Inside the Mind of This Thru-Hiker on a Typical Day

A New Day, the Best of Intentions.



Okay, up and at ’em!  A new day on the AT and it looks like beautiful weather.   I’d love to get 20 miles done today if I can.  Gonna try really hard to cut my usual morning routine of breaking camp down from 1.5 hours to an hour.  I know I can do it.  Stay focused and efficient.

Yeah, right.  You’ve said this every morning.  You always spend way too much time obsessing about putting your stuff into the backpack in exactly the same spot as every other day.  Would a little change hurt things?


Okay, so it was 1.5 hour again, But, hey, I did get in my yoga in, under the trees.  That’s really important for longevity on the trail, isn’t it?


And I know exactly where my sunscreen and hand santizer bottles are. Bottom left corner of back mesh pocket of backpack.  In alphabetical order.


Finally on the Trail.

Ah, the trail is so fresh and beautiful at 7:30 am.  I’m so fortunate!  This is so wonderful!   I love life!!!



Except that no one else has been on the trail before you this morning, and  you’re getting all these spiderwebs across your face.


Wow, this is such a great time of day to see wildlife.  Listen!  Is that the distinctive crack of twigs?  Yep, there’s Bear #13!  Stop moving and slowly, slowly get phone out of waist pouch  Got it!  That’s gotta be my best bear photo so far!  This is so very cool to be having this quiet moment with a bear in his natural habitat.



Okay, isn’t that enough time?  What more are you expecting — for him to put on a clown hat and ride a unicycle for you?  Time to get moving. 


Let the Delays Continue.

It’s always interesting to take a couple of minutes talking with other hikers on the trail.  These two lively ladies’s foot attire immediately caught my eye.  They are sisters who each had foot pain on opposite feet.  So they traded shoes and all worked well.  They also happened to come from the same neighborhood in St. Louis where my Granny lived.  Conversations can often reveal surprising links with folks.



But you can certainly tell the difference between day hikers and thru-hikers.  The thru-hikers have a more intense,  weary, perhaps haggard look to them.



Hello!  It’s also fun to chat with the occasional trail volunteers.



These folks were repairing “water bars,”  rocks or logs that direct rainwater off the trail to prevent erosion.



I sure do appreciate the 31 volunteer trail support organizations that take care of the shelters and 2190 miles of trail.  I hereby pledge to help at Red River Gorge in the future.

Yeah, like that will really happen.      Stop talking to everyone. 


Being in the Moment

Okay, I’m realize that I’m in a daze,  just watching the immediate trail in front of me.  I don’t want to trip on something, but there’s a whole forest out there to admire.  Gotta be more in the moment.

So, look right…



Now look left….


Looks pretty darned similar to what you’ve seen the past 300 miles, doesn’t it?  Watch the trail and move along.


Ooh, ooh, what a cute little mushroom right by the trail!  Gotta stop and take a photo for our young neighbor, Fiona.  She loves fairies and this looks like it’d totally belong in Fairyland.  Take off pack and get down on all fours to get just the right angle.



Just as you’ve done countless times before.   Is this really necessary?  The photo isn’t going to turn out as brilliant as you seem to think it will.  You’re certainly not going to make 20 miles today.


Okay, I’ve been out a couple hours now.  Time for a snack and taking a load off for a couple of minutes.  Sometimes there’s a rock to sit on, but I saw a sign for a shelter ahead just .7 mile.  I’ve got an idea!  I’ll play a game and estimate my mileage as I approach, guessing my speed and counting  down to .6 mile, .5 mile…

Okay, got the math thing figured out.  Just do it and move it.



Ah…nice to sit down and take the pack off for a couple of minutes.  Dig in pockets for one of my two bars for the day.  I feel like being “Kind” to myself this morning.  Ha ha, I love my humor.

Eat and go, please.  You’re not that funny.  And you really could have eaten that bar while walking.


Way Too Much Spare Time to Come up with Profound Thoughts

Back to looking at the trail again as the miles slowly roll by.  Uphill, downhill, flattish.  I’m realizing that there are certain surfaces that are easier to walk on than others.  The very best surface of all, IMHO, is dirt covered by pine needles or grasses.  So gentle and springy on the feet.


Just plain dirt is great too.  Even adding a few pebbles don’t cause problems, although the feet do think fondly of those previous pine needles.



But when you add gravel and small rocks, especially on downhills, it can become bumpy on the bottoms of the feet (particularly in my trail running shoes), and very slippery when going downhill.



