5 hikers, 5 questions, 50 more days

50 days until I leave…

As I’m (rather impatiently) waiting for late march to roll around, I decided to ask 5 past thru hikers 5 of the same questions. In the midst of all the gear finalizations and planning and getting the rest of your life in order and maybe even wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into, take a moment and meet 5 hikers who have been there/done that:

Mowgli | NOBO 2016

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What was the first thing(s) you ditched or sent back home?

“The first thing I decided to send back that I was certain I would’ve wanted to keep on the trail was my journal. Its a common thing for people to bring and ditch but I was dead set on writing everyday as I’m big on journaling my experiences. Early on I realized how exhausted the hiking would leave me and how the more tired I got hiking the more I realized how much every little ounce on my back for each little step mattered. I quickly lost all motivation to write or even look at my journal in the evenings and it became dead weight. I sent that sucker home. I looked back on it the other day and almost teared up by how happy just the month I wrote made me, but out there, it didn’t matter, and I had to live in the moment.”

Best (and/or strangest) thing you found in a hiker box?

“Ok lets go with best, best is good. This isn’t a hiker box item exactly but I don’t care. I was at the hostel that I can’t remember the name right now and don’t feel like looking it up, near mile 1000. I picked up a ukulele near the hiker box area which was near some other musical instruments and started playing around with it. Seeing so many people with ukuleles and guitars on the trail made me wish I had such talents. The owner of the hostel walked by me and asked me if I wanted that ukulele and let me know that someone had donated them to spread music all over the trail. I hiked 500 miles with that uke before deciding to send it home where I still to this day like to play with it.”

Favorite state or section?

“Its hard for me to ever pick a favorite and in fact I don’t think its possible. Every state, every section had a completely different and unique feel to it that I can’t explain. That being said, I think the Grayson Highlands were an area of the trail that particularly blew me away. I’d like to go back and hike there soon. Actually I’d just like to go back and hike the whole trail I think…”

Main thing you learned along the way?

“I learned that what I did, and anything I want to do in life, is so very possible.”

A general piece of advice for the next class of thru hikers:

“The best piece of advice I could give is don’t get too caught up in all the specifics (advice and information regarding the trail). Know yourself, know what you are doing and just go out there and do it. Because not until you start taking those first steps do things truly start to make sense.”

Sasquatch | NOBO 2014

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What was the first thing(s) you ditched or sent back home?

“A lot of clothes, my trowel, and our one pound water purifying system that sucked.”

Best (and/or strangest) thing you found in a hiker box?

“My new backpack! I used an old Jansport backpack until Delaware water gap. The chest strap would never move and basically sat at my neck so I had to hold it out whenever I was hiking. But the day I get a new pack, the chest strap finally moves, haha!”

Favorite state or section?

“Oh man that one’s hard. Virginia Highlands, Roan Mountain and surrounding area, Smoky Mountains, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine were all beautiful. I love how may different ecosystems the trail lets you explore.”

Main thing you learned along the way?

I learned so much, that’s a hard one. One example: never take a hitch from a drunk guy pulling up to a bar, telling him you have to pick up a package (which he assumes means drugs) and he wants to part lol.”

A general piece of advice for the next class of thru hikers:

“Don’t hang your food bag lazily, a bear WILL tear it down, hahaha!”

 

Pringles | SOBO 2016

A fellow Trek blogger! You can follow her here

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What was the first thing(s) you ditched or sent back home?

“Extra clothes. I traveled to Maine with 2 hiking outfits. I walked 114 miles with a shirt and leggings that sat at the bottom of my pack. Quite honestly, I had forgotten that they were down there. As soon as I got to the first town outside of the 100 Mile Wilderness (Monson, ME), I took those bad boys to the hiker box. There’s no need for 2 hiking outfits. Embrace your smelly, hiker trash-ness. Side note: this doesn’t mean ditch your layers. You’ll need those.”

Best (and/or strangest) thing you found in a hiker box?

“Food. I constantly went diving through hiker boxes to help with my resupply. I’m probably the cheapest hiker you’ll ever meet… free and food are my favorite words.”

Favorite state or section?

“Maine. I felt like I was walking through Mordor in Lord Of The Rings. The trees were mighty and firm in their foundation (okay but really, Maine trees had the biggest roots I’ve ever seen. Prepare to trip almost daily). The mountains were steep and torturous. The views were glorious and breathtaking. The people were kind and hilarious. The experience was one I will never forget.”

Main thing you learned along the way?

“To be present. I used to run through life at 80mph, never stopping to enjoy the little moments. Living life at 3mph while on the trail taught me how to be fully aware and present in all I do. Since living a life full of awareness, I have found beauty in things I never noticed before. My hike changed my life. Yours will too.”

A general piece of advice for the next class of thru hikers:

“Never quit on a bad day.” It had been raining nonstop for 4 days while in Vermont. I was constantly cold, wet, irritated that I could see no views, and morale was extremely low considering I had been hiking alone for all 4 days of rain. I crossed paths with a NOBO, we chatted, and he reminded me to, “never quit on a bad day.” So I didn’t. And I made it to Springer Mountain. Even when you feel like you’ve fallen out of love with the trail (what feels like never ending rain will do this to you), keep going. I promise the trail will make you giggle a few days later with how much it puts you in awe and amazement. The trail works in special, weird ways.”

