Welcome to My Daily Life as a Thru-Hiker
Today is day 35. It’s been a long, hard journey of figuring out the hiker life and all that it entails. Four showers, three loads of laundry, and an insane amount of calories later… here I am in Hanover, NH, about to dive into just what each day tends to look like.
The smell of bacon, eggs, and coffee on my bedside table is what I’d love to wake up to. Out here, the idea is so far-fetched I’m surprised I can even remember what it smells like. Regardless, waking up is actually enjoyable out here. It’s the land of no alarms and no real reason to rush – unless you’re a sunrise fanatic, then you’d better set up your tent far from mine, please. There are days where waking up feels wonderful; fresh air, sun shining, and birds chirping. There are also days that start off smelling like socks and feel like damp clothes. Even worse – there are parts in the night when you wake up due to an animal digging through your beloved food or running across your body. Overall, though, once you’ve realized you need not force yourself to get up immediately, it’s a relief to move only when your body deems it an acceptable time to get moving. Real hikers may laugh at me, but my average starting time is about 9:15 a.m. My goal is to naturally become an early riser, but as of right now I’m pretty far from it.
This part can really feel horrendous. I usually eat a Kit Kat to get me into the mood, not that there is much of a mood to move a body that doesn’t want to move. There are days I feel like a 90-year-old who’s been on bed rest for the past ten years.
It’s been cold in the mornings so far, so I unwillingly change from my cozy sleep clothes and put on the nasty garments of clothing I call my hike wear. They are the ratty, dirty, sweaty, rained-on clothes that I wear every day while I hike. As soon as they’re on, it’s game on. I lace up my shoes and move my butt in an attempt to get warm. I unzip the tent, and slowly (in fear of pulling everything in my body) tumble ungracefully up and out.
I’ve got this all down pat now. The true test is when it rains, because your things become exposed to the elements so it’s basically a game called How Fast Can I Pack Up? The better game happens to be named How Long Can I Stay in My Tent Until the Rain Stops?
So, after complaining of the aches and pains, and remembering how to move my limbs again, my sleeping bag and pillow get shoved into my waterproof pack. The tent pegs all get taken out, the fly taken off, the tent poles folded up, and the groundsheet shoved in its little bag. The fly and the tent – no matter how wet – are squished tight into the bottom of my pack, followed by my sleeping bag, then my miscellaneous bag that contains a lot of things I probably don’t need. My snacks for the morning go into my accessible zippers, and the food bag goes on top. I end my packing up with my zipping up. The problem is, it sometimes doesn’t zip up. If I’ve packed more than four days of food then Houston, we have a problem. If I apply enough pressure I’ve always been able to manage. This method has permitted me from ever buying Pop-Tarts, crackers, chips, etc.
Once I’m packed, I’m out. I’ve only forgotten one buff that I’ll never see again, because that time there were people at the campsite who left later than me, and I didn’t check too carefully to decipher what was mine. It’s easy when I’m consistently the last one to leave.
I’ve labeled this walking, because now that I’m south of the Whites and Maine (the so-called hardest part of the trail), I’m trying to be optimistic here about what is to come; actual walking. Coming from Katahdin, I could easily swap out walking with climbing, hiking, slipping, falling, tumbling, and those sorts. Walking is the main event, therefore it takes up all day So yeah, happy trails.
The first part of the day is always slow, especially since it has been too cold to make coffee. I always hope for a gentle slope in the mornings, but sadly that’s usually not the trail ever. If you ask me what my biggest fear in life is, arthritis would be my answer. Wow, is it ever hard on the body to walk and walk and walk. Who knew?
Anyway, I listen to the happiness of the birds and try to feed off it in the mornings. I tend to stop off to the side of the trail, sometimes right in the middle if I see a perfect sitting log or rock, so I can make coffee and ultimately be cheerful and happy to those passing by in the other direction. You’re welcome. I hope to have at least five miles by this point, as I’m averaging about 15.
I snack all day on Larabars, granola, and raisins, and try to hydrate as much as possible. Once I’ve a respectable amount of miles behind me, I’ll look at the map and decide where I want to camp that night. Once I’ve picked a spot, dinner is my next thought. Sometimes I’ll cook out on a good view, and others I’ll wait until the campsite. Once, I camped alone in the middle of the woods and didn’t eat at all because I was terrified a bear would smell the food cooking and and nobody would save me.
More to the walking point, it’s been smooth sailing for the most part. I walked the first 435 miles blister free. I definitely took it for granted because I blew out my hiking boots recently. My right toe was showing and half the side of my left outside foot was as well. That gave room for my foot to slide around the last seven miles and made me want to cry. If there was ever a time to cry, I thought it would be then, but I powered through to town and bought some new ones. Adidas basketball shoes are cool, so without much thought I purchased some Adidas non-basketball shoes (hopefully hiking shoes) and can’t wait to try them out tomorrow. Besides the blisters, walking is challenging. Sure it has been physically challenging due to altitude and steep hills, tired muscles and bad weather conditions, but the trail happens to be mentally exhausting as well.
There are many reasons people start this trail, and while I do turn 25 this month, no in advance – I am not having a quarter-life crisis. I do realize that for nearly 1,200 miles there is a lot of room for brain activity, but much of the time is taken on basic survival thoughts: shelter, food, and water. Where am I going to sleep? How am I going to stay warm? I’m hungry, what can I eat? My bottle is empty, where’s the next water source? Is this ground to slanted for a good night sleep? How much longer can I stand smelling like this? Will the 12 layers of dirt on my legs ever wash off? Am I completely bonkers for setting out on this hike? Then there are thoughts that focus on life. What do I do when I reach the end? Where am I going to live? What am I going to do? What is life?
The mind is constantly working, and although I call myself sane, I’m starting to think that can be quickly reversed. Self-discovery is something people come to find, and although I’m not looking for it, is it cheesy of me to say it’s one of those things you may just happen to come across when the time is right? Before I get ahead of myself, let me get back to my routine.
Hiker bedtime is about 9 o’clock, though there have definitely been times I’ve been in my sleeping bag by 8, and once when I was asleep by 7:30! Picking a spot to sleep is important. On this trail there are designated campsites as well as three-sided shelters that are usually near a reliable water source. Then there is something called stealth camping. When I heard the term at first I was all like, cool you’re camping illegally, whatever, but as it turns out it just means that you camp in a spot off the trail somewhere that is perfectly legal and actually pretty neat. The shelters are an awesome place to stay when it’s raining outside because they provide – obviously – a shelter. They are meant to house anyone who can fit their sleeping pad and sleeping bag on the platform. I’ve found there are mice that live there, and people that snore, and the wood makes for a sleep that makes my body wish I was on the ground, but in rain, I totally support shelter life.
When I set up my tent it makes me feel more at home – probably because it literally is my home. I’ve even chosen to stay in town twice, but not in a bed (because it’s cheaper to ask to tent in backyards). Anyway, since I love tent life 35 days into my trip, I hope that means I’ll continue to like it for however long it takes me to walk the next 1,748.8 miles.
That is a day in the life of me so far – hiker me – and I’m certain my routine will be forever changing, so stay tuned for things that may go wrong, because it’s much funnier than when they go right.
– Spirit 🙂
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