Thru-Hiking: A Job or a Vacation? Week 5 Update

 I have  officially been on the Trail for a month!

I celebrated my trailversary with a hot dog and some ice cream at the Bear Mountain Inn on a rainy Monday. The weather that day was identical to that of my first day on the Trail back in April: cool, wet, and miserable. I stayed at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center that night and slept on top of a picnic table under a pavilion; it was out of the rain!

Looking back on my first month, I would probably say what I say to most people who ask me how my experience has been so far: there are good days and bad days and you just keep hiking. It is amazing out here, for sure, but I won’t sugarcoat the tough stuff. I am dirty most of the time, it rains often, my feet hurt, and I spend the day dreaming about real food (a new development; I think my hiker hunger is kicking in finally).

On the better side of things, though, I have to appreciate the little luxuries. Like being able to put on my dry sleeping clothes at the end of the day and my down jacket and warm socks and curl up in my sleeping bag. Like finding Trail magic–a Gatorade and two pop tarts with peanut butter got me through a tough climb! Like seeing all of the wildlife out here and the amazing views. And even though the shelters along the trail may not look like much, at the end of a long day of hiking, it is the best sight in the world!

Rain gear and a towel: my apparel while my nasty hiker clothes are in the laundry!

Job, or vacation?

I have heard thruhiking talked about in 2 ways: some say you have to think about it like a job; others say it is a vacation. Right now, to me it feels like a job. I get up every morning on a schedule and hike until I reach my goal for that day. And just like a job, even a job you love, a day off now and then is needed. Today I took my third zero day, my first in two weeks. It feels so good! I slept in till 8 am, went to church, and now I am relaxing. I don’t have to think about hiking, or how many climbs there are today, or if the shelter will have space for me, or how much water I need to drink, etc.

Tomorrow I am back to hiking (in the rain), so here is my update for the past week.

Update: Trail legs? Just kidding!

After being lulled into a false sense of security in PA and even Jersey, I hit the New York roller coaster and my legs were like, “Yeah right! We didn’t sign up for this!” There are a lot more ups and downs in NY. This is a good thing, because it means I will continue to get stronger in preparation for Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. But it also means I have to morph into a better version of my hiker body. Remember, that process is painful. It is compounded by the fact that I am also trying to do bigger miles now. Nonetheless, I can cross another couple of states off my list: New Jersey and New York! And almost Connecticut!

Another day, another state line!


Flat Elliott enjoyed seeing friends (black vultures) hanging out with the bears at the Trailside Zoo.

This week I will walk into Massachusetts! I am excited and nervous. Vermont is getting closer, which means New Hampshire and Maine are, too. I will climb my first 2000-footer and 3000-footer mountains this week. I stress about my body being ready and about the weather. But in the end I have to let go and let God.

Stormy view in CT.

The other day, I went into town for a mail drop. My plan had been to retrieve my resupply box and then hike 10 miles out of town to a campsite where I would spend the night. This also meant I would have to hike 22 miles on Saturday to get to the hostel I was planning to stay at. Not a great plan, but a feasible one.

I didn’t get back on the Trail till 11:30am, which is unbelievably late for me, as I usually start hiking by 6 or 7. So I am hiking the ten miles and God keeps pushing the thought, “Hike 14 to the next campsite.” So I say, “Okay, that will make my life easier on Saturday and I’m not super tired yet, so sure, lets go 14.” Then I hit the next campsite and God’s like, “It’s only 3.5 to the next shelter, why don’t you go there?”

At this point, it’s like 5:30, which is usually when I stop hiking. But in theory I should have plenty of daylight to do the last few miles and there’s only one or two climbs, and it would make my Saturday easier. So I’m like, “Okay, sure. I’m tired, but it looks like rain and a roof over my head that’s not made of tent fabric sounds like a good idea.” It felt like I ran the last 3.5 miles, but I just kept saying, “God, You are limitless and adventurous; give me energy and strength!”

He did. I made it to the shelter and He even gave me company there. Sometimes He is all about pushing me to my limits so I stop relying on my own strength and rely on His instead.

Some inspiring quotes to end with!

“To renounce a full life and its real joys in order to avoid pain is neither Christian or human.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” ~Unknown

“The Lord God is my strength. He will make me surefooted like the deer. He will lead me up to the heights.” ~Psalms 18:33

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Comments 1

  • Robert Meixner : Jun 2nd

    Inspiring as usual, Mary. I’m catching up with your posts today. See that you made it to mile 550. Way to go. We’ve been getting regular visits from one of the local black vultures. He likes our birdbath, and doesn’t seem skittish about being in the backyard with Bean and me. He’s got a girlfriend but she won’t come down in the yard with him while we’re out there. They always make me think of you and your trek.

    Uncle Bob


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