Hiking off “The List:” Life After Finishing the New England 67
I met my goal, now what?
It has been almost a month since I summited my final peak on the New England 67 list. Since finishing, I’ve been on two hikes, both completely unmotivated by any of my “goals” for 2018. It’s a strange feeling, hiking off the list, and I find myself waxing nostalgic for the days of working toward an end point. I feel disjointed and disorganized, like I’m hovering in some anti-gravity vortex, with nothing to pull me toward an ultimate goal. This unlimited freedom to hike whatever I want to hike is foreign to me, and rather than enjoying it, I feel lost.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a very list-oriented person, but coming off of one is difficult for me. Sure, there are other lists I could be working on, The 100 Highest, The GRID, Redlining, etc., but I’m even at a point on those lists where the completion dates are so far in the future they feel intangible. Now that I’m no longer working toward anything I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity. I used to be, “Socked In working on the 67,” but now I’m just, “Socked In, in hiker-list limbo.” I raced so fast toward the completion of the 48 and the 67 it makes me wonder if I would’ve been happier going at a slower pace to the finish line.
The Need to Achieve
In the hiking community, both on a smaller level (day hikes) and a larger one (thru-hikes), it seems like a lot of people are racing toward the finish line. It’s no longer good enough to just finish a list or a thru-hike; you have to do it in fewer months, crush bigger miles, and keep your eyes fixed on the ending. The ultimate goal is no longer to enjoy the wilderness slowly, to soak it all in, the goal is to carve another notch in your hiker belt, faster than the “other guy.” I’ve read articles and posts where people argue the point that you can see more of the beauty by hiking faster and I do agree with that, but what are we giving up in the ever-growing pursuit to see more, do more, be faster, finish sooner?
As a day hiker, I have only a set amount of time to finish a hike. There are many times when I don’t have the luxury of time to stop at a spring and just take it all in, and I find myself using that excuse, that I don’t have enough time, as a way to justify my desire to go faster. Fast equals strong in the hiking community, and the more miles you can crush in a day, the more revered you become. It’s no longer about what the woods have to teach you, it’s about double-digit miles and going as light as possible. I’m guilty of that mentality and although I can justify my need for speed because I’m only given so many hours in a day,
I’m becoming more and more driven by the clock and the GPS than by the desire to spend time in the woods.
No Promises to Slow Down
I would love to say that I’m going to change, that I’m going to slow down and take it all in when I’m hiking, but that would be a lie. I can’t change my pace because I don’t want to change. I like going faster and pushing for bigger miles because it makes me feel good when I achieve that goal. Rather than trying to slow down, I’d rather promise myself that I’m going to spend more time in the woods, do more overnights, and ultimately complete an attempted thru-hike of the Long Trail. It’s unrealistic for me to say that I’m going to change my ways and I would be lying if I said I wanted to. Yes, it’s important to reflect on why I’m out in the woods, to remind myself why I hike, but those reasons only make me want to spend more time doing what I love on more days, because days are all I have right now.
So now that I’m hovering here in hiker-list limbo I have to find new goals to work toward. I’m a list-oriented person, and in my 30+ years on the planet, I’ve always been someone who needs, and likes, that drive toward completion. It may be un-poetic and anti-Muir of me to say that I’m not going to hike all the time now “just for fun,” but it’s the truth. For me, the list is what made hiking fun in the first place because it was completion of that list that pushed me to get outside alone, and afraid, for almost three years. It was the lists that drove me to keep going to the woods, regardless of how scared I may have felt many times on many hikes.
Now, I don’t need those lists to drive me to push past the fear, because I’m not afraid anymore, I need them to keep me moving forward toward bigger goals and greater challenges, deeper into the woods than I’ve ever gone before…
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.