5 Ways to Remedy the Bad Days on the Appalachian Trail
Cold, wet, hungry, and tired, I limped into Lincoln, NH and decided I was quitting the trail. I was over 1,800 miles in and I had had enough. With cuts and bruises along my legs and the fresh rip in my shorts, I felt defeated. After finally making my way to Chet’s Hostel, I laid out my sleeping bag and collapsed, too tired to eat.
You will have hard days on the trail. Some will be worse than others. They will test your resolve and make you feel foolish for even thinking that a thru-hike could be fun. What you do in these moments will define your hike.
If you ever find yourself having a bad day during your thru-hike, here are 5 tips you should follow to stomp out your misery and get back on your merry way.
1. Eat, eat, and then eat some more
When you are on the trail, 9 times out of 10 eating can solve your problems. Don’t know which way to go? Eat. Had a fight with your partner? Eat. Hungry? EAT! A large enough calorie deficit will make you cranky, it will make you confused, it will make you feel sick, or make you feel inexplicably tired. Even if you just ate, EAT AGAIN.
Of course when you are a few days out of town, rationing your food can be a balancing act. If you eat too much, you risk running out of food. That’s why it’s a good idea to carry a bit more food than you think you may need. It’s hard to tell when a calorie deficit is going to hit you the hardest. When all else fails, there is usually someone around willing to pawn off a little extra food weight.
2. Give yourself a break!
You have been walking, and walking… and walking. Yes, we all know how you are on a schedule to finish before next year but seriously, give yourself a break!
When I was hiking, I met a couple that had a great plan in place in case either of them wanted to quit. They would make their way to the nearest town and treat themselves to a day off in a hotel. When I cruised into Lincoln NH, I followed their advice. I took a whole day off and stayed at Chet’s Hostel. An entire day of rest, food, showers, and laundry had me feeling like a new person. After my day off, any thought of quitting had dissipated and I was ready to get off my ass and go.
3. Lean on your support
Friends, family, kind strangers and other hikers are all great sources of support when you are feeling down. Call or text them when you are in town. Sometimes just hearing the voices of the people you love most can help. They may not understand exactly how you feel, but everyone understands what it’s like to have a bad day. Other hikers are another great source of support. Most likely they have all felt the same way at some point.
4. Evaluate what happened
Why was it a bad day? What can you do so that it doesn’t happen again? My worst day happened because I overestimated the amount of miles I could hike in the Whites. I was physically exhausted and beat up. After a day off, I decided to cap my mileage at 10 miles a day until I reached easier terrain. It made the rest of my experience in the Whites much more enjoyable.
5. Be patient
Things can change in an instant. As long as you are able to roll with the punches, everything always seems to work out. The trail is an ever-changing landscape of emotion. Don’t dwell on how it was raining; rejoice that the sun is out. Don’t think about how hungry you were and instead focus on making love to that cheeseburger, and remember to pack extra Snickers bars next time.
Rain or shine…
I met far too many hikers out there who were miserable and just determined to finish. They thought that if they could just get to Katahdin, their hell would be over. The end is always further away than you think and those people could have had a much better time getting there. Enjoy the journey and embrace the suck, because the more it rains, the better the sunshine will feel.
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