It’s one of the things you’ll hear most if you spend time at shelters and chatting with the hiker trash community,
“Hike your own hike, man.”
Hiker trash is a term of endearment, don’t get me wrong. I remember feeling intensely proud when I felt I’d dipped into the realms of hiker trash. It’s a liberating new standard of living which allows you to forget the normal strains of life, like being clean and worrying about trash day.
So it’s funny, I heard it tons when I finally braved up to solo the Long Trail back in 2020. I was plump, 49 and slow as molasses in January. Hah.
A 10 mile day was crushing it, 8 miles was comfortable. 4 was kinda fun and probably meant I’d chatted to tons of people coming and going. I am so darn sociable, I can’t let go of those precious moments when you arrive at a view independently and share lunch and stories. Hike your own hike, girl, you’re doing it.
So for me, that was slowly making my way up the spine of Vermont, aiming for shelters I could get to by mid afternoon so I’d have a chance to rinse out my kula and hang it in the sun, switch out of my sweaty shorts into my camp dress, get firewood and water and nail a berth for myself before the masses arrived.
It meant late starts as I chatted to whoever would chat. I’d make another coffee, share another story, meet someone who was already 5 miles in and stopping for breakfast. And then I’d make my way onwards.
I’d stop and marvel and the brooks and the way the leaves would dance on the cool clear water.
I’d giggle as the blazes ahead would line up into a vanishing point ahead of me or the trail went up, yet again. Pro tip, it always goes up, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
It meant that if I was lonely and hadn’t seen anyone for hours, I merely had to step off the trail and pee. By the time I was standing, someone was coming around the corner.
One day I met a woman racing her way through her thru-hike. She didn’t have time to stop and chat, she said. She needed to keep moving and get miles under her feet, she said. I smiled and said, I was hiking the opposite of that and happy to take in the views as I went. I wished her success and happiness as she hustled on. She looked back and said, I’ll never get that, but y’know, hike your hike.
That comment festered with me, it was pretty passive aggressive and I had to keep soothing myself while I sat in solitude. I was hiking my own hike dammit. What did she know, hustling on and missing the mushrooms and bird calls and changes in biodiversity.
I carried on, I hiked my hike, I took my time, and I started to really appreciate my solitude, and my body and where it was taking me. I appreciated its strength and fortitude. I appreciated my mental health and my ability to chat things out with the wind and the woods and reach neutral again.
I bumped into SpeedyMcSpeedFace some 50 miles later. We arrived at a gnarly root together and offered each other the right of way. Recognition set in immediately and she stopped mid stride.
Thank you, she said. I replayed what I had said to you again and again, she admitted. It was judgy and I didn’t like that I’d said it, but as I thought of you I thought about slowing down a bit and enjoying this journey a little more. And I have, so thank you for teaching me how to hike my own hike!
So there you go. You do you. If it’s crushing miles, crush on. If it’s getting to the end without losing your shit, do what you need to and make that journey the hike you wanted to hike. I guess she was hiking someone else’s until she took a moment to pay attention.