Internal Thoughts: Create an Encouraging Hiking Environment
One of the coolest things about thru hiking in my experience has been the people you find yourself surrounded with. Some of the most inspiring, energetic, goal driven, lazy yet driven people I know are thru hikers. And I love them. These are my people. Not only have I been over high mountain passes and deep valleys, I've argued and laughed by butt off with them. Good and bad. Scary and serene. It is all there.
Here are a few things that have been rolling around in my head the last few days about my trial family and why we are still great friends.
1. Do the thing no one wants to do.
Every time I look at something that no one wants to do I think of a story that Brendan Leonard shared about a 28 day Grand Canyon rafting trip. In that story he tells of his decision to volunteer for the least desirable job on the trip: groover duty (dealing the with poop). No matter how useless he was at being on the water people would like him, because he made it possible for them to go the entire trip without dealing with the groover.
I think it is equally important to provide this type of environment in the back country. It isn't always dealing with poop but maybe it includes filtering everyones water that is 1/4 mile off trail or waking early to make coffee. I've even seen people walking back a mile on trail to pick up someones forgotten trekking poles. If you are observant there is always a place to serve one another. It may not be fun but you will be appreciated and invited back by others.
2. Say you are sorry.
The wilderness tends to bring out all aspects of your personality whether good or bad. One aspect about hiking with a group of people is that as times conflict comes up and we show our true colors. For me, this means I have to apologize way more than I enjoy. 😩If we simply say we are sorry this can spur on deeper, more meaningful conversations after a good ol' heart to heart.
3. Jump in that cold a** lake.
Nothing bonds people together more than stripping everything down and jumping in that ice cold lake and screaming your head off. The mental fight alone can be overwhelming staring at the icebergs in the water. However, it does magic for a group who need a refreshing pick me up. Plus it calms the smells a bit before you get into town. (Ok, who am I joking. It doesn't Haha.)
4. Surprise calories.
Nothing is better than sneaking a few extra calories out onto the trail at no one expense. The first time I was on the AT I brought out a big container of Jelly Bellies to pour into peoples hands for anyone that wanted free calories. I honestly saw tears well up in a few peoples eyes because they wanted something different than what they've been eating. It is just a few extra ounces to bring out a communal surprise like candy, carmel popcorn, beer (if thats what your into). Next time you go out find out what people like to eat and bring something out.
5. Provide the gear and the planning.
One of my favorite things is introducing my friends into the backpacking and climbing worlds. Aside from planning outdoor adventures for people I've been able to provide clutch items that hopefully provide a bit more comfortable experience. Sleeping pads, backpacks, hammocks, and stoves are a great way to introduce people into the outdoors. Gently, of course.
Next time you are out and about adventuring where you do. Remember to create moments that inspire others to go further. What do you do to foster an encouraging environment?