In Your Rush to Mt. Katahdin, Please Don’t Forget to Stop and Smell the Day Hikers

(Days 22 to 30)

Night Whisperer here to remind you it’s important to appreciate the little things.

Like the warmth of dry socks, laughter among friends or the sweet scent of a passing day hiker who has definitely showered within the last 24 hours.

I Smell Clean People

Is that a bad thing to say in a blog? 🤷‍♀️

As derranged as this might sound, noticing the smell of passing day hikers is a known phenomenon amongst us grungy thru-hikers. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not an experience I’ve gone out of my way to seek out. I’m not just getting close to strangers to get a good whiff of them. But after hundreds of miles of hiking, it’s something you can’t help but notice when you yourself smell like a New York City subway station. All I can do is enjoy the waft of shampoo and clean clothes and hope beyond hope that the observation of smells is not reciprocal.

Over Rivers, Through Woods, Across Plains, and Chasing Waterfalls

I’m now 1 month into this adventure and just under 20% through the trail. I passed the 300 mile mark and then the 400 mile mark, and the AT continues to astound me with its diversity and ever changing landscape. Less than a quarter of the way in, I’ve already walked through so many different terrains.

My thru-hiking experience so far has been beautiful, frustrating, breathtaking (and you best be sure that I mean that both figuratively AND literally), challenging, rewarding, sticky hot, blindingly sunny, freezing cold, soaking wet, smelly, messy, fun, uncomfortable, and freeing. It’s a whole lot of things all at once in the worst and best ways. 

I really do mean it about the importance of noticing the little things. Whether it’s a day hiker’s smell (or something that makes me sound less like a serial killer), I’m doing my best to absorb every moment out here. From the sun on my face to the sweat on my skin to the beauty of the flowers and the trees to the aches in my legs at the end of the day. I’m grateful to experience it all.

There were two section hikers that our group of thru-hikers collided with and hiked alongside for the past few days. Sitting around a campfire outside of a shelter, one of them asked the group how long of a backpacking trip each of us had been on before this. He was getting the itch to try a thru, but seemed to feel intimidated, until the majority of us responded that we’d only been on a 3-night trip or less before this.

Thru-hiking really is for anyone willing to take a chance, put on a pack, and step onto the trail. I think it’s a common misconception that you need to be some sort of outdoor expert to go on a trip like this, but you really don’t. I would also venture to bet that anyone that’s done this before (myself included) would be more than happy to help you get started. I am an expert at nothing, and I’m learning so much as I go (ask me and my mom about our resupply troubleshooting). If I can do this, you can too!

It’s not a walk in the park. But it’s not supposed to be. It’s a walk in the woods afterall.

5 Reasons Why a Thru-Hike is Essentially Summer Camp for Grown-Ups

1- We go by silly names.

A small sample of the company I keep these days:

  • Forklift
  • Kachow
  • Twister
  • Fire Magic
  • Picky
  • Hitman
  • Sunny
  • Live Mas
  • Brightside
  • Gravedigger

Learning people’s government names is the equivalent experience to:

  1. Meeting a co-worker I’ve only ever known remotely and finding out how tall they are
  2. Seeing a teacher outside of school (as a kid, teachers only existed in the context of school as far as I was concerned).
  3. Realizing your parents’ names are not “Mom” and “Dad”.


2- Days-long friendships feel like years-long friendships. 

I’ve known these other humans for a month at most and a few days at the least, yet I suspect many of these friendships will last a lifetime. It’s amazing how quickly you can grow close to someone after trudging up the same miserable climb, getting caught in the same storm or eating the same dehydrated meals.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the community aspect of trail life is a special kind of magic. We share information about shelters, weather and gear as much as we share laughs and meals and camping sites. Even stepping on the trail alone, I’ve never truly been alone since the start. I’m surrounded by a bunch of like-minded dirtbags as we all revel in the nature around us. It’s wonderful. 

3- We stay in bunkbeds and share bathrooms and outdoor showers.

In the past week, we have stayed at two different hiker hostels – The Station at 19E and Boots Off Hostel and Campground. Each had very different vibes, but both were giving off major summer camp energy.

At The Station at 19E, we rolled in around 2PMish after a rainy, 18-mile “nearo”. (Yes, 18 miles is a stretch to be considered a nearo, but every “town day” feels like a nearo. When you can end a day with a beer and warm food, everything before that is irrelevant). We played Uno, cards and billiards, raided the hiker box, ate great food (the hiker mac and cheese, which was a huge portion of mac and cheese with chicken tenders on top, was particularly popular), drank and then camped in the field outside. It was glorious. 

A few days later, we were at the Boots Off Hostel and Campground. It was comprised of a bunkhouse, smaller 3 person cabins and a space for rent camping. The showers there were oitdoor stalls where water was piped into a bucket hanging from the ceiling with holes punched through the bottom (a makeshift showerhead). For a unique shower set-up, it was probably one of the best showers I’ve had on trail. There we also took a 14 passenger van into town for a resupply where we returned loaded down by groceries, Subway and McDonalds. Then we ate outside on picnic tables while the sun went down and the fire crackled. Until the clock hit 9PM that is because 9PM is hiker midnight. 

4- We pass the time by making up silly songs and have a lot of inside jokes.

Have I written multiple parody songs about hiking already? Yes. Will there be many more before the end? Also, yes. Just know that you heard “1000 Miles (The AT Version)” here first. I’ll try to remember you all when I’m famous. 

Some memorable quotes that make us laugh, but likely mean nothing to the outside world:

  • You look like 4 hot dogs!
  • Wow, that’s a really nice trash bag.
  • Don’t be stupid.
  • Just another picture to burn.

5- We eat absolute junk (and sometimes brush our teeth).

Hip belt Skittles are one of my greatest on-trail inventions, and candy is a very integral part of my diet. In one sitting, I had a McDouble, a 20 piece chicken nugget, a basket of fries and a medium sweet tea lemonade. 

Best summer camp ever. 

Whisper out for now! See you in another few hundred miles. 

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Comments 2

  • Tractor : May 6th

    I got so good at smelling day hikers as they went by I could tell if they washed there clothes in gain or tide

  • SahilKei : May 10th

    These posts are so authentic and refreshing. I hope this journey is full of the most blissful experiences for you Dema


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