Another hot topic for you! The ongoing debate on Miles Vs. Pleasure. How one can affect the other and vice versa. We just recently recorded an interview with a podcast (soon to be released) and they asked us a question that really got us thinking. Their question was, "Well do you truly see anything when going that fast, and does it not just become Point A to Point B?" We absolutely loved this question! Not only, were we able to define it for people outside of the hiking community, but we also were able to define it for ourselves through the process. What we came to realize is many people that use the outdoors for recreational purposes, that do not thru-hike, are quite puzzled on how it can still be enjoyable. We found that there was a stigma that if you do more miles there will be less pleasure, and if you have more pleasure out in the wild that will transition to less miles. We want to define this debate, as not one of vice versa, but one where they can build into each other, instead of take away.
Fast, Slow, More Miles, Less Miles, Each day is what you make it!
Before we dive into this, we want to clarify that this is a viewpoint from us. If you find more pleasure in less miles and being fully in a day of 4 miles to camp, and then being at that campsite for multiple days, that is great! We are not trying to take away from that at all, we enjoy that type of hiking as well (when not on a thru-hike) we just want to try and clarify how there can be enjoyment when moving quickly through the landscape.
So, beginning to define this question had us go back to when we first stepped foot on a thru-hike. Back in 2016 on the Appalachian Trail. Our mentality was completely the same. We believed the last one to Katahdin one. What this meant to us was that we had been out there the longest, and had enjoyed the trail to the maximum capacity of enjoyment! We had not tried to run it out, but instead take each day for what it was, confident in knowing we were continuing north, but not "needing" a set amount of miles. We loved this type of hiking and still look back on our Appalachian Trail thru hike fondly, yet we have grown to not be "better" but instead a "different" type of hiker. If we had been asked the same question back in 2016, of whether or not you can still enjoy trail by running it out, we absolutely would have said "No Way!". We remember many times we would run into people on trail that were doing consistent mid 30 mile days on the AT, and be completely baffled at what they were getting out of this experience. We had asked ourselves the same question, "Are they really seeing anything?"
If you touched this sign to fast, did you really "see" anything????
As the years progressed our mind began to grow with our bodies on trail. We won't go into the minutia of each step on trail (if you want a more in depth story of that part listen to the podcast, we will link it here when it is released and on our Interview Page) but suffice it to say we found our pace increasing. Our bodies from day after day and month after month and even year after year had grown to increase to a pace, that we no longer reached for but came naturally. So, while our bodies were growing accustomed to high mile days and trail, without any mental thought around this aspect our minds had been growing as well. Looking back now, each trail was meant to be exactly as it was. The pace just increased each year because we had been doing this for so long. By the time 2019 hiking season rolled around we were consistently doing 30, 35s, and even a month straight of 40 mile days. Not because we had to, but purely because that is where our body brought us each day. From moving consistently, it would be tougher on us to do 20 mile days instead of 30s. We would have to physically stop ourselves. So, the body was at the point of comfort, where was the mind?
As the body transformed the mind did as well. As our pace got quicker, since it wasn't instantaneous, our mind grew with it. It was multiple months of gradual growth each year, so small in the day that it was not even perceivable. Yet, even without knowing the transition was happening, it was day after day. Our mind began to find comfort and happiness in pushing harder mile days. There was an excitement in seeing the world by foot, and seeing so much of it in a day. Our eyes began to become very perceptible to even the smallest change in the environment while hiking. Multiple times we would catch ourselves as we saw a beetle across our path, we would notice the break in a branch from a large animal passing through, and we would feel eyes on us as we passed through a mountain lion's domain. So, instead of "quickly" moving through the wilderness and seeing nothing, we had reached a point that we were seeing and feeling so much more.
What we even would sometimes overlook moving "slower" we would now see moving "faster"
That is what we believe is the difference in this argument. Simply put, time. Time in the wilderness, time on trail, and time being one with nature. There is no replication of just being outside and on a trail, day after day after day for months. It is the small things that you do not even notice in the beginning, that start to form a bigger picture the longer you are out there. So, if we had run through the AT back in 2016, honestly we would not have enjoyed it for what it was. We would have seen much but also seen very little. Yet, as more and more time outside on trail got underneath our feet, we can move quickly and see much and feel more.
Granted many people find the enjoyment in the physical sensation of pushing their bodies out on trail. We also have found enjoyment in this. Yet, to answer the question of, "Do you actually see anything?" this would be a different story. We know many quick hikers that experience so much, when running out a trail, and look only for the physical aspect. That is great! Yet, that is a different perspective. One could even argue that it is a completely different category unto itself. You are still in the wilderness, you are still on trail, but are you looking back on that experience and remembering, that river's name you took a break by? Are you remembering that one campsite that stopped you at 11 A.M. only 10 miles in for the day, that was just to beautiful to pass up? Are you feeling the animals, and hearing their sounds around you? Yes and no. You will remember key feelings throughout each day, but you will be seeing and feeling more through the eyes of physical endurance then through the eyes of being one with the land that you pass through.
Not just lines on a map, but instead small details that create the bigger picture. We did not include a screenshot of the universal map every knows... way to controversial....
Honestly, this is a tough question to answer. As you could see with the last paragraph, we defined a completely different experience. The fact that each person experiences the trail and the wilderness in their own way leads to different perspectives. Yet, the universal perspective is that you are out on trail, you are seeing where you are moving through, and the only change is the degree to what you are seeing and feeling. You may find that you believe you have felt everything that was needed to be felt, by running out 50 mile days. Then someone may also believe they felt more by doing a 4 mile day, and camping in one spot for consecutive days afterwards. Neither is wrong, neither is right, they are only expressing what is their experience and what they felt.
Without the time put in to grow in our unique way as a hiker, we would not have been able to answer this question. Without mile after mile and day after day on trail, we would not have known that it would be possible to see more by going faster. If we had stopped hiking after the AT, our answer would have remained the same, of " You only see when moving slowly." We still believe that motto to a degree. We believe some parts and some areas of trail demand a slower pace to fully encompass the feeling of what you are moving through, and we believe you can still find that feeling moving quicker through others. It is not defined by a view or an especially beautiful area, but more so defined as what you are feeling that instance. We have taken slow road walks and found extreme beauty in that, and then we have ran through epically beautiful mountain peaks and found beauty there as well. It was where our mind was, and the feeling of fulfillment in that instance.
A picture of us on our Natchez Trace Thru-Hike
To sum up, there is many ways to "see" the wilderness that you are passing through. There is not one right way to do it. Running, walking, hiking. Slower or faster. More miles each day or less miles. All are the right way, if it gives you the sensation of fulfillment, the sensation of pleasure. You "see" what you are meant to see on each hike each day. You can never see it "all". But, you can see all of it from your perspective each day.
So, yes as we continue to hike more trails and see more, we find ourselves moving quicker through the wilderness. Has this lead us to seeing less? We do not believe so, we believe that we have been able to feel and see more in each day, because our minds grew to the point that we could experience the day for what it was. We can look back on a day and remember the name of the river we passed, we can look back on a day and remember the salamander crawling slowly up the tree, we can remember the squirrels chirping to us as we passed, and we can remember so many "quick" moments that moved so slowly and crisply. It is how we hike, and how we see. There are thousands upon thousands of ways to hike and see, so no matter what your preference is, or no matter the miles, as long as you find happiness in the day, you are seeing everything.
With legs itching for some miles,