Some folks warned you about trail runners and highly recommended sturdier hiking boots, didn’t they?  But noooo….Miss Stubborn wouldn’t listen.


Moving further down the Desirability Scale are larger rocks on the trail  This means you’ve got to carefully place your foot with each step.  Any one of these could be an ankle turner.  But at some point, your mind can wander and your feet still go to the right places.



Or not.  Don’t be a fool.  Pay attention.


And when it’s piles of rocks, well, that’s one of my least favorite situations.



Just do it and stop complaining.  You know very well that the far northern states hold further horrors.  You’ve heard the stories from other hikers.  You signed on to do this, you know.


Okay, a Lunch Stop is Acceptable.

Ah…..lunchtime.  Pack off.  Sit down.  This log will do.


What’s on the menu today?  An orange theme, I see:  dehydrated carrot slaw, dehydrated nitrate-free deli ham strips, dehydrated orange slices, which go well with CHOCO!  I love eating.



And who doesn’t?


And look who’s sharing my lunchspot today.



Yawn.  Another deer picture.  You can go to the Wyoming Golf Club three blocks from home and get those.


Just Keep the Feet Moving.  You Can Think Whatever you Want, just GO.

Back on the trail.  These past couple of days, the AT has paralleled and crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway several times.  Cool, I can walk right by this support wall for the road up above.   I wonder when this was built.



Look it up later.  You probably don’t have cell coverage here anyway.   It’ll now be a miracle if you make 18 miles.


Ooh, a view at this intersection with the road!  And even better, a trash can for those extra grams of empty ziplocks and used TP.



Skipping all the photos and chatting would get you to camp much faster than shedding 20 grams of plastic and paper.


Boy, it’s getting hot today.  And I had to carry extra water today because of dry water sources.  This spigot from a cistern at a shelter I pass produces no water.


Springing $60 for the Guthook app of the whole trail (with current water sources and more) wasn’t such a bad idea, after all, was it?  Told you so.


I really ought to look at my surroundings more.  Let’s see how it compares to this morning.  Looking right…


Looking left..


Pretty typical for the “Green Tunnel,” wouldn’t you say?


Yet More Pictures?  Which You’ll Probably Throw out Anyway.


Well, the sun indicates that the day is going to come to a close in just a couple of hours.  Oh look!  There’s my shadow, right on the trail!



And if I turn this way, I can look like the sign I saw earlier in the day.



Was this really worth wasting 10 minutes of your time?


An End to This Madness, for the Day, at Least.

Okay, I don’t know why I never can get the big miles I think I can.  It’s time to find a spot to camp.  I feel like skipping the shelter I just passed and stealth camping in the forest again.  The AT is  kinda like a 2190 mile long park, you know.

Hey, here’s a great spot not far from a creek that actually has some pools of water.  I can dip out water using  a ziplock, filter it and have enough for dinner, breakfast, and even a bandana bath.  The forcast calls for potential rain, so I’ve got to set up the tarp with the broadside to the south.  But there are a couple of trees situated just right for that.

Yay, life is still good!



And how many miles did we get in today?

Well, around 18, but I’m totally good with that.  I met interesting people, continued to build up my trail legs, saw wildlife, had enough cell coverage to text Bill, and truly appreciated my time in nature.  Life is good.

Yeah, well, I’ll give you that.





295.6:  miles of the actual AT hiked

26:  days out

4:  number of zero days

14-16:  typical day’s mileage, sometimes 12, sometimes up to 20

13:  number of nights sleeping in my own tarp/net tent combo

5:  number of nights  inside a shelter

4:  number of nights  in a hotel or cabin

4:  number of nights in a hostels with bunk rooms

13:  bears seen directly

2 :  bunnies seen

1: back 50% of  coyote seen crossing trail

1: wild turkey seen crossing trail (not related to above animal’s crossing)

countless:  deer, butterflies, bees in meadows, tree frogs croaking incessantly through the night

12, at the very least:  dogs taking their humans hiking

1.5 lbs:  approximate weight loss, despite eating nonstop



























Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 29

  • karl erpenbeck : Aug 20th

    hello my name is Karl. I’m 55 years old and live in Massachusetts. I read your article about you hiking the AT. thank you i used to hike many years ago. I have climbed all of the New Hampshire 48, 4000 foot mountain
    . maine and new Hampshire used to be my play ground I’ve hike the AT from new Hampshire to Mount katardian. I’ve done the last hundred mile wilderness three times . me and another friend of mine would hike every weekend for all year round. so who needs a trail map we would
    t go and wonder through the mountains of maine and new Hampshire. thank you for bringing back memories of the days i used to hike the trail. karl.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 20th

      Karl, it sounds like you’ve had a whole lot of great hiking ngcexperiences. I hope that you still are getting outside for some time in nature.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Grammar : Aug 20th

        Please proofread your comments. “Ngcexperiences” is not a word. Your disdain for proper grammar is palpable. The Queen’s English is to be respected.

