A Day in the Life

What Do I Do in the Forest All Day?

I get two questions frequently from family and friends. What is your day like? and Don’t you get bored alone all day? So here are some answers for those questions and others like them. Fair warning – this post delves into my daily minutia that you may or may not find interesting!

First, a bulleted list of my average day. There are variations on the theme, of course, but this gives you a general idea.

  • Wake up and usually laze in bed for up to 30 minutes – The time depends on my goals for the day and where I am. Up north, the sun rose much earlier and I often awoke around 5 am. Now it’s around 6.
  • Pack up and head out. I take an hour to pack. I’m slow, but methodical. I don’t lose gear, though (knock on wood). Occasionally, I finish packing in 45 minutes and it worries me that I forgot something. If I dawdle in the morning, it can take me an hour and a half. I’m normally on the trail between 7-7:30 now. Up north, it was earlier, too.
  • Eat breakfast on the trail. I stopped cooking breakfast after the first month in favor of getting more time on the trail to increase daily mileage. Most days I hike 8-10 hours. Now I eat some type of meal replacement bar with over 350 calories.
  • Hike for several hours, stopping for pictures, water refill, and short rests whenever I want.
  • Stop for lunch when the trail offers a good rest stop. I take between a half and a full hour for lunch. Many times I stop at a shelter to combine this stop with a privy stop and water refill.
  • Hike several more hours until I reach my destination for the day, usually between 4 and 6 pm.
  • Collect water – I try to make this my first camp chore every day.
  • Set up camp, or just my bed if I’m at a shelter.
  • Cook and eat. Prepare foods for the next day so they are easy to access at the top of my food bag. Secure food bag away from camp.
  • Hygiene – brush teeth, sponge bath with wipes, change into sleep clothes, foot massage, toileting, etc.
  • Journal and review my plan for the next day.
  • Read until around 8 or 9.
  • Sleep for at least 9 hours.

Trail Realities

Sometimes, the trail is easy and I barely think about the terrain. I just enjoy the easy walking, the peace, the bird song, the wind, the scents, and everything else that engages my senses. Sometimes, I tune most of it out and get lost in my thoughts. More on that later.

Here are some pics of the trail in Virginia. Some is ridiculously easy. Other sections have given me flashbacks to the terrifying rock climbs up north. I saw a few caution signs up north, but this was the first I saw on the AT south of Harper’s Ferry.


Beyond my daily “schedule,” I have other small routines that make my life on trail easy. These routines are as simple as how I put my shoes on and as complex as how I load my pack.

My pack

I have a specific place for everything in my pack. I have a dry bag to line the inside of my pack and fill it in layers. My sleeping bag, bag liner, pillow, and clothes go in the bottom of the dry bag. That’s followed by my sleeping mat, camp kitchen, power bank, and toiletries, all on the same layer. My puffy, long sleeve t are next and topped with my food bag. Then I cinch the dry bag down tightly and top it with my raincoat before closing the main compartment.

My liter water bottle (full) and trash bag go in the side pocket on my right. My paracord and water collection gear go on my left. My right hip pocket is filled with snacks for the day – at least five 200+ calorie snacks. My left hip pocket has my lunch, skittles, and electrolytes. The large pocket on the outside holds my tent. The lid has things I may need to access quickly and easily, like tp, first aid, maps, etc. The only things hanging off the outside are my camp shoes, my AT hang tag with some extra hair ties, and my toileting gear.

When I have to put something in an unusual location, I tell myself out loud where I putting the item. For example, when I have wet socks, I don’t put them inside my clean dry pack because it would make all my other clothing and gear stink and get wet. Instead, I stuff them in the outside pocket with my tent. But I remind myself they are there so I can wash them at the next night in town.

My feet

I’m proud of my feet. I have over 1,500 miles on them and they still look great! I have a very specific routine that I credit with how well my feet are supporting me. As soon as I get to camp, I change into camp shoes from my trail runners and sweaty socks. At bedtime, I wash my feet with wipes. Then I use lotion to massage each foot for several minutes right before I climb into bed. I make sure to massage my plantar fascia, the balls of my feet, individual toes, ankles, and Achilles tendon.

In the morning, I wear my camp shoes until right before I head out. To get ready to put my shoes on, I slather my right foot with Body Glide. Then I put on Injinji toe sock liners with Darned Tough hiking socks over them. Then I put my trail runners on. The laces are snug and I use a heel lock before tying them with a bow I learned from a hiker 20 years ago. This knot has only come undone maybe a handful of times since I’ve started using it with all of my laces.  Essentially, you tie it in a bow as in a standard shoelace knot, but before snugging down the bow, you wrap and pass the loop through the same hole a second time. It’s not a traditional double knot. This bow will pull out like a regular bow by pulling on the aglet.

I have other routines, too. But they can get tedious to describe. I thought these might be the most helpful for other aspiring hikers.

Heading off boredom

All those hours hiking alone might make some people bored. I have met other solo hikers who always have earbuds in to listen to music or podcasts. Others combat boredom by hiking with others. Everyone has their own way of managing the time on the trail and keeping their brains engaged.

I enjoy being alone and manage all those hours and miles in silence. Well, the forest can be noisy, so not usually silence. I pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells and let myself be immersed in the experience. I take a lot of pictures of rocks, plants, animals, fungi, the trail, and views. I take deep breaths when I notice the forest scents change. I snack on forage plants. I talk to myself, the animals, God, or really anything.

And I let my mind wander. I think about past conversations and experiences. I think about what I will write here or on social media. I think about my dad, my grandparents, other people I was close to who have died. I think about my living family and friends. I think about my students and new ways I can engage them in their learning. I think about the grander thoughts of life – my purpose, my role, how I’ve changed throughout my life and during this journey, and even my own metacognition.

And sometimes, I enjoy hiking with others! I have hiked several miles with other thru-hikers. I hike with section hikers, too. I enjoy hearing about their lives, their  journeys in self-discovery, and their hikes. I’ve made good friends along the trail!

What minutiae do you find interesting about your hikes?

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Comments 6

  • val vitols : Sep 7th

    nice share on your perceptions Kristine!

    • Kristine Hartlaub : Sep 18th


  • Tinkerbomb : Sep 7th

    Really enjoying your posts Kristine as well as your photos! I particularly like the mushroom pic in today’s post. I’m new to the trek & I just subscribed to your posts. I am interested to know what backpack you’re using? Thanks again for brightening up my day! -Nan

    • Kristine Hartlaub : Sep 8th

      I have a Deuter Aircontact lite 45+10 L. The pic is when it was full with 4 days of food.

  • Tree hugger : Sep 17th

    Love your pictures Christine. Enjoy your solitude.

    • Kristine Hartlaub : Sep 18th

      Thanks for your comment. Is this Tree hugger I met up north?


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