A Month In: Reflections on a Second Thru Hike

Here I am, about to enter the Smokies for a second time on a thru hike.  I can’t help but wonder how different certain aspects of this hike have been this go-around:  my mindset, thoughts on nutrition, and camping preferences.  So without further ado or tired feet, here are some thoughts on those matters.

What the hell was/am I thinking???

Going North

The mindset going into this hike is like night and day compared to 2018.  It’s so much more relaxing! Gear was a non-issue. I already know what works for me.  Tent, pack, etc…I’m more set in my ways than my own grandfather at this point.  The looking ahead along the way is much less nerve-wracking. I know what lies ahead mile-to-mile and even town-to-town.  That nervous panic about being able to get a room and the “OMG, am I going to be able to get tortillas?!?!” feeling is all a distant memory.

The Truth About Gummy Bears

The Mountains

From a nutrition standpoint, things have changed as well.  For over half of my first thru hike, my Knorrs sides or mashed potato meals were just that, maybe with a little hot sauce or red pepper flakes added for flavor.  This time, I always add flavored chicken packets or spam for the added protein and texture (more power to you tuna or seafood fans, that stuff just isn’t for me…I don’t care how emaciated I get).  Another tidbit I’ve noticed over thousands of miles that you all should know about:  those fruit snacks and gummies sound amazing when you buy them in town, but I guarantee that they aren’t making it past day two after leaving town.  Those fruity, sticky assorted shapes of flavor are way too enticing sitting in your food sack.

Camping:  Battling Bears or True Freedom?

Perfect spot

Another huge difference I’ve noticed this time is where I’m camping early on.  In 2018, basically in the Land Before Time, I was just kind of going with the flow of the herd for the first few hundred miles.  It kind of felt like lemmings going from shelter to shelter.  “I gotta get there without getting passed by a million other hikers!” was the prevailing thought back at that time.  This year?  Completely different.  It’s so nice to let the other hikers do their thing in the rat race to be near a shelter.  I’m very happy with one of the thousands of primitive campsites with space for 1-2 tents along the way.  I’ve caught many more sunrises and sunsets this way as well, as most shelters tend to be in gaps or coves without a view.

So what I’m really trying to say is:

Follow the blazes

So, in a nutshell, I’m much more relaxed this hike and it’s already showing in how my body and mind has handled these first 170-ish miles.  Hopefully, you all can gain something from this that inspires you on a thru-hike this year or in the future.  Check back next month when I’ll probably spend a few hundred words apologizing to my gummy bears for my tone against them a few paragraphs back.

Montani Semper Liberi

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Comments 4

  • Griff : Mar 14th

    Great job Jon! I am glad to be watching your journey and have so many questions. Am I able to get a daily shower on the AT? Are you encountering a steady amount of other hikers? How awesome were those tortillas??? Glad to see you out and enjoying. Groove on!

  • Edd and elaine : Mar 14th

    Hey John love following your hike, we met you 2018 at Fontana Dam and you had a ton of food, your a ninja hiker, loving your posts, wish we did more hostels than hotels on our hike, keep safe mate, love from your friends in UK ??

  • Faith Breads : Mar 14th

    Nice update, Jon! Glad to hear that you’re more relaxed this go-around. 🙂

  • Joseph : Mar 18th

    I attempted thru hikes nobo ‘07 and ‘13. I’m an older retiree and got sick early, very expensive recuperating multiple days in lodgings.
    Avoid the bubble…left both times spring equinox which is optimal for sauntering north following the spring. Both times big snow and ice in the smokies. You’ve got the right strategy. People are great as are the shelters but it’s better to solo camp until crowds thin out. Last year would have been good, a dry year and no crowds. Good luck. As always on the AT a wet year is a hard one, that’s the biggest obstacle in my opinion.


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