Ask a Thru-Hiker: How Should I Deal With Boredom on the Trail?
Yes, hiking is wonderful and nature is grand. But when you’re walking for months at a time, you will eventually get bored. Our thru-hiker explains how to deal with trail fatigue.
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This is Ask a Thru-Hiker, where record-setting long-distance hiker Liz “Snorkel” Thomas answers your questions about life on the trail.
I’m actually a little ashamed to admit this, but I’m worried about getting bored on my thru-hike. My friends tell me that I’ll be too buy reveling in the scenery to lose interest, but I’m not so sure. How do you deal with trail fatigue?
—Bored to Death
Don’t be ashamed: Trail boredom is more common than you think. After all, in the “real world,” most of us are used to having constant stimulation from our TVs, phones, and computers. While getting away from civilization is a great digital detox, the silence of a thru-hike can be overwhelming for some. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained on a long walk:
Find a hiking buddy.
There are many reasons not to hike with the same partner for extended periods, but getting to know a new person for a few hours can be fun. The trail breaks down many of the barriers that prevent us from talking with strangers in “real life,” and it’s possible you could form lifelong friendships with people you meet along the way. Even if you just chat for a few hours, what you’ve learned from that person will give you plenty to think about.
Read a book or listen to a podcast.
Learning new things and hearing from new people can expand your mind and keep your thinking sharp. Just make sure you listen with headphones, not a speaker: Leave No Trace’s principles state that you should try to minimize your impact on other users’ experiences. Your music or podcast will not only annoy other hikers, but can bother wildlife, too. Consider listening with only one earbud: When that snake rattles or that bear comes through the bushes, that’s something you’ll want to hear.
Check your map.
Maps aren’t just for emergencies. Even on well-marked trails, it can be fun to consult a map to figure out the names of nearby mountains and dream up other backpacking routes for when you return to an area. On a thru-hike, you often just get a taste of what a national park or famous hiking area is like. It’s fun to daydream about settling in and exploring.
Journal or blog about your hike.
Documenting your trip, whether for yourself or to share with others, is a way to memorialize your trip for years ahead. On trail, you can craft how you will tell a certain funny story that happened on trail that day, or think about how to get that perfect photo. If you want to get really creative, pick up a set of colored pencils or watercolors and plain index cards and start sending handmade postcards to your friends.
Take a break.
If you’re really getting bored of the trail, take a few days off. Chances are that after some time spent watching TV in a grungy motel, the trail will look pretty fun again. Alternatively, plan your thru-hike so you meet loved ones along the way, or take planned side-trips to big cities or famous destinations. There’s a train stop on the Appalachian Trail that goes to New York City, and many PCT hikers take a day off by hiking into Yosemite Valley. It’s your thru-hike so make it your own by exploring the sights along the way.