        • CG : Aug 21st

          Your comment about grammar, when you pick out what is obviously a simple typo in her comment, is regrettable and pathetic. She’s telling a story, and her grammar is fine.

          That’s what you got from this post? You need to point out a typo? That’s sad.

          • Ruth Morley : Aug 21st

            I think Grammar is just looking for entertainment. I apologize for any errors I make after hiking 18 miles in 90 degree weather. I should really be more careful.

  • Barb : Aug 20th

    Another great entry!
    I appreciate the self-talk. We all do it!

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 20th

      Thanks, Barb. It’s so true. I have a lot of conversations during a day of hiking, even if it’s only with myself.

  • Rhinestone : Aug 20th

    Your the best! Thanks for so much entertainment.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 20th

      Rhinestone, thank you for the ego boost. I’m glad you enjoy the posts. I enjoy dreaming them up.

  • Jodee : Aug 20th

    Love your posts! They are letting me hike the trail vicariously, right along with you.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 20th

      Jodee, how about hiking in “real time?” Glen wood Gardens is a great choice just minutes from your house (if you’re home right now).

  • Anna Jones : Aug 21st

    I absolutely loved this article! I laughed out loud several times…and mostly i appreciated your honest yet comical understanding and appreciation of the trail. My husband and I are planning a thru hike for next summer and it is great to read about experiences from hikers, both about the pleasures and the monotony of the trail.

    Best of luck and Happy Trails!

    • Ruth morley : Aug 22nd

      Anna, I’m glad the article amused you so much. Good luck in your planning and preparations for next year. That can be part of the pleasure of the AT, too.

  • Mary Jo Peairs : Aug 24th

    Ruth, I felt like I was walking along with you. I do remember that you like to stop a lot. The pictures are worth the time it takes to stop. You are going strong. Mary Jo

    • Ruth morley : Aug 25th

      Yes, I do enjoy taking photos. It helps me bring back memories of nearly every day. It sure is easier to take photos when on foot than when we are cycling together.

  • Cynthia Smith : Aug 24th

    Enjoying these a lot! Glad you are doing so well! I don’t hear any physical complaints.

    • Ruth morley : Aug 25th

      I credit the daily stretching and yoga for keeping the body moving well. The feet take turns complaining, but the use of KT tape to assist the tendons in doing their jobs really helps. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Just about everyone has injuries.

  • Margaret McLandrich : Aug 25th

    It is so good to hear you are in rhythm with the trail! Happy food pick-up and equipment are working properly. 300 miles is a great mile stone, Congratulations! Drew and I leave for Denver today. Hope to do a little high altitude hiking with the grandkids. Keep on trekking! Margaret

    • Ruth morley : Aug 25th

      How fun to be able to hike with your grandkids! Enjoy Colorado, my favorite state for sure.

  • Kathy Cunningham : Aug 26th

    Love your updates, Ruth! Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos, your musings, and the journey!

    • Ruth morley : Aug 26th

      Kathy, it pleases me so much that you’re following my journey. You certainly understand the concepts of working hard to achieve your goals and digging deep when things get tough.

      Thank you for coaching my way to success with a half Ironman. I still have a full Ironman nagging me in the back of my brain, “C’mon, just one!” All in good time….

  • Jennifer : Aug 28th

    I’m enjoying your posts and progress Ruth. What a wonderful experience. It doesn’t surprise me that you took on this challenging path. It is just another notch to scratch off in your already adventurous life. That is what I like about you…you get out and live life! Keep on trekking!

  • Ruth morley : Aug 28th

    Jennifer, thank you for your kind words. The AT is proving to be a very challenging undertaking, as I assumed it would. My upcoming post in the next few days will reveal my recent challenges. It’s not all fairy tales and Julie Andrews moments in the meadows, as I have previously portrayed. Stay tuned….

  • Val : Aug 30th

    Love, love reading about your adventure, Ruth! I’m thankful you have the energy to photograph and chronicle your day even as you push to make your mileage. Looking forward to the next post! 🙂

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 30th

      Hi, Val! My next post (now up) might surprise you with the turn in events….


What Do You Think?