Ish Gets Real

I am among those hopeful thru-hikers who have researched, surfed the net, watched YouTube videos, made best-friends-for-life at REI, and perhaps, like me, made a spreadsheet listing gear items, sorted by category, price and weight. On my Outlook calendar anything thru-hike-related is colored in a rust-orange shade. On paper I couldn’t be more prepared.

But I haven’t backpacked since 2002 or maybe even 2001, and the last time I day hiked on the AT (in Massachusetts, near North Adams) was in 2003.  Nevertheless, I am,  you know, special because I’m a hopeful thru-hiker.

In a few days I’m going to the annual Gathering hosted by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, or ALDHA, in Abingdon, Virginia.  There are several options for where to stay while at the Gathering. ALDHA has gotten discounted hotel rates for attendees and an RV lot and private campgrounds are available.  Also, as their website states, there are “plenty of tenting spaces in an open field right onsite.”  I haven’t camped since 2002 or maybe even 2001, but since I’m that special breed, the hopeful thru-hiker, obviously I would pitch my Nemo Hornet in the open field right onsite.

I’ve never staked my Nemo Hornet outside. It’s never been outside except for the trip from REI to home.

For days I have grown more and more anxious thinking about getting to Abingdon before nightfall, finding a spot in the open field right onsite and pitching my tent, possibly for the second time ever. I researched the hell out of the tent before I bought it, of course, and I can put it together inside after many hours of practice.

Finally, this morning, panic and common sense forced me to acknowledge my limitations. My plan to tent outside was driven by ego and a sense of superiority, of how special I am because I’m a hopeful thru-hiker – although I’ve never pitched my tent.

Before I even had coffee this morning I called and booked a room at a hotel in Abingdon. The relief this brought me shifted my mindset about the Gathering. I am now focused on the program and excited to hear the speakers and meet experienced hikers.  I might even get some tips on things like selecting a good site to pitch a tent.

But it gets real next week, when I do my first shake-down hike. More about that soon. Right now I have to get busy learning how to stake out my tent in the real world.

Photo of my gear. Because every hopeful thru-hiker does it.

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Comments 6

  • Ruth morley : Oct 3rd

    Hi Ruth! Nice to meet another person with this name.

    It sounds like our paths have been similar, with a year between us. I did all the researching, purchasing, planning, etc. last summer, fall and winter. I had done lots of hiking, including a weeklong shakedown hike in the AT. I was ready! I hit the trail this past July, planning on 3 months this year, 3 next year. But after 1 month, I had to head for home. Tendinitis in the right tibia, plantar fasciitis in the left foot. I plan on going back next spring.

    I’m telling you all of the this to explain my advice for you: start now preoaring your feet and ankles for hard work each day. Look on the internet for good foot strengthening exercises to do. One thing I do is as stand on one foot (barefoot) as long as you can, first on a hard floor, then on carpet, then a bosu ball at the gym. Try looking around and even closing your eyes. Hard but effective.

    I want to be the only Ruth who had to cut her trip short. Your tent will be fine. Prepare your body!

    Best of luck. I’ll continue to follow your journey. You can find mine in the Trek class of 2017.

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Oct 3rd

      Thanks for the advice. Being forced off by injury is my biggest fear – well, spiders are actually my biggest fear, but I really don’t want to be forced off by injury.

      Were the two injuries related or just bad luck you got both?

  • Joshua Johnson : Oct 4th

    Ya, definitely prepare your body. Do the shakedown hike but also start a daily regimen. You can do some SUPER easy, low impact exercises like walking (for the legs) and planking (for the core). I would focus on those two areas (legs and core). Lastly, learn to hydrate if you don’t already. Find out how much water your body needs and at the VERY least start getting the recommended amount several days before you hit the trail so your body is ready. This should help your body a ton! Well wishes and good luck on your journey.

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Oct 4th

      Thanks Joshua. I recently got a Planet Fitness membership. Their staff helped me put together a program targeted toward hiking, pretty similar to your suggestions (except the water – thanks for that suggestion). If I can just discipline myself to go every day…

      On other fronts, I finally took my tent out to the backyard and staked it out.

  • Teej : Oct 29th

    “I finally took my tent out to the backyard and staked it out.”

    Now do it over and over, in the rain and the dark, until it’s second nature and quickly done.
    Practice is the one thing new hikers always seem to forget!

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Oct 29th

      You got that right!


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