Getting Ready for Adventure
In 104 days (about 15 weeks) I’ll be arriving at the AT Approach Trail, which goes from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain in Georgia. As I write this it feels like more than a lifetime away, but I know all too well that the day will sneak up fast. My gear has a few tweaks left but is more or less complete at this point. My plane ticket is booked and my plans are set in stone. All I have left is time to prepare myself financially, mentally, and physically for six months on the trail and I aim to take full advantage. In this post I just want to touch on some daily routines and pre-trail preparation that I’m working on. For the record, this will be my first attempt at a thru-hike, so take any of my preparation or advice with a grain of salt and please feel free to reach out to me with any further pointers!
Up and AT ‘Em!
I just want to walk you through a typical day for me and highlight a few things I’m doing to prepare. First, I have gotten into the habit of meditating for 10 to 15 minutes right when I wake up. I’m also a novice when it comes to meditating but practice makes perfect! Starting my day this way just seems to keep me a little more focused in the morning and generally starts the day off the right way. The next thing I do daily is stretch, then a quick workout in my room, mostly pushups, situps, lunges, and squats. Next, I try to eat a healthy breakfast high in carbs like oatmeal or cereal and drink some coffee while getting ready for work.
Walk, Then Walk More
Now the one piece of advice I have heard from actual thru-hikers that stuck with me the most is to try to stay on your feet as much as possible. Sure makes sense to me. I’m fortunate to live only about five miles from my job and because of that I make sure I walk to and from every day. I’m also on my feet for the eight hours I work every day. At first it was pretty rough and I would crash as soon as I got home but now I actually look forward to it. Pop on a good podcast (Backpacker Radio, Pox and Puss, etc.) or audible book and before I know it, I’m there! Now this seems like a simple step (and it is) but I’ve gotten so much more from doing this than just time on my feet. I’ve been able to figure out a lot about comfort. I’ve learned which socks work for me, how to lace my boots to avoid blisters/foot pain, and how to layer comfortably for the temperatures I’m facing during the Massachusetts winter. I especially like to walk when the weather is rough because I get to test out my rain and warm weather gear to find what works and what doesn’t. By committing to walk every single day, rain or shine, I am working on the mental aspect of the hike too. There will be many times on trail when I’ll have to walk whether I like it or not, so it doesn’t hurt to prepare mentally for that. I average 15 to 20 miles a day on my feet, and although that is not nearly the equivalent of hiking those miles, there are lots of lessons to be gained from it.
Down the Wormhole
Not a ton of physical preparation occurs during the evenings but that’s when I tend to go down the research wormhole. Some nights I stay up analyzing every detail of every piece of equipment I have but for the most part I’m more interested in hearing other people’s experiences. Great sites like this one, YouTube, Reddit, and WhiteBlaze are among my first choices. Movies, podcasts, books, and forums tend to dominate my work evenings as I try to soak up as much information as possible before I focus on getting a good night’s sleep. In the end we are all going to be hiking our own hike and learning from firsthand experience, but it does really help to read and view other people’s experiences.
Rest for the Weary
I always take one day a week to do absolutely nothing if I can. One day to heal my body and mind and to avoid becoming burned out. One day to relax, chill with friends, watch movies, play video games, and decompress. It’s easier said than done, believe it or not, but it’s really very important and keeps me healthy and sane.
For my second day off I try to be as productive as possible during the day. I normally try to get in some writing and reading, then I get myself ready for the days to come. Preparation for the week ahead normally doesn’t take too long (laundry, errands, etc.) and then I try to get out for a day hike. I’ve enjoyed exploring the area around my home and found some pretty cool trails to test out gear and conditions. This is generally the time I get out to do shakedown hikes overnight, but I’ll go more into detail about that on a future post.
Countdown to Katahdin
In the end I won’t really know how well I’ve prepared to do the AT until I get on trail. No matter what I do beforehand, this trail is very tough and likely to kick my ass. I feel like the hardest part of this is the waiting right now, but I’m quite sure the trail will remind me otherwise right from the start. It’s important for me to remind myself that the preparation and these days leading to the trail are all part of the full experience. I know I’ll look back fondly on these days some day, but for now March can’t get here quick enough! It will be here before I know it, though. One day, one step at a time.
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