30 Days in: a Perspective of the AT Thru-Hiking Experience so Far.

30 days in! Taking the sunset in from the Beauty Spot outside of Erwin, TN.

{Written May 10, sorry for the late publishing!}

Hello from the Beauty Spot outlook in TN! Wow, it has been 30 days since I started the AT from April 10!

Here’s a list and comments on what I have experienced so far on the AT.

Planning versus Execution

In preparation for this undertaking I read 5 books for the trail about the trail, plus this blog site and multiple YouTube videos. I also spoke to several thru-hikers and section hikers about their experiences.

You can research and prepare all day, and honestly it has helped flatten the proverbial curve on the difficulty of the AT. Research really helped with gear preparation, food choices, when to stop, and emergency situation contingencies. I have another article on my research for the AT – so you can read that in detail.

Routinely Routine

What planning will not necessarily help with is the day-to-day of the AT. What I mean in particular are the routines that enable your body to resiliently sustain you on the AT.

Routines, for me, are the cornerstone of success so far on the AT. While it is important to remain flexible and dynamic with the weather and terrain of the AT, or even being in town, having consistent routines has been the foundation of success for me on the AT.

This means, for example, having a consistent bed time. This is a mostly socially enforced norm called Hiker’s Midnight. Hiker’s Midnight aligns pretty closely with the sun going down and nighttime formally starting. Nightly, this has around been 9pm. You feel an energy change at camp as people drift off to their tents or the shelter. The lull of quiet washes over the shelter area and most people drift off to sleep or start shutting down for the night. This has been one of the cornerstone routines that even I feel if I get into camp late or a conversation with a fellow hiker goes longer than expected. Getting to sleep around 9pm nightly sets up everything for an earlier rise the next morning and a day off on the trail.

Mornings are the next cornerstone of a good routine. I have a particular process I follow for a successful morning routine, which I elaborate on in another post, that works well for me and sees me off about 1-hour to 90 minutes after waking up. Some hikers move faster than me in the morning and get going, but this process works for me and enables a successful day.

Taking time to reflect

Signing the register is just the start of the writing end reflection being done on the AT!


Prior to joining the AT, my work and personal lives had so much going on I often couldn’t even list all the things that happened in a day. The AT hyper focuses a lot in your life even as it seemingly introduces risk and complexity.

One of the most important things I have started since day 1 is taking time to reflect. This has come into two parts as essential parts of a daily routine.

The first is taking time during the day to stop and meditate. For me, that’s just taking between 10-20 minutes, usually during a water break, to sit down and breathe. I am working to clear my mind and be very present in the moment. I find taking a few minutes to simply sit, breathe, and be present is as refreshing as an hour-long nap.

The second is journaling every evening. I didn’t think at first many interesting things would happen to me during the day, hiking up hills and crossing creeks, so the stream of events my mind takes in and then puts to writing has been a fascinating experience. I didn’t journal regularly prior to joining the AT, though I now find it to be an essential task to help me process the day.

Water water, everywhere, though not always!

Big Beauty’s fabulous water source, literally springing from the mountain. A luxury item here is someone piped the source to make it easier to collect. Thank you!

The first day on the AT, which included hiking the Approach Trail, I carried with me 6 liters of water, assuming I would not find a sustainable, clean water source along the way.

Boy, was I wrong! The water on the AT, especially water sources above 2,000 feet of elevation, have been some of the best water sources I have had in my lifetime. I was genuinely preparing for limited water sources and having to carry clean water the entire time. The water filtration technologies are very successful in filtering out harmful bacteria from the water. The water from creeks along the trail and the shelters also tastes great. It can be jarring to get into town and drink tap water again!

Though to be clear, the general rule of not drinking water below 2,000 feet elevation seems to work well. Water sources roughly below this level are often merged sources from multiple locations, and often those water sources include road runoff or water from local farms that often include cattle or fertilizer.

I have definitely suffered from some water access anxiety. The worst was hiking out of the NOC in North Carolina. The day started off cool, but the temperature quickly rose to the 70s, which was a spike for April. Far Out and other apps indicated nearly 9 miles between available water resources, which included multiple summits and descents. I have a 2L platypus with me and thought that would suffice for the section. Boy, was I wrong! I tried rationing but found myself short. I had to carefully manage my speed and level of exertion to minimize sweating or risking dehydration. The relief I felt once I got to a water source at the next gap was substantial. The anxiety of limited water has taught me to front load water in the morning while also stopping for water more frequently. I also plan water reloading the night before to make sure this doesn’t happen during the summer months.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can add for the day 60 reflection on the AT. Stay tuned for more!

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