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I would be interested to hear your opinions and any similar feelings or tips you have regarding this...a little background first. Most of my back country trips the last 20 years have been to wilderness areas and used a network of trails and bushwacking to basically explore areas. It usually means a lot of off trail work and mistakes, dead ends, etc, but I find the rewards very satisfying...untouched campsites and views, neat rock formations etc. I often have to adapt the trip on a daily basis and be really flexible. The miles vary from significant to few, and I can do things like suddenly adjust the hike to shorten the trip and be able to lounge around a newly discovered "perfect campsite" in the middle of the afternoon rather than push on.
Now to my question...In November I headed down the AT for the first time since the early 90s without loops or side trails. While I enjoyed it, I felt like something was missing. I quickly fell into the "trap" of counting miles and planning stops purely on progress...not wanting to linger too long at a certain view due to the planned stop that night. In the end I will go back for winter trips to the AT as it was enjoyable. However, I am wondering if I have accustomed myself to too much free spirited wandering to fully enjoy a linear trip with a more defined number of miles or if I can retrain and focus myself on different aspects of the trip to avoid just counting miles. Any thoughts how to transition back and forth from those who do both kinds of trips?
By the way, this is in no way intended to look down on mileage focused hikes, long distance hiking etc. I am always impressed by the achievements of folks on the trail, and definitely think you should hike your own hike. Just trying to figure out if I can hike a different hike or should not expect the same fulfillment if my goals and needs are different.