Epic trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail that dissect whole sections of the country require planning, endurance and time to hike. Trail hikes lasting a week and covering a hundred or more miles are often life changing outdoor adventures. Whether your goal is to burn up miles and leave mountains in your dust, or to explore and poke around in a world without cell phones or even houses, long distance hiking provides the opportunity to really get immersed in nature and improve your health with many side benefits.
When planning a long distance hike there is quite a bit to determine. What hike do you want to do? What is your goal or goals? How will you pack and what will you take? Is there an escape route along the way in case of bad weather or injury? Can you leave caches of food or supplies along the route or will it all be on your back? Although they are simple questions, the map work and decision making should be well thought out.
Packing and starting out are actually not that tough. Most long distance hikers have a base of equipment to start from. Trail tested and worn in gear lessens the chance of gear failure and boot problems. On any long distance hike you can expect some standard adversities. Mountain weather can change quickly, so good quality outdoor gear, tent, clothes and boots can make the difference between relative comfort and pure rain soaked misery.
Plans are all well and good, but good long distance hikers also know when to slow down or speed up the plan. Three days into a long hike you may develop blisters. If you push ahead you may destroy your hike. Taking an easy day could save the whole experience. The same goes for rough weather, is it time to hole up for the night or push over the next ridge? Being flexible once you are on the trail ensures a better trip than pushing the plan regardless of unforeseen conditions.
The rest is up to you. Don’t get so caught up in the goal that you miss the journey. Hiking long distances is ALL about the journey and really not about the destination at all. After the trip you will end up at the car or back at home. All that matters is how much of the wilderness you soaked up and experienced. Where you swam in the afternoon and the sunrise over the broken ridge top – these are the things that matter. Long distance hiking isn’t for everyone, but with a little planning, a little improvisation and a great attitude it might be just the ticket for you.