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What I Learned Getting Through A Painful Hike

An uncomfortable hike from blisters to bliss, find out what pushing through can make you realize.

By: Tanner Thompson + Save to a List

So last week was my first hike of the year. I know, late start right. Turns out it was actually too soon, in terms of conditioning, I was not prepared for this hike. Dusting off the hiking boots after a long winter and throwing them in the truck with barely enough time to pack a Lara Bar or two was probably cause for concern right there, yet I trekked on. With the lack of preparation, conditioning, and energy I learned some lessons on one of the more uncomfortable hikes I've put myself through.

1. You find out what you're made of.

When you are at the mid-point or summit as I was, utterly sore and exhausted I realized I still had to go back down. You really push yourself if you've pushed to the summit and your not even half way when you decide to push to the top. Push. Push. I didn't say it enough there. You really feel like a warrior when you've surpassed what you thought were your physical abilities, and not to quote a quote but "pain is temporary, glory lasts forever". You really find out what you have in you when joints are aching and all you wish you had were hiking poles.

2. Pain and fatigue are dangerous on the trail.

Touching on the last point, if your tired, hungry, sore, or maybe you're focused on that crow in the distance or if you can see your car in the parking lot; when you are fatigued or sore, it's downright scary. I've never got myself into a position where I felt like I wasn't in control but during the last steep descent on the trail, I didn't know if my knees would give out while dealing with the pain in my feet from serious blisters and it is not a fun time. If this was more of a challenging hike (funny thing was it wasn't anything really intense) there could have been serious consequences and made me realize to not take a trip to the mountains lightly. If you're going take something out of this make sure to respect the mountains.

3. You reap sweeter rewards.

After it's all said and done dipping my feet in a creek at the bottom of the trail felt like a million bucks. I mean I could've got stung by a bee and it would've felt better than taking another step downhill but never the less that reward at the end whatever it may be for you, times that by 10 when you're just trying to complete a painful hike. Now every end to a hike is sweet but it does make sense that a tougher or challenging hike has a sweeter cherry on top.

4. Take time to recover after.

Not only did the trail beat me down but also the chiropractor afterward. If you've gone further than your physical limits take the time to mend your ailments. I spent over a week after icing my knees and popping blisters that seemed to never go away. Take your time getting back out there it's not worth it to push yourself back to early ( I said push again).

5. There is no shame in taking the slow, easy way down.

Obviously, there is no judging on the trails (except for the guy who beaked us for not taking the technical scramble down) but when you're struggling you should go a way that plays to your abilities. If there's a gondola, take it. If not find an alternate route that is more suiting to how your feeling even if it adds a couple hours to the round trip. People should be nice and tell you the easiest way down, and maybe if your lucky the old guy whose got bionic knees will offer to take your pack for you (as well as a bit of your pride).

6. This can all be avoided with preparation.

Now if you've made it this far you may be thinking "wow this guy wasn't prepared at all" and your right. I wasn't prepared, I had a preconceived idea of my abilities (which were off) and I went out with a lack of food, supplies, and essentially hiking poles. The first onset of blisters could've been avoided or at the very least mitigated. The food would've helped with fatigue and energy, and adding some electrolytes to my water wouldn't have been a bad idea either. The best thing would've been to take the first hike of the year a bit easier on a shorter trail. Since that didn't happen, maybe taking more time to heal and take some pain pills on the trails would've spared me a longer recovery period, but If my friends were ready to go so was I. Maybe in the future, slowing down to stop to change socks, tape your ankle or knee or just to take a pill or two (maybe a nap) would save a lot of discomfort I had that day but needless to say days like that will hopefully never happen again.

Now, I don't want people to run into the same problem and hopefully, they don't take this lightly because people still need to be prepared when heading out to the mountains (practice what I preach eh?...). If you've ever experienced the same problems with soreness or pain it may not be you, but your equipment or technique , and that shouldn't deter someone from getting outside. Make sure to know your body and limits, make sure to listen to your body, and get educated before your go out because "He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary."

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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