Today I want to share one of my hiking fails with you. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of failures on the trail, but my most recent one – was absolutely 100% preventable.
So I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!
I let my hiker hanger get the better of me, and it even ended my hike early.
You know hiker hanger, right? Like hangry? Like really hungry – to the point you get so angry you want to hurt somebody?
Here’s what happened.
My husband and I decided to go for a day hike on our day off. Which was kind of a big deal because we work and live on second shift, and it’s surprisingly hard to fit in good hikes when you don’t usually wake up til noon!
But we were determined, we had talked about it long enough, and we designated a day to go hiking. Actual hiking, further than our short usual jaunt down the trail right next to our house.
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We decided to summit Ninemile – it’s about 2 miles round trip, but with a pretty steep climb.
But then we decided – why drive to go for a walk, when we could just walk to the trail head from our house?
This added on about 4 miles round trip, and even more elevation gain.
But we got this! About 6 miles, round trip, even with some steep climbs, that sounds like a good day hike!
Mistake #1: Not Enough Breaks
So we started walking… and walking, and walking, and walking. Almost charging on towards the trail head.
Now, I’m sure this works great for some people, but not for me. I need breaks. I like breaks. And I usually take a lot of them through out my hikes, both day hikes and while backpacking.
I like to stop to catch my breath, stop a little later to look at cool plants, or birds, stop again to take a water break, then stop and sit down to have a snack, you get the idea.
But none of that happened on this hike! I didn’t take any real breaks the entire way up to the summit. That was the beginning of my downfall. I don’t think I was drinking enough water on the way up, and I burnt up all my energy quickly, and early on, just walking walking walking with no rest.
Mistake #2: Keeping My Shoes On All Day
Finally, we made it to the summit. And it was beautiful! It really was a nice trail, perfect weather, and awesome view from the top.
I finally got my much needed break! I sat down, drank most of my water I brought with me and had a quick, snacky lunch.
But I didn’t take off my shoes and socks! This is something I usually do, as long as the weather is nice. I love taking off my hiking shoes and socks during my lunch break and letting everything air out for a little bit.
It makes my feet so much happier at the end of the day!
But we didn’t break very long and then started hiking back down.
Mistake #3: Lack Of Communication
At this point, my legs were feeling a little like Jell-o after the climb up. My feet were a little swollen just from hiking. It was super hot out. I was sweaty and smelly and slimy with sunscreen and I could not stop this vision from flowing into my head of me taking a cool shower and then laying down in a shady, breezy spot, relaxing for the rest of my day off…
But then, as we’re descending, my husband says he wants to take this other random, unmarked trail down, instead of the one we hiked up.
I was relatively sure this other trail would also end up close to where the first one began, so sure, let’s take this other trail.
Sure enough, farther down the mountain, this unmarked trail starts to loop back around towards the original trail we took up.
Great! That cool shower is getting closer with every step!
Then there is another trail intersection, one way going back the way we came, and one going the opposite way.
Well, my husband wanted to go the opposite way we came! On an unmarked trail, with no map, or any idea where we’re going.
No way. I was done. My body was done.
I lost it a little bit there for a second. I just wanted to go home. And take off my shoes. And shower. And rest. And hydrate and refuel my body.
He seemed confused why I was so upset and so insistent on going home – he thought we were on an adventure!
I thought we were going to hike Ninemile, and then turn around, not go on a mystery adventure for who knows how long or how far. And of course we only brought one house key, so splitting up wasn’t the best option.
But that’s what we did. He gave me the house key, and I angrily hiked home and he went off on his adventure.
Takeaways to take care of yourself on trail:
- Be clear with your hiking partner and/or yourself what your goals and expectations for your hike are. Where do you expect to hike to? On what trail? How long do you expect to be out? Are you hiking for exercise or to enjoy each other’s company or practice photography? Etc.
- Listen to your body and break when you need to, drink water when you want to, eat when you want to. Make sure you actually eat enough to fight off hiker hanger! Don’t plan your breaks according to someone else’s schedule.
- Take off your shoes and socks at some point during the day. Let your feet and socks dry out over lunch! This is what works best for me in preventing blisters and keeping my feet happy on the trail.
- Know your limits! Know when to call it a day and turn around, or set up camp if you’re backpacking.
- Know that not every hike is going to be a glamorous, picturesque, mind, body and soul soothing experience. Sometimes – you might have a bad hike. (Hate to break it to you!)
I really think I would have been happy to adventure further that day if I would have stayed better hydrated through out the hike, and eaten more both through out the hike and at lunch. But my body was not having any of it!
Hopefully you learned something from my mistakes.
If nothing else, know prevention is the key to most hiker ailments – preventing blisters is much easier than treating them, preventing dehydration is much easier than trying to play catch up once you’re dehydrated, and preventing hiker hanger is much easier than recovering from it!
I’d love to hear about one of your hiking fails in the comments below! Don’t worry, no judgment, we all make mistakes.
For more hiking and backpacking tips, check out:
- How much first aid training do hikers need?
- Campsite safety tips for backpackers
- 10 Skills every backpacker needs
- Why you always need to hang a bear bag + how to do it!
PS – Do you have everything you need for your next backpacking trip?
Download my free backpacking gear checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.