5 Avoidable Mistakes Gas Monkey has Already Made
Less than 100 days stand between me and the start of my thru-hike. One of the best ways I have prepared for this grand undertaking were the section hikes that I did prior to my start date. The best/worst part of these section hikes was making mistakes. While they sucked at the time, I’m sure glad that I won’t be making these decisions again. Here are my top 5 mistakes that I’ve already made so the rest of us don’t have to!
1. Start Slow
As I got more into the AT community, I would hear the insane pace that some hikers were cruising at. A few times I let this cloud the judgement of my own ability. I’ve learned from the times I thought I could start at a 10-14 mile a day pace that it’s not worth the pain or potential injuries down the line. The human body’s ability to recover and develop stamina is certainly incredible, however even machines take a little bit to ease into daily mileage.
Getting injured on trial is terrible, but what’s worse is knowing how easily pain could have been prevented. In Georgia I plan on averaging a cool seven or eight miles a day for the first couple of weeks. To be limping at the North Carolina would surely put a damper on anyone’s mental spirits. For those who relate or are new to long distance trekking, there is nothing wrong with stopping at 2-3 p.m. to read a good book and enjoy the company.
2. Bear Bag
I’m serious guys, invest a couple extra bucks in a lightweight bear bagging kit. The issue that is quickly plaguing the Appalachian mountains is not bear attacks, but rather bear behavior. If a bear gets fed it will start looking towards humans to steal their food rather than hunt or harvest it on their own. Bears with this behavior will be tagged and relocated. If their behavior continues along this pattern they will be put down, hence the saying “a fed bear is a dead bear.”
On and off the trail i’ve heard countless people including previous thru hikers suggest to sleep with your food. I myself have done this in the past and now realize the folly of my ways. It wasn’t until I had the fine people at Leave No Trace explain the true impact of this to me when I realized how harmful keeping your food in your tent can be.
Bears aren’t always the issue with food storage either. Those who have hike the trail before know the true struggle is with mice, chipmunks, and worst of all ants. If anything sweet is on your pack or tent you can bet that these critters are going to find a way in. I’ve seen too many hikers end up with holes in their $200+ tent or backpack. Let’s all be smart this 2017 season and not repeat the mistakes of Gas Monkey’s past.
3. Learn your eating habits
While this may sound a little silly, learning how fast one goes through food is important for panning resupplies and cutting down weight. While I’ve never run out of food, there was a time where I thought bringing multiple containers of peanut butter and jelly was a good idea. Only after I carried two jars of heavy peanut butter did I realize that I would normally consume one of them in the time span between resupplies.
Before Hiker hunger sets in, I found that my food intake would not be drastically increased compared to my consumption off trail. Measuring out what will be satisfying for a meal on trail can be easily estimated at home before entering the woods.
4. You are what you wear
Cotton kills, let’s put that out there first. If any of your clothing says it has cotton in it look for a replacement, especially while dealing with winter climates. Warmth will be key for those starting at Springer in late February through mid March. Wool stays warm when wet and odds are that Smartwool has clothing to replace any cotton garment out there.
While shopping at Walmart may seem tempting to purchase from, most cheap purchases rear their ugly flaws when it matters most. While an inexpensive jacket may seem fine at first, you don’t want to be kicking yourself when the the temperatures start to drop below freezing. Look out for any of REI’s garage sales, or any other outfitter clearance event if looking to save some money on efficient gear. We are getting down to crunch time on gear purchasing, but many outfitters have some crazy respect for those embarking on a thru hike. A simple email on your plans may land you a sweet discount.
5. Experience it
We’ve got all day for 5-7 months to get where we are going, so why rush to camp every day? I’ve had an issue in the past where I’m always anxious to get to where I’m sleeping at the end of the day. This has lead me to skip some vistas or interactions that may have been much more meaningful than rolling into the campground as early as 1:30 pm. The Appalachian trail is rich with experiences, but learning how to slow down and forget about a predetermined destination is not something easy to accomplish coming out of our hectic society.
What’s unique about being out in the woods is that we have the opportunity to trash any routine we have previously fallen into. There is no punishment for not getting a certain mileage in or taking some time to nap in a sunny field. I’ll be making much more of an effort this spring to open my eyes and slow my legs, there’s too much to rush through it all.
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