I heard a few times on the trail the idea that the slower one goes, the more enjoyment you can obtain from a hike. This is a dichotomy that is silly, like comparing the fun-level of an ultramarathon vs a 400 meter sprint. Both can be enjoyable, and both can be frustrating and awful.
With so much history as an endurance athlete, I find pleasure in gratuitous but slow expenditure of physical energy. A 25 mile hiking day leaves me happier in an existential sense than hiking 10 does. I feel the satisfaction in my sore feet, my sagging shoulders, the crick in my neck. This kind of daily depletion suits my physiology and temperament. It might not be the cup of tea for most folks, and that’s absolutely fine. One of the tenets of long distance backpacking is “hike your own hike”. It’s a tenet that is almost religion, but at its base is absolutely true. If 8 mile days with a late start and a nap and taking photos and chatting with other hikers is your happy place, that’s how it should be and that’s how you should hike. If your thing is 20 mile days (or 25 or 30 or even more), same thing. The grind of moving shortly after dawn, without assistance from alarm clocks, and going until you’ve only got 30 minutes of light remaining to throw up the tent and get some water boiling is simply what appeals to me.
I am not a fast-packer, one who rises before light and hiking until full dark or beyond to get miles miles miles in. Somewhere in the middle is where I lie, and what works. So far.