 

Gulliver | NOBO 2014

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What was the first thing(s) you ditched or sent back home?

“I had this idea in my head after watching shows on Discovery Channel, etc. that I’d absolutely need a pocket knife. Turns out, the most use I ever got out of it was for popping blisters in the first week or two of my hike. Once I realized that I could cut most things with my spork, I sent that beautiful benchmade knife back home (along with my bugnet, carabiners, and almost 90 percent of my AWOL guide)”

Best (and/or strangest) thing you found in a hiker box?

“We made it into town and my buddies went into the post office to gather their mail drops. On the way to the counter, the bin nearby caught their eye. They found a brand new bottle of blue Powerade along with a half used can of bug spray! Two things that would be a score for any thru hiker. Just as they’re celebrating their small victory, the attendant asks if she can help us but she does it with a hint of disgust. In the next couple seconds, we’re clued in to the fact that what we just dug through was in fact the office garbage can and NOT the community hiker box. Oh well, still got Powerade.”

Favorite state or section?

“My dad was able to share the trail with me through the entire state of New York. At the close of this section, my brother met me on a road trip with our mutual friend Stan. From there we took a well deserved break and visited Philadelphia, Boston, and NYC. So New York gave me the best of everything. Not only did I enter a beautiful state full of greenery (and free of rocks) but I also got the opportunity to eat delicious food nearly everyday on the famous “deli run.” Then I had a family reunion on top of that? Perfection.”

A general piece of advice for the next class of thru hikers:

“The spring after finishing the AT, I revisited the shelter at the top of Springer Mountain. I relived the memories of my first naive steps and got to meet other folks who were about to embark on the same adventure that I had completed months prior. I collected my thoughts and wrote them down in the trail’s first journal. here’s what it said…..

About 9 months ago, I stood in this exact spot with wide eyes and some 2,000 miles of hiking in front of me. Like everyone else, I wanted so badly to make it to the end, to the top of Mt. Katahdin. I wanted to see the beauty of the lonely mountain and experience the rush that only the end of a 2,185 mile journey could provide. But somewhere along the way, I realized that there’s more to it than that. The real beauty doesn’t wait at the top of a mountain. It lies in the hearts of kind locals you meet when you don’t have a pot to piss in. It lies in the bonds you make with your fellow hikers. It lies in the growth you earn with each mile, step, and mountain you conquer. In a way, the AT has become a beautiful metaphor for life. Like the trail, life is a journey… Not a destination. Find joy in the little moments and enjoy the hike.”

 

Jack Attack | NOBO 2014

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What was the first thing(s) you ditched or sent back home?

“I held on to everything until I sent back a batch in Damascus. Because the vendors give thru-hikers such good deals at Trail Days, I ended up buying a Hennessy Hammock and sent home my Tarptent (best decision of my life). I also sent back a Frisbee I never used, solar charger, a small black diamond lantern , and swapped my gas canister and stove for a beer can + HEET set-up. It’s also pretty safe to ditch some cold weather stuff like mittens or extra layers until Vermont or New Hampshire at this point, too.”

Best (and/or strangest) thing you found in a hiker box?

“I found an iphone charging cable five days after I had left mine at a hostel. As they say: the trail provides. You’ll always have to sort through pounds of instant potatoes and abandoned insoles to find anything good, but it’s always nice to replenish things like duct tape and Ziploc bags.”

Favorite state or section?

“Maine. Without a doubt. I remember standing on the edge of a lake staring up at the entire Milky Way, hearing the scream of the loons, making coffee and watching moose walk along the lake, and scrambling over all of those roots and rocks. It’s wild, and I mean wild. Truly beautiful, mesmerizing, slightly terrifying, and worthy of respect. It’s tough, you’re mentally worn out, physically worn out, but dear god it is worth it.”

Main thing you learned along the way?

“You’ll be fine. You’ll find out that you’re stronger than you ever thought you were.”

A general piece of advice for the next class of thru hikers:

“Enjoy yourself. I never understood the people that got to the point where they hated it and pushed to finish just to do so. If you find yourself there, just take a day off. Evaluate why you’re out there. It’s an experience so few in the world will ever know, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to live it. You’ll be surrounded by wonderful people and extraordinary nature—don’t lose sight of that. Learn when you need to roll with the punches and when you need to step back and take care of yourself. Oh, and most of the planning you’ll do ahead of time will be useless, you’ll figure it out along the way.”

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Comments 4

  • scott herndon : Feb 5th

    good luck on your hike I will be out there too doing a flip flop nobo starting april 1 in tennessee

    Reply
  • Ruby Throat : Feb 5th

    Great post! I love hearing the wisdom and stories of those who’ve blazed the trail before us. Hope to see you out there, maybe rooting around in a hiker box somewhere.

    Reply
  • Tortuga : Feb 6th

    Nice job of interviewing those who have actually done the hike. Learn from others experience.

    Reply
  • James : Mar 24th

    Great post and happy trails! I may be following you NOBO 2018! Hope you keep writing!

    Reply

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