Hiking doesn’t let you off easy

Last winter I began running again. I found a training app on my phone that promised to work me up to a 5K gradually and easy. But I had a problem – a major problem. My left foot was killing me. After a long day of work on my feet, after a long hike, or after a run, the arch of my foot was sore and tender. But I didn’t want to give up my running, so I ignored the pain and hoped some stretches would do the trick.

I knew I needed new shoes, but the shoes are expensive. So I made myself stick with my training for at least a month. Then I would let myself buy new shoes. Well, I stuck with it for four weeks so I ordered a pair of Brooks Bedlam because they were good for people with high arches, which I have attributed to my plantar fasciitis.

And of course, as soon as I dropped a good chunk of change on new running shoes, I quit running. Life gets in the way. I had a long weekend, and I got out of my routine. I had to work late a few days and didn’t have the energy to run. And once I got out of the rhythm and routine, it wasn’t as easy to keep up with it.

That’s one thing I love about hiking. Once you decided to hike a trail, you’re committed. There’s no calling an Uber to get you out of it and take you back home. You either have to turn around and hike back out the way you came in, or you have to stick with it and meet your goal.

But with that said, sometimes you just have to bail on a hike. And although I’ve never called an Uber to get me back to my car, I have hitched a ride along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. And much to my trail angel’s surprise, he only had to take me a quarter of a mile down the road. I think he thought I was a thru-hiker going to town for a big juicy burger. Whoops! I didn’t mean to mislead him, but I was beat!

On that particular trip, My Failed Presidential Traverse Trip, I questioned my ability to make it to the top of Mount Washington. And in my planning, I gave myself an exit strategy. Leave No Trace Principle 1 – Plan Ahead and Prepare – tells us to make sure we have a plan in the event that we want to quit when it becomes no longer safe.

I probably could have made it to the top of Mount Washington, but I was tired, exhausted, and I hadn’t even gotten to the steep part yet. (The White Mountains are no joke!) However, when I decided to bail, hiking didn’t let me off easily as running did. I still had two miles of rugged terrain and at least two miles back to my car via the road.

Another time I bailed on a hike was when I attempted to find a waterfall via a bushwhack. On that hike, I simply got frustrated with the constant swim through the trees, climbing over logs, and route finding.

When is it OK to bail on a hike, admit defeat, turn around and go home? Just because you are not feeling it one day, does not make you a looser.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do love to a challenge. And there have been many hikes where I have wanted to quit but pushed on. But this hike just took it out of me. And after I decided to bail, hiking didn’t let me take it easy. I still had to bushwhack four miles back to my car.

But on those hard hikes where I bailed and gave up, getting back to my comfy bed was still more rewarding than if I had just vegged all weekend with Netflix. And that is one reason, I’m so in love with hiking. You may not meet your goal, but you still accomplish something and earn your rest.

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