Article by Arnie P
Arnie’s thoughts on “grit” the mental aspects of hiking
Hiking is a very safe sport, despite the stories of injuries. What is not understood is the number of hikers who hike and return tired but in good condition. My purpose is to pass on some of my half century experience on the trail.
Getting the right equipment for the location and conditions of your hike is very important. Read the reviews and articles on www.4alloutdoors.org. Physical fitness is also important. My experience is the more you know the better you are prepared to deal with difficult times that sometimes happen on a hike. Most of my hiking experience has been in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Mount Washington has some of the worst weather in the world and there are quite a few mountains nearby that share most of that same unpredictable weather.
It is very important to keep an eye on the weather and to have a plan if it gets bad. Plans are formed before the hike begins. Plan when you are calm, before a problem exists. I try to avoid panic by having a plan and sticking to the plan as much as possible. The first thing to establish is the time I need to be at my car to return home. I establish the end time for the hike, to enable getting back at a reasonable time. For a trail that does not loop, I establish a turn around time by splitting the available hiking hours in half. I factor in a slightly larger amount of time for the return trip to allow for fatigue.
Know where you are going.
This is not much different than driving your car somewhere. You look at a map or follow directions someone has given you. A compass and a map are some of the most important tools to have with you. A GPS is good but sometimes conditions may make the signal too weak for reliable results and the batteries can fail. For a more details check out the following web page.
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One of the most common problems is getting off the trail or heading the wrong direction on a trail. Going the wrong direction is almost always solved with your compass. You want to be heading north and your compass says you are going south. Your first impulse is how could I be heading in the wrong direction. The quicker I learned to use my compass and trust it, the quicker I was back on track. The other problem is following an older trail, which eventually becomes impossible to follow. I turn around and try and follow the trail back to where I made the mistake.
The best-laid plans can be ruined by something very simple. Sometimes we are so sure of ourselves at the wrong time, like taking the wrong backpack with us and finding out that some essential gear is missing.
Grit and hiking
Since I have heard so much about this recently I had to include my thoughts on this. Educators use the term for students who over achieve the expectations of their teachers. Sometimes, it is the lower ranked athletes who win a tournament. In the 2014 college basketball championship tournament, the 7th and 8th ranked team were in the finals. Grit is like having a reserve gas tank in your car when you run out of fuel. There is a lot of research trying to figure out why people sometimes achieve more than they previously could .
When I get tired during hiking, I slow down rather than stop. This way I don’t exhaust myself completely. I can go a little further in the long run if I don’t overdo it early on during a hike. When I started practicing meditation I think I became stronger mentally and thus have more ability to keep going. I can speculate that I was born with an instinct that kept me safe when I wandered a mile and a half from home at age 2 with my dog. I continue these solo hikes but not as frequently or for as long since past age 70, about 5 years ago. I will continue doing what I have been able to do successfully.
Thanks for reading and be safe and enjoy all your hikes. This concludes this article. Please check back as I intend to add more articles in the upcoming months on adventures that had a good ending but were quite scary at the time.