A Day in the Life of a Thru-Hiker

Before conquering The White Mountains.

The photo above represents the exhaustion that thru-hikers experience, which is one reason why I haven’t posted lately.

Relaxing by the fire in Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness.

What is the trail really like?

The trail has its ups and downs – physically and metaphorically. A general day is to wake up sore around 5:30 a.m., drink 2 liters of water treated the night before, and crawl out of a warm sleeping bag to the not so warm outdoors. Birds chirping, wind blowing, and the occasional hiker snoring. Smell of socks, shoes, and rotting feet. Roll up sleeping bag, pee in the woods, and grab food bag that is suspended away from bears and mice. Visit the privy, floss and brush, and change from sleeping clothes to damp and smelly hiking clothes. Finally, I systematically pack belongings into backpack, queue music or podcast, and stretch.

Time to hit the trail. The rest of the day is essentially spent trying not to fall; although, one day after leaving camp, I hadn’t made it 300 feet before slipping off a wet rock and into a river. Fortunately, I grabbed my trekking pole before it was swept down river. Life goes on… up and down mountains that is. Most of the day is spent in what’s referred to as “the green tunnel” (trails in leafy forests without much of a view – making the the moments with views that much more appreciated and a good spot to rest and socialize). The past two days I’ve seen a bear cub. We pass other hikers along the way, usually with a simple “hello” and “enjoy your hike”. Sometimes when passing northbound hikers we share our experiences of what’s to come. Every now and again when crossing a road, we are greeted by “trail angels” (people that want to provide free food and beverages to the thru-hiking community). You have never seen someone happy until you’ve seen a thru-hiker who stumbles upon an unexpected cold soda, omelette, baked goods, and more.

Then we arrive to our destination, a shelter or campsite. Collect water, filter it, eat, stretch, sometimes start a fire, socialize with other hikers, and write in journal before going to sleep around 8:00 p.m.

Ocassionally, we’ll pop into towns along the trail to resupply and eat an absurd amount of food. Sometimes we stay at hostels where warm showers, clean water, and beds are found. A particularly enjoyable experience was in Rangeley, ME, where we spent the 4th of July weekend at a friend’s lake house. When not in town, some ways we find entertainment are by making fun of each other, listening to music or podcasts, sharing stories, discussing our extremely in depth food cravings, throwing pebbles into the handle of my trekking pole, and reading books. We met 1 friend on day 2 that we’ve been hiking with ever since. We run into other friends randomly.

This post only touches on the basics and may even be missing some. The only way to truly understand what it’s like on the trail is to experience it for yourself. Stayed tuned!

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.

              – Paulo Coelho

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

    Great description of the daily life on the trail. How super that you met a good hiking companion so early in your trek.


What Do You Think?