1,293.6 Miles – Delaware Water Gap, PA

I’m a day from crossing the Pennsylvania and New Jersey border and will then cross the 1,300-mile marker.

It is now a countdown to when I finally summit Katahdin in Maine.

I’ve learned plenty out here and when I look back on my first week on the trail, I can see that I’ve come along way, both literally and figuratively.

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been compiling a list of things I have learned and things that have changed, either personally or vicariously.

Without further ado, here they are, and in no particular order:

You can smell day hikers from a mile away. Likewise, they can certainly smell us.

For better or for worse, I stopped smelling myself after about two months on the trail. I take, on average, one real shower per week (not including the many bird baths in creeks and streams) and I do laundry once every one to two weeks. I’ve never been so grimey in my life.

The only time I’m highly aware of our stench, however, is when we cross paths with non-thruhikers.

I sleep better outdoors than in a motel room.

When I lay down on my sleeping pad to sleep at night when camping, I fall asleep within 10-15 minutes. I wake up once in the middle of the night but feel rested in the morning.

In a motel, I toss and turn and wake up 4-5 times throughout the night.

Beds are no longer as comfortable.

 There is a constant layer of noise in town.

Cars, radios, machines, people. There are so many sounds in town. It’s never quiet.

The woods, while filled chirping birds and the wind in the trees, are quieter.

I have never known such quiet than in these woods.

The thruhikers’ morning hobble, it’s a real thing.

Every morning when I roll out of my tent and put on my camp shoes, my feet and ankles are incredibly tender. I gingerly hobble around, managing to limp with both legs, trying to warm them up.

This first started in Georgia. Almost 1,300 miles later, it’s still there. I suspect I’ll be hobbling off Katahdin.

You can make at least 9 variations of ramen.

Variety is important, after all.

There are things I can no longer eat on this trail (peanut butter, flour tortillas, oatmeal, pop tarts), but ramen remains a front runner of my diet.

Current favorite variation: Ramen packet (without added flavoring packet), Miso Soup packet, pink Himalayan salt, and nutritional yeast.

Gas station food is just as delicious as a Michelin star restaurant after a 20 mile day.

My tastes have changed since coming out here. I’m now just as satisfied by some corn dogs from a gas station as I am with a three-course meal from an expensive restaurant.

It doesn’t have to be great to be great on trail.


Why have I not seen these in California? I’m obsessed.

Taking off the shoes midday is a must.

Breaks throughout the day are important. Take the shoes off, elevate the feet, and relax. I can pull much bigger miles by doing this.

Not all water sources are equal.

Personally, I filter all my water. I know many who don’t. Either way, the best water to guzzle is always going to be from a mountain spring. Creeks and streams are fine, but nothing is more refreshing than water straight from a mountain spring.

I can tell the difference between the sound of a fly, a bee, and a mosquito around my ear.

The bugs out here are no joke. I’m getting eaten alive.

When hiking though, I’ve learned to pick my battles or else I’d be swatting bugs away 24/7.

You have to be okay with hiking your own hike. And you have to be okay with others hiking their own as well.

This is probably the hardest lesson to learn out here. It can be easy to get attached to people and want to keep up with them or slow down for them. And this okay for a while, but in the end, you’re out here for yourself.

Not all pain is equal.

My feet hurt all the time. I’ve learned to just live with it.

Not every day can be a good day. Likewise, not every day can be a bad one. Everything is temporary.

NEVER quit on a bad day. This is a mantra on the trail and it is 100% true. You’ll have a bad day (or week) and if you wait, almost invariably, it’ll be followed by a really good day. Which leads me to my next lesson…

The trail truly provides.

The trail provides what you need, not necessarily what you want. Sunny days are followed by rain, and flat terrain is followed  by steep climbs. And vice versa.

There seems to be an ebb and flow to it. And it humbles everyone.

Say yes more than you say no.

Early on in the trail, in northern Georgia, I was sitting at a picnic table enjoying lunch with some other thruhikers. I had just hiked about 8 miles and had planned to do another 4 mikes before setting up camp.

An older gentleman drives up with a friend of his, they say they thruhiked 6 years ago. They invite us to a thruhiker party about 15 mikes away at someone’s house (to celebrate something I forget now..) and he offers to give us all a ride to and from the party if we wanted to go.

I said no thanks. I was enjoying the miles and I didn’t feel like going to a party.

He said, “The miles aren’t going anywhere.”

He then reminded me that one of the best parts of this trail is the community.

Like a fool, I still said “Thanks but no thanks.”

He looked at me and said, “Okay but just remember to start saying yes more than you say no on this trail. You’ll be surprised at the magic that will come your way.”

That really stuck with me.

He was right.

Don’t let hiking get in the way of your hike.

It’s easy to get caught up in crushing those miles.

“Maine by 5” is my favorite thing to say when I start hiking every day.

Miles are certainly important! You have to get to Maine and the only way to do it as a thruhiker is to hike more miles.

That being said… Hiking isn’t everything out here.

Have fun too.

Go on side adventures to breweries, go swimming in that watering hole, go check out that view even though it’s 0.4 miles off the trail.

The miles will still be there when you get done.

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Comments 2

  • Bettina : Jul 15th

    Good reflections. I have a #hikerboy out there and I hope he is gaining some of your insights as he tends to be all business. So if you see Up&Ready give him a shout out to take time to enjoy the view. He just flipped and is now SOBO after starting as a NOBO. Godspeed.

  • Frances : Jul 17th

    I’m loving these posts and your dad’s letter really brought tears to my eyes. Your insights are powerful. I love the new wisdom and detachment. Keep going, Stephanie! I think of you all the time and pray for you too! Already such an accompolishment! <– Hmm…that's a pretty cool typo. Think I'll leave it.


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