Trail Personality

by Phil Heffington

I concur wholeheartedly with the recommendations of other hikers about practice hikes, etc., in learning the in and outs about hiking and preparing oneself for long hikes by doing short and progressively longer ones beforehand.

Perhaps it would also be good to mention some of the other characteristics that contribute to being a successful long distance hiker. I'm talking about personality characteristics apart from just learning hiking techniques and use of equipment, etc. Here are a few recommendations I have discovered, along with some suggestions from others:

1. Tolerance for healthy discomfort

Do you have, or can you develop, an attitude of acceptance and tolerance for a level of discomfort that is necessary in performing a day in and day out physical challenge? Can you go three (or more) days without a bath? Do you freak out when you see a mouse or a spider or a snake?

2. Ability to recognize one's own mental state and adjust accordingly

Can you deal with depression that comes to you under certain circumstances? Do you recognize those circumstances when they occur and be able to anticipate your mood?

3. Self Control

Can you act in a different way than you feel like acting? Can you go on when you are bored, depressed, angry, frustrated, etc.? Can you say to yourself, "There is something I will gain by continuing my quest that I may not recognize at this moment, but which I will recognize will be worthwhile for me after I look back on it from the future."?

4. Flexibility

Can you change your plans when they fall apart, and do so with acceptance and tolerance for the uncertainties that will inevitably make it necessary?

5. Risk Taking

Can you be adventuresome? By that I mean an ability to accept the uncertainty of the unknown and see it as adventure instead of danger?

6. Innovation

Do you have the ability to be creative? You don't need to be able to build a telephone from duct tape and paper clips, but can you figure out ways to make things work in an unconventional manner to solve unexpected problems?

7. Tolerance of others

Can you deal with other people who have a far different personality than you? Can you enjoy a hike when you are constantly being tempted into a conversation with other hikers over trail and non-trail issues? Can you accept people despite their liberal or conservative social or political views? The trail is full of mice and "men". Can you deal with both? Can you "Hike Your Own Hike", and let others do so also?

8. Ability for Self-Entertainment

After three miles of essentially just walking in the woods, can you find entertainment within yourself, or at least in the small things around you? Only 10% of the trail is scenery and, believe me, there is a saturation level at how much you can enjoy rhododendron. The rest is doing the same thing, and seeing the same view of trees, hour after hour, day after day.

9. Sense of Humor

Can you laugh at yourself? Can you see the humor in looking bad, smelling worse, feeling awful, and being miserable? Sometimes it will be hard to laugh, but it will beat the heck out of crying! Don't get me wrong, though, it is all right to cry, too.

This essay was formerly found at:

downloaded by Bill Finch in 2006

Originally posted on on August 06, 2017

Rev. 11/2/2020