Yoga, Meditation & Inspiration Advice for Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Ever since I found out the Appalachian Trail existed, I’ve admired those adventurous souls who hike the whole thing like my new friend Evans Prater. Approximately 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine through all kinds of weather and terrain is the ultimate test of your physical, mental and emotional strength. In addition to great gear, training, preparation and determination, it turns out yoga and meditation are super helpful along this incredible journey too. Hope you enjoy reading Evan’s trail tale as much as I did!
Namaste & Have A Great Day!
A little bit of history about where you grew up and lived and went to school and worked before hiking the AT:
I grew up in Tallahassee, FL and attended Florida State University, where I majored in Editing, Writing, and Media. I took two years off in the middle of college to travel the world, during which time I lived in my Explorer with my best friend and dog while traveling the Southwest, became an Ocean Lifeguard and Surf Instructor in San Diego, lived in a cave in Honolulu, and spent a few months bumming around Costa Rica with just a surfboard and a tent.
When & why did you decide to hike the Appalachian Trail?
I had seen the National Geographic documentary on the Appalachian Trail when I was 18, and the seed was definitely planted. I remember thinking "how could anyone do that?!" Five years later a friend of mine asked me to accompany him on a whim to a camping trip in North Georgia / Tennessee, during which time he told me how he had done the Georgia section of the AT that previous Spring. I was enthralled with his stories of people he had met and wild, fun experiences he went through and immediately decided I had to give it a try. I was on Springer Mountain (the trail's Southern terminus) 9 days later.
How did you train/prepare for hiking the Appalachian Trail?
I've always been an avid runner, so I figured I'd be up for it physically... Boy was I wrong! Turns out the only way to train for hiking is to hike! So, before my thru-hike, I went on a few short hikes with a fully loaded backpack, but knowing I wouldn't really make much progress in terms of being "in hiking shape," I didn't really do much more than my normal running and workout routine.
Did you hike with anyone or by yourself?
I was mostly with people the whole time. I started alone, but during thru-hiking seasons there are thousands of people out there. I usually had a group of three or four hiking partners throughout the entire trail.
How long have you been doing yoga?
I actually started doing yoga when I was in high school, right as it was becoming pretty popular in the United States. That was about 12 years ago.
How and why did you do yoga while hiking the AT?
I did yoga every night after hiking and every morning before hiking. I just did it on my sleeping pad on the ground or in shelters, using hip opening poses and hamstring stretching poses mostly. Yoga was instrumental in me completing my hike, and I really enjoyed the physical benefits of being more flexible and less sore, as hiking is extremely demanding on the body and can cause quite a few problems if you don't take care of yourself... Yoga is one facet in a multitude of methods to help combat the intense abuse your body takes from day to day.
What were the top 3 yoga poses that helped you relieve the stress and pain of hiking?
Pigeon, triangle, and warrior.
Did you practice any kind of meditation or mindfulness along the trail? Why?
Meditation, twice a day for twenty minutes, and mindfulness while walking. I'm a very spiritual person and I feel that meditation is a wonderful way to quiet the mind, to practice observing thoughts, release yourself from ego, and become generally more mindful, conscientious, and peaceful.
What were your top three challenges and top three rewards of hiking the AT? CHALLENGES: 1. In the beginning, the task is physically and mentally daunting. You are only able to hike 8-12 miles a day early on, so the thought of hiking 2000+ miles is a bit like that feeling on the first day of college -- man, that's a long way to the end... How am I ever actually going to do this? 2. About halfway through the trail you have your "trail legs" and can bust out 20-25 miles, sometimes 30, in a single day. During this period the challenge becomes entirely mental: why am I out here? Why continue? What are my motivations for this arduous, sometimes incredibly boring journey? What do I hope to gain from this experience? Are the thoughts that circle around in your head. 3. Near the end the challenge is again mental, but it has morphed: the thoughts begin centering around things like, "what am I going to do when I'm done?", "why not just quit now? i've proven I can walk 2000 miles. I'm just so tired of walking.", "what's the point in continuing?".
REWARDS: 1. A sense of intense, immense accomplishment, satisfaction at completing a long term, challenging goal. 2. A feeling of "I can do anything" backed by a large amount of inspiration to go conquer the next big thing. For me, that turned in to starting a company. 3. Notoriety. Everywhere I went I was introduced as "My friend Evans... He's hiked the entire Appalachian Trail!" It's like you're a rockstar or an astronaut for awhile. People began responding to every single resume I sent out, usually asking me to come in just to talk about my thru-hike, which somehow turned in to more job offers than I'd ever gotten. The sense of affirmation of having people acknowledge achieving such a grand feat is truly as humbling as it is gratifying.
What is your trail name?
Jukebox. I often sang and had a small speaker I would play music on.
What advice would you give to others that want to hike the AT?
Know you want to actually do it. You will not once be on top of a mountain with your hair flowing in the wind and come to an epiphany about life and the purpose of the universe. Rather, you will have every reason to go home, to quit, to go back to the "real" world, so before you go, know what you're getting yourself in to: that you will hurt, that you will cry, that you will at one point or another, want to go lay in a bed and never take another step.
How and why did you start Mount Inspiration? After my hike, I was different. It was difficult at first to put an exact word or feeling to the change that i had undergone, but I knew that I was more confident, more self-sustaining, more resourceful. I knew that I wanted to do something great with my life, and that while hiking the AT was a great accomplishment, I wanted to do something on a larger scale that worked to protect, preserve, and encourage people to visit the natural places that they love, and do the awesome outdoor activities that they love in those places. In short, I wanted to tell the world they need to get the heck outside!
What is your favorite Nature quote? There are so many... Probably "look deep into nature and you will understand everything better" from Albert Einstein. Nature is so full of patterns, fractals, repeating over and over in every manifestation of living and non-living things. Just like us and the rest of the universe, it is all the same, yet every piece is wildly different. It is intensely fascinating to look deep at and in to nature, because it really is a testament to the universe as a whole, that there is a divine intelligence or force or whatever you want to call it, driving the growth, evolution, and expansion of everything. It's beyond mesmerizing.
Evans is owner and founder of Mount Inspiration, founded in July of 2015 in Asheville, NC, with the goal of using sustainable and organically made products to spread messages of light, love, hope, and positivity. They donate a portion of profits to environmental non-profits.
Mount Inspiration makes sustainable, unique, positive apparel for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. They hand screen print original, outdoor inspired designs using soy based inks onto clothing made from organic & recycled materials. Each shirt is unique and locally made by hand & contains the equivalent of 6-14 plastic bottles!
Namaste in Nature is proud to partner with Mount Inspiration to produce our first ever t-shirt line designed by our founder & owner, Miranda Peterson.