Hike Your Own Hike: SOBO Days 20 – 24
You totally take for granted the simplicity of filling your water bottle from a faucet in the real world. Little things like using lotion or eating cold food become so novel when you spend most of your time in the woods.
A near-o in Stratton made me feel like a human again. A hiker friend said, “Town days make me feel human, but the trail makes me feel alive”. I thought that perfectly summarized how nice it feels to indulge in the comforts of life while contrasting with how freeing it is to only have the essentials in the woods.
Struggling to Slow Down
All of this said, taking a day off from hiking is something that I’m actually struggling with. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t argue for one second that I am a “go-go-go” type of person. I have a hard time relaxing. I am most “relaxed” when I have something going on. When I’m doing something. Near-o and zero days are interesting for me. I fly through the coveted “town chores” like doing laundry, showering, resupplying, cleaning my pot (sometimes), and flushing my water filter. I don’t feel calm until those chores are done. But, once they’re done, I’m left with nothing to do.
This is in contrast with hiking days, where a morning routine, full day of hiking, and evening routine completely fill the day. It’s relaxing in its own way, albeit definitely not sedentary. However, on a low-mileage day, when the evening routine is completed by 6pm after arriving at camp early in the afternoon, that antsy feeling creeps back in.
And this is where I’m slowly learning about the concept of “Hike Your Own Hike”.
Health Comes First
I said to my mother before leaving for the trail that the only way she’d find me back home before completing the trail would be, knock on wood, because of a serious injury. I don’t want to think about that too deeply and am just thankful that I’ve been healthy and safe thus far. However, injury prevention has been of utmost importance to me.
This means yoga (or at least stretching) every single morning and evening. Physiotherapy-style exercise band stretches for my feet at least once daily. Massage ball action on my plantar fasciitis also once per day. Compression sleeves for my calves. Elevating my feet as often as possible through the day. Tiger. Balm. It’s not a perfect routine, but I like to think that’s it’s been helping so far.
Most important of all of that, though, is taking the mileage slow. And this is where my knowledge of injury prevention comes in direct opposition to my “go-go-go” personality.
Leaving Stratton with Intention
After leaving Stratton, a SOBO hiker starts to move deeper into the thick of Southern Maine. Southern Maine is known as some of the most difficult terrain on trail. Knowing what was coming up in my future, I intentionally decided to do this section as a long four-day stretch, raking up low-mileage days, but also raking up lots of rest time.
Many other SOBO hikers did this section in about two days. Talk about a mental struggle. In my everyday life, I hate to be perceived as someone who’s slacking. Not slack packing — slacking. Meaning, not doing enough or not doing their best, not challenging themselves. Seeing other people just like me doing what I perceived as twice as much work? Agonizing.
But, I was committed to the slow pace. And although my antsy personality is not perfectly quenched, this section was one of my favourites thus far.
A Slow Approach
Taking the days slow meant that I got to fully enjoy every view, every conversation, and every step along the way.
Leaving Stratton, I ended up ahead of my crew (shh, okay, I said I was trying to go slow) and had ample time for a one-person dance party at the top of North Crocker Mountain while I waited for them to join me for a snack.
Later, at the second peak of the Crocker Mountains, my crew stopped for a long lunch overlooking a scenic view, while chatting with day hikers from New Hampshire.
On the rocky decent down from the Crocker Mountains, my lack of a rush meant that I could take it easily and watch every step without twisting an ankle. Success!
It meant I could sleep in and take off at a late start time on a rainy morning, saving my spirits and my clothes from being dampened.
Cruising along an easy section, I took the time to wait for the crew to catch up at the 200-mile marker so that we could celebrate together. It feels so surreal!
At the side trail for Sugarloaf Mountain, another mid-day pause led to a conversation with some New Yorkers who rewarded us with some grapes and cherries from their day packs. Massive thank you!
After a short day and arriving at the shelter early, group yoga and a meditation session led by our resident yogi was a great way to stretch the muscles and really take the whole experience in.
At Sluice Brook, I had time for multiple cold soak sessions, icing my sore feet while snacking and chatting with new pals. These alpine pools are basically free alpine spas!
A nice long sunbath on Poplar Ridge was much needed after the steep climb and it rejuvenated my spirit.
There was no need to rush the Saddleback Ridge on my slow timeline, so I stopped at every peak to absorb every view. The views were clear and I was feeling great!
We Made It, Eventually
The intentionality of taking this section slow rewarded me with no blisters, no twisted ankles, and high spirits. After a quick dip into Rangely for a resupply (and what’s becoming my town ritual — kombucha and a Greek yogurt), it’s already time to head back into the woods. The mountains are just getting steeper from here, so I’m happy I took the time to slow down in this past section. I’m feeling ready to tackle more mountains, more views, and more hiking my own hike.
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.