Lessons from a Shakedown

I recently went on my first official East coast shakedown hike since deciding to tackle the AT. Up until this moment, I had done my training in Colorado. It was also the first official shakedown with my thru hike partner. This was one of those trips where everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. But I feel like this offered better training. Here are a couple of things I learned from this trip.

Cat Kaelyn Slide

Trail closure due to landslide 

Cat Landslide

1. Hiking poles, for me, are a must

I wanted to title this post “An Ode to Hiking Poles” because I fell in love with them in North Carolina last weekend. I am sure my hike partner got tired of me ranting about how much I loved them. Sure, they felt awkward at first. I told Kaelyn (hike partner) that I felt like a praying mantis when using them initially. But I am someone who has had multiple knee surgeries and has already heard the words “impending knee replacement” more than any 24 year old ever should. These hiking poles were helpful not just for up hill, but particularly for giving my knees a break on the descents. I am not the most coordinated person and these poles enabled me to go faster because they dramatically increased my balance and my confidence. I would catch the top of an exposed root and while normally this might have sent me flying, my hiking poles stabilized each step.

Cat Snowy Trees

2. Shakedowns are a must

I am so grateful for this shakedown. It did not go according to plan. In fact, we hiked to one end of the trail to discover it was closed due to snow. Then we hiked to the other end to discover that the trail markers and snowy footprints that were leading our way, disappeared. We left to do another trail that a ranger assured us was one of his favorite, difficult backpacking trail. It was closed due to a landslide he forgot to mention. We crossed only to learn we were expected to cross the raging Jordan river. But! These challenges offered a unique training for my partner and I. We were able to make decisions together. This was important to me because sometimes we get bogged down in being “nice” so we just are okay with “whatever you want to do.” But if one person is always making the decisions, then the trail would really be their trip and the other would just be along for the ride. We both need to take ownership of this trip if we are going to make it. We also learned how the other reacted to upsets on the trail and I’m excited to say we did well!

Cat Art Loeb

Night Hiking Art Loeb

3. Being in tune with your body is important

I am not known for being super diligent in listening to my body. I would start to feel sluggish on the trail. This seemed expected to me by day 2 of hiking. But then Kaelyn would suggest we would stop for a snack and I would oblige. Shortly after, I felt like a million bucks. I am not used to eating every 2 hours but this was necessary while working out on the trail. I need to focus on being more aware of what my body is telling me. But honestly, eating more often is training I could get used to. However, I also learned that man cannot live off snickers alone. More to come on that in my next post…

Cat Blue Ridge Sunset

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