Walking and Eating; How I Spend My Day
I’ve been asked a few times, “What exactly do you do out there all day?”
Well, short answer: I hike and eat, a lot.
For those looking for a longer answer, look no further.
Here is a look into the day in the life of thru- hiking David.
My typical day starts around 6:30 and 7 when I begin to roll around in my sleeping bag, feeling out what the outside temperature is, and what the weather is doing. I then make a decision if I want to get up or go back to sleep for another hour. Once I make the decision to get up, I usually help myself along by deflating my sleeping pad; it’s pretty uncomfortable to try to go back to sleep after that point.
Next it’s time to change into my hiking clothes, usually still damp with sweat or rain from the day before. Honestly, this is probably my least favorite thing to do each day. Once I’m changed I pack up my sleeping pad, sleeping bag and sleeping clothes, break down my tent (if I stayed in it), and go get my food off the bear cables or wherever it was stored for the night.
More on what I eat in a typical day in another post coming soon.
I throw a few morning snacks in the hip pocket of my pack and filter one to two liters of water before starting the day. I double check to make sure everything is in my pack, and after some quick stretching it’s time to start the day!
After getting up I’m usually pretty quick to get on to the trail. I really enjoy morning hiking; the trail is quiet, the bugs aren’t out in full force, and it’s usually a bit cooler. Seeing the sun come through the trees and light up the valleys as a new day starts is a really refreshing feeling. As my trail legs get stronger, I have found I’m really able to lay some miles down in the morning before stopping for lunch.
Much of the morning is spent walking. I usually take a short snack break about two hours into the morning. Typically I try to do this around a water source as by this point I’ve already finished at least one liter of water.
As the morning turns into afternoon, about eight to ten miles into the day, I stop for lunch, usually for a half-hour to an hour, either at a shelter, an overlook, or just a flat spot with some nice sitting logs, but definitely some place near a water source. I kick off my shoes and socks, let my feet dry and eat my first lunch; yeah, that’s right, first lunch. Before eating, it’s time to filter more water, usually another two liters.
After eating, I throw some more snacks into my hip pocket, put my socks and shoes back on, and pull out the headphones for some music for the afternoon push.
Usually in the late afternoon, toward the end of the day when I’m about three to four miles from where I’m planning on finishing I stop for another short break, stretch a little bit, and eat my second lunch. It’s usually the same exact thing I ate for first lunch but just for a second time. I typically look for more water here as well, but if I know there is water nearby where I’m planning on spending the night, I’ll leave this second lunch with a liter or less, depending on what the rest of the day looks like.
End of the Day
As the day winds down, I have the option to settle in at various places along the trail. I can set up my tent at a previously used tent site or near a shelter, or I can sleep in one of the many shelters. As the weather warms up and the bugs and other critters come out in full force, I’ve been getting away from using the shelters and have been using my tent much more frequently.
Whatever option I choose, once I get to my destination for the night, chores begin. If I’m staying inside one of the shelters, I claim a space and set up my sleeping pad and bag. If I’m tenting, I’ll set up my tent and put most of my needed stuff for the night inside, change into sleeping clothes, and if it’s nice out, hang up my sweaty hiking clothes and hope that they’ll dry out.
Once I’m all set up it’s usually time to go get more water. Fortunately, most of the tent and shelter sites along the AT are near water sources, making it easy to get water before dinner. After water it’s time to make dinner and eat some more. After dinner it’s time to stretch, check for ticks, rub my feet, jot some notes and thoughts about the day down in my journal (aka phone), and then loosely plan out my next day.
Things I’ve Learned
—Don’t look at the weather. Aside from checking to see if I’m going to freeze, bake, or end up in seriously severe weather, I take the weather forecast with a grain of salt. I plan on it raining every day. Any day it doesn’t rain is a bonus!
—Don’t make any hard set plans. There are so many variables that are out of your control while on the trail. I make tentative plans for where I hope to reach each day but I’ve learned to keep those plans open to change.
—Don’t study Guthook. The Guthook app is seriously an incredible tool for thru- hikers, but holy shit, I’ve run into so many people who seem to study every elevation change and note on that app. The AT isn’t flat, every day is going to involve climbing something. Any day you don’t have an exhausting climb is also a bonus!
I’m 26 days into my hike and have just gone past the 300-mile mark. My trail legs are starting to take shape and that pesky hiker hunger is knocking on the door. Overall I’m feeling great, and the trail and the people I’ve met have been absolutely amazing.
I was fortunate to experience something most hikers do not get to experience: great weather through the Smokies. I spent five days in the Smokies, and all but one of the days was sunny with blue skies and warm temperatures. The view from Clingmans Dome, the tallest point on the AT at 6,611 feet, was breathtaking. The ranger at the top told us, “Days like this happen less than a dozen times a year.”
I have had some ongoing issues with my insulin pump that did cause me to have a brief meltdown after experiencing my 12th pump failure since being on trail. After taking a few planned days off with Sydney in Gatlinburg and coming up with a new insulin plan, I was able refocus and let the ongoing issue bother me much less. While still frustrating, it’s certainly not something I’m going to let stop my hike. Speaking of Sydney, she has been the best trail angel I could ask for. She has been so supportive, helpful, and while not physically on the trail with me, she has been at my side this whole time.
For those following along, if you’re looking for more consistent updates, follow me on social media. Unfortunately, the mobile version and app of the program to update the blog are not the most user-friendly and is best done when I’m in a town.
Until next time,
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