Shakedowns and Other Fortunate Mishappenings

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I’m writing these lovely words from a very itchy human. Hopefully I am learning from my mistakes, but maybe you will learn from me instead so you can save yourself some suffering in the process of figuring out your own trail flow.

I EMbarked upon my first solo backpacking trip a few weekends ago as I needed some time in the woods, and I wanted to test out some different gear set ups.

Here’s what I learned so far:

-Poison ivy takes no survivors from her evil wrath. If you are highly allergic like me – WEAR PANTS. I’ll be honest, people. I thought I was invincible. I crushed that trail with each and every step and pretended my legs were immune to the three green leaves with red dots in the middle sprouting all over the sides of the path, brushing my legs. I’ve hiked this location before and didn’t have a problem, but it was also pretty overgrown this trip. My thoughts: if I pretend it’s not there, it’s not really there, right? I should probably change into pants, but nah, I’m fine. I won’t get it. WRONG. Here I am, three measly days later, covered head to toe from itching what I thought were simply bug bites. Don’t be an Emily. Wear pants if you’re allergic. Consider yourself lucky if you’re not. Guess I won’t be bringing shorts with me on the trail. Not even to sleep in? What if I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? I’m not risking a month of itchiness and possibly steroids for wearing shorts, ever. Officially leggings and pants forever. Sorry legs, you were meant to be pale anyways.

-It took me about halfway through the summer to figure out I’ve been pitching my tent wrong. So I’m supposed to stake that toggle into the ground, not the fly? So that’s why it keeps collapsing on me while I sleep…. oh. Okay. Figure this out ahead of time, so you know how your gear works (and know it well) before starting.

-For the love of God, check the area you’re camping at for the night before setting your pack down. If you’re like me, you’re probably so out of breath, exhausted, in need of a good chug a lug of water, and a solid 8 hours of sleep, but seriously, you will thank yourself later. In the past 7 days, I’ve been chased by more hornets than I can count. And stung by more than plenty. Now every time I hear buzzing in the woods my body panics and then freezes, expecting to get stung. Watch where you step. Look for nests before deciding to set your pack down and set up camp. And if you by chance provoke some stinging beast, run fast and far far away. In my case, the hornets followed me to my new campsite and circled me all night and morning. Save yourself the trouble (and pain). Check first.

-Test runs help give me a better perspective of how much water I need to carry, and how much food I need to portion for a meal ration.

-I’ve learned that while I find my hammock much more comfy than the ground in my tent set up, I can’t stand setting it up, or having the bug net hang right on top of me every night. I like being able to crawl into the shelter of my tent every night and retreat. Especially after being chased by all the hornets… I really just wanted a safe space I could crawl into that a bee/wasp/hornet couldn’t sting me through, like my hammock material. The more you test out your different gear, the more you’ll get a feel for what works best for you.

-If I am choosing to use my lighter pack, my sleeping pad takes up too much space. Either I need to get a compression waterproof bag for my sleeping bag instead of the cheap walmart dry bag I’m using, or still, switch to a cheaper foam pad so I can store it on the outside of my pack. I wouldn’t have known this without testing out my gear a few times.

-Take a compass. And a map. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from somebody. For me, being shy, it’s really hard to make eye contact or converse with other hikers I’m walking past. It makes my heart race, my cheeks flush, and usually involves me stumbling out a series of words that make absolutely no sense before my brain remembers how to articulate thoughts aloud. That’s okay! If you’re like me and can’t form coherent sentences at first, be gentle with yourself. But also start getting comfortable asking for help. I didn’t realize I’m such an introvert or how much I enjoyed hiking alone at my own pace. However, when you are alone, sometimes you might need assistance. And sometimes, the thing that is going to be the deciding factor between remaining safe or not, is asking someone for help. Don’t feel ashamed (even though I’ll admit I totally did). Remember no man is an island. Community is how we survive. Offer to help when you can, and learn to ask for and accept help when you need it without feeling so much shame.

-Use the shakedowns as an opportunity to test your dehydrated foods and how to properly prepare them. Those dehydrated mashed potatoes I brought? Yeah. More like watery potato soup. I followed the directions as best I could… but they didn’t resemble mashed potatoes in the least. Luckily I had a vegan alfredo sauce packet to throw in there making it delicious. But let’s be real, when you’ve hiked a long day, almost anything tastes good. Know your water to re-hydration ratio beforehand to save yourself frustration.

I’m grateful for learning these things now while I have time to learn from them before starting my hike.

My friend sums up my feels on this shakedown in the candid shot below. Don’t be me.


Happy trails, and may your days remain hornet free

Love and snap peas,



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