Positivity in Hiking

A few months ago, while winter was in full force in the prairies, my boyfriend and I stayed indoors and binge watched the Worlds Toughest Race on Amazon Prime. It follows an Eco-Challenge in Fiji where teams of 4 must race a 671 kilometer over multiple days and many different practices such as trekking, biking, swimming, paddle boarding, and more. We were blown away at the speed and dedication of the teams, and their ability to put the challenge above their own personal comfort. It was incredible to see people putting themselves through such extremes, and all with a smile on their face.

While I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like physically and mentally to take part in something like the Eco-Challenge. The show made me think of times out adventuring or hiking when things didn’t necessarily go our way, or maybe just feeling uncomfortable out of our element, and we needed a little encouragement to continue on.

Lindsay tackling a ladder on the West Coast Trail

I have found that it’s easy to get in a negative head space on multi-day trips, and very difficult to get out of it. My mood usually takes the biggest turn when I can’t keep up with proper foot care. I know that I have sensitive feet, so I try to tape them and prevent injury, but sometimes it just can not be avoided. I remember trudging through streams with soaking wet boots after days in the rain, just knowing that with every step my feet were getting more damaged in the boots I couldn’t dry off. I wanted so badly to enjoy where I was, but I kept getting caught up in frustration with my boots and the weather. In that case, I was so lucky to having overwhelmingly positive hiking buddies to keep my spirits up and have some laughs with.

I really like REI’s Fun Scale and the idea of ‘Type 2 Fun’ as a descriptor for adventures. Even though some thing might be difficult in the moment, I always find myself planning the next trip.

There are a few things that I try to keep in mind or plan ahead in order to end more hikes with positive experiences.

Identify the things that may be negatively impacting your mindset and brainstorm solutions.

What is that thing that has an immediate impact on your mood? I have already mentioned that my attitude usually takes a turn when my foot care isn’t at its best, but factors such as poor weather, not enough food, or not keeping on schedule, can all impact people differently on the trail. If you identify what bothers you, you may be able to mitigate it in the future.

Scratched up legs after a day of bushwhacking

It may even help to prepare yourself mentally for ‘worst case’ conditions, and by building those expectations beforehand you are better able to manage those obstacles. If I expect to be trudging through mud all day and then find that the terrain isn’t quite as squishy as I predicted, it is a happy bonus to my adventure.

Obstacles on trail

Surround yourself with positive people.

Sometimes the people you surround yourself with can make or break your experience. It’s a great idea to chat with your hiking companions beforehand so you understand their limitations and expectations. You can go through a trip plan together, and talk about the different pieces of gear you are carrying.

My sister is an extremely positive hiking companion, and an overall delight to be around. Her group mood booster is asking, ‘what was the best part of your day?’ I love this question because it makes you step out of your clouded headspace and reflect on the amazing things around you.

Chantal & sand dunes

Lindsay, my go to adventure buddy, is the best at being prepared. Her mantra is that there is no such thing as bad weather, and sometimes I need to grit my teeth when I say it, but she isn’t wrong. We will stick to our plan so long as it is safe to do so and we are dressed accordingly. I have found myself really enjoying hikes in rain and snow.

Urban Hiking with Lindsay

While everyone has their moments, it is wonderful to be a part of a team and to work through trying situations together.

Hike your own hike.

If you take a look at any hiking page or group, you are likely to see plenty of hiking ‘rules’. Some people prefer to hike ultralight, some without technology, some alone, and others with groups. While there is plenty of good advice and support to be found, don’t get caught up in worrying about things that are purely someone’s individual preference.

Don’t stress about hiking ultralight if you know that you like to carry a few more luxury/comfort items, or if you prefer to hike at a more relaxed pace, or if you like to stop and take plenty of photos. At the end of the day it is your own experience and you should enjoy it, safely of course.

Chantal and Megan on the GDT

How do you keep going when you are feeling drained out on the trail? What words do you keep in your mind to continue on and finish the adventure?

Happy hiking!

Don’t forget the propane (or do, if you want to make friends).

In May 2018 my sister, a friend, and I set out on our first overnight to Grey Owls Cabin in Prince Albert National Park . I packed my bag in a hurry, eager to see the trail and less enthused about the idea of packing up all of my gear. The trail was beautiful and we decided to trek all of the way in to the cabin on the first day, making our day a 23 kilometre foot-blistering adventure. As the sun began to set and we returned to camp, we could not wait to settle down with a hot meal. My sister unpacked her camp stove and asked me to grab the propane.

“Sure.” I said, “Where is it?”

She looked up from her stove with apprehension , “In your bag…because you packed it.”

I did not pack it.

After going through my bag twice to confirm that it hadn’t somehow magically appeared, we pondered our options. Earlier in the week we had picked up some pre-made hiker meals to try and they all required boiling water. We couldn’t start a camp fire because of the dry conditions and we were already surrounded by the haze of a forest fire that was burning across the park near the Narrows campground. We could add filtered water and set the meals aside for a while in hopes that a cold soak would rehydrate them, but nothing about cold noodles sounded appealing to us.

Much to my chagrin, the best option was to swallow my pride and ask some other campers for help. Fortunately as we were setting up our camp, other hikers were filtering in to do the same thing. The first group that I approached had boated in to spend the night and they joked that they had to decide between packing beer or a stove and they chose the beer. The next campsite was occupied by two women who we had seen on the trail that day. When we passed them earlier they were miserable, exhausted and with feet covered in blisters. I passed by their quiet tent as they must have decided to go straight to bed.

Lastly, I meekly approached a couple that already had water boiling on their stove and explained myself. I joked that they might be able to help save the relationship between my ‘hangry’ hiking companions and I. With a smile, they kindly offered me the rest of their nearly empty propane canister. I thanked them profusely and made my way back to camp, getting thumbs ups along the way from the first site for my successful mission.

We quickly boiled the water with just enough propane left and poured it in to our pre-made dehydrated meals. At last we had hot meals on our picnic table and it was finally time to eat.

We took our first big bites… and they were awful. We each ended up eating about 1/3rd of our packets until we couldn’t stomach them anymore.

I learned two things that weekend.

  1. Hikers are usually willing (and happy) to help each other out, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  2. Don’t buy those fancy looking dehydrated backpacking meals from the outdoor stores (‘mac and cheese’, my ass)