My 30th Shakedown Hike
For my 30th birthday I wanted to do something amazing. I didn’t want to go to a bar and drink, or have a party at home. I could do that anytime. I decided to do a shakedown hike for my A.T. adventure next year. So I drove 10 hours to Fontana Dam and mapped out a 50ish mile route in the Smoky Mountains. It ended up being my best birthday ever. I woke up and watched the sunrise from a fire-tower, went to sleep to the sound of a stream, stepped in bear dung; it was amazing.
I learned so much about myself in that week, I can only imagine what will happen in 5 months of hiking. This is what I learned on my shakedown hike:
#1 It doesn’t matter how many blogs or books you read to prepare yourself for thru hiking, you will not know how it will affect you till you are on the trail. (a one week hike is child splay to thru hiking the A.T. but lessons were learned just the same)
#2 Don’t scrimp on decent equipment if you can afford it. I used a sleeping pad that was given to me and it sucked. I will now be buying something that won’t make the left side of my body go numb after one hour.
#3 If you forget something, you probably didn’t need it anyway. I was on one trail that had so many stream crossings that I ended up walking barefoot for 3-4 miles. Yes, my Keen water/camp shoes would have been nice, but I survived and had a great story to tell to my coworkers (who are now convinced I’m a lunatic).
#4 If you only have you to rely on, you can overcome anything. On my second day hiking, it was early in the morning, and I was about 11 miles from the closest trail head. I was listening to an audio book about a man who traveled solo to Alaska to live in the exterior for a winter, and how he had many close encounters with dangerous wildlife (not a great choice for my first solo hike). That’s when I came across a bear standing in the middle of the trail. He didn’t move, just stood there staring at me. After a couple minutes he moved on, but I distinctly remember thinking clearly about what I would do if he attacked. After that little encounter, I realized that if I could stare an animal 4 times my size in the face with only minor knee knocking, there was no reason why I couldn’t stare down other less hairy problems.
#5 Self Confidence will be in overdrive upon completion. I’ve heard this before, but once again, you don’t know until you experience it yourself. Once you overcome obstacles that you thought you couldn’t do, repeatedly (like forge crazy rivers or eat crickets with nutella), you become kinda invincible. Yesterday I risked being written up and/or fired to defend my supervisor to her boss. Normally I would’ve just given her a heads up and stayed quiet in the background feeling guilty that I could’ve prevented alot of trouble. Instead, I spoke up and put my size 9 foot down. Not only did I feel great about myself afterwards and stopped the trouble, but I didn’t get written up AND the Human Resources Manager gave me a thumbs up.
#6 Hikers are amazing people. On or off the trail, most people who spend long periods of time in the outdoors are people of integrity and have amazing character. Thank you to all the people who I came across on my trip who shared trail and campsite information. And sorry to the guys who I mooned in camp. Butt happens.
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