Trail Life Snapshot & Numbers

I wrote this about a week or two ago and finally having wifi I’m about to blog bomb with the past few things I’ve written.

My days are numbered by the series of segments of incline and decline. Tomorrow I go down, then very steeply back up, then down, then straight back up, then straight ish, and finally back down again. My moments are categorized by how many steps in between segments, how long my shoulders can take before giving from all the weight of my pack, how far I can make it with and without water, how long of stretches I can go without taking a break or checking my updated mileage or texting back a friend. The woods are beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I am feeling happy. I am feeling balanced and peace filled. My days are numbered. In more ways then one. There’s the number of miles I choose to hike to maintain my average consistent with my end date, the number of breaks I choose to allow my vessel, the absurd amount of calories my body is burning daily that I’ll never be able to make up the difference while being out here, the number of minutes I wait for my food to cook, the number of liters of water I need to drink or carry, the number of times I call my mother in one day from missing her so much , and finally the number of days remaining on this epic journey.

Days on the trail typically look something like this:

My alarm rings. Sometimes once. Sometimes ten times. I guess some things never really change. If I’m hiking 20 or more miles, I like to leave by 7 am to be at camp by 530. This usually allows for an hour lunch break and two smaller breaks during the day. Some days I don’t leave Til 8 or later and that’s okay. Sometimes the climbing or trail is harder than expected and I get behind schedule. Sometimes I’ll push, and other times lll readjust my mileage to a end location closer, depending on the terrain, the current weight of my pack, and my current mentality. Usually I eat a small breakfast, drink some water, take a visit to the privy, after I’m all packed up and changed already, and then I head out. The hardest part of the morning is always getting out of my warm sleeping bag and putting on stinky, wet, sweaty clothes. I can’t imagine not having camp clothes at the end of the night. My sleeping bag is my haven, the cleanest thing I own at the end of the night and it’s a luxury I’ll never take for granted again. Usually I’ll hike for an hour at least before taking a break for water, breaking after 6 or so miles for a small snack. I like to be halfway through my miles, or at least in the double digits by noon. If I’m doing a 23 or bigger, I at least try to have 10-11 done, with the remaining 13 hopefully completed before dark. The speed I hike completely depends on terrain, how recently I resupplied – making my pack extremely heavy makes me a much slower and unhappy hiker for several days until I can eat the weight down. Uphill I can usually manage 2 mph, while downhill I can usually manage 3mph. If I am carry only a few days of food, usually I can manage 2.5- 3mph for most of my miles that day, but if I’m tired or carrying a lot of weight I average about 2. Lunch time is always welcomed and I stop somewhere to take my pack off, often times at the nearest shelter or water source, except in Southern VA because there is almost no water. Around 1 I head back to the trail and walk on until about 5 or 6. I usually stop and take a few short afternoon drink breaks if my pack is heavy, or if I’m antsy I just book it Til dinner time. Water determines where you sleep each night, so the end of the day better end with water, or you better be carrying enough water to get you through dinner and to the next available source the next morning otherwise you’re pretty much toast. Most often I sleep in the shelters because they are most like a home and convenient to pack up quickly. They also Have handy logs that allow you to communicate with other hikers ahead and behind, updating on water and trail conditions, as well as seeing how far and behind you are from friends. Mostly the logs are fun and entertaining. Lately I’ve been camping More along the trail than staying at the shelters because they’re far off trail, with little promise of water, and too many giant spiders for my liking. If I’m hiking solo, I don’t really enjoy sleeping alone in the shelters uncovered. I feel much safer in my tent.

Usually I’ll set up my tent or just my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in the shelter and change out of my wet clothes. Then I’ll make dinner, clean my dishes, drink some water, clean up my area for the night, hang my bear bag, and go to bed. If there are other people we often socialize, but 8 is usually bed time and 9 is practically midnight for us hikers. I’ve become a granny out here with little to no shame in the matter.

Trail life is simple.

I’ve hiked with people. I’ve hiked alone. Right now there’s a group of us aiming for the same week of end dates so the trail has been a bit busier which is a welcome change. The closer I get to finishing the more I am beginning to appreciate the small moments and draw back from looking at the numbers to enjoy the small infinity of days until I finish.

Until next time,


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