Sixteen Things at Once
Hiking is sixteen things at once.
Breathing, heart rate, food and water consumption are our important standard internal metrics for our mobil observation unit, our bodies. until something else goes wrong.
Is a storm forming, is your stomach churning, is the river ford surging?
Is your ankle turning, is your skin burning, are your allergies emerging?
Are your knees creaking, are your fears tweaking, is your water leaking?
Are your blisters bleeding, is your food feeding, is your map misleading?
Can you feel your motor running down shivering under gear too thin as your pack attacks your back while mosquitoes stage a full frontal attack?
The fullness of time will bring all of these things, and more.
All of these circumstances will pop up at some point during our travels and occasionally become our persistant backpacking companions down the trail. We must be ready to deal with each way life can get hard on the trail in the ways it must be dealt with.
If we spend enough time on the trail everything will happen to us out there, far from support and safety. Bad feet, bad stomach, bad head. The problems of life don't take vacations when we do.
Hell may seem a long ways away while sitting in heaven, but our subjective state can shift in the blink of an eye in the High Sierra. You must be able to protect yourself. This protection requires thinking, not shooting. You can't shoot stupid... I've hiked with him too long... and I hike solo.
Have the ability to take a day off. Have bandages, proper food, sufficient clothing, protective shelter, bear protection, and most importantly have the proper expectations to properly define your needs for safe mountain travel.
Expectations which distinguish too much from too little gear, too long from too short of a trip, too much from too little food are good places to start.
Balancing, or more accurately juggling these internal and external factors hiking the long trails brings clarity unavailable elsewhere. Confronting the brutal equation of "daily miles = days/food over the pain of your wounds" is why backpacking is so good for kids.
What's important to each hiker becomes crystal clear on the trail. Make sure you have what you need to deal with the range of experiences mountain travel throws down.