My First Hike: A Story of Failure
A long time ago, in a state far, far away (Star Wars, anyone?)…Caleb and I attempted our first thru-hike. It was the Knobstone Trail, the longest trail in Indiana. It’s about 58 miles and some people even consider it as a good training trail for the AT! It was spring break, our sophomore year of college. Caleb had recently convinced me to try hiking as a leisure activity, and decided a good first trail would be to attempt to hike 50+ miles. Spoiler alert: we failed. But, everyone has to start somewhere. As we prepare for the AT, it’s good to remember our humble introduction to hiking.
Let’s just start by talking about our gear. Clothing: 100% cotton. As you can observe below, I’m wearing a cotton sweatshirt, t-shirt, scarf, and hat; JEANS, and giant winter boots (not even hiking boots). I believe my sock of choice was the thickest wool sock money can buy at Gander Mountain. I hate to guess how heavy my backpack alone was. My full bag the night before embarking weighed in at over 30 pounds. I had no raingear other than a cheap plastic poncho that was basically akin to a plastic bag. Our tent was a $20 Craigslist find and I don’t think it had an ounce of waterproofing (and we certainly didn’t treat it before hand…we didn’t even know that was a thing). Sleeping bags were also just the cheapest thing we could find on Amazon.
There are many, many other points I could make regarding my poor gear choices. BUT, despite all that – we made it 25 miles on this trail. We hiked 11 miles our first day, and we were feeling ok. And then it rained all. day. long. our second day on the trail. It was March, so still pretty cold at night. We went to bed soaking wet with no truly dry clothes to change into, and it was freezing. We’re actually pretty fortunate that we didn’t get hypothermia. Caleb called his dad (we somehow had cell service) and told him we were calling it. We wanted picked up in the morning. So the next day, we hiked our last few miles, and then went back to civilization.
I’ll be honest, I probably didn’t have the best attitude going into this hike. I was excited to try something new, but I felt very unsure of myself and very unprepared (rightfully so). I definitely did not have a list of reasons I wanted to hike the trail or how I would feel if I failed. Because hiking the trail was primarily Caleb’s idea, I don’t think I had the determination and sense of teamwork I should have had. When the rain wouldn’t stop and I had multiple blisters on my feet, instead of asking for some support, I just got grumpy and withdrew inside myself. I’ve had a lot of hiking experience since this hike, and Caleb and I have had a lot more years together. I know now how important it is to prepare mentally for an exhausting experience like a multi-day hike, and I feel like Caleb and I have a better understanding of how we can help each other, instead of just annoying each other.
First of all, I just want to say that even for the very short hike, Caleb and I received a lot of support from both of our families. We really couldn’t have done it without them. We anticipate calling on this kindness from our families again in the coming months as we prepare for our AT thru-hike, which is even more daunting.
Second, we learned that being prepared is pretty important. This includes: researching the trail you’re getting yourself into; making sure you have gear that will keep you safe and strikes a happy medium between cost, comfort, and weight; and preparing yourself emotionally. A perfect example – we spent a ridiculous amount of time caching water for this trail. We never used a single cache, there were ample water opportunities.
Third, we had fun! Even though we were soaking wet, in pain with almost every step, and totally unprepared, I have so many fond memories from the brief experience. Our second morning we woke up to the sound of wild turkeys, something I had never heard before. We still shared a lot of laughs and felt inspired by the beauty of the experience, even though it was raining and it’s southern Indiana (not exactly known for its breathtaking scenery). I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be almost totally immersed in the natural world for ~6 months with a lot more knowledge and experience.
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.