Smiles, Miles, Faves & Pet Peeves on the Trail


Let’s start off with smiles!

This past week has consisted of very long days but each one has put a smile on my face one way or another!

Max Patch was a great way to start off the week. We packed out leftover pizza from Kathy’s cabin and enjoyed it when we climbed up the brutal 13 miles to the patch. So worth it. 


We took our very first real zero on Monday in Hot springs, NC and it was glorious. Finally a day to just relax.  No errands to run, no resupply and no twisting my ankle down mountains. More than once, we all walked down to the Smokey Mountain Diner and stuffed our faces with their delicious, cheap food! This should be every hikers first stop on their way into Hot Springs. Well after dropping your pack at the Laughing Heart Hostel (the shower will still be there after your meal). A few of us then went to relax our sore muscles in the waters from the Hot Springs and picked up some lunch at the Hilly Billy market on our way back to the hostel, where we remained in our bunks for the rest of the day. ?20170308_072813View from the bridge on our way out of Hot Springs!

Miles, miles and more miles

Not only did we crank out our first 20 mile day last week on our way up to Max Patch, this week we hiked three twenty mile days in a row. Annnnd another twenty today. On Thursday we hit the 300 mile marker, yahoo!! To make things even sweeter, we should hit the 400 mile marker in two days. It’s unreal how fast these miles are flying under our feet.



Food: While I’ve only ever had one (because it was free), Mountain House biscuits and gravy has been my favorite trail meal so far. Besides that though, oatmeal has surprisingly been the meal I look forward to and crave most. It’s especially yummy when it’s freezing cold and I can’t feel my fingers cause it warms me up inside and out, all while being tasty!

For the best oatmeal (in my opinion) combine 2 packets of apples and cinnamon Quaker oats, 1 scoop (or what looks like one scoop) of protein powder & 1 Jiff creamy peanut butter to-go container. Yummm

Podcasts: The Survival Podcast and Joe Santagato: The Basement yard – A great pick-me-up on rough days. Other hikers can probably hear me laughing from mountains away ?

Gear: My bite valve for my platypus water pack. I didn’t start the trail with one and very soon became annoyed with grabbing my water bottle with sore shoulders from the side of my pack. Also, I did not start the trail with my front pouch. I tried fitting my very large phone in the side pockets of my Osprey pack but then realized it was taking up valuable snack room. Not okay. So I bought a small velcro pouch that I keep hanging on my chest strap to hold my cash & phone for easier access and to keep my side pouches crammed with snacks!


Bite valve ✔️ Phone pouch ✔️ Snot hankey, also ✔️

Pet peeves

I’m sure most hikers will tell you the one thing they cant stand are people snoring in shelters. Well I am not gonna tell you that cause I actually don’t mind. If anything, it’s like white noise to me. What does really grind my gears is when I’m happily shuffling down a mountain through the thick piles of leaves and a huge rock (or root, ya never know which) decides it wants to meet my foot. Nothing and I mean nothing, sucks more than wondering if your toenail just got pulled off your foot or not. But I guess that’s just part of the hike man. All my toe nails are still in-tact for those wondering. My toes just know the front my shoes all too well now.

Switchbacks are also very annoying. You think you’re on your way around the side of a mountain when all of a sudden, BAM! The trail turns on you (literally) and you’re just heading further up the mountain and will probably turn again in another minute.

Lastly, the wind. There is no avoiding it when it comes and there’s not escaping it on the trail. I will take the rain, the snow, the ice, and the blistering hot heat of the summer over wind any day. It tangles my hair (even when braided), it makes boiling water take longer, it blows me off the trail a little, it’s noisy (way worse than the snoring people in shelters), and it makes the cold turn to freezing cold. I could probably keep going but I’m sure y’all either understand or get the point.

Bonus section!!

Just wanted to share a couple tricks and tips I’ve learned or head of along the way.

  • Line your pack with one of those black heavy duty trash bags. Or at least take one with you. Your pack cover will not keep your pack completely dry! I keep my electronics, clothes I’m not wearing, and pillow stuffed inside my trash bag. Better safe than sorry.
  • Sleep with your water filter when it’s cold out. If it freezes it’s toast and you’ll either be mooching off of another hiker to use their filter/tablets or praying that the unfiltered water doesn’t send you running for the privy. Also pertaining to water, if it’s gonna freeze at night you should blow the water in your bite valve back into your Camelback so that it doesn’t freeze in the tube and you can drink through it the next day!
  • Always carry an orange. I Believe said she always packed out an orange on her thru-hike in 2014 and I’ve started to do the same. It’ll be great to have if I’m ever out of water and far from the next source (worse case scenario), if I need a little extra Vitamin C, or if I’m not far from my next resupply and want to enjoy it as a refreshing side to my morning breakfast. Fresh fruit is not something hikers usually carry because of how much it weighs so I consider an orange a luxury food item now.
  • Line your shoes with grocery bags if there’s snow. I personally did this today and my socks were only slightly damp when I took them off at the end of the day. Dry feet= toasty toes and happiness.


My feet were sooo warm & dry when I walked through a forest of cute mini pine trees today! All thanks to my grocery bags ?

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Comments 6

  • Chris : Mar 13th

    You stole my oatmeal recipe, I like to use PB2 peanut butter powder though and unflavored oatmeal. Glad things are going well. Happy Hiking!

    • Bethany Varner : Mar 14th

      Yeah the powder is great too! Definitely lighter but I just love the real stuff too much to switch ?

  • Eugene Partridge : Mar 13th

    I like to add a package of hot Chocolate power mix to my Oat meal. I Love sweets and I Call it my Liquid no-bake Cookies.

    • Bethany Varner : Mar 14th

      Ooooh I might have to try that this week!! I’ve been craving brownies so that just might be close enough 🙂

  • craig von bargen : Mar 15th

    Looks like once the sun comes up it is nice hike weather. But the nights must be cold and the mornings too. Best of luck to you on your journey. Hope the weather is sweet.

  • Steve : Mar 28th

    Oatmeal with brown sugar, two small packets of raisins, one packet of hot chocolate and one packet of chocolate protein powder in a small zip lock


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