You just hiked 30 mi / 48 km and now, inside your sleeping bag an hour past sunset, you study your maps and find a river 26 mi / 42 km further up the trail from your current campsite.
This is where you will camp tomorrow; it will be glorious.
You drift off to sleep imagining the spectacular mountain river bath you’ll take, you can see your brilliant campfire (so long as there are no restrictions), you can taste the soda you packed out of town for a special occasion – tomorrow night will be one of the best on the trail. Tonight, sleep comes easy.
You hike all day and for twelve hours all you can think about is the two-hour mini-vacation your mind and body are taking once you get to camp.
You arrive at your destination earlier than expected and life is grand. But what’s this? All the decent campsites are already occupied by giant tents and lounge chairs belonging to some undeserving group of “outdoor enthusiasts” who drove five hours down mountain roads to get as close as possible to this place before heading a mile (1.6 km) down from the car to the river.
And you wonder why you left behind that gun everyone asked you about.
This is the Thru-hiker Superiority Complex taking hold.
The Onset of the Complex
It just sort of happens.
One day you will realize that all of a sudden you hate all the other hikers you see out on the trail (typically this day will come sometime after entering the Sierra).
Daywalkers, weekend warriors, even section hikers will start to drive you crazy. And you cannot explain why. These people harbor you no ill (in fact they usually are quite impressed with you), they have done you no wrong, and they are simply out enjoying nature, same as you – yet you cannot help but imagine them slipping and perilously tumbling down the mountainside.
You endured the desert. Yes, the desert. The desert is what does this to people. After those 700 miles of incredibly hot and waterless hiking (as a complete novice to the world of thru-hiking), you are bitter. Bitter towards all those who do not understand your plight. You earned this; what did they do?
Then, you arrive in town and you begin to expect things. Discounts at stores, special treatment at restaurants, to be exempt from the societal norms that you abandoned so many miles ago, and you come to the realization that you are better than all these people (and you’re an asshole).
Coping With Your Disorder
Now the first step here is admitting that you may have a problem.
Yes, your desert wish to encounter more than one person every couple of days has now become your biggest regret (except for when you solo night-hiked down Fuller Ridge attempting your first thirty – that blew).
And now that you are spoiled by trail angels and trail magic may have you thinking that you are in some way special, but the reality is that you are not (yes, you are, don’t listen to him). ACCEPT IT (don’t do it, you’re exceptional).
You try to tell yourself that you are not entitled to any special treatment, that you are not on the PCT for recognition, that you are just like everyone else in town, but everyone you meet continues to tell you otherwise.
People are literally approaching me out of the blue, and handing money to support my hike (and not because they think I am homeless – it’s because they know I am homeless).
Once again the trail proves to be more of a mental than a physical struggle.
But I do hope the handouts continue.
They won’t, you’re not special.
But really you’re awesome.
No, you’re not.