How to Celebrate Your Birthday on the Appalachian Trail
I recently celebrated my birthday on the trail, and in preparation for my epic trail birthday, I asked many others how they choose to celebrate their big day on the trail. With a variety of responses, I felt very inspired and ready for the challenge of having an unforgettable trail birthday.
So, if you find yourself celebrating a trail birthday this year or sometime in the future, please, take some of these suggestions to help make your trail birthday legendary.
How to Celebrate Your Birthday on the Appalachian Trail:
- Do nothing. Not just ignore your birthday, but literally, make an effort to hang out and do nothing. As a trail hiker, we are constantly moving, and even on zero days, we are doing laundry, grocery shopping and getting mail drops, all of which takes a ton of time without a car. So, for a good birthday, give yourself a day where you do not have to do ANYTHING. Feel free to supplement with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and pizza.
- Fake Tattoos. When one of my friends had a birthday, I wanted to give her a gift, but also did not want to give her something she would have to carry. While exploring the local Dollar General, I asked a little girl what she suggested and she said, “I like ‘dem tattoos”, pointing to a variety Frozen tattoos. Perfect. We celebrated my friend’s birthday by giving each other Frozen tattoos. I had a great Olaf tattoo on my neck for two weeks (you would be surprised how long they can last when you are not showering).
- Carry cupcakes and cookies to pass out. Or, if you are me, Epic Bars. If you MUST hike and decide that cannot stand the idea of sitting still, you could carry these delicious treats and pass them out to other thru-hikers. If you must hike ultralight, forgo the pound cake and find some angel food cake variety, but at that point, is it even worth it? Go big or go home.
- Birthday Beer. Enough said.
- Birthday Bourbon. Much more efficient than birthday beer. (Or so I’m told)
- Birthday Miles? Free pass to yellow-blaze (get a car ride up to another point on the trail) all day.
- Half Gallon Birthday Challenge. For those who have passed the half-way point on the A.T., you have seen your friends attempt the half gallon challenge, probably vomit, and then continue on hiking. But why save this triumphant endeavor for just the half-way mark? What better time to test your dairy limit than your birthday? (Let’s be clear, I did not test this)
- Find a beach. The A.T. goes through so many state parks and lakes, it would be easy to find a beach or swimming hole to hang out to celebrate. Plus, if there are a lot of day walkers (term of endearment for people hiking for the day only), or sun bathers around, they might donate a birthday apple to you.
- Paint your nails and cry. Because chances are you are over tired and super sensitive from the amount of hiking and bug swatting you have been doing. Find something to cry and about and have a friend paint your nails (chances are, someone is carrying nail polish around you in an anti-ultralight fashion). Then sing, “It’s my party, I can cry if I want to”.
- Summit Katahdin. One of my friends has a birthday in September and hopes to line up the end of his hike with his birthday. I’m just secretly hoping he also will be doing option 3 if I also finish that day with him.
Personally, I made my birthday a week long affair, as any Leo would. I’m still recovering from Cryptosporidium, which gives me extreme bouts of fatigue. The other day, it took me all day to hike what once took me a morning or afternoon. So for my birthday, I promised myself a few days of easy hiking and a couple zeros to help speed my recovery up. I began two days ahead of my birthday, when I handed out Epic Bars and other grass-fed meat treats out to my friends in a “Happy Birthday to me, here have some healthy food” way. Really, I just wanted to remind all my friends how awesome I was and that my birthday was coming up.
The next day, half way through the hiking day, my friends and I were given a free drink from one of the local stores, and because I do not normally drink, I decided that after one gluten-free hard cider (which is pretty much just apple juice), I “obviously” was not safe to hike and would need to have a luxurious night in the local one star motel.
The following morning, (my actual birthday), my mother drove down to Connecticut from New Hampshire to make breakfast for all of my trail buddies. She then rented a couple hotel rooms to put us all up for the night so we could all clean up and hang out. I believe her car still smells from shuttling us. Sorry, mom. My friends and I spent the day looking for a gluten-free cake, coconut milk ice cream and fake tattoos. After a pathetic search, we ended up surrendering our dreams and walked away with coconut milk ice cream.
The next day, I was so tired from all of these birthday endeavors (or the crypto), that I spent the day sleeping off all the excitement (and no, it really was not a hangover, I only had one special cider).
Then, finally, today, I was told there is a bakery nearby with a gluten-free section which means I can finally complete my birthday celebrations with a gluten-free cake. Also, the family of my dear friend, John Wayne, has offered to help me find fake tattoos. Hurray!
And that, was how I celebrated my birthday. Or… am currently still celebrating. Tomorrow I will continue hiking with fingers crossed that my body is more recovered from the crypto and I will be able to keep up with my friends!
See you all in MASSACHUSETTS,
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Happy belated birthday, glad you made it to New England.