Earlier this summer, the dogs and I packed up our backpacks and headed out to the Cornish Coast Path to tackle the remaining 175 miles of our thru-hiking adventure. I had been looking forward to returning to the path all year and was over the moon that The Favourite Human would be joining us this time. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan and I ended up calling our hike off after a mere 30 miles (completed over two days.) At first, I was disappointed, however I knew it was the right decision and I think it’s important I share with you the reasons why I failed to Hike the Cornish Coast Path with my dogs.
I think there’s a big misconception around failure in the great outdoors. One that is unhelpfully amplified by the expectation of perfection on social media. It saddens me to think dog owners purposefully hold themselves back from exploring outside, in fear of what ‘people’ might think if things go wrong. Of course, safety is paramount and it’s important to carefully calculate the line between testing your comfort zone and taking risks far outside your experience level and skillset. Baring this in mind though, I am a firm believer in giving things a go and embracing new adventures wholeheartedly. I’d rather cut an adventure short because things didn’t go to plan than sit at home too worried to step outside in the first place!
I Set Unrealistic Goals
This was probably the major factor in our failed attempt to hike the Cornish Coast Path with the dogs. I naively thought it would be possible to walk from Cape Cornwall to Falmouth in one week. In theory it is, if you walk 20 miles a day, which was our target. However I stupidly forgot to factor in the difficult terrain and extreme elevation patterns that the South West Coast Path is famed for. After consulting both our guide book and the recommended itinerary, we realised it was pretty much completely unachievable unless we were running an ultra-marathon.
My unrealistic goal setting was by far the main reason I failed to hike the Cornish Coast Path. The instant our goalpost changed, I lost all motivation to continue hiking. Thru-hiking is tough at the best of times, it’s a true physical, mental and emotional test. I was fully aware of the emotional rollercoaster I was embarking on. However, as soon as I realised my goal of reaching Falmouth in a week was impossible, I mentally checked out. If there was no hope of reaching Falmouth in time, what was the point in continuing? Especially when the cliffs were never-ending and steep!
We Had Limited Time
In order to achieve our currently unrealistic goals, we would have needed way more time. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me last year, as my schedule was pretty flexible. However, unfortunately this year we were limited by default, as we were constrained The Favourite Human’s work schedule. We’d blocked out two weeks for our adventure, which was nowhere near enough time to get to Plymouth. However, from this experience we’ve realised that our future thru-hiking projects will probably look a little different going forward but it will most likely be for the better!
While I truly love the experience of thru-hiking, especially with the dogs, I now realise why so few people give it a go. Thru-hiking in its very nature demands a huge portion of your uninterrupted time! It’s completely unrealistic to balance thru-hiking around demanding careers and home lives and still properly enjoy the experience. Our limited timeframe meant we couldn’t stop to explore any of the secluded swim spots, quaint Cornish villages or the majority of beaches without instantly falling behind our hiking schedule.
My Priorities Have Changed
Last year, my main focus was solely on hiking as far as I could on the path. I was fuelled by frustration, which made me determined to conquer any cliff climb that stood in my way. I’ve realised resentment is a huge motivator in all aspects of my life. When managed properly, it’s great, especially for convincing myself to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. It also gives me the added stubbornness and determination to continue when things don’t go to plan at first.
A year on and my priorities were completely different. Fortunately I’m in a much better headspace than I was when I first tackled the path, which I’m incredibly grateful for! Alongside our thru-hike we’d also planned to repaint our flat, book Woody in for dental surgery and host friends I haven’t seen in over a year. All before The Favourite Human had to go back to work!
It Wasn’t Fun Anymore
Ultimately this was the main factor behind my decision to call off our thru-hike. All the other reasons I’ve discussed above contributed to the fact that I just wasn’t having any fun. This trip wasn’t meant to feel miserable, it was our summer holiday after all! Long hikes, wild camps and limited water en route combined with hot days and sticky, sweaty suncream skin was enough to make us throw in the towel. In hindsight, I’m quite glad we did. Especially seeing the crazy thunder and torrential rain that swept over the southwest in the days after. I much preferred being in our cosy flat than outside battling the elements in the tent!
Ideally I would have liked to have gotten a little further on the trail. However, as is that nature of the path, once we’d reached Marazion, the next convenient pick up spot would have been Praa Sands or Porthleven. With nowhere planned to pitch our tent that night, it was far easier to organise a lift from St. Michael’s Mount. We definitely plan to hike the remaining 145 miles in the future, however we’ll likely be taking things at a far more leisurely pace!
When was the last time one of your adventures didn’t go to plan? How did you know it was time to call it quits?
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