A new and improved formula
Before we started the trail, we thought we had a plan, a formula if you will, for success. We told everyone we planned to complete the hike in about six months, maybe more, and we didn’t expect to be capable of consistently doing much more than ten miles a day. Our formula was to take it slow and focus on avoiding injury.
We pretty much abandoned the original plan within the first two weeks. We started pushing bigger days because we felt good, we wanted to pass through the “crowds” (which we know are nothing compared to the big bubble), and because it was cold and we didn’t want to be done hiking at 4pm.
Until just a couple weeks ago, our new formula became all about speed. We did a 30 mile day. We did 150+ miles a week. We counted the consecutive days we could push 20+ miles. I enjoyed feeling like an athlete for the first time in my life. On the flip side, we skipped out on a lot of the hostels and attractions that many hikers experience, and there were days when it was really tiring to try to keep up this formula. Everyone we talked to told us we should slow down and enjoy it more, that we were risking injury or burning out. But it was still cold, and often raining, and we didn’t really feel like we were missing out on much. So we kept saying we would slow down when it got warmer and when it felt right. Cue the standard info update:
Days on trail: 100!
Total miles: 1572.9
Current location: Crystal mountain campsite, just outside Dalton, MA
The new and improved formula
So, now that you have the backstory and know that we’re in Massachusetts (wow!), here’s our new and improved formula: slow down and focus on enjoying the walk. This means not feeling guilty about a short day here and there, or an unexpected diversion. Our new goal is to finish the trail within 5 months, which means before August 8. To make that goal, we need to average about 12 miles per day, which gives us plenty of wiggle room. I have to say, since implementing this plan, we are both feeling happier. But, I don’t think our old formula is all bad. The hard work we put in for the first few months is now allowing us the flexibility to really enjoy the famed New England terrain.
Since we prescribed to the new formula, we have…
- Taken advantage of the many delis in New York, including camping at one! If you put in less than a mile of walking off the trail in several places in New York, you’ll find yourself at an authentic deli with amazing sandwiches and usually a small grocery selection. Many are hiker friendly and offer a place to hang out or fill up water bottles. Tony’s deli, near Pawling, even allows hikers to camp on their lawn. We took advantage of their generosity and enjoyed delicious hot sandwiches for breakfast. The only downside was that the Amtrak train was about 100 feet from the tenting area and ran all night long, blaring the horn every time. But hey, I think that’s a small price to pay for a pretty unique experience.
- Enjoyed a night at Upper Goose Pond Cabin. Normally, if it didn’t fit into our mileage plan, we would skip a specific shelter or hostel. But now, we made our schedule fit around stopping at this spot. This cabin, named for its location on Upper Goose Pond, features a volunteer caretaker, canoes, a bunk room with actual mattresses, and most importantly – a pancake breakfast in the morning! It’s a beautiful location and feels like vacation, just without running water or electricity. Who needs that stuff anyway?
- Made resupply days much more relaxing. Previously, we would get into town and do our shopping, laundry, and any other stops as quickly as possible to get back to the trail and stay on schedule. Now, we’ve decided that there’s no point in stressing out over a few miles, so we just get everything done as efficiently as we are able to without watching the clock too much. This makes it much more pleasant to talk with various people we meet in town and make sure we don’t forget anything!
The reality that we might actually do this thing is really starting to set in. We have a little over 600 miles left, which simultaneously feels like a lot and not nearly enough. I’m not prepared to re-enter the real world yet, so slowing things down a little feels like we’re buying ourselves a little time. Then again, doing those big days can be satisfying, so maybe we’ll continue to throw a few in. No matter what, I think I’ve learned that there is no secret formula when it comes to hiking this trail. What worked two months ago might not work any more, and it might change again. The key is just remembering to enjoy the walk.
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