Saturday, December 20, 2014

Find your "Want to's!" 2,758.8 to 2,764.7 Miles: 12/20/15

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Virtual Hike
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The route follows 85 south from the border between North and South Dakota. There are few places to stealth camp and I don't think there is a single tree to rest under. 

This leg is part of a 48 mile stretch from Bowman, North Dakota to Buffalo, South Dakota. If felt up to it, I'd walk the 48 miles in one day and take a day off in the motel in Buffalo. 

Find your “Want-to’s”


“Road Walking, why do you want to walk the 48 State Virtual Hike?”

“Coach, because I want to.”

“That’s what I asked, Road Walking. Why do you want to walk the 48 State Virtual Hike?”

“Because I want to! Aren’t you listening?”

“This is starting to sound like a bad imitation of ‘Who’s on First.’”


“Maybe you should explain more!”

“Ok, Coach. I’ll give some examples.”

Application to the Air Force Academy

“Coach, remember when we applied to the Air Force Academy?”

“Yes. We had to get an appointment from a state senator or congressmen. Our family didn’t have any political connections, but we tried anyway.”

“Remember how long one of the applications was? The last page was blank except for one question. ‘Why do you want to go to the Air Force Academy?’”

“Road Walking, I recall. It was a legal-sized piece of paper and they said to use single spacing when we typed. Yes – typed with Mom’s old Royal typewriter.”

“Coach, at first I thought about making up reasons, and together we decided to tell the complete truth.”

“Road Walking, I remember. You typed four words: ‘I want to fly.’
“Yes Coach. And that was the COMPLETE reason. That vision helped us see all the challenges as irrelevant obstacles while we were at the Air Force Academy. They were trivial things we had to step around, over or on to fly. We hardly saw most of them as our vision was pinning those silver wings on our chest.”

“We made it, Road Walking. Now we fondly recall the more difficult times.”

“Coach, why do I want to complete the 48 State Virtual Hike?”

“That’s easy Road Walking. Because you WANT to!”

Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer Pharr Davis holds the record for hiking the 2,187 mile Appalachian Trail. She hiked it in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes averaging 47 miles a day. But this is not about her record-setting hike. It’s about her first hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Warren Doyle runs the Appalachian Trail Institute about 10 miles from Damascus, TN. He has hiked the entire trail 16 times, more than anyone else. Only about 20% of those who start the trail complete the entire route. Those who attend his Institute have virtually a 100% completion rate.

When Jennifer Pharr Davis attended the institute before her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, she had never been backpacking before. She had done some camping.

On the first day, Warren Doyle asked everyone why they wanted to hike the trail. Here is what she said:

I feel like I’m meant to… I mean like I was made to. I guess what I’m trying to say is I think I’m supposed to hike the Appalachian Trail.”

“It’s not like I chose to hike the trail, but more like it chose me.”

Jennifer made the normal backpacking rookie mistakes. She had the normal dose of difficulties. She made it because she wanted to!

Bert Nemcik (Trail Name Shadow)

Shadow wrote “See you Down the Trail.” Unlike Jennifer, Shadow was a veteran hiker. He almost made it sound too easy, as if 2,187 miles in the rain, mud, snow, wind, hail, and some sunny days could ever be easy.

Shadow quoted from “The Thru-Hiker’s Handbook” by Dan “Wingfoot” Bruce.

“A thru-hike is one long continuous journey from one end of the trail to the other end. If thru-hiking the AT is not the most important thing in your life, then don’t even consider it. Anything less than total commitment to completing your hike will certainly result in failure.”

Shadow said, “Many months later, after slogging through the rain for 24 days in a row in central Virginia, those words would come back to me over and over again as I wondered what I was doing walking between the raindrops.”

I contacted Shadow through the email address in his book. We’ve become good friends and he lives most of the year in Westcliffe, Colorado which is about 50 miles from me. Once I asked him how he completed so many projects. He said, “My father told me once you start a project, keep going until it is done.”

The Secret of Success

I’ve read many books about long-distance hiking and I’ve been on many backpacking trips. People complete hikes with all sorts of handicaps. Even blind people have hiked the long trails. There is only one difference I can find. Those who finish the long trails keep hiking and those who don’t finish stop hiking. Those who finish the hike “want to” and those who don’t finish “don’t want to.” Some take more than one year because of injuries.

If a person gets a good case of the “want to’s” they will be successful.


Goal-setting is a TOOL. I use it in all projects I “want to” complete. My style is detailed written action plans, but it’s not the only style that works.


“Coach, do you see why “want to” is enough?”

“Yes, Road Walking. If a person “wants to” they will somehow find the ‘How to.’”

Exercise for readers
1. Pinpoint your “want to’s.” Then start “hiking.” Along the way, continually improve the “How to.”

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