10 things I learned in the first 10% of the Appalachian Trail
In honor of finishing my first 220 miles of the trail, I decided to share one thing I learned for each percentage of the trail I have finished so far! I have already learned so much in just the first couple hundred miles.
1) You will figure your gear situation out!
Before I left for the trail, I spent a ton of time agonizing over small details like whether I should hike in short sleeves or a tank top and whether or not I should keep the brain on my pack or leave it behind. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Once you’re hiking, you’ll be able to decide what works best for you.
2. You won’t be hungry…and then you’ll be STARVING!
During the first five days of the 100-mile wilderness, I had a really hard time forcing myself to eat meals. When we received our food drop half-way through a Jo-Mary road, we actually sent at least 3 pounds of food back that we hadn’t eaten. Then, my hiker hunger kicked in and for the second half of the wilderness, we ate everything we had planned! It takes a few days for your body to adjust.
3. Don’t put your dirty socks in your clothes bag.
This one might seem obvious. But for some reason, I ended up putting my disgusting socks in my clothes bag with the rest of my clothes which I use for a pillow at night. Everything I owned ended up smelling like dirty socks until I made it into Monson. NEVER AGAIN.
4. Take the time to talk to people!
There has been a pretty steady flow of finishing northbound hikers lately and I ask each one I stop and talk to for a piece of advice for the trail. Some have been simple like take care of your feet and eat lots of ice cream, and some more profound like don’t listen to any negativity and take the opportunity to get to know people who are different than you on the trail. There are lots of people with great advice – take a moment to learn something!
5. Take the time to clean up at night.
Especially from what I have seen so far in Maine, there are tons of lakes, ponds, and streams that you can clean yourself up in. It is a huge morality booster to not feel so dirty and sweaty sleeping at night. Even when you’re tired and want to crawl into your sleeping bag, DO IT!
6. Cooking takes a ton of time!
While I used to be a big believer in the morality boost of a warm meal at the end of a long day, I decided to send back my stove. It became more of an annoyance to spend the time cooking and even worse to clean the dishes every night. Not to mention, fuel is heavy and expensive! Going stoveless seems to work well for me so far although I might decide to get it back when it gets cold down south.
7. Don’t underestimate the power of a good playlist!
Before I left for the trail I thought I would rather listen to the sounds of nature while hiking, but being able to listen to music instead of your own heavy breathing while you’re climbing up a mountain is definitely helpful. Podcasts and audio books are also awesome! Highly recommend the podcast S-town.
8. Verizon is the way to go.
I have AT&T for my iPhone, but my parents got me a Verizon flip phone so I would be able to call them from the trail more frequently. AT&T almost never works! Fortunately, I had service on my Verizon flip phone on almost every mountain in the 100-mile wilderness and was able to call home. Don’t trust your AT&T phone in Maine!
9. Honey Buns and Cosmic Brownies are the bomb.
This is probably old news to most hikers, but I had never had either of these things before I started a thru-hike. I know they are “empty calories” and have 40% of your daily value of saturated fat, but they’re freaking amazing.
10. I’m still learning and that’s okay!
10% is only a small piece of the trail, and I still have lots and lots to learn – and that is okay! The trail will teach you all kinds of new things about yourself, so be patient and willing to learn.
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