The Hard Truth of Meeting Friends and Family on Trail During your Thru Hike

If you’re a thru hiker, chances are your friends and family back home are super stoked for your adventure. They see you living your dream and they are cheering you on the whole way. Some of them may even show interest in sharing that experience with you. It sounds amazing to be able to share your adventure with people you have known your whole life, but in my experience it can be very difficult to get right. A couple weeks ago my sisters came out to do a small section with me just north of Pearisburg. 

Overall it was a great experience. I had so much fun with them and I’m looking forward to talking about it for the rest of our lives across the holiday dinner table.; however, it was also a challenge of balancing expectations between myself and them, with many lessons learned. This article is not to complain, but to help other thru hiker’s who are looking to hike with friends and relatives and how to navigate the gap between the two of them. It’s also to help friends and relatives understand their thru-hiker and their perspective. So with that, let’s get into it.

1. Resupply

This was the biggest mistake I made on this trip, and I think it affected everything else that comes after this section. It’s really hard to know what you’ll be craving during your resupply. My tastes have changed multiple times already. There are things I ate in Georgia that I can barely look at now in Virginia. It was hard for me to communicate with my sisters on trail, and almost impossible to tell them two weeks in advance what I would want them to bring. While they did a great job bringing me breakfast, lunch, and dinners, I failed to communicate how important snacks are to the hiker diet. Snacks make up a huge part of my resupply. I rarely make lunch anymore, and instead opt for heavy snacking. If I had to guess, a third of my calories come from snacks, that’s how important they are. And the snacks are mainly junk food: candy, pepperoni, pastries, chips, dried fruit. You can see a list of my favorite snacks in my previous post here. This lack of snacks lead to a level of hiker hunger I hadn’t experienced yet, and affected other challenges in the trip because of that.


If you are planning to hike with friends and fam I think you have two options. 1. Resupply yourself or 2. Make sure to clearly communicate the amount of snacks and type of snacks that you want!

2. Mileage

Before my sisters visited, I knew I was gonna drop my mileage down quite a bit. I thought I was prepared to do that, and had no problem in my head only going 12 miles a day. But there are a few things that go into those shorter days that made it a little more challenging than I thought it would be.  First was the pace. The first day or two I didn’t mind mosying behind them, enjoying our conversations and the sites around us. But as the days continued, slowly climbing a hill felt like it was more effort than just going at my normal pace. 

I also was in full swing hiker hunger and completely out of the aforementioned snacks. Going less miles meant it would take us longer to get to any resupply points. Between Pearisburg and Four Pines Hostel, there are really no good options for resupply. While most thru-hikers can do this 70mile section in 3 or 4 days, at our pace we were on track for 5 or 6 days. It was very hard to know I could go so much faster and get to food so much quicker, but not being able to do that without leaving my sisters behind. It lead to this feeling of being trapped and not being able to live the age old wisdom of “Hike Your Own Hike”. We were there to hike together. There was no me, only we.


Be prepared to slow down, make sure you have extra food, and try to plan a spot with many easy resupply options!

3. Trail Friends

Before my sisters met up with me on trail, I had been hiking with a group of buddies that called ourselves “The Cult of The Nubbin”. Long story, but in short we found a wooden nub that we tried to burn at Knot Maul shelter. We had a lot of fun in the following days, like packing out calzones and beer,  playing Beerzbee, and swimming at dismal falls. So when my sisters got on trail and couldn’t do longer miles, there was no way for us to keep up with my trail friends. Fortunately, Mark and No Face got vortexed at a trail angel’s house so I know I’ll see them again. Sweet Relish is ahead but with his late morning schedule I should be able to catch up in a few days. But with a faster group, it might be a bit harder to catch up.


It’s difficult to keep both your trail fam and your real real fam together, so expect to play some catch up after the visit is over.

The Good News

While there were some big challenges to overcome during my sisters’ visit on trail, I also had a huge blast with them. We rarely get to see each other all together without their husbands and daughters. So having a week between the three of us was certainly a moment to cherish. It’s created lasting memories I’m sure we will never forget. Like crossing the rocky ridge line of Sinking Creek Mountain or getting chased down the trail by an old stinky skunk. I had a blast with my sisters and wouldn’t trade the visit for anything. With a bit more planning, communication, and expectations, your visit could be even better. So please take these tips and use them to your advantage!


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Comments 1

  • jen l : Jun 2nd

    Helpful topic for hikers out there. I think the amount of time and when outsiders join in is important too. Limiting it to only 2-3 days tops seems right to me. And having them join in the first month or so before you have set a faster pace and established a tramily may be the best. Just my 2 cents. Rock on in the journey and thanks for sharing it with us all!


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