Hiking Alone — The Mental Game

The mental game is huge when you’re in the woods. Alone, the ante is upped considerably. You’re more alert. More cautious. More in tune with what’s going on around you and inside of you.

These are all good things, but there’s a downside: There’s no one to commiserate with about aches and pains, no one to consult the map with, or share a difficult passage, or speculate about the weather. No one to laugh or joke or share the beauty and joy with.

It’s the first rule of the woods — never go alone. But people do it, and there’s even beauty in it.

“Hiking solo can be more rewarding,” said Elizabeth Thomas, a Trail Information Specialist with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition in Golden, CO. “You get to make your own decisions. You can go where you want when you want. Eat what you want. Get up when you want. Make camp when you want. And you’re far better off hiking alone than hiking with someone you’re incompatible with.”

Thomas holds the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail — 2,186 miles in 80.5 days. She has walked over 13,000 miles on the long trails, many of them alone. “I never cease to be amazed how empowering hiking is,” she said. “How exhilarating it is to do the seemingly impossible on nothing but my own two feet.”

But even if you’re healthy and strong, walking long trails is still a head game.

Here are Elizabeth Thomas’ keys to a good mental game in long distance hiking…


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