Takeaways From My “Shakedown Hike” on the Virginia Triple Crown

I start my trek from Georgia to Maine in T-15 days. A decade of dreaming and planning is about to become a reality. I’m afraid. I’m nervous, and my body knows it.

I had plans of preparing to be in the best physical shape of my life prior to starting in mid-March. However, ever since I completed my somewhat “shakedown hike” in January on the Virginia Triple Crown section of the AT, my body has been fighting sickness/fatigue/allergy back to back to back. Every other day, I feel like I’ve come down with a cold. It doesn’t help that I work in a hospital. Quite frankly, it’s been exhausting.

Shakedown Hike

My friend and I hiked Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs in one night and two days. This shakedown hike gave me a lot of useful insight; although, it also revealed how big of an undertaking this is going to be. I went with a friend who needed to borrow some gear. My quilt had not come in on time for this trip, and I also lent her my sleeping pad. As a result, I did not sleep a wink due to the cold. Also, with the cold temperatures, I kept my Katadyn BeFree on my body at all times. Yet, I somehow convinced myself that my filter froze overnight, thus, hiking the next 15 miles with no water. Oh, and another thing, we had to hitchhike back from the Andy Lane parking lot to the Dragon’s Tooth lot because of the intense knee pain I had from going downhill. At least I got to try out hitchhiking before starting!

Shakedown Takeaways:

Takeaway 1: if my feet are cold, I’m not sleeping. I should’ve known that even Smartwool Mountaineering socks would not suffice for my ice-cold appendages. Luckily, down booties exist.

Takeaway 2: Get familiar with my water filter so that I can actually tell if it’s not usable. We actually ran into a SOBO on this hike, and he told us the answer is orange essential oil… I’m not sure I want to take my chances, so I’ll just get to know my BeFree a little better.

Takeaway 3: Luckily for me, I work with a bunch of physical therapists. They have me helpful exercises to strengthen my hips, knees, and IT band so that I can handle the downhill impact a little better. Despite the weight, I’m going to be packing a gym set-up including a cork ball, Theraband, and a thin mat for yoga that will double as the first layer of my sleeping pad.

Takeaway 4: Take care of my health. I’ll be starting off with some Nuun tablets, and replacing them as I resupply. My mom also gave me turmeric supplements which will help decrease inflammation as I will be VERY inflamed from hours of walking every day. I’ll try my very best to eat my veggies as well!

What now?

I’ve tried the best that I could to start and get familiar with my exercises and develop a tentative routine for the trail. Personally, I need to give myself something that I can stay consistent with, almost as a distraction to my anxious mind. I decided I would try to implement a short yoga sequence and complete some strengthening exercises every night to stay strong and limber. We’ll see how long that lasts – I’ll try and keep you posted. Also, so what if I’m not in the best shape of my life?! I’m about to walk about 2,000 miles – I’m sure I’ll get there. It would’ve been nice to start out stronger, but I need to work with my current reality, and either way, I’m hiking this trail.

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