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Hikers High?

Almost every time I am under pack, I get a period of time that I can only describe as hiker's high. My legs feel like they are on autopilot and move without effort no matter what terrain, and my pack feels like it is lifting me up the hills. This weekendo on a 12 mile day hike (with full 20 lb pack for training), it happened about miles 5 through 8. Other trips it may not happen until day 2 or may occur every day...sometimes for hours other times just a few minutes.

I assume it is like Runners High, but am not a runner. Anyone else get this regularly?

Sure, for many years. It has to do with Beta-endorphins released by the pituitary gland during exercise among other things. Some of us find it addictive indeed. Nice feeling isn’t it!

Hey Phil, since shouldering a pack is such a rush for you, come camp with me and I'll let you carry my pack:) 

I can understand the experience with a 20 pound load, but I don't think I ever carried that light of a kit.  I think my transformation is more a de-evolution into a pack animal mentality.  Hee Haw!


Endurance athletes are often blessed with this experience. It is a place where time and effort are meaningless. Without it cycling and hiking would be much less fun and much more painful :)

Being in that zone is something that I find harder to do on day hikes, but easily slipped into after a few days on trail, especially if traveling alone. It is of course wonderful, but dangerous. It can cause you to lose focus on your hydration and eating leaving you behind the curve trying to catch up once you realize what is happening. Retaining enough focus to remember to eat and drink on schedule is good as is not blowing by an intended turn or walking off a cliff heh.

You sound like you are definitely ready for that big trip Phil. The mental game is just as important as the physical. Seems like you are primed and ready to go on both accounts!

I don't tend to speed up or change routine...stop every hr to drink and constantly snack. I understand the endorphins for the legs, but what always surprises me a little is how the pack feels...almost lifting me along a bit.

Yeah Ed, I have shaved 30 lbs off my hiking weight in the last 10 years...15 from the pack and 15 from me! It's my knees and ankle that did it...just can't hold up to heavy weights any more so figured $1000+ in gear is cheaper than surgery!

Yes absolutely, I'm completely addicted to that; I'm a grumpy person if deprived for too long.

Part of that is a light, well fitting pack I suspect Phil. Hard not to feel pretty happy with that combo. I've done much the same thing while humping a 40lb pack or a 70lb for that matter, but well fitting is key. No matter the weight, if it works it works.

When cycling I eat every 45 minutes by the clock and drink constantly, but endurance cycling hurts more so it is easier to remember. I do tend to get too deep into the trance while hiking because floating through the woods or up and down mountains is so enrapturing that it only hurts when I stop :)

I'm with Pat; if you don't let me go I will become surly. Better for everyone if I get out at least a few times a month!

I agree - I need a monthly dose of a couple of nights in the woods/mountains as an antidote to life/work/etc.  My wife has learned that I am a much better person to hang out with the rest of the month so sometimes pushes me to go even when I feel guilty leaving her behind. I haven't made it overnight in a few weeks, but even a long day hike Sunday somewhat appeased me at least partially.  I am not sure it is all due to the "hiker's high" as much as turning off all the rectangular devices and getting some peace and quiet...

Yeah LS - I think you are right that the pack fit has a lot to do with it.  Patman and I discussed that on a trip where we crossed paths.  Neither of us is much of a fan of volunteering to test backpacks as they can be such a personal fit and I am very picky about the gear that our pastime/passion is named after.  Once you find one that works for you it's difficult to change.

Like minded people can all agree that the physical benefits are noticeable. 

I am with Phil about the psychological benefits of walking in wildlands.  The quiet and lack of electronics, maybe the company of a good friend or a dog.  

The third benefit for me is intellectual.  I really like to look at forest and range ecosystems and observe their function and how they change with different sites and elevation. 

I consider a walk in the woods to he a mental tune-up besides a physical one.  I have felt this way since about the age of 10.  It made an outdoor career choice much easier.  It has always been where I am happiest is "out there. "

I don't know if I would call it a hikers high..I just feel no stress and relaxed and just go...When I stop for camp I check my mileage and I am pleasantly surprised at times in the miles I covered in time...So maybe..

Forty years ago I worked for my Dad's real estate consutling company in Los Angeles.  I was a fish out of water, but there were always places to find the quiet in southern CA in every month of the year.   I stayed sane by backpacking all the time.  after a year and a half I moved to Spokane and went to work for the BLM.

September 30, 2020
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