Like 81% of the U.S. I’m an urbanite. I think because of this I undergo subtle but noticeable perception changes when hiking and camping. Little things, like sensing which way the trail will head before I get there, seeing order in the chaos of forest litter, picking my way through talus without backtracking, etc.
Overall, it’s a sense of comfort with my surroundings that I seldom experience on day hikes and not often on weekend trips. It seems to take three, even four days, sometimes just when hiking out (darn it).
Bringing this up in part as follow-up to the various map, compass, gps and navigation threads (the other part is fierce cabin fever). Once I’m in that boondock “zone” I seldom find myself referring to navigation aids on the go—often a parsing of the map before starting is enough. I have a good sense of where I am and where I’m headed. Also find it easier to ferret out ad hoc campsites, find drinking water, etc.
Does anyone else experience this, or am I just nuts? (Not mutually exclusive, but what the hey?) And you folks who have cougars stalking your goats at home, do you ever lose that "on the trail" feeling?
Loc: Portland, OR
In familar areas and on familar trails, I am "out there" more or less instantly. In an unfamilar place on trails I've never seen, I find it takes me about half a day to settle into feeling fully at ease.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Not sure I change much as I live out of town, a few hundred yards from FS land. This last year I was more aware of what was going on around my yard, mostly from having to chase deer out of my yard. I'm ready to take on Alaska again, being aware of my surroundings and what might be out there. With experience bping comes the ability to figure out where a likely campsite may be I think. I collect old camping and bping stoves, so that is my motivation to get out a bunch more. I've already had three solo, snow camping trips this winter with one trip before that by snow as a water source, so I'm curing cabin fever before I even get it.:) Duane
I have done a lot of long duration backpacking on my own ( up to 40 days with two walk-out resupplies), as well as many 30+ day NOLS courses where we were resupplied by horse packers. Two weeks is really a watershed for almost everyone. Going out to town, even if one day to pick up supplies messes with the experience. I wish I could afford more resupply by commercial packers. Being "out there" also has a bit to do with seeing other people. I feel a lot more "out there" after I have gone a week without seeing another person.
I guess I would say it is gradual. If you feel "out there" now in 3 days, try going longer than any other trip you have done. You will find it is like peeling the skin of an onion (civilization) from your mind.
There is difference to me with 1) feeling aclimated to the new environment and 2) feeling REALLY at home and when past and future melt away to only the present. The first is accomplished in a few days; the latter takes at least a week or more.
Loc: Portland, OR
I've done some two and three week hikes without leaving the trail (I cached my resupply) and I can attest to the phenomenon wandering_daisy speaks of. If you stay out for two weeks wilderness becomes the new normal and your brain starts to adapt to wild surroundings about as completely as it adapts to your living room at home. Roads, cars and structures take on an exotic feeling when you encounter them. Running water from a tap seems queer and magical. It's a great state of mind to be in!
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Most all my trips have been pretty short, the longest being 21 days in the Sequoia NF when I was a youngster. For me nowadays, if I can get a week in it's special.
It takes me about 3 days to start sleeping through the night like I do in my own bed, and getting really used to the cold in the early mornings takes a couple more. Out west I wouldn't wake up sometimes until the heat got to me, but here I camp in the cooler season and it's a little tougher to crawl out of my bag when it's around 20º-30º. Still, I'm always surprised that after just a few days I'm pretty much good with it.
I have a good sense of where I am and where I’m headed.
The hiking part is instant for me. It's hard to explain better than you have, but I'll say that once I'm in the forest I feel like I'm where I should be. Been that way since I was a kid. I seldom know exactly where I'm going but I always know where I am and how to get back.
Since I've always mostly bushwhacked I've seldom expected to see anyone while hiking, and seldom do. So not seeing anyone is the norm, but I've never gone even a couple weeks bushwhacking or on a trail solo. So I don't know about that. That might be hard.
Interesting thread for me. I've commented on this phenomenon of "feeling I'm where I ought to be" on this forum several times. For me it's quite noticeable and quite strong, just as described above. For me it's instant. I've noticed it while I could still see houses. I believe that for me it reflects the "wandering" I did as a boy on an Ozark rock farm, as well described in an earlier thread by billstephenson. I may be wary and careful in some situations, but I'm not really afraid of anything out there. I feel safe. It's a feeling I love. best, jcp
Wandering Daisy I can relate to. 90% of my trips are overnighters or maybe 2-3 days on weekends. Those are often very spiritual outings for me, but it takes 3-4 days out on a 10 day + trip to begin to really unwind. It is about being in the present without my mind wandering back home. I find that meditation practices at home prepare me better for a short weekender.
I find on my first few days I'm over-focused on gear stuff, fit of backpack and fussing with it, can't wait to try out my new stove, will it rain, etc. After 3rd day usually, I just walk pretty much absorbed into the environment and the moment. It matures at a week when I'm totally comfortable, often I say to myself, "why did I bring this or that, I don't really need it."