. But what a six months.

Created: 30 June 2004
Revised: 30 Sept 2016
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