A Day In the Life of Lilo & Stich
Rise and Shine!
Back in Montréal, we both worked evening shifts so we didn’t wake up until 9 or 10 in the morning. Out here, we find that our circadian rhythms are highly in tune with the sun. Our day starts when the sun begins to poke its head over the horizon. Right now that’s about 7:00 in the morning but it used to be very early at the start of the season before Spring Forward. On a cold night we might hide under the covers for a little longer but we know by now that the best way to warm up is to start moving. Eventually, one of us will get hungry enough to brave leaving the sleeping bag to snag the food bags from a nearby tree. Our first meal of the day is almost always a Poptart. There’s nothing fancy about ’em but they do give you enough energy to go a few miles before second breakfast.
Our morning routine depends on whether we decided to stay in a shelter or set up the tent the night before. If there are storms in the forecast we’ll hop in a shelter but we both highly prefer sleeping in the tent. It’s warmer, quieter, and most importantly, free of rodents. It only takes one mouse getting into your food bag to sully your shelter experience. However, the shelters are not all bad. One of the main upsides of staying in one is that there’s no tent to put away in the morning.
This is especially nice if it’s cold or raining. Packing away a tent that barely fits into its assigned bag is infuriating enough, and adding on rain or cold is enough to push me over the edge. My method of stuffing everything into the bag and hoping it fits is clearly inferior to Lilo’s who has figured out a pretty good method of getting it in there. So, I usually let her do the brunt of it while I go find another morning chore to occupy my time.
In theory, the only items that we should really need to pack up is our sleeping bag, mat and food before we’re out the door and shredding trail. If only if only. Hiker packs have this weird flaw where they seem to “explode” whenever you set them down. It’s really quite something because before we know it, every single possession of ours is strewn across the tent/shelter. Regardless of how we pack our bags, there always seems to be one essential item at the bottom of the pack that prompts an explosion to occur. So every morning, we entirely re-pack our bags in the same fashion as the day before so it sits comfortably on our back and shoulders.
Once we’ve taken down the bear bag, had a delicious Poptart, put away the tent, filled up our water bottles and re-packed our bags we’re ready to start hiking!
Those Miles Won’t Hike Themselves
Hannah and I usually set loose goals for ourselves the night before. We almost always have a destination in mind of where we would like to get to but are quite flexible when it comes to stopping. Normally, the game plan is to hike until we’re tired which is typically by 5:30-6:00 P.M. If we’re close to a shelter we’ll push a little further because they are associated with some of our favorite things: water, privy and most importantly, good company. Additionally, you can almost always pitch a tent nearby so you can camp out if the weather’s nice. However, it doesn’t matter how much you plan ahead because you just never know when that perfect tent spot is going to pop up out of nowhere and halt you in your tracks.
After about 20 minutes of hiking we take off our packs and strip off our jackets. Cold enough to warrant wearing while waking up, it doesn’t take long to realize the mistake once we start our first uphill climb. After that we really start moving, typically getting in 6-7 miles before we break for second breakfast – a huge pot of oatmeal. We go all out for this one, adding cinnamon, sea salt, brown sugar and milk (albeit powdered). It fills us right up and we feel pretty well energized until we break for lunch a few hours later.
While hiking, we tend to take turns being in front and setting the pace. Lilo, vibrating with energy in the morning is definitely the faster hiker of the two of us so she takes off and I try to keep up. Throughout the day we’ll either talk, listen to audiobooks/music, or hike happily in the silence of each other’s company. If there’s something cool to see off trail within a reasonable distance we always take the time to check it out. Often one of us will have the camcorder while the other has the camera. This way each person is in an equal amount of photos, although Lilo is definitely the better photographer of the two. We’ll stop for a few 5 minute breaks every once and awhile but normally it’s go time until we break for lunch around 1:30.
Once we find a decent place to stop, either at a shelter, open field or clearing we plop down and the packs subsequently explode. While we’ve gotten really experimental with our dinners we haven’t deviated much from the lunches we ate on day 1. For Lilo, tuna and cheese on a tortilla. For myself, I just use the tortillas as a vehicle to deliver peanut butter into my mouth. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s cheap and provides enough energy to make it to dinner.
On a nice day with relatively flat terrain Lilo and I have no problem getting 20 miles in before 5:00 which feels great. In Georgia, we restricted our daily mileage to under 10 miles per day, and slowly increased it as we progressed. Unlike the last hike, where we started with 20 miles per day, we wanted to gain our trail legs more gradually. By North Carolina and Tennessee we felt ourselves getting stronger and increased the mileage accordingly. If a muscle or joint felt off then we let the other know and took a slow day. After the last injury we both understand the importance of listening to our bodies and that we are in no rush to make it to Katahdin. That being said, there’s no greater feeling than collapsing into camp after finishing a long day of hiking.
One of our favorite aspects of the Appalachian Trail is how you can hike alone all day and then be surrounded by friends in the evening. It’s part of the reason why we love camping near shelters; so we can sit around a fire with our trail family over dinner and then retreat to the comforts of our tent before bed. As an introvert, the solitude of the forest allows me to recharge throughout the day while we hike. And for Hannah, an extrovert who thrives on the company of others, it’s practically the exact opposite. We both find ourselves in a well tuned balance and always have the option to stealth camp if we need more alone time.
Of course, camp life isn’t all fun and games. There are lots of chores that need to be completed before you can really relax. The tent needs to be setup, muscles need to be stretched, dinner needs to be cooked, and water collected and filtered. Normally one person sets up camp while the other cooks and collects water. If there’s no fire ban issued and people want a fire then someone needs to gather wood. After dinner the dishes need to be done, the bear bag needs to be hung, and our teeth need to be brushed. For people who walk 20 miles a day it’s remarkable how lazy we can become. These simple chores become tedious and walking the .2 mile blue blaze trail to the water source feels like an eternity.
Once the explosion is tended to and everything’s finished and put away in its proper place we curl up in our double sleeping bag. Normally we have about 30 minutes of sunlight left to write, journal, and read. We both love this time of day where we can reflect on the day’s hike and log our favorite moments to look back on. Once the sun sets, we listen to a podcast together and prepare for sleep. We find it’s a great way to spend the last half hour of our day. By 9:30 we’ll be fast asleep, